SANTA CLARA, Calif. – After stopping practice for the second time due to a fight Tuesday, coach Kyle Shanahan asked his team to meet.
He quickly uttered a few choice words about what had just transpired. Beneath the anger was a simple message about how Shanahan wants his team to play.
Physical? Absolutely. I weighed? Of course. Annoying? Of course.
But Shanahan wants the Niners to draw the line on hitting, which happened twice in that practice Tuesday, namely between star middle linebacker Fred Warner and wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk.
“I want everyone to challenge each other,” Shanahan said Friday. “I don’t care how much trash they talk to each other; I don’t care how close they are to fighting. They can do whatever they want to be as intense as they want and get the best out of each other.” which happens a lot that way and it’s the same on the field.
“But once you throw a punch, you get kicked out or you get penalized, and we take pride in that, I want people to be irritating, I want people to get as close to all of that as possible. I want people to be right on the line. where they’re about to pass out, but you can’t pass out on the football field or you cost your team.”
The problem this week for Shanahan’s team was that it happened on the practice field between teammates. It was the hottest day of this camp and a longer, fully padded session, factors that several players said contributed to the situation. And while fights are common at every training camp, this one occurred between two players who are expected to play big roles this season.
The biggest fight, between Warner and Aiyuk, began when a late punch from Warner placed receiver Marcus Johnson in concussion protocol.
Something had already been brewing between Warner and Aiyuk, with Aiyuk jokingly telling the media a few days earlier that Warner was “annoying” and his insistence on continuing to tear the ball and tag the guys after games were over. plays was “irritating.”
Warner responded that he thinks Aiyuk is ready to take the next step in his career and is doing everything he can to help him take his game to another level.
“Specifically with Brandon, I chose him out,” Warner said. “I think he’s ready to take the next step to play at an elite level. I’ve followed him a little bit…because I know how much he has in him. And I know if I scold him a little bit, he’s going to get sick and get tired of it. and he’s going to start to stand on his own… He’s really started to get into that mindset of knowing he’s a man and he’s capable. I’m just trying to get the best out of him. That’s it.”
On Friday, Shanahan said he’s okay with his players pushing each other and he’s confident they’ll do it the right way. But incidents like the one on Tuesday have to come to a natural stopping point.
“I love his intensity,” Shanahan said. “I don’t think you have to fight to be intense though. Fights are fights, but then they lead to other things. I think that’s why we have a guy in protocol because he unnecessarily shot someone that led to the big fight and then we had a bunch of tedders and stuff thrown in there, which just breaks hands.”
The Niners got through the rest of Tuesday’s practice and all of Wednesday’s without further incident. Shanahan, meanwhile, has insisted that his team can be physical without resorting to fighting.
“I think our team is pretty tough,” Shanahan said. “I think we’re pretty physical. I think if we probably voted on who would be the most physical team on the tape last year, I think we’d win most of that, and we didn’t have a fight last year. So, I don’t think that It’s all about toughness.”