Behind 49ers' mispronunciation of Lance's personnel grouping


SANTA CLARA -- Trey Lance might be a rookie who is trying to find his way in the NFL, but he already has no problem correcting his coach.

Lance, the No. 3 overall draft pick from North Dakota State, has played seven snaps in the 49ers’ first three games. His limited action has resulted in one touchdown pass and one touchdown run.

When coach Kyle Shanahan determines it is time to use Lance in place of starter Jimmy Garoppolo, he calls the specific personnel grouping that includes the numbers of running backs and tight ends. Then, to identify Lance as the quarterback, Shanahan uses Lance’s college mascot name.

For instance, the 49ers had two backs and three tight ends on the field with Lance on his 1-yard touchdown run on the final play of the first half in Week 3 against the Green Bay Packers. Therefore, to signal which players would be on the field, the call was “23 Bison.”

“We have our personnel groupings, which are numbers, so it’s 21, 11, 12,” Shanahan told Greg Papa on 49ers Game Plan. “Whenever Trey is in, we add ‘Bison’ to the end.”

Where Shanahan has it wrong is with his pronunciation of Bison.

Followers of NDSU know the accepted way -- the only way -- to say “Bison” is with a “Z” sound.

“I call it Bison. He says it’s ‘Bizon,’ which they say there,” Shanahan said of Lance.

“No one on our team realizes that. We keep saying it with an ’S.’ But he tries to correct us.”

RELATED: Kittle plans on playing vs. Seahawks if body allows

Clearly, Lance still has a lot of work ahead of him to spread the word.

Tight end George Kittle was asked on Friday how he pronounces the NDSU mascot name.

“Bison,” Kittle said. “What does the buffalo say to his son who leaves for college?

“Bye, son.”

You can see the full interview with Shanahan and Papa on 49ers Game Plan, airing Saturday, Oct. 2 at 7 p.m. PT on NBC Bay Area.

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