49ers Blog and Q&A

News, notes and reader questions about the San Francisco 49ers

Phew! Here is the full transcript of the Mike Martz interview I have been s ... t ... r ... e ... t ... c ... h ... i ... n ... g out over the past week. As you'll notice, Martz has a cover-your-eyes-he's so-beaming assessment of every offensive group except the wide receivers. That's because I never ask about the wide receivers. But you'll also see he is conscious of how glowing he sounds. Is he trying to build up his players? Is he trying to pump up expectations? Or does he genuinely believe he has something in San Francisco? Check back in three months ...

Q: You obviously were familiar with the 49ers upon being hired, but after a month of practices with the team, was there anything new you saw? Any surprises?
MM: "There were a lot of surprises, actually. There's a real inherent toughness to the offensive line that is part of who they are and also how they coach them, which is really outstanding. The other part of it is that as a football team and on offense, there is a great deal of character here. This league's full of talent, as you know. Everybody's talented. But when you have a team with this much character, they're going to do the right thing. They'll work harder. They'll always be trying to do the right thing. Winning's very important to them. That's who these guys are. They just kind of need to be lined up right and shown what to do. They're like sponges. So this has been as much fun as I've had in coaching, really to be honest with you. So I'm thrilled about who we have here in players and in coaches. I'm just excited to get going.

Q: You said the word "sponge." How much have Shaun Hill and Alex Smith been able to absorb so far?
MM: "There's no question about that. Because they both have shared snaps. That's a tough thing to do and still learn the system and make terrific progress because you're always throwing to different receivers. It's my first experience with it. So going through this, it's been much better than I would have anticipated. And of course, they've handled it really well."

Q: This was your first experience splitting quarterback snaps in the offseason?
MM: "Yeah, it definitely was. Usually when you go into the season, you have an idea of who your starter is and you go. But this has been very good. And they've handled it well and so has the team. It's been very healthy and we got much done here from a personnel standpoint. Because I know where this team was three years ago. I really do. And what they've done here - the personnel people and Mike (Nolan) through his leadership - the kind of players that he's brought in here, on both sides of the ball and special teams, is why you win. Those are winners."

Q: Do you have more of the offense installed than you would have predicted heading into the spring?
MM: "Oh, there's no question about that. There's no question. Like I said, these guys are so much more professional than I suspected they would have been. They didn't fight it. They have to un-learn old systems and all those sorts of things. And they were really able to do that in short order. They picked it up very quickly. Young players in this league will always struggle with this information. That's expected. But the guys who have been around a year or two on up have really dealt with this very well."

Q: Where do you go from here? Do you sit down with Mike Nolan and try to hammer out a pecking order for training camp?
MM: "Yeah, I think that's the next order of business. We haven't discussed it really .... But we have plenty of time with that. That will come in short order. But we're good there, though. We're fine with that."

Q: Do you have enough information to make that decision?

MM: "I think so, yeah. I think so, sure."

Q: Did anything surprise you about Frank Gore during minicamp and OTAs?
MM: "He's a one-time guy. You tell him once and he has it. That's really a remarkable quality. He really learns fast. He's a very sharp guy. So that means you can use him in a variety of ways if you will. So, no, he's been outstanding with that. Usually guys who have been featured runners with a limited exposure, it's hard for them. He's not been that way at all. We've been able to put him out there has a wideout, we've motioned him outside, we've used him in a variety of ways. He's retained it, done an exceptional job with it and just really learns quick. The other thing I didn't realize until I saw him in person is how explosive he is when he runs the football. He has a gear he gets to - you blink and he's in it. He's a special player, there's no question about it. He's an elite player in this league. I'm just so excited to have him."

Q: A lot of people think he's going to be Marshall Faulk. Is that accurate?
MM: "I don't think that's right to say. I think Marshall's Marshall, Frank is Frank. Frank has his own skill set. Frank is Frank. There are things that we'll play to that are really strengths of his."

