Before the San Francisco 49ers‘ Week 4 game against the Los Angeles Rams on Monday Night Football, Javon Kinlaw went through individual workouts away from the team in the hopes of being ready to join his teammates in the starting lineup. Suffering a setback in his surgically-repaired ACL, Kinlaw was on the injury report all week and was expected to test his knee before the game, but when defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans met with the former first-round pick out of South Carolina, he left the field dejected and watched the game on the sidelines in street clothes.
When asked about this interaction by reporters during his Thursday media availability session, Ryans discussed how he wanted to talk to Kinlaw personally about his status.
“Yeah, I think with any player, when I talk to players, it’s always about player first for me, and it’s not about pushing guys out when they’re not ready to go.” Ryans said. “I care too much about the men and not just the players, so that’s what it’s all about with me. So when a player is ready and his body is ready and he’s able to be out there and play for us, that’s the right time for him to be out there for us. But I played, all players, you always think that ‘I’m ready to go’ but your body might be saying another thing, that you’re not ready, so for me, in the position that I’m in, all of the men I’m in charge of, I want to do right by them. And it’s not about one game here, it’s about doing right by the man first, and that’s how I approach it.”
Ryans Feels Responsible for Saving His Players From Themselves
When asked if he basically needs to save some players from themselves, Ryans nodded.
“For sure,” Ryans replied. “As players, that’s what makes you a good player because you have that warrior mindset that you can always go out and ‘I’m going to be good, I’m tough, I’m okay,’ but there’s also, somebody has to pull you back and let you know that it’s not quite right. And I just expect that from everybody whose in this position as a coach to put the men first. It’s not just about players, it’s about men and their livelihoods.”
The San Francisco 49ers’ DC Is A Players-First Coach
Circling back to the subject of Kinlaw after discussing the national media linking his services as a potential head coaching candidate for the Carolina Panthers, Ryans explained how his status as a recently retired player helps him connect with his players.
“I would like to think that that experiencing playing, being around so many different guys in the locker room and just, I know what it feels like to not be able to go out there when you want to be out there with your teammates and it’s a feeling that’s very, very hard to swallow, right?” Ryans asked rhetorically. “If you’ve ever been in that position, I’ve been there and it’s tough, it’s one of the toughest things you have to go through when you’re a player in this league is not being able to suit up with your guys. I’ve been there, I understand, and I’m able to empathize with with guys who have been in that positions; I’m able to empathize with these guys who have been on IR, or battling from injuries, going through rehab everyday and the struggles or your guys are going out to practice and you’re back in the trainers, so it is very tough, it’s very emotional and there’s a lot that go into alright these injuries and what players go through but I’ve been through it and like I said, I’ve been in their shoes and I know what it feels like and it’s not good. So I think it’s cool when you have someone who can relate to you and has been in your shoes.”
Based on the interest Ryans has received from around the league as a future head coach, it’s safe to say that respect is justified.