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Mike McCarthy Press Conference Transcript - Nov. 18

(How did Finley look today?)

I thought Jermichael practiced well. I'll have a better idea once we watch the tape. I felt that he moved around fine, and he took his normal set of reps that he would take in a Wednesday practice.

(Do you notice a change in the players' attitudes or mood in practice after a win versus a loss?)

I think there's an obvious answer to the question. Winning solves a lot of things. Coming in to work this morning in the weight room, there's a sign up there that says "the food tastes good again." That pretty much tells it in a nutshell how important winning is for everybody. We had a beautiful day out there with the weather today. Practice was OK. We've had better practices. But definitely, when you win, I think, I know, when you win the ability to put that win the column is important, but the ability to stack success, and there's so many things that come with that. The confidence level it gives your football team, the learning experiences that you can carry forward to winning a big game. So there's so many positives that come out of that.

(Is the biggest challenge in coaching keeping that same approach to needing to win?)

I've always felt in professional sports the biggest challenge that you face is handling success. We won one game. I don't think we're in danger of dealing with that this week, frankly. We have a very good football team coming in here on Sunday. It's a physical football team. I'm very impressed with their personnel. I had a chance to watch them earlier in the year against Minnesota. That's really where our focus is on. This is a good football team. It plays a certain way. They're definitely in a situation where they need to win the game, we need to win the game, so that's where our focus is.

(Do you feel good about where Kampman is?)

I feel good about where Aaron is medically, and he looked like he moved around fine today. I'll know more once we see the tape. But yeah, I thought he bounced back like you knew he would, and he looked like his normal self out there today.

(Does Alex Smith look any different in these last three games compared to earlier in the year?)

From earlier in this season? I couldn't give you a comparison. I didn't watch him earlier in the year.

(Compared to way back when?)

From when he first came out? Yeah, he looks a lot better. It's nice when they grow up.

(Can you take us back to that process in San Francisco and choosing between those two guys?)

Really, going through the evaluation process was the same that I've gone through every year as a quarterback coach or an offensive coordinator. You rank the players. There's a few players on the board that were being considered with the No. 1 pick, obviously with two being a quarterback. You go through your normal evaluation. With the pick you're entitled to probably more time with the prospects than you normally do as far as going to their campuses and working them out. You have an opportunity to get a better understanding of both those guys. It's interesting to see them both now because you just recall how young both those guys were. I think they might have both been 20 years old. They were both extremely young coming out and had a lot in front of them, but there were definitely some areas of projection that you always do. You have to do with young players.

(Now knowing how it would work out for them or for you, are you glad San Francisco took Alex Smith?)

I tell you, things happen for a reason. I'm a big believer in that.

(Are you surprised he's struggled so much in his career?)

I think every player, particularly quarterbacks, the path that you're put on has a lot to do with your success. There's a lot of factors that go into developing a quarterback. Obviously they both had unique ability to even be considered to be part of the conversation of being the No. 1 pick in the National Football League. I think that in itself says a lot about both Aaron and Alex. But the path that you take, the situations that you're put in at an early part in your career have as much to do with it as anything. The players around you, where you are as far as in your development, what offense you're running. I think he's been put through a tough situation, just the number of coordinators he's had in his career. I don't think that's ever been done.

(Had Aaron gotten in that situation, do you think he would have struggled like Alex did?)

I just think it would have been very tough for anybody at that time, just where the football team is. Just playing them this week, memory lane is nice and everything, but just look at their football team today compared to what it was back then. I can't even tell you that there is a handful of players that are on the roster that were there back then. I think that tells you a lot about what they have done with the football team and really the path that any quarterback would have to take on that football team.

(Do Alex Smith's early struggles speak at all to going from a spread offense in college to the pro game?)

You have to adjust. Football is still football. I don't know. I'm thinking about playing them on Sunday.

{sportsad300}(Can you talk about the challenges your defenses faces trying to stop Vernon Davis?)

Yeah, I think Vernon, you talk about a football player that is getting better every year. He's obviously physically very gifted, very productive. I think he is a good blocker. I think he does everything. He's a good blocker, a good pass protector. He's definitely someone that we have to take care of, especially in their four-vertical passing game. They are making a concerted effort to get him the football, so he is definitely one of our prime targets as we plan for them.

(Mason has a strong leg but his percentage from 50 yards or more is not great. Are you concerned at all about his accuracy?)

Well, we haven't hit the 50-yarders like we would like. There is no question about that. I think it's important for myself and Shawn and Mason to A, just keep taking the information that you are given during the workout during the course of the week. Obviously pre-game is a big determining factor based on the wind and field position on when you do go, time of game. There are a number of factors that play into trying those field goals. But I still have confidence. I think I have illustrated that by the opportunities that have been given to Mason. I think he is fully capable of making those kicks. I wouldn't put him in the position if I didn't think he could be successful.

(Is Brady making any progress with his quad?)

Brady, Cullen Jenkins, and really Desmond Bishop are all in a similar boat. Hopefully after their rehab workouts today we'll see how they respond. I think they all have a possible chance of practicing tomorrow.

(You've faced a lot of tough running backs this year. Where does Frank Gore fit into that mix?)

I think Frank Gore is special. I really do. I had an opportunity to coach him as a rookie. Very instinctive, tough runner, the ability to run behind his pads. He is definitely one of the better running backs I have seen do that and that I've had the opportunity to work with. Frank does a very good job, particularly with his in-line running of getting skinny and accelerating creases and coming out the back end and finishing runs. So I think Frank Gore is going to be a huge challenge for us this week.

(There's been a lot of talk about the wide receivers not getting open downfield. Is that a side effect of Finley being out?)

I think our perimeter has played well this year as far as their ability to create separation. As far as the conversation, I can't really comment on that. Jermichael Finley definitely helps. Anytime you have a player, whether it is a tight end, a receiver, a big back, that has the ability to win down the middle of the field, it creates so many more positives for your whole perimeter group. So definitely, Jermichael Finley fits into that category.

(What kind of problems does Willis present?)

Instinctive, he's a tackling machine. I think he does a great job of playing behind the blocks in the zone schemes and things like that. He looks to be their leader on defense. He's a very instinctive, sure-tackling defender. He is definitely somebody that jumps out to you on film. I'm very impressed with their defense.

(Besides Willis, what else do they do well against the run?)

It starts up front. Their down guys are very disciplined, do a great job of staying square to the football. Their gap control is definitely probably one of the better or best defenses that we have seen so far this year, and that's a big part of it because it gives the linebackers and the support element of it the ability to run and hit. So this is a very good defense, well-coached. I think Greg Manusky does an excellent job out there in San Francisco.

(Do you see Mike Singletary's imprint on this team?)

I would say Mike Singletary's imprint is on the football team. I have experience working out there with Mike. A good man, a passionate man, a good football coach. My time was short in San Francisco. There are a number of people that I have a lot of respect for and that I am fond of on their coaching staff and in their organization. I had an opportunity to be with Greg Manusky in Kansas City. Jimmy Raye, I have probably learned as much football from Jimmy Raye as anybody I have been around. I think he is as knowledgeable and as experienced a coach as I have ever been around. There are some very good coaches on that staff. I think they are well-coached and I think their personnel has really improved over the last couple of years. This is going to be an excellent challenge for us.

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