Q: Running between the tackles?
MM: "Well, anywhere. He's got that speed and explosiveness. He does it all. He really does. He's a physical guy that you can hammer or you can use him as a perimeter guy. So, I don't think I'd put a limitation on what he can do, really. It will be kind of fun to see."

Q: Did you know much about Michael Robinson coming in?
MM: "No, I really didn't. I really didn't know. All the coaches were so high on him and he has such little experience as a runner. I looked at him on tape and he looked so natural at it. We got out here and he's another of those high-character, learns-quickly guys. You can ask him to do multiple things. Those guys are the hearts and soul of your football team."

Q: Will he be in the backfield with Frank at times?
MM: "Sure. Absolutely. There's no question about it. We'll use them together - absolutely."

Q: Because they're both adept at catching passes out of the backfield?
MM: "No question. And defensively ... one can block for the other or use them both as receivers. There's all kinds of things that can happen out of that, you know?"

Q: Is Delanie Walker another guy you didn't know much about?
MM: ""Wow. That's how I would say it. Wow. He has some real wow factor to him. He is such a professional and he works so hard at it. He's such a stickler for detail. You talk about some jets and some ability to run and eat up the field. Holy cow. I didn't know anything about Delanie until I got here. The last week or two, we put some things in just for him and he just really excelled."

Q: Do you now go back and add plays after seeing certain offensive players in action over the last three weeks?
MM: "No question. That final (offensive group) we get down to ... each one of those guys will have stuff for him in every game plan and certainly Delanie is a guy that you have to make sure you get him in there and put him in an environment where he can get a step on a safety or linebacker because he can win those battles."

Q: Does he play the same position as Vernon Davis?
MM: "Sometimes. He plays several positions. Sp you can either put him where Vernon is and take Vernon out or put him in different positions. He's capable of several positions."

Q: Will Vernon Davis be used the way Al Saunders has used Tony Gonzales in KC and Chris Cooley in DC?
MM: "No. He's a different guy than that. I don't know if anybody in the league can run like he can at that position. I mean, he gets down the field so fast. I don't know who beats him in a foot race. So, no, he's unusual. Like we talked about Frank. He's Vernon. He's not like anybody else. He's such a violent, physical blocker. So many of the tight ends these days are more finesse, just kind of trying-and-hold-them-off kind of deal. Vernon will try to knock you out. He's such a pleasant blend of power and physical with speed and ability. He's such an unusual player in that respect."

Q: Do you teach him how to run routes like a wide receiver?
MM: "Yes. And that's something that was new for him. Instead of breaking down and head faking and doing all these things, we're going to use his speed. And I think he understands that really well at this point. I don't know if anyone worked any harder this spring than he did. He was out here before and after doing extra things, trying to improve his skill set, really trying to take what we're asking him to do and polish it, get better each day at it. He's been truly remarkable in that respect. He really has."

Q: He seems like a guy who's really hungry to be great.
MM: Oh, boy, there's no question. He's hungry to help this team win, too. Everybody you've asked about - it's just glowing - that's the way it is. I wish I could say, 'Yeah, I think we'll be okay there.' I wish I could say that in some respects just to kind of temper, but I can't hold down my enthusiasm. These guys are pretty special."

Q: Last question. Were you as surprised as everyone else was that 'hot reads' hadn't been used here in the recent past?
MM: "Well, I think with Norv they probably did do it but with a new quarterback, a rookie quarterback*, you have to be very careful. He's just happy to find the center at the line of scrimmage. There's so much going on with the rookie it's just unfair ..."
*(Alex Smith was rookie in 2005. Norv Turner was OC in 2006

Q: You put that onus on the offensive line when you have a young QB?
MM: "Right. You do. You really do. Then as time goes on, you can teach them those things. Last year, I don't think Hos, he's from a different background, so they don't use those as much. So, now that we're involved with all these hot throws and quick throws, he's excelled. It was hard far them. Both of them. It was hard for them. But they began to really excel at it. The last week or so, they really made huge strides in that area."

-- Matt Barrows


Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.

June 2009

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