49ers notes: Are James & Jenkins ready for opportunity?

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49ers notes: Are James & Jenkins ready for opportunity?

SANTA CLARA Jim Harbaugh will admittedly do anything in his power to give his team a competitive edge, including holding off on announcing a starting quarterback until its absolutely necessary.

This week, though, the St. Louis Rams will likely know mid-week whether or not they have to prepare for Alex Smith or Colin Kaepernick on Sunday. Harbaugh said in his day-after press conference that the decision would likely be made public on Wednesday.

The reason? Well let him explain.

Well say who that quarterback is probably Wednesday. The biggest reason is, so our players arent pressured by the media with who is it? and everybody hammering them for the information. I think in my mind, thats the direction well go, Harbaugh said.

Kaepernick made his second straight start and performed admirably in the 31-21 win against New Orleans on Sunday, throwing for 231 yards on 16-for-25 passing with one touchdown and one interception. Smith, who suffered a concussion on Nov. 11 against St. Louis but has since been cleared to play, acted as the backup, although thats not a word Harbaugh prefers to use when describing either of his field generals.

MAIOCCO: Kaepernick, defense lead 49ers to 31-21 win over Saints

Alex Smith is our starting quarterback. Hes not done anything to lose that job. In fact, hes played at a very high level. Also, Colin Kaepernick, you cant categorize him as a backup quarterback because hes started games and played very well in those games, Harbaugh said. So, in a unique situation, you have two quarterbacks that are playing at a very high level. Ones your captain and your starting quarterback; the other has played great football in the last three games. Both have a hot hand.

There have been suggestions made that Smith, who led San Francisco to a 6-2 mark before getting hurt, should be more outspoken in his desire to play. Fox analyst and former Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman said as much during Sundays game broadcast.

That kind of chatter doesnt sit well with Harbaugh, who considers Smith a team-first kind of guy.

The so-called subject matter experts, that talk about Smith should be making a fuss about it, or a stink about it, he shouldnt be that accommodating, is sending a completely wrong message out there to me or a young athlete thats out there, or high school athlete or quarterback when their coach or their team is trying to tell them its about the team or its about all working together.

That really gets me upset. Thats not what our two guys are about. They are great team guys and great example guys. And, we need them both.

The last time the 49ers and Rams met, just two weeks ago, the game ended in an unfulfilling 24-24 tie. Does San Francisco have some unfinished business with its division rival?

Harbaugh doesnt view it that way, calling it new business.

The new business is this game, this most important game because its our next game. Its just that hard, focus on that, he said. Its not about unfinished business, its about new business. New business is getting prepared to travel well, prepare to practice well and prepare to go there and do what it takes to be victorious.

With Kyle Williams out for the year and Kendall Hunter's status uncertain, there could be some fresh legs seeing more action for the Niners, including wide receiver A.J. Jenkins and running back LaMichael James.

To both those youngsters credit, and others who have been working extremely hard for their opportunity, we feel good and excited that a couple of those youngsters will get that opportunity, Harbaugh said.

The head coach considered the win over New Orleans one of the most physical games of the season.

It was a hard-hitting game. It took a toll, he said.

How did Harbaugh know that his defense was ready to go all-out against the previously surging Saints?

It wasnt the two defensive touchdowns, but something much more fundamental.

You tackle. In this game, like the Bears game, there might have been one missed tackle or there might have been two. In the Bears game we had one missed tackle, Harbaugh said, referring to his teams 32-7 win over Chicago on Nov. 19.

Also, there were no missed tackles that allowed yards after the catch. Every time we had a chance to contact a receiver after he caught the ball there were no yards after the catch. Thats huge.

San Francisco is second in the league in team defense, allowing just 278.4 yards-per-game.

49ers select CB Ahkello Witherspoon in third round of the 2017 NFL Draft

49ers select CB Ahkello Witherspoon in third round of the 2017 NFL Draft

AHKELLO WITHERSPOON
Position: Cornerback
College: Colorado
Height: 6-2 3/4
Weight: 193
Selection: Third round, No. 66 overall

SANTA CLARA – The 49ers selected Colorado cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon, a Sacramento native, in the third round of the NFL draft with the No. 66 overall pick.

“Being close to home is an incredible opportunity, as well as the type of defense they play -- press man, up in your face,” Witherspoon said. “When I came in for a visit, they were asking me if I’ve adopted that role and if I’d be willing to continue that. And I said, ‘Absolutely.’

“It’s an opportunity to play for such a great organization, close to home, with such a savvy defensive mentality. I think it’s going to be a great place for me.”

The 49ers were also scheduled to have the next pick, but traded the selection at No. 67 for the New Orleans Saints’ second-round pick in next year’s draft, as well as a seventh-round selection (No. 219 overall) this year. The 49ers now have 10 picks in next year’s draft.

The Saints used that pick at No. 67 to select Tennessee running back Alvin Kamara.

Witherspoon began his college career at Sacramento City. He played his final three college seasons at Colorado. He started 12 games last season and earned second-team All-Pac-12 honors.

Witherspoon led the nation with 22 pass breakups. He recorded one interception -- a game-saving pick in the end zone to preserve a 41-38 victory over Oregon. A pre-med student majoring in ecology and evolutionary biology, he said he aspires to be a doctor after his football career.

But Witherspoon said he is committed to football and promised the 49ers during his visit to Santa Clara that he will make huge strides over the next few years as he continues to develop as a player.

Reuben Foster: Shoulder recovery on pace for training camp clearance

Reuben Foster: Shoulder recovery on pace for training camp clearance

SANTA CLARA – Linebacker Reuben Foster is likely to be a spectator when the 49ers hold their rookie minicamp next week.

But Foster said he is on pace to be fully cleared for football activity by the time the 49ers open training camp in late July. Recent national reports have suggested Foster would require another surgery on his right shoulder.

“That’s not accurate at all,” said Foster, who took part in a press conference on Friday after the 49ers selected him with the No. 31 overall pick in the draft on Thursday. “I’m fine. I’m on schedule.”

Foster said he sustained the tear of the labrum in his right shoulder during Alabama’s national semifinal game against Washington. He played in the championship game against Clemson with the injury.

He underwent surgery on his rotator cuff that forced him to sit out drills at the NFL scouting combine in February. Foster was sent home from Indianapolis after an argument with a hospital worker while he was waiting to undergo a physical.

There were reports Foster could require additional surgery after he went through the medical re-check in Indianapolis.

“I’m making big progress,” Foster said. “I’ll be limited in OTAs. Training camp, I’ll be full-go, but if it’s my decision, I think I can go now.”

Later, Foster said the 49ers have all of his medical information.

“I guarantee they have enough X-rays, exams, MRIs to know where I stand,” he said. “I had the surgery. They already knew how many weeks I was out.”

Foster dropped in the draft over apparent concerns about his shoulder and character issues. Alabama coach Nick Saban told AL.com on Thursday that Foster did not consult him before undergoing surgery.

"Look, the way we like for things to get handled, that didn't get handled," Saban said. "We have the best doctors in the world in Dr. (James) Andrews and Dr. (Lyle) Cain who operate on most NFL players and his agent chose to take him someplace else. I think (Andrews and Cain) have tremendous credibility.

"So, you know, all these choices and decisions that you make have consequences and I hate it for our players when they do it, but he didn't seek my advice in what he should do. So, if that was an issue, that was an issue. It shouldn't have been an issue but if it was, I don't really know much about it."