SANTA CLARA (CBS SF) — There’s no denying there is a certain mentality that permeates the San Francisco 49ers lockerroom. It’s raw, physical and creates an aggressive in-your-face mindset when the team takes the field.
After Sunday’s manhandling of the New England Patriots, star tight end George Kittle referred to his team using the word psychopath.
“Football is a violent sport,” Kittle said. “If you don’t go to that dark place and be violent and be physical, you are not going to last very long. Coach (Kyle) Shanahan always talks about finding a dark place.”
He said running back Jeff Wilson, who scored three touchdowns in the win before being knocked out of the game with a high ankle sprain, epitomizes the dark place mentality.
“Jeff Wilson goes into a dark place before every game,” Kittle said. “It’s different than it is in practice. He’s angry. He’s attacking it. He wants contact, he deals contact, he delivers punishment. It’s awesome. You can see it in his eyes. He’s a totally different person.”
The star tight said it’s a common pregame journey for many of his teammates.
“The longer I have been here and the longer Kyle talks about it — everybody goes to that dark place,” he said. “It’s fun to be part of a team with a bunch of psychopaths because I fit in really well here.”
On Monday, Shanahan was also asked about the 49ers dark place mentality.
“I think we’re at a level where everyone’s pretty talented to be in the NFL and I think what separates people is what’s inside.” he said. “In order to bring that out on the football field, you’ve got to be in a pretty aggressive mindset. It’s a very aggressive sport. I don’t care how tough you are.”
“Those hits hurt and they hurt people. If you sit there and you think about it and stuff, you’ll ease up as the game goes. But, if you can go to kind of that dark place and get your mind right, it can take you to a whole other level, but it’s a very fine line with that stuff too.”
Shanahan said that doesn’t mean you play out of control.
“So, it’s trying to find that even line of where you can take your mindset to a whole other level, whole other aggressiveness, but still do your job,” he said. “Still execute. Still not have penalties. I think we’ve got a lot of guys who are like that and when they watch one guy act like that, I think they all feed off each other.”
He pointed to Kittle and wide receiver Deebo Samuel, who are known for their punishing, physical style of play.
“You see Kittle do it a lot,” he said. “Everyone does it in their own ways. You see Deebo (Samuel) do it a lot, just in how he plays. He’s usually giggling half the time, but he’s still a little off out there if you watch how he plays, just like Kittle is. You can see it with Jeff Wilson last night a bunch and I see it on our defense left and right. So, you need that from people to be successful and the more you have almost everyone on your team like that is usually when you have a chance to have a special team.”
Away from the field Tuesday, the 49ers made a deal with the New York Jets to help bolster their injury-depleted defensive line. They acquired Jordan Willis and a seventh-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft from the New York Jets in exchange for a sixth-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Willis was originally drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals in the third round of the 2017 NFL Draft. During his four-year career with the Bengals and Jets, he has appeared in 43 games (two starts) and registered 52 tackles, 3.0 sacks, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and one pass defensed.
He was waived by the Bengals on September 10, 2019 and claimed off waivers by the Jets the following day. This season with the Jets, he appeared in two games and registered one fumble recovery.