49ers notes: Rookie tight end Kittle impresses in offseason program

49ers notes: Rookie tight end Kittle impresses in offseason program

SANTA CLARA -- Tight end George Kittle, a fifth-round draft pick, asserted himself during the 49ers’ offseason program as the team’s top rookie and set himself up to compete for a starting job in training camp.

Defensive lineman Solomon Thomas, the No. 3 overall draft pick, was prohibited from participating in the practices due to Stanford’s late conclusion of classes. And linebacker Reuben Foster, the first-round selection at No. 31, was limited to individual drills as he continues rehabilitation from shoulder surgery.

Kittle ended on a high note on Wednesday, as he caught touchdown passes of 8 and 5 yards from Matt Barkley and C.J. Beathard during red-zone drill. On Tuesday, he took advantage of a blown coverage to score on a 60-yard touchdown from presumptive starter Brian Hoyer.

“George is coming, really battling,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. “He’s competed in the run and the pass game. George is a guy you can tell he is going for it, because of the way he competes on the field.

“Mainly, what he does off the field, too. He’s really trying to learn it and that’s given him a chance to show up a little bit.”

Kittle caught six passes in the two days of practice during the team’s minicamp, which wrapped up its on-field work Wednesday afternoon. Only Pierre Garçon (eight) and Carlos Hyde (seven) caught more passes than Kittle.

Kittle appeared to place himself into solid position to compete for a starting job against veterans Vance McDonald, who caught two passes, and Garrett Celek, who had one reception in the two days.

“He has a really good football awareness -- a feel for where to break, how to break, read zones,” Hoyer said of Kittle. “I've been surprised and, obviously, it's a good thing for us to have a guy who has that football awareness and some feel of the game to it.”

Here are some other notes and observations from the final 49ers practice of the offseason before the club reports back to Santa Clara on July 27 for training camp:

--Foster took part in individual drills and showed no signs of a the right shoulder condition that some national reports have suggested will keep him sidelined for his entire rookie season. Shanahan stated that Foster is on track to be cleared for full participation at the beginning of training camp.

--Linebacker Ahmad Brooks, wide receiver Bruce Ellington, and cornerbacks Rashard Robinson and K’Waun Williams took part in some individual work but were held out of team drills due to what appear to be minor soft-tissue injuries.

--Twenty different players caught passes in 11-on-11 drills over the two days, including DeAndre Smelter, who worked inside of rookie left cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon on a slant pattern to catch a 5-yard touchdown from Barkley. Smelter was a fourth-round pick of the 49ers in 2014. He appeared in two games last season and caught one pass for 23 yards.

--Jeremy Kerley, Trent Taylor, Raheem Mostert, DeAndre Carter and Victor Bolden fielded punts from Bradley Pinion during a special-teams drill.

--The defense came through with six interceptions against three different quarterbacks during a six-play stretch near the beginning of practice. Safety Eric Reid picked off a Hoyer pass. Three plays later, veteran cornerback Will Davis, whom the 49ers recently signed, made a leaping grab of a deep Barkley pass intended for Aldrick Robinson. Linebacker Ray-Ray Armstrong got pressure on Barkley, forcing him to throw from his heels. Then, undrafted rookie Chanceller James stepped in front of a Beathard pass intended for Carter and returned it for a touchdown.

--The offense put together a strong red-zone session with five touchdowns over a sequence of six pass attempts. Garçon found an opening between NaVorro Bowman and Malcolm Smith for a touchdown. Hyde caught a throwback screen. Kittle worked inside of cornerback Adrian Colbert for an 8-yard TD from Barkley. Smelter caught his scoring pass against Witherspoon, and Kittle followed up with another scoring grab from former Iowa teammate Beathard against the coverage of Prince Charles Iworah.

--Undrafted rookie wide receiver Kendrick Bourne was finally allowed to join the 49ers practices after the conclusion of classes at Eastern Washington. He made a reception from undrafted quarterback Nick Mullens.

--Cornerback Keith Reaser and free safety Jimmie Ward, beaten a day earlier on a deep Marquise Goodwin pass, had tight coverage on Kerley on an incomplete pass off a play fake.

--Defensive linemen Chris Jones and Arik Armstead had multiple quarterback pressures.

--With Williams sidelined, Will Redmond and Lorenzo Jerome lined up at nickel back with the first- and second-team defenses.

--Sam linebacker Eli Harold nearly had an interception at the line of scrimmage on a Hoyer pass, but backup left tackle John Theus aggressively separated Harold from the ball as they tumbled to the ground.

