Reporters' Notebook: Kyle Shanahan praises 49ers GM Lynch

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Super Bowl week is here, and it officially kicked off Monday at Super Bowl LI Opening Night in Houston. NFL.com's reporters get you up to speed with the hottest news and notes from Atlanta Falcons and New England Patriots players and coaches taking part in the annual media free-for-all, including:

» Which Broncos executive is the 49ers' GM targeting?

» Patriots offensive line coach a funny guy

» Ricardo Allen won't be starstruck by Tom Brady

But first, did Kyle Shanahan almost lose his Super Bowl LI game plan on Monday night?

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HOUSTON -- Kyle Shanahan was so popular at Super Bowl LI Opening Night that he couldn't get to his seat. By the end of his hour-long session with the media, having an awkward place to sit was the least of his problems.

Shanahan could not find his backpack after the session, according to USA Today, forcing the Falcons offensive coordinator to scour the makeshift carpeted floor at Minute Maid Park like an amateur detective. It turns out that San Francisco Examiner columnist Art Spander mistakenly lifted the bag, believed to contain the game plan for Super Bowl LI. Falcons security personnel saw the bag Spander left behind and eventually the he was contacted, apologetically returning Shanahan's prized possession.

"That would have been bad," Shanahan told USA Today.

With that crisis and accompanying conspiracy theory avoided for the week, Monday's festivities concluded without screaming headline news or drama from either team. Players and coaches from both squads avoided wading into the swirling world outside of football, delicately answering or completely avoiding questions related to politics.

Shanahan was more forthright discussing his expected opportunity as the future head coach of the San Francisco 49ers. While nothing is official with Shanahan and the 49ers, he didn't try to avoid the issue.

"I can't B.S. you guys. I mean, I'm looking forward to talking to them after the game when this all ends," Shanahan said.

He confirmed that he met with new 49ers general manager John Lynch before Lynch was offered the job and was effusive in his praise for the former Broncos player. Shanahan wasn't worried about Lynch jumping straight from the broadcast booth to a team's front office.

"I truly believe that whenever you have a smart guy who is very talented and has extremely high character and has no problem working extremely hard ... if given the time, it's a matter of time before they figure it out," Shanahan said. "John is as impressive a human being as there is and has succeeded in everything he's done."

Shanahan drew a comparison between Lynch and Broncos general manager John Elway, who took an untraditional route to successfully leading a front office. Shanahan and Lynch will make for a unique pair in San Francisco, but it won't get any weirder by Kyle's father being added to the mix -- Mike Shanahan is staying retired.

"We did our deal in Washington and I wouldn't take that back for the world, but that was pretty much the end of it," Kyle said.

For six more days, Shanahan's focus will be on earning his first Super Bowl ring as he closes out his fourth stint as an NFL offensive coordinator. Shanahan ranked the six Super Bowls he has attended "as a coach's kid" among the greatest experiences of his life. Now, he's coaching in the game, against one of his father's biggest rivals as he sits on the cusp of running his own team.

"It's just cool to be here," Shanahan said.

And it's a lot cooler now that Shanahan has reacquired that bag.

-- Gregg Rosenthal

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Saving the contract talk for another day. A representative for Falcons running back Devonta Freeman told NFL.com's Michael Silver the club should pay him top-tier money like the "elite back" he has been this season.

When asked about his agent's remarks, Freeman said he wasn't there to discuss the "business" side of things and that, "I am here with my brothers and I want to enjoy the experience."

"I'm not focused on that," Freeman said. "My mindset is on winning the Super Bowl and that's it. That's all I've been thinking about. Business is business. That'll get handled later."

Freeman's deflection of the issue was quick, but it will be interesting to see if it lingers during the week. Falcons players said coach Dan Quinn has stressed to them to not be distracted. Whether this turns into a distraction remains to be seen.

-- Steve Wyche

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Keeping things in perspective? The key players on Atlanta's defense have a healthy respect for Tom Brady's accomplishments over the years, but don't expect free safety Ricardo Allen to be starstruck when he peeks into the backfield Sunday.

Asked if it will be surreal to face the future Hall of Famer, Allen responded, "It'll be another quarterback in this league. I went against Aaron Rodgers last week. I go against Matt Ryan every day. There's nothing that's, like, over-the-top about it."

While the Falcons' faithful certainly appreciate Allen's cocksure approach to the biggest game of his career, he made sure to soften those comments in the next breath.

"Yes, Tom Brady is really good. He's probably one of the best to ever do it," Allen continued. "And out of respect for that, I have respect for him because he's really good at what he does. But ... there's no starstruck. There's none of that stuff. I'm trying to win a game."

It will be interesting to see if Brady and Allen take the spotlight with the clock winding down Sunday night.

-- Chris Wesseling

* * * * *

Niners GM possibly chasing after Broncos executive for his staff. There are some experienced guys on new 49ers general manager John Lynch's list of possible targets to run the team's personnel department under him, but there's another name to watch: Broncos director of college scouting Adam Peters.

