San Francisco 49ers’ Kyle Shanahan draws line on toughness after players throw punches in practice

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — After stopping practice for a second time because of a brawl on Tuesday, coach Kyle Shanahan urged his team to huddle.

He promptly provided a few choice words about what had just happened. Underneath the anger was a simple message about how Shanahan wants his team to play.

Physically? Absolutely. Hard? Of course. Irritating? Secure.

But Shanahan wants the Niners to draw the line when throwing punches, which happened twice this Tuesday practice — namely between star middle linebacker Fred Warner and receiver Brandon Aiyuk.

“I want everyone to challenge each other,” Shanahan said Friday. “I don’t care how much crap the other talks; I don’t care how close they get to the fight. They can do whatever they want to be as intense as they want and bring out the best in each other. It often happens that way, and it’s the same on the field.

“But as soon as you throw a punch you get ejected or you get a penalty and we pride ourselves on people being irritating, I want people to get as close to all that stuff as possible. I want people to get it right on the line where they’re about to black out, but you can’t black out on the football field or it’ll cost your team.”

The problem this week for Shanahan’s team was that it happened on the practice field among teammates. It was the warmest day at this camp and a longer, fully padded session, factors several players said contributed to the situation. And while fights are common at any training camp, this one took place between two players who are expected to play a significant role this season.

The biggest fight – between Warner and Aiyuk – began when a late hit from Warner landed receiver Marcus Johnson in concussion protocol.

Something was already brewing between Warner and Aiyuk, with Aiyuk half-jokingly telling the media a few days earlier that Warner was “annoying” and his insistence on continuing to tear up the ball and touch guys after games were over “irritating.” .”

Warner countered that he believes Aiyuk is ready to take the next step in his career and he is doing what he can to help him take his game to another level.

“Especially with Brandon, I chose him,” Warner said. “I think he’s ready to take the next step to play at an elite level. I’m after him a bit… because I know how much he’s got. And I know if I nag him a bit, he’ll get sick of it and start asserting himself. … He’s started to really develop that mindset, knowing he’s a guy and he’s capable. I try to get the best out of him. That’s it. “

On Friday, Shanahan said he’s fine when his players push each other and trusts them to do it right. But incidents like Tuesday’s must reach a natural ending point.

“I love the intensity,” Shanahan said. “However, I don’t think you have to fight to be intense. Brawls are brawls, but then they lead to other things. I think that’s why we have a guy on record for taking an unnecessary shot at someone which led to the big fight and then we had a bunch of hay choppers and stuff thrown in there which just breaks hands.

The Niners made it through the remainder of Tuesday’s practice and all of Wednesday without further incident. Meanwhile, Shanahan has been hammering home the point that his team can be physical without resorting to fights.

“I think our team is pretty strong,” said Shanahan. “I think we’re pretty physical. I think it most likely voted on who would be the most physical team on tape last year, I think we would win most of that and we didn’t have a single fight last year. So I don’t think that applies to toughness at all.” San Francisco 49ers’ Kyle Shanahan draws line on toughness after players throw punches in practice

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