--During the course of the two practices, Hyde had nine run attempts, while Tim Hightower had eight. Rookie Joe Williams carried six times, while Raheem Mostert rushed five times. Veteran addition Kapri Bibbs and undrafted rookie Matt Breida had two rush attempts apiece.

--Goodwin had a good showing over the two-day camp with four receptions, as he hones in on running different routes in Shanahan’s scheme. Goodwin told NBC Sports Bay Area he was eager to show he could execute more than just the speed routes that he ran while with the Buffalo Bills.

“That’s what’s been fun with Marquise, because you haven’t seen a lot of it on tape,” Shanahan said. “He’s been pretty much outside the numbers his whole career, even in college. Now to move him all over, it’s new for him, its trial and error.”

Eric Reid embracing new role with 49ers: 'I was made for this position'

Eric Reid embracing new role with 49ers: 'I was made for this position'

SANTA CLARA – Despite recording seven interceptions in his first two seasons and being named to the Pro Bowl as a rookie, Eric Reid said he believes he is now in a role that best fits his skillset.

Whereas in the past, the 49ers’ safety positions were considered interchangeable, there is a clear delineation this season under first-year defensive coordinator Robert Saleh.

“Even dating back to college, this is the first time there’s a distinct strong (safety) and a distinct free (safety),” Reid said. “I’ve been used to the interchangeability type of role.

“(In) some situations, certain calls where there’s a motion, we might flip. There are a couple situations where I might be in the post in the free-safety role, but it’s not nearly as much as it has been in the past.”

Reid, who is listed at 6 foot 1, 213 pounds, said he is excited to be stationed closer to the line of scrimmage for run support while free safety Jimmie Ward patrols the deep middle of the field.

The 49ers offseason program concluded Wednesday, and Reid found himself in the middle of the action with an interception on a short Brian Hoyer pass over the middle. While he will still be counted upon for coverage, his biggest impact could come to assist a run defense that last season ranked among the worst in NFL history.

“I love it, being around the ball more,” Reid said. “I anticipate making more tackles, hopefully making more plays. I feel like I was made for this position with my body type, being a bigger safety. I’m excited about this year.

“I feel like I’m using what God has blessed me with, more, which is my size and being in the box in the run game. In the past, I felt like I could do more. And being in the post, I can’t use my size as much when it comes to the run game.”

After producing seven interceptions in his first two seasons, Reid recorded just one interception in 26 games over the past two seasons.

As a first-round pick in 2013, the 49ers picked up the fifth-year option this season for $5.676 million. He is scheduled for unrestricted free agency at the conclusion of the season. Reid said the 49ers have not spoken to his representation about a long-term extension. That will come, he believes, if he lives up to his end of the bargain in his new, streamlined role.

“I look at it from a business standpoint,” Reid said. “I majored in business. They have me under contract. They don’t have any reason to talk to right now. I imagine if I play well in the first half of the season, they’ll reach out to me. Maybe they’ll reach out to me before training camp, I don’t know. It’s whatever route they decide to take. It’s a business. I’ll treat it as a business. I have a job to do, so I’ll do it.”

 

Mike Shanahan's official role with 49ers: Father of head coach

Mike Shanahan's official role with 49ers: Father of head coach

SANTA CLARA – Kyle Shanahan always wanted to coach football with his father. But, first, he knew he had to prove himself without any boost from his well-known dad.

Once the son established himself as one of the NFL’s respected offensive minds, the Shanahans teamed up for four up-but-mostly-down seasons with Washington.

Mike, the two-time Super Bowl-winning head coach, hired his son to serve as his top offensive assistant in 2010.

“I thought we saw football similar, but we quickly realized after a few weeks that we saw it differently,” Kyle Shanahan told NBC Sports Bay Area in February. “We grew together. He gave me a lot of leeway while I was there. It was fun to try a bunch of different things, having to even incorporate the zone read when we got Robert (Griffin).

“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 Shanahan broke into the coaching ranks under Karl Dorrell at UCLA. He moved onto the NFL to work with Jon Gruden on the staff of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Gary Kubiak with the Houston Texans. But nothing prepared him for the scrutiny he would face as offensive coordinator under his father.

Kyle Shanahan adjusted the Washington offense to take advantage of Griffin’s skills as a dual-threat quarterback as a rookie 2012. The club qualified for the playoffs with a 10-6 record.

But things blew up the following season as the Mike Shanahan-Griffin relationship soured. Shanahan and eight assistant coaches, including Kyle, were fired the morning after Washington’s 3-13 season concluded.

