O'Sullivan: 'I hold myself to high standard'

Grabbing the starter's role at quarterback for the 49ers doesn't seem to make much difference for J.T. O'Sullivan. He's still the same hard-nosed veteran with something to prove who says he won't change his approach one iota now that he's running the team's offense. Here, in his first interview as the starter, O'Sullivan talks about his new role and Friday's preseason opener against the Raiders.

Q: How big is it to you to start the first game and, in essence, set the tone for how the preseason is going to go for the 49ers?
O'Sullivan:
It's important. Starting the preseason, I want to go out there and play well. Obviously from the quarterback position, but also from an offensive standpoint we want to move the ball, be successful, score touchdowns. You know, do all the things we're supposed to do.

Q: Starting this first preseason game, is this a major step for you in terms of where you want to be with this team?
O'Sullivan:
It's not something I think about as being a major or minor step. It's just this is my role right now. I'm just going to go out there and do my job, execute the offense as well as I can, and play each play and go from there.

Q: How does being the starter change your role?
O'Sullivan:
My role as far as how I'm preparing for and planning to execute the offense doesn't change at all. I'm going out there to try to play as well as I can play, and those are the things I can control.

Q: Did you start any games last year in Detroit, preseason?
O'Sullivan:
I did. I started the third game in preseason last year.

Q: What did you get out of that experience playing with the starters as opposed to coming in in the second half?
O'Sullivan:
I mean, it's just great reps. It's something you can't diminish how important those reps are for a quarterback. Whether it be in the preseason or regular season reps with the first team against the first defense is something that you can't duplicate on the practice field so you have to take advantage of every situation you get an opportunity in.

Q: Do you feel like your role now is more to lead the team, per se, rather than a support role as a backup quarterback?
O'Sullivan:
You know, I don't think about it like that right now. It's about playing well. In my opinion, at this position, first and foremost, you're judged by playing well. So my job right now is to go out there and play quarterback as well I can play and let those other things take care of themselves.

Q: Are you excited, obviously in addition with your first start, but your first game with the 49ers? Is it a fun feeling to go out and show a new team and new fans what you can do?
O'Sullivan:
I'm sure, sure. The answer is yes, of course. But, it's something I think, stepping away from it, maybe, you would get more excited, but right now, I'm pretty focused on going out there and playing well. I think the excitement and things like that would sit in more if I stepped away and looked at it. But in the midst of preparing to go out there and play well, I'm thinking I have a job to do and I'm going to go out there and play as hard and as well as I can.

Q: What's it been like throwing to Josh Morgan?
O'Sullivan:
I think you guys can tell Josh has had a pretty good camp. Not a wide receivers coach or being able to sit there and evaluate him all day. I mean, he's doing things exactly like the coaches are asking him to do and getting better and better each day. So, tomorrow's going to be a great opportunity to go out and show what he can do with live bullets.

Q: Is it too soon to say that you're comfortable throwing to him, or feel like you're establishing a rapport with him?
O'Sullivan:
I mean, it's not so much throwing to him, it's just all of us getting on the same page of where Coach Martz wants us to be in the scheme of how he's coaching. Those guys are responsible for being where they're supposed to be, and I'm responsible for getting them the ball at a certain time.

Q: Can you compare how well this offense is functioning now to that third game you played in Martz's offense in Detroit? Where is this offense in terms of being a fully capable Martz offense?
O'Sullivan:
You know, it's almost impossible. We haven't even played a preseason game. I don't want to say I couldn't answer it, but really I can't answer it. We're all going to have a better idea once we play a preseason game, and really, we'll have an evaluation for where we are after that. Really, it's a growing process.

Q: What's the professional relationship between you and Alex? Is it comfortable? Is there tension in there?
O'Sullivan:
I think it's fine. I think we're going out there and competing. We're at the point where we're interested in the quarterback position in being successful. So, whoever's in the game, whoever gets the rep in practice, we're about making sure everybody's doing the right thing and playing as well as they can.

Q: Did you go to any Raiders games growing up as a kid in Northern California?
O'Sullivan:
I actually have a pretty good story about the last time I was at the Raiders as a fan. It was the AFC Championship game. They played Baltimore, and they lost. Baltimore won. But we were sitting in the same row as Metallica, and it was during Napster, their Napster conflict. So, I remember the drummer – I want to say his name is Lars – stood up and the section did not take radically to it. A few things were thrown. It was a pretty surreal environment. Those fans are pretty -- they're pretty special fans in this league. They get after it. Passionate about it, so it should be an exciting environment.

Q: So, you're saying Raider fans like illegally downloading music?
O'Sullivan:
I'm saying they might have at the time. I think everybody was to a certain extent. It was one of those surreal moments. Sitting in the stands, first you're sitting next to Metallica, then people are throwing stuff at you. It was the full experience.

Q: Will you have a contingent from Davis and Sacramento coming to this game?
O'Sullivan:
I have family and friends coming. But as far as a contingent from Sacramento? A few people I talked to that I know of.

Q: What's your relationship with Martz? Has your familiarity with him helped you?
O'Sullivan:
I mean, it's something that I try to just soak in everything he says and become more and more comfortable with exactly what he wants us to do. It's such a detail-oriented scheme, and he really puts pressure on the all the quarterbacks – really everybody, but specifically the quarterbacks – to be able to see and react to exactly what he sees and reacts to. So, it's an ongoing process. I don't think anyone ever gets totally comfortable with it. He's always going to push you as far as what you can understand, what you can see. I'm just trying to get more and more comfortable with exactly what he wants to give me a chance to play as well as I can.

Q: Do you think he's a big reason of why they brought you here this season – with his familiarity of you?
O'Sullivan:
No, I don't think about it. It's something that this was my best opportunity to play, so this is why I decided here.

J.T., it's been quite an ascension for you over the last week. Does it make your head swim at all? What's been your reaction to it all?
O'Sullivan:
"My reaction? I feel bad not giving you guys good answers to this. But my reaction is not – it's just, this is my job. I've prepared a long time to play football. This is what I do for a living. I expect me to play well. I will prepare as hard as I can, and I expect to play quarterback extremely well every opportunity I get, whether it be 7 on 7, whether it be routes on air, whether it be exhibition game, whether it be first game of the season, whether it be the Super Bowl, I don't care. I hold myself to a high standard when it comes to playing this position. So I expect to play well in this game.

Q: How much have you had to switch gears, just with your role changing a bit coming here? Do you have to re-adjust a little bit right when you're taking over the first team?
O'Sullivan:
No, is the answer to that. I would hope not. If you're a backup in this league and you have to switch gears to be the starter, you're doing everybody a disservice in the organization, saying you weren't ready to play when you were the backup. So, things haven't changed at all. I'm preparing as hard as I can. If they say for me to play the whole game, I'll play the whole game. It's that simple.


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