49ers' Kyle Shanahan encourages team's intensity without fighting

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Shanahan encourages team's intensity without fighting originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

SANTA CLARA — The 49ers have been chippy on the practice field but coach Kyle Shanahan wants his team to be just as physical without actually fighting.

On Tuesday two skirmishes broke out on the field within the span of a few minutes. This prompted the head coach to stop drills and address his players. Since Shanahan’s talk, practice has been without incident.

A few days later Shanahan revealed that wide receiver Marcus Johnson was placed in the concussion protocol as a direct result of the dust-up. While the head coach loves the level of competition by his players, he knows it’s a fine line when it becomes detrimental.

“Yeah, I love the intensity of it,” Shanahan said on Friday. “I don't think you have to fight to be intense though. Scuffles are scuffles, but then they lead to other stuff. I think that's why we have a guy in the protocol because we took an unnecessary shot on someone which led to the big fight.

“And then we had a bunch of haymakers and stuff thrown in there, which will only break hands.”

The conflict erupted after Brandon Aiyuk stood up for his teammate who was the recipient of a little bonus contact from Fred Warner at the end of a play. The linebacker has been focusing on Aiyuk in order to get “the best” out of him at practice and the extracurricular contact was enough to prompt action from the wideout.

It is the activity that ensued that the coach wants eliminated from the practice field, but all of the back and forth trash talking is approved. The best scenario for Shanahan would be for his team to find a balance between competition and conflict. Like any coach, when it comes to inciting other teams, Shanahan approves.

“Once you throw a punch, you get ejected or you get a penalty,” Shanahan said. “We pride ourselves on — I want people to be irritants. I want people to get as close as they can to all that stuff. I want people to get right on the line where they're about to black out.

“But you can't black out on football or you’ll cost your team, but I love doing that to other people.”

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The head coach isn’t worried about his team maintaining their ferocity after what he saw in 2021. Whether it be offense or defense, he knows his players will crank it up once the game clock starts ticking. Hard-hitting and tackling on defense, plus the yards-after-catch approach by the skill players on offense are just two indicators of what the 49ers' roster is capable of.

“I think our team's pretty tough,” Shanahan said. “I think we're pretty physical. I think if most people probably voted on who was the most physical team on tape last year, I think we'd win most of that. And we didn't get in one fight last year, so I don't think that totally pertains to toughness.”

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