49ers notes: Who will back up Gore?

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49ers notes: Who will back up Gore?

SANTA CLARA Just who will pick up the slack for injured 49ers wide receiver Kyle Williams and running back Kendall Hