SANTA CLARA, CA – After stopping training for a second time due to a brawl on Tuesday, coach Kyle Shanahan called his team to a rally.
He immediately uttered a few chosen words about what had just happened. Behind the anger, there was a simple message about how Shanahan wanted his team to play.
physical? definitely. harsh? naturally. annoying? surely.
But Shanahan wants the Niners to draw the line when throwing punches, which he did twice in those drills on Tuesday — specifically between the star midfielder. Fred Warner and the recipient Brandon Ayuk.
“I want everyone to challenge each other,” Shanahan said Friday. “I don’t care how foolish each other is; I don’t care how close they are to a fight. They can do whatever they want to make themselves as hard as they want and bring out the best in each other that happens a lot that way, and it’s the same on the field.”
“But as soon as you throw a punch, you get kicked out or you get a penalty and we take pride in ourselves, I want people to be annoying, I want people to get as close as possible to all of these things. I want people to handle right on the line where they are about to pass out but you can’t blackout on the football field or cost your team.”
The problem for Shanahan’s team this week was that it happened on the training ground among his teammates. It was the warmest day in this camp and a longer fully cushioned session which several players indicated were factors that contributed to the situation. And while fights are a common sight in every training camp, this has happened among players who are expected to play important roles this season.
The biggest battle – between Warner and Aioke – began when Warner’s receiver fell late Marcus Johnson in the concussion protocol.
Something was already brewing between Warner and Ayook as Ayook told the media a few days ago, semi-jokingly, that Warner was “annoying” and his insistence on continuing to tear the ball and touch players after the plays were “disturbing”. “
Warner responded that he believes AYOK is ready to take the next step in his career and is doing everything in his power to help him take his game to another level.
“Specifically with Brandon, I chose him,” Warner said. “I think he’s ready to take that next step in playing at the elite level. I chased after him a little bit… because I know how much he has. And I know if I tease him a little bit, he’ll get sick and tired of it and start to hold on to himself… He’s really starting to gain That mentality of knowing he’s a man and capable. I try to get the best of him. That’s it.”
On Friday, Shanahan said he is totally fine with his players pushing each other and that he trusts them to do it the right way. But incidents like Tuesday should come to a natural stopping point.
“I like its intensity,” Shanahan said. “I don’t think you have to fight until you’re tough, though. Brawls are brawls but then lead to other things. I guess that’s why a guy in protocol took an unnecessary bullet on someone that led to the big fight and then was done.” Throwing a bunch of haymakers and stuff there, which only serves to break hands.”
The Niners made it through the rest of Tuesday’s and all-Wednesday training without any further incidents. Meanwhile, Shanahan has come to the point that his squad can be physical without resorting to actual fights.
“I think our team is very tough,” Shanahan said. “I think we’re very physical. I think if who was voted probably who would be the most physically fit team on the bar last year, I think we would have won most of that and we didn’t get into a single fight last year. So, I don’t think that’s entirely about toughness.”