Mike Shanahan has remained out of coaching, though he was a finalist for the 49ers’ head-coaching job after the 2015 season. The 49ers hired Chip Kelly.

Kyle Shanahan rebuilt his career with one season as offensive coordinator with the Cleveland Browns and two successful seasons with the Atlanta Falcons to enable him to become CEO Jed York’s choice to replace Kelly.

There is no official role for Mike Shanahan, 64, on his son’s staff with the 49ers. But the father has attended several of the team’s practices this offseason, including both days of the 49ers’ mandatory minicamp this week. Mike has been issued his own iPad that gives him access to the 49ers playbook and coach's film. He will likely visit for an extended stay during training camp. But Kyle said he believes his dad will mostly remain home -- only a phone call away -- during the regular season.

“He’s enjoying life right now,” said Kyle, 37. “He’s got a pretty good deal in Denver, where he lives. He can help me out in other ways anyways without having to be here every day.”

Mike Shanahan does not need to be in the building every day to counsel and have influence on his son as he tries to navigate his first season as the head coach while also maintaining the responsibilities of running the team’s offense.

“You’re going 1,000 miles an hour,” Kyle Shanahan said. “Sometimes to see everything you’ve got to really slow things down and take your time to look at stuff and you don’t always have that time as a head coach.

“It’s nice when someone you know who thinks similar to you has a similar background and he just sits in a room all day and watches stuff. He doesn’t have any other responsibilities. He can see some things that I’m not always seeing and just to bring things to light that maybe I missed or other people have missed.”

Mike Shanahan was a successful NFL offensive coordinator for seven seasons. He won a Super Bowl on George Seifert’s staff with the 49ers in January 1995. His dad believes his time around the 49ers has a lasting impact.

“When I was with San Francisco, Kyle was at the 49ers training camps in Rocklin,” Mike Shanahan told Fangirl Sports Network. “He stayed with me at camp and we talked about football every night.

“He had the opportunity to experience an organization that had won four Super Bowls in nine years. He also had the opportunity to be around some great people and leaders. He still tells stories and talks about people like Steve Young, Joe Montana, Harris Barton, Tom Rathman, Jerry Rice, John Taylor, Deion Sanders, and many others. What a great experience to see how these men handled themselves on and off the field.”

The Denver Broncos hired him to become head coach shortly after the 49ers’ 49-26 victory over the San Diego Chargers in Super Bowl XXIX. Shanahan went on to win two Super Bowls in his 14 seasons with the Broncos.

Kyle Shanahan was a wide receiver at Duke before finishing college at Texas, where he caught 14 passes for 127 yards in two seasons. He figured he would have a career in football and it would not be as a player.

“I’ve wanted to coach my whole life,” Kyle Shanahan said. “This is all I’ve known, just growing up around football. It’s almost all I’ve been into, too. Since I was little, it’s distracted me from everything I’ve done, especially school. I always tried to tell my mom, ‘Just be patient, it’ll play out for us in the long run.’ Fortunately, it did.

“Once I realized my genes were a little bit better as a coach than as a player, I pretty much locked into that – and that was about halfway through college. I haven’t looked back.”

During his short time with the 49ers, players on both sides of the ball have expressed amazement at how knowledgeable Kyle Shanahan is about the game of football. His dad told Fangirl Sports Network to succeed as a head coach he must always be dedicated to stuyding, learning and teaching the sport.

“He loves the game and knows it inside and out,” Mike Shanahan said. “My advice to him is to never lose the drive to study the game as he’s done over the last 13 years. To stay in the NFL as a head coach and have success for any length of time, you must never lose your drive to teach and stay abreast of what the top teams are doing every year: offense, defense, special teams. You must be able to coach all positions to really understand the whole game.”

Former 49ers president Carmen Policy said he remembers young Kyle serving as a ball boy during 49ers training camp in the early 1990s. Policy, who remains close to Mike Shanahan, has followed Kyle’s rise in the coaching ranks while playfully questioning the sanity of the family business.

Said Policy: “I used to tease Mike, ‘What kind of father are you to let your kid go into coaching?’ I said, ‘You should be charged with dereliction of parental duty.’ And he’d laugh and say, ‘Yeah, I tried talking to him and then my wife tried talking to him, but that’s his passion, and that’s what he wants to do, so I’m not going to dissuade him from it.’

“And, then, look at what happened. Here he is. He’s the head coach of the 49ers, and that’s just incredible.”