49ers Mailbag: Miller to remain top fullback?


49ers Mailbag: Miller to remain top fullback?

It'll be a Sunday spent mostly in front of the TV, as the 49ers enjoy their bye week. But we can still talk about the team.Let's go to the 49ers Mailbag. And if you have more questions, leave them in the comments section below and I'll try to answer a few questions there throughout the day.

Q: Should the Niners get rid of Moran Norris? (@Alpha138)
My answer: I don't necessarily think they should get rid of him after he returns from his broken fibula. He'll miss a couple more games after the bye week, and as a vested veteran his salary is guaranteed through the remainder of the season.However, I can't see Norris coming back to his former role as the 49ers' starting fullback. RookieBruce Miller got off to a rough start in Cincinnati, but he has gotten better and better. He's given the 49ers improved play.
Miller is more athletic and he's able to adjust better than Norris. He also offers more versatility to the 49ers' offense. After all, Miller already has five receptions for 40 yards. All of last season, Norris caught four passes for 20 yards.Q: If Miller stays @ 1 FB, what becomes Norris' role? Would he be willing to be primarily a special teams player? (@yougomango)
My answer: If Norris is not a starter, it seems it would be difficult to keep him on the 46-man game-day roster. He is not a main contributor on special teams, so he'd be kept on the 53-man roster as the No. 2 fullback -- as insurance.Delanie Walker, the 49ers' No. 2 tight end, gets more playing time than the fullback. That is not going to change, as Walker is definitely one of the 49ers' best 11 players. So there's no reason to have a second fullback dressed for games.
The 49ers do not have any glaring needs elsewhere. They have five receivers who should be able to practice this week, in addition to practice-squaders Joe Hastings and John Matthews. So that's not a concern.They are a little light at outside linebacker, butParys Haralsonn is expected back from a hamstring strain that knocked him out of the game against the Detroit Lions. If the 49ers needed somebody, they'd probably promote rookie Monte Simmons from the practice squad. Their final cut before the start of the regular season, Antwan Applewhite, was signed by the Carolina Panthers a couple weeks ago.Q: What are the niners focusing on improving for the bye week? (@rickdawg52)
My answer: The focus last week was on improving their health, and getting everybody's battery re-charged for the final 10 games (plus playoffs?) of the season.The new collective bargaining agreement mandates that all teams must give their players four days off during the bye week. A couple weeks ago, Jim Harbaugh told his team he'd give them an additional day off for each win they got after that point. With victories over Tampa Bay and Detroit, the 49ers earned six days off.Q: When is Braylon coming back? @giantsap
My answer: Wide receiver Braylon Edwards was scheduled to begin jogging and making cuts last week, as he returns from arthroscopic surgery he underwent on Sept. 19 to repair a torn meniscus cartilage.There's a decent chance he returns to the practice field this week -- perhaps on a limited basis. How he looks in practice will determine whether he'll be in uniform to face his first NFL team, the Cleveland Browns, next Sunday at Candlestick Park.

NFL owners mull cutting regular-season OT to 10 minutes

NFL owners mull cutting regular-season OT to 10 minutes

NEW YORK -- NFL owners will consider proposals next week to cut regular-season overtime from 15 minutes to 10; eliminate players leaping over the line on kick plays; and expansion of coaches' challenges and what can be reviewed by officials.

In what promises to be a busy annual meeting next week in Phoenix that will include discussing the Raiders' potential relocation from Oakland to Las Vegas, the 32 owners also will vote on changing the mechanics on replay reviews and other items intended to reduce downtime during games.

The Eagles proposed four rules changes, including abolishing the leaping techniques that league football operations director Troy Vincent said Thursday "don't belong in the game."

Seattle and Buffalo co-authored a proposal allowing a coach to challenge any officiating decision, whether a foul is called or not.

"That is a significant change to our current replay rule and it is something that will be on the floor and will be debated next week," NFL officiating chief Dean Blandino said.

Another major change would be the reduction of overtime in-season; the extra period in the playoffs would remain at 15 minutes. The powerful competition committee, of which Vincent and Blandino are members, believed it's a player safety issue, noting that number of snaps for games going to OT - especially deep into the overtime - is excessive. Especially if a team has a quick turnaround.

"We don't know where a team is going to be playing the next week, it could be four days later," said committee chairman Rich McKay, president of the Atlanta Falcons. "We felt we should put an end to it. We don't think it will lead to more ties. Could it? It could, but we are not concerned with that."

As for changing the format of overtime to ensure both teams always get a possession - a popular topic after how the Super Bowl ended - Blandino said the league's wants to keep the element of sudden death in the extra period.

The "leaper rule" has taken some priority among competition committee members, the players' union and coaches. Vincent said coaches have begun scheming how to defense it, which can "create a real safety issue."

"It is really in the best interest of the game" to outlaw leaping on kicks," Vincent added.

McKay noted that the NCAA is in the process of passing a similar ban on the technique.

During the meetings that run from Sunday to Wednesday, the teams will be shown plays the competition committee believes should result in suspensions or ejections. Game officials already have had the leeway to eject players, but it rarely has happened; there were three in 2016.

"They don't happen very often, let's give the players credit," McKay said. "We have 40,000 plays in a year. We'll show a tape that will have four or five plays that would warrant suspension. This is not a widespread situation."

Added Vincent, a former NFL defensive back: "When you see the plays, they are catastrophic. We had two players who did not return for the season. They are high-impact plays that belong out of the game. It will be a real point of emphasis this season."

Kyle Shanahan attends Stanford pro day, while John Lynch scouts QBs

Kyle Shanahan attends Stanford pro day, while John Lynch scouts QBs

STANFORD – Coach Kyle Shanahan remained in the Bay Area while a contingent of 49ers hit the road this week to scout quarterbacks Mitchell Trubisky, Deshaun Watson and DeShone Kizer.

On Thursday, general manager John Lynch, personnel executives Adam Peters and Martin Mayhew, and quarterbacks coach Rich Scangarello watched Notre Dame’s pro day, Shanahan remained close to home to watch Stanford prospects.

“We live right next door, so it’s easy to drive over and see it and I can go right back to the office,” Shanahan said. “They went out three days ago. So they have a whole week on the road and it’s been better for me to stay in the office with the film and get our coaching staff ready. In two weeks our players get here, so we got a lot to do.”

The 49ers’ offseason program can begin on April 3, but Shanahan has opted to spend another week preparing for the arrival of his veteran players.

Among the veterans who will be reporting for the offseason program are quarterbacks Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley. The 49ers have not shown any interest in re-signing Colin Kaepernick.

“We’re pretty comfortable right now with the options that we’ve had and are available, but we never stop looking,” Shanahan said. “Every day something could pop up and you never know, so I’ll never tell you guys that we’re fully done because you never are.”

Lynch led the 49ers’ scouting effort this week to North Carolina, Clemson and Notre Dame. Shanahan, who will likely determine the direction the 49ers take at quarterback in the draft, said he will have plenty of time to evaluate the prospects up close.

“We haven’t mapped them all yet, but I’m sure I’ll do a couple private workouts, whether it’s me or our quarterbacks coach,” Shanahan said. “But one of us will do it – kind of spread us out a little bit.

“Most of the pro days, we get most of those videos anyway, so there are a few guys will have private workouts for, not just quarterbacks but other positions, too. Some guys you don’t have to do it with.”

The two headliners at Stanford’s pro day were defensive lineman Solomon Thomas and running back Christian McCaffrey. Thomas appears to be a strong candidate for the 49ers if they hold onto the No. 2 overall pick.