San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan wants his players to go all the way up to the line, but he doesn’t want them to take it.
In response to Niners players exchanging blows — notably linebacker Fred Warner and wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk — at Tuesday’s practice, Shanahan let it be known Friday that he wants his players to be tough, physical, even to be “annoying, ” but he doesn’t want them to throw up their hands.
“I want everybody to challenge each other,” Shanahan said Friday, via team transcript. “I don’t care how much crap each other talks. I don’t care how close they come to fighting. They can do whatever they want to get going and be as intense as they want and get the best out of each other, that happens a lot like that. And it’s the same on the field, but once you throw a strike, you get thrown out or get a penalty. And we pride ourselves on, I want people to be annoying. I want people to going to get as close as they can to all those things. I want people to get right on the line where they’re about to blackout. But you can’t blackout in football or you’ll cost your team, but I love doing it to other people.”
Much of the discourse on Tuesday stemmed from Warner admittedly trying to pressure Aiyuk. When Aiyuk stood up for himself, it eventually led to a fight.
Shanahan was fine with Aiyuk holding his own.
“Definitely, I understood what he stood for,” Shanahan said, “so it didn’t bother me.”
Essentially, Shanahan wants his players to push their physicality, themselves and their opponents to the limit, but not exceed it.
Matches in football result in penalties and broken hands, so it’s best to lay down your dukes.
“I love the intensity of it,” 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 on the record, because we took an unnecessary shot at somebody that led to the big game. And then we got a bunch of mowers and stuff thrown in there that just want to break hands. I think our team is pretty tough. I think we’re pretty physical. I think probably if most people probably voted for whoever was the most physical team on tape last year, I think we would have won most of them. And we didn’t get in a game last year, so I don’t think it has anything to do with toughness.”
As Warner and Aiyuk squared off in a showdown that led to an offense-versus-defense donnybrook on Tuesday, it came after Warner delivered a questionable hit to wide receiver Marcus Johnson. Johnson is now in the concussion protocol, as referenced by Shanahan in regards to concussions leading “to other things.”
So, with the 49ers grabbing headlines and causing some self-inflicted wounds this week, Shanahan has delivered his message: Keep the intensity up and the hands down.