Singletary speaks out at owners meetings

Niners coach Mike Singletary covered a wide spectrum of topics this week at the NFL owners meetings in San Diego, including the new hill he has put up at the 49ers team facility, what's the team's situation at quarterback, what positions the Niners will be looking for in the draft, along with his viewpoints on several individual prospects and many other subjects.

Q: Word has gotten around about the hill you've built for your players on your practice field at the team facility. Can you talk about that a little bit and the reasoning behind it?
Singletary:
I used to train on a hill in Houston, Texas myself with Charlie Joyner, Darrell Green, Earl Campbell, Cliff Branch, a number of athletes worked out on that hill every summer. I was very fortunate to be part of that group. It was a tough workout. All of those guys that worked out on that hill had a long career. And today are doing just fine. They walk fine, they get around fine. Their health is good. They had great careers. To me, the hill has a mystery about it. It's tough to really get the work you get on the hill that you get anywhere else because of the endurance, the stamina, what it does for your hamstrings, your quads, it's tough to find anywhere else.

Q: Did you replicate the exact dimensions from Houston?
Singletary:
No, you want to make sure that you get a good enough incline so you what you want out of it, whether you go up forward, backward, sideways, so you get a diverse kind of workout rather than just on the grass on a flat surface. I just know it's as steep as it needs to be. It's about 45-50 feet.

Q: How far of a run is it?
Singletary:
The run, all I can tell you is, I walked up the hill the other day, it's close to 50 feet of a run off the ground. The incline, I just know it's enough of an incline. It may be 47 feet on one side and 52 on the other side. You run up forward, backward, sideways, depending on what the workout is that day. You start with the hill and work down from there.

Q: What was the players' reaction to it?
Singletary:
They weren't asking me. They were asking our strength coach, ‘What is that?' Well, it's for you guys. What do you mean for you guys? They're not excited about it. But they have no idea how much it will help them. They won't like it. But it'll be good for them.

Q: Have you come up with a name for it?
Singletary:
No. I was kidding around the other day when reporters were asking me about it. I just said, 'Pain.' It'll be good for them. I'm excited for them. It'll be a good workout.

Q: You were a guy who received good exposure as an assistant coach and enjoyed the interaction from your freedom to speak with media. Is it possible you will reconsider your ban on allowing your assistant coaches to speak with media?
Singletary:
Trust me. I do believe, I want our guys to do that. To me, we're behind and we have a lot of work to do. And the last thing I wanted to happen was for Jimmy Raye to be sitting down talking this is what our offense will be. I didn't want that. I wanted Jimmy Raye to get to know the players and our coaching staff, which was pretty much in place with the exception of Mike Johnson, and his assistant from the Jets, Jason Michael. Lord knows, I'm not going to keep those guys from the media too long. The media will get their share. I promise you. I just wanted it to be let's go to work here. Let's get this going. Let's make sure we know exactly what we want to do and we know exactly the kind of athletes we have quarterbacks and receivers. That's really the only reason.

Q: Is quarterback still an open competition, or is it a position you'll address in the draft?
Singletary:
Anything can happen on draft day. We're still evaluating and looking for the best athlete available. The quarterback position, we're very thankful to have Shaun Hill and Alex Smith competing for the No. 1 spot. I feel very good about what they're doing. Mike Johnson and Jimmy Raye are doing a great job with the quarterbacks letting them know this is what we're looking for, the correct posture, technique, footwork, everything. Those guys are very excited about what they're learning and the progression they're making.

Q: A lot of guys in college play strictly in spread offense, coming into this league, they have a comfort level. Is the league trending more toward creating those niches for guys who are so spread specific? Guys like Percy Harvin of Florida and Pat White of West Virginia?
Singletary:
Everybody does it for different reasons. Sometimes teams will run more of a spread offense to give the quarterback more of a chance to see the field and get some reads early on. Some teams do it to help their offensive line. Some teams do it to try and get mismatches early, to see who is going to be on who. There are obviously some advantages and disadvantages. The NFL is a copycat league. And they're going to continue to do things if it appears to work for somebody else, maybe it'll work for us.

Q: Do you do it?
Singletary:
If it makes sense. I don't want to do anything just because somebody else does it. Let's work on the things that make us better.

Q: Are you concentrating on being more of a physical, downhill offense and defense?
Singletary:
I've said all along, I want to be a physical team that's able to run the football when we need to run the football. There are too many times when you need to run the football and they put eight guys in the box and all of a sudden they run you out of it. I don't want to do that. If we're going to run the football, let's run the football. I don't care who they put in the box. There should be a physicality about what we're doing. That doesn't just go with the running game. It also goes with the passing game. Our receivers need to be finding guys to block. Hit somebody, get up and go get another block. The quarterback is the only guy excluded from that.