Sources said Lynch is enamored with Peters and he's not alone. Within minutes of NFL Network reporting Lynch's interest in Peters, several executives around the league reached out to note what a rising star Peters is in the business.

"Adam Peters is a stud," one executive texted.

Peters began his career as a scout for the Patriots and followed Josh McDaniels to Denver, where he has risen through the ranks in recent years. Peters is a Cupertino, California, native, so he'd be returning home if he's offered, and takes, the 49ers job. One remaining issue is whether the Broncos would allow Peters to leave. John Elway's close relationship with Lynch and Elway's desire to see Lynch succeed could help grease the skids.

-- Mike Garafolo

UPDATE: NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Tuesday the 49ers are hiring Peters to be the team's vice president of player personnel.

* * * * *

Dante's got a sense of humor. When I asked a handful of Patriots O-lineman what made their position coach Dante Scarnecchia so special, they listed all the things you'd expect: quality teaching, day-to-day consistency and a genuine care for his players.

Shaq Mason went somewhere else, though, telling me that "'Scar' definitely has a few jokes he can slip in now and then," adding that the 68-year-old assistant has a proven ability to jab Millennials.

"He can come in with some dry humor and everyone will get it, or he can come with an outright funny joke," Mason said. "We all love him."

Asked about his standup abilities, Scarnecchia asked me: "Who said it?"

"It was Shaq."

"Well, I don't know if I'm funny in meetings. I wouldn't say like I'm Shecky Greene up there or something. I just think, you know, you got to get your work done and whatever you have to do to get it done, you do, and that's it."

Dante's saving the jokes for his players.

-- Marc Sessler

* * * * *

Dante's a hot topic. Seriously, I couldn't find a coach more beloved by his players on Monday night than Scarnecchia.

We'll dig into that later this week, but Scarnecchia -- who briefly retired in 2013 -- said he needed to think long and hard about accepting coach Bill Belichick's offer to return before this season.

"I don't know if I was ready to come back when it was time to come back," Scarnecchia said. "I never thought that I would have the opportunity to come back. I wasn't even looking for that. You know, the call was made and my wife and I talked about it for 10 days and we decided to go ahead and do it again."

Said Scarnecchia: "I'm going to be 69 years old next month. You know, I like what I'm doing right now and I'm going to continue to do it and see how it all goes."

It sure sounds like he'll be back in 2017.

-- Marc Sessler

* * * * *

From Cleveland to the Promised Land. Alex Mack is one of a handful of Super Bowl participants who once punched the clock in pro football's netherworld: Cleveland. The Pro Bowl center acknowledged Monday that he once wondered if he'd ever play football in January -- much less for a Lombardi.

"It's been a long, hard road," Mack said. "It's a lot of games. It's been really tough to get to this stage. ... Early in your career you're excited about one day having an opportunity to do that -- and then it's tough. ... My time in Cleveland, we were just trying to get a winning schedule to make it to the playoffs."

Mack's old teammates certainly don't hold his newfound success against him. He confirmed that Browns left tackle Joe Thomas was just one of the people to blow up his cellphone after the Falcons slayed the Packers.

"All my friends from previous teams ... my whole phone exploded when we won the NFC Championship Game," Mack said. "Friends, family, former teammates -- everyone was really stoked for me and said congratulations."

-- Marc Sessler

* * * * *

How to slow Superman? Now it's Atlanta's turn to solve a puzzle that nobody in the AFC has mastered: Stopping Tom Brady.

Falcons defensive coordinator Richard Smith summed up the best quarterback on earth by saying: "When you get a great leader like that, guys play hard for him. ... He does get the ball out of his hands very, very quickly. He doesn't want to get hit. Maybe he's not as mobile as some quarterbacks, but he does have great arm strength. He's very smart, intelligent ... and he can make every check at the line of scrimmage."

To get a proper bead on Brady, Smith's fellow coaches have mined deep into the past to find any shred of game tape featuring Brady facing a scheme similar to Atlanta's.

"We look at every game," Smith said. "We've gone back and [looked at] the years they played against Seattle. ... There's not going to be anything coming in that they're unaware of and there's nothing that we're not going to be aware. We'll ready for everything."

-- Marc Sessler

* * * * *

Respect for the Patriots' receivers. The Patriots' receiving corps might lack star power with Rob Gronkowski on the shelf, but they're not going to sneak up on the Falcons after Julian Edelman and Chris Hogan combined for 298 yards and three touchdowns in the AFC Championship Game.

"Oh man, they're all really good," safety Ricardo Allen said. "You can tell they're all really smart because they can play in every position on the field.

Allen and coach Dan Quinn each noted the receivers' physicality and penchant for turning short passes into bigger plays with elusiveness after the catch.

"Number one, it's a tough and competitive group," Quinn explained. "The quickness that they have, the ability to break guys off man-to-man and attack matchups in certain ways, we've got a lot of respect for them -- and they're deep."

Quinn expressed the utmost confidence in his own defensive backs, a group, he points out, with plenty of "grit" of their own.

"Come Sunday," Quinn added, "there will be some battling."

-- Chris Wesseling

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