June 7, 2023

San Francisco 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan wants his players to go to the line, but he doesn’t want them finger.

In response to Niners players exchanging punches — most notably linebacker Fred Warner and wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk — at Tuesday’s practice, Shanahan made it known Friday that he wants his players to be tough, physical and even “edgy,” but he doesn’t want them to give up.

“I want everybody to challenge each other,” Shanahan said Friday, via the team’s transcript. “I don’t care how much crap they talk to each other. I don’t care how close they fight. They can do whatever they want to make themselves as intense as they want and bring out the best in each other, which is very much the case with him the way. And it’s the same on the field, but as soon as you throw a punch, you get kicked out or on a penalty kick. And we’re proud of that, I want people to be excited. I want people to get as close as they can to all these things . I want people to get right on the line where they’re going to tan. But you can’t tan the football or you’re going to cost your team, but I like to do that to other people.”

Much of the discussion on Tuesday came from Warner’s admitted attempt to pressure Aiyuk. With Aiyuk standing up for himself, it eventually led to a fight.

Shanahan was fine with Aiyuk holding his ground.

“Sure, I understood what he went through, so it didn’t bother me,” Shanahan said.

Essentially, Shanahan wants his players to push their fitness, themselves and their opponents to the limit, but not overdo it.

Brawls in football result in penalties and broken arms, so you better put down your dukes.

“I love his intensity,” Shanahan said. “I don’t think you have to fight to be intense. Fights are fights, but then they lead to other things. I think that’s why we have a guy in the protocol because we took an unnecessary shot at someone leading up to the big fight. And then we threw in a bunch of piggies and stuff, which will just break arms. I think our team is pretty tough. I think we’re pretty physical. I think if most people probably voted on who was the most physical team on film last year, I think we’d win most of them. And we didn’t win a race last year, so I don’t think that’s entirely about toughness.”

While Warner and Aiyuk battled it out in a matchup that led to an offense-versus-defense donnybrook on Tuesday, that came after a questionable hit by Warner on wide receiver Marcus Johnson. Johnson is now in concussion protocol, according to Shanahan in connection with fights that led to “other things.”

So with the 49ers garnering headlines and injuring themselves this week, Shanahan delivered his message: Keep the volume up and your hands down.

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