Q: What did you learn from your first year as a head coach that will help you do things differently in your second year?
Singletary:
The biggest thing I learned my first year was that at halftime, you have to be a little more careful at halftime with the things you do is that you're not always by yourself. That's the biggest thing I learned. I learned that quickly.

Q: Did you learn to laugh at yourself?
Singletary:
I think you have to. You have to make sure you find some humor in your job. And I have a lot of fun with what I do. It's very important to have a lot of good coaches around me and some funny players as well. Yes, I definitely find as many times as I can a chance to laugh.

Q: As a coach and former player, what is your perspective on the possibility of eventually playing a 17- or 18-game regular season?
Singletary:
I think players will respond just fine. I think you're going to get, wait, you're not paying me for 17, 18 games, you're paying me for 16. So I think you'll get some of that. At the end of the day, I think it'll be fine. As far as injuries, I don't think you're going to have any more than you had anymore time in the year. The longer the season goes, some players are just hanging on, hoping to make it into the playoffs, get a bye, or whatever that might be. Those things don't concern me as much as really taking football to a place where, it's really too much. We have a great thing going right now. Whatever the league decides, as coaches we're going to be on board. It's such a great game. It's a good feeling when the season is over and they're still asking for more. And can't wait until the season starts again. I just hope we can keep that in mind.

Q: Have you set up a meeting with USC quarterback Mark Sanchez?
Singletary:
I have set not set up a meeting with him thus far. I'm sure before it's all said and done, think their pro day is April 1, I'm sure at some point in time, we'll go out and visit, we'll visit with as many times as we can.

Q: When you look at this draft, what positions fit with what you're looking for?
Singletary:
The receiver position is really intriguing. A lot of speed, a lot of depth there depending on what you're looking for. You've got some tall guys who can fly, some smaller well-built guys, the kid out of Florida (Percy Harvin), it's pretty stocked. The linebacker position has a lot of depth. Just trying to go through and really find the guys with the mindset and the work ethic we're looking for. Obviously, the quarterback is not as deep. Maybe there's some guys in a couple of years can work into your system, but that first-year availability there's not a whole lot. Offensive tackle, four or five guys jump out who can help you right away.

Q: What is it that you are looking for at linebacker?
Singletary:
We're looking for the nastiest guy, who is going to knock the snot out of you. The guy who is going to play every down. We're looking for that guy. Speed is one thing. But to have a guy who is going to give you everything he has every down, that's the guy we're looking for.

Q: What is going on with the Isaac Bruce situation?
Singletary:
I talked to him a few weeks ago. At that time he was trying to decide what he's going to do, whether he's going to retire or come back. I told him let me know as soon as you can what you're going to do. And we'll go from there.

Q: Do you have any thoughts on the rules changes being proposed? Singletary: I think the special teams coaches will have to make sure they don't have more than two guys forming a wedge. I think it'll be more difficult than they think to judge. When the ball is kicked down the field, guys are going to run together. Guys are not going to be thinking about, ‘OK, you stay two yards over here.' They're thinking about those guys coming down field. Naturally, I think they'll come together and form a wedge. That's going to be interesting. It'll be interesting to see how they carry that out on a consistent basis.

Q: What about blind-side hits?
Singletary:
Anything that has anything to do with player safety, I'm not a fan of blind-side hits. I want a guy to see me coming. I don't want to be hitting guys from the side. I'm not a fan of that. If you're going to hit a guy from the blind side, make sure you let a guy know you're coming. I think what the league is doing is great. Sometimes I think it's a little too tight on the quarterback but at the same time, I think it's a necessity because you definitely have to have a quarterback to win.

Q: The quarterback lunge hits, that's going to be a gray area?
Singletary:
It's always going to be gray. How do you tell a guy who has a motor, once they knock you down, don't move one way or the other, they're always going to try and fight to get to the quarterback. You just have to tell guys be as smart as you can, but be relentless. You can't change it.

Q: After what Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco did year, has that changed the mindset about what a rookie quarterback can do to help a team?
Singletary:
It fits more the personality. There are a lot of intangibles that are there. You look at Joe Flacco going to Baltimore. Baltimore's system really helped him early on. They're going to run the football. As they devolped the run, then play action. That's tremendous for a young quarterback coming in. The same thing at Atlanta, both those systems had a running game in place. What happened to rookie quarterbacks who have not been as successful, they don't have a running game, they don't have an offensive line, they don't have receivers. What you have is a chaotic situation where the quarterback is going to lose confidence and the fans and the coaching staff are going to get down on him. That's what happens to a lot of guys. Normally the teams that are going to draft a quarterback, they're not very good. There's a reason they're drafting early.

