Rock Cartwright carried the ball 8 times for 44 yards on Friday against the Vikings, but if he’s going to make the San Francisco 49ers’ roster he knows it’ll have to be as a special teams star. He also knows that it’s hardly a given that he’ll be one of the last 53 guys standing at the end of the preseason, making note of that fact a few times during this afternoon’s interview in the media tent after practice.
Here’s a question I asked Cartwright about the difference between the 49ers’ special teams preparation compared to other teams he has played for.
Below is a transcript of the entire interview, where Cartwright talks about “Tony Montana,” the song played during home games before the 49ers kickoff team goes to work (“I think it gets the opposing team kind of frightened a little bit.”) and how he got his nickname.
Rock, when you come to this team and look at the special teams, how it’s set up, does it fit what you like to do?
Yeah. I mean, I love the game of football. Special teams is what I do, so any way I can help the team win. Special teams, running back, whatever they need me to do I’m here to do. So hopefully I get the opportunity to make the team and hopefully I’ll be here.
Has it been easier switching over with running back, you’ve been getting a lot of reps lately.
Well, of course Frank’s not going to take any reps I don’t think. Kendall and Brandon got in, and I’ll maybe get in. I’m excited about the opportunity. I know I’m able to run the football at this level. I know I’m able to play special teams at this level, at a high level. Any time I get the opportunity to carry the ball I always try to show people that I can play at a high level.
You ran the ball so well, do you think you made the point that maybe you deserve some more carries than you’ve been getting recently?
I don’t know. It was the first preseason game. I’m happy to have the opportunity to showcase what I can do. My whole mindset is to go out and take advantage of the opportunity.
Do you see a difference in how the 49ers prepare and plan on special teams compared to other teams you’ve been on?
Yeah, Coach (Brad) Seely does a great job of putting us in a position to try and make plays. He breaks down film real well. And they had a great team last year, special teams wise. Blake (Costanzo) was here last year, then they got C.J. (Spillman) and Colin (Jones) and those guys. If I’m able to make the roster I want to contribute as well, or even more, than Blake did.
That special teams unit had a real personality. Is that important to you to develop a personality for this team?
They got their own identity. They had the identity last year. I just want to come in and do my part. I just have to be a complement to those guys. Do what they need me to do. Be where I need to be when I’m supposed to be there.
When the 49ers were playing last season, would you watch and see how they played special teams? I know you’re busy with your stuff.
Yeah. I’m a big football fan so I’m always paying attention. Being in the Bay Area we’d watch those guys, catch up with those guys and see what they were doing. Like I said, they had a great special teams unit, kickoff team, kickoff return, all around. All four phases of the game for special teams, they did an excellent job so I was a big fan of those guys.
So what do you think about that “Tony Montana” song?
It’s a good song. I think it gets the opposing team kind of frightened a little bit. I didn’t know they were going to play it in the preseason, but they did. So they got me kind of amped up, too. So I think it’s a good fit.
Who gave you the nickname “Rock”?
My grandmother gave me the nickname “Rock Baby” when I was younger because I was kind of clumsy. But the older I got, they took the “Baby” off, started calling me “Rock.” I didn’t grow too much, but it kind of stuck and it fit, so there you have it.
Do you see the championship expectations since you got here?
Yeah, I see it. But each year is a new year. Each game’s a new game. Each play’s a new play. That’s how we’re approaching it right now and we’re taking it one game at a time, one play at a time, one week at a time. We’re going to go out to Houston and try and execute at a high level and see what we come up with.
Rock, you mentioned a couple times, “If I make the team.” When you look around, 90 guys in that locker room, how difficult is it going to be for, not just you, but anybody, a lot of guys to make the team?
Ultimately I try not to worry about stuff I can’t control. What I can control is go out there and play at a high level. I know I’m able to do that. You know, we’ll see what happens. Let the chips fall where they may, but like I said I try not to worry about stuff I can’t control. All I can do is control is how hard I play and doing my job.
Coach Seely, has he talked about, last year they kept a handful of guys, whatever the number might be, three, four or five guys, specifically with special teams in mind. Do you get the sense that that’s going to be…
I have no clue, man. Like I said, I just try to go out and make plays and just play at a high level. And I know I can play at a high level. Last year I was kind of banged up toward the end of the season, like the last seven games I was kind of hurt. But now I’m healthy and I’m ready to go out and show people what I can do.
Did you always like the nickname?
Yeah, it’s fine with me. It’s cool with me.