Opening Statement: **"Today injury wise, right now: Tarell Brown, he was limited today and he is questionable for the game; Jonathan Dowling with a back, he did not practice today, he's out; Brian Leonhardt with a concussion, did not practice, he's out; Latavius [Murray] was full today, he's probable; Neiko Thorpe was limited today, he's questionable; Menelik Watson did not practice today, he's going to be out; Sio Moore was limited today, he's questionable."
Q: Anything more in terms of your concerns for Tarell Brown today?
Coach Sparano:"No, he actually did a little bit more today."
Q: What are your impressions of the 49ers offensive line?
Coach Sparano:"I've watched that line get put together there and when they started putting it together and adding those pieces – I had [Mike] Iupati in the Senior Bowl when I was, well in another life, but I really think that line is outstanding. They're big, they're physical. I'd argue that they're now one of the best lines in football, if not the best line in football. They do good things with them. They use their strengths. Coming out of college Iupati was a puller, a guy that can get up in there and pull and open up and run real well and [Joe] Staley, good pass protector, physical guy, so that group is a physical group and we're going to have a big challenge in front of us that way, specifically when they close quarters because they can bring in other big people. When they want to close it down and do those things there, I think that's where they can get really heavy."
Q: How do you think Khalil Mack did last week and are there any concerns of him hitting a rookie wall?
Coach Sparano:"No, I don't have concerns about that. I don't think last week was a game that you could feel Khalil in a whole lot, just because of the way that they handled the game offensively. They kind of threw a lot of the quick things out there, dinked and dunked it a little bit, did some of those things and turned them into big run after catch plays. It wasn't a game I don't think that you can feel him. I don't really feel that way. I actually have seen, to be honest with you, in practice this week, saw some really good energy out of Khalil at different times so I think he's ready to go."
Q: Is your low team sack total indicative of the kind of pressure you think you put on quarterbacks or is it similar to Khalil Mack's sack total?
Coach Sparano:"I don't think it's indicative, no. I think that opposing quarterbacks feel us. We've been able to apply pressure with pressure, we've been able to apply some pressure in some of the four-man rush stuff, but that's where we probably have to get better. We have to get better in just being able to generate pressure from a four-man rush, a lot like the team we played last week is able to do, so that you're not always putting those people in the backend in compromising positions by pressuring all the time. I think that that's an area that we've got to continue to improve in."
Q: The 49ers sack count is pretty high this year, giving sacks up, for a line of that caliber.
Coach Sparano:"They've given some sacks up. I think part of that, honestly, is when your quarterback is as mobile a quarterback and looks to extend plays as they have … I'm a guy who, in coaching the line, I know sacks come and obviously you look right at the offensive line immediately. But, they come in a bunch of different areas. In fact, I watched that sack reel the other night on both sides of the ball. I watched their sacks versus what would be our offense. I think a large portion of it has to do with the amount that they move and the amount that they move Colin [Kaepernick], just something as simple as a naked or a roll out, those kinds of things. Or, he's in the pocket one way, but he takes off the other way and if you don't plaster the receivers, he's going to make a big play on you. At times maybe you can get him or you can get him out of bounds two yards on the other side of the line of scrimmage. That goes down as one of those types of plays."
Q: Could you anticipate George Atkinson returning kicks again, or are you uncertain at that spot?
Coach Sparano:"Am I uncertain with what? I'm not uncertain. I have a definitive plan in my head about who's returning kicks as we sit here on Friday. (laughing) But, I'd prefer that you find that out on Sunday. George is one of the guys that could return kicks."
Q: It seems like after some poor performances this year, this team has bounced back. Would you attribute that to the vets on the team?
Coach Sparano:"I would. I think the veterans, I think the coaches, I think the people that have pushed the envelope for us all year long. Our veteran players have been wise enough to know that 'hey, this wasn't a great performance,' and this is what is takes. To their credit, when we go out there and practice and we're pushing them after a performance that wasn't up to par, those guys have responded and they've given us the work that we've needed. They've done a good job of given us the work that we've needed. Doing the work sometimes, and then bringing it to the game are two total different things. It does start out there on the practice field and then you hope it carries over into the game. My short history right now with our team, history as it's growing with our team, is that what I see out there on the practice field translates to the game a lot of times. I owe that a lot to the veteran players that are out there."
Q: This was a good week practice-wise?
Coach Sparano:"Yeah, this was a good week. A lot better week than last week."
Q: Would you prefer to see it rain on Sunday?
Coach Sparano:"No, no preference. We'll be there either way."