Q: When talking about Mark Sanchez, how much of a factor is it that he really doesn't have a whole lot of experience as a starter in college?
Singletary:
It works both ways. No. 1, you're happy kid hasn't taken a lot of hits. He's fresh. But on the other hand, how many games do you need? If a kid has it, he has it. If he doesn't, he doesn't. He can play 10 years, if he doesn't have it, he doesn't have it. The quarterback position is such an interesting position. Mark Sanchez, the position is such an interesting position, it's more about confidence and accuracy. Is he going to a team that has an effective running game that can help him, they don't have to put the game on his shoulders so he doesn't have to start right away. I just think it comes down to the team the kid goes to.

Q: Where would you say Alex Smith is after everything he has gone through since being drafted by the 49ers with the No. 1 overall selection in 2005?
Singletary:
I'm very excited about Alex for a number of reasons. No. 1, there's a different look in his eye than when he first came. All of a sudden there's a chip on his shoulder. There's a fire in his gut. And he's ready to prove something. He is a confident quarterback. He's more confident now than he's ever been. I'm very fortunate that we have Jimmy Raye and Mike Johnson that are very detailed on all the little things he has to do to in order to be the best he can be. I'm very thankful that he has the competition of Shaun Hill so they both are an iron sharpening process with both those guys. I think it's going to be a very interesting progression from start to finish for both those guys. I'm excited by it.

Q: What's your feeling about all the different offensive coordinators he has had to work with since coming to the 49ers?
Singletary:
The inconsistency there is unfortunate. But at the same time, I'm sure there's positives, there's nothing I can't pick up, there's nothing I haven't gone through. There's nothing I haven't seen. Whatever you throw at me, it's OK. Hopefully, right now, he's just trying to settle down and be prepared to do it this way. And hopefully that's the right way for Alex Smith and Shaun Hill.

Q: How much difference does it make that Sanchez played in a pro style offense in college?
Singletary:
The guy who plays in a pro style offense has a slight advantage coming into the pro game given the fact the team he's going to does the same thing. But I think that guy who plays in that pro style offense has a slight advantage because he's seen it from the same steps and the line of scrimmage and there's a comfort level. Where if you came in as a shotgun quarterback your reads are different, just one or two yards make a tremendous difference for a quarterback, I get a chance to see my reads and my mismatches early. Not only are you not just playing zone, but the safeties do a better job of disguising.

Q: What are your feelings about Matt Stafford and Mark Sanchez in this draft?
Singletary:
The only thing I can say about both quarterbacks is they both have their strengths. They throw the ball well. They carry themselves well. They're good leaders They have a lot to offer an organization.

Q: As a former linebacker, have you ever see a better group of linebackers than the USC linebackers coming in?
Singletary:
Not in recent history. Not that I can remember. About the closest I can think of is Ricky Jackson and Hugh Green coming in one year as ends, outside linebackers. They were a great, great tandem. They are definitely a good group of guys and really play well together in terms of that defense they run, which is outstanding. They have the ability to play every down. Be very intense. Going 100 percent each down, of course, that's a Pete Carroll trait. They do that very well.

Q: Could all three of the USC linebackers potentially be first-round picks?
Singletary:
The thing I talked about, one word I use to describe all three of those guys is very intense, in terms of that's USC's bottom line. Pete Carroll, competing is the thing he always talks about, being intense, getting where you have to go. All three of those guys are ready.

Q: Intensity was the hallmark of your career. What does intensity mean to you?
Singletary:
Intensity means there's a sense of urgency about what you're trying to achieve. You know what it is you have to do and you're going to get it done every play. Intensity means there's no gray areas about who I am. I'm not trying to sneak up on you. What you see is what you get. I'm coming every down. That's what it means to me.

Q: Is that trait more rare now than it used to be?
Singletary:
I don't see it in a lot of players. The more talent you see in a player, the less you see intensity. I don't know why that is and you see that correlation. Those guys fed off one another, it was just really interesting to see. Those three guys jump out at you. As a matter of fact all four of their linebackers jump out at you.

Q: With three first-year head coaches taking their teams to the playoffs last year, has the bar been raised for new NFL coaches?
Singletary:
It should be. If that's what it is, that's what it is. I want to get there yesterday. It's just a matter of looking at things we have to do to get it done. I think we have a great coaching staff. We have a great group of young men. I think the organization is set to go forward. I'm very excited about the opportunity we have at the 49ers, I'm not looking back at all.

Q: Does a coach know when the corner has been turned? Did you have that feeling with the team last year?
Singletary:
As a coach you know what you have to have, the feeling you have to have. Absolutely (felt it at end of last season), Absolutely. As a coach you have to be more proactive, it's not waiting to see it. It's knowing that you have to get it. It's hopefully sooner than later. It's very important that our coaching staff all understand we have to be on the same page and we have to demand that. And you're true to it and consistent to it every day, this is what we have to get, you're going to give it to us or something has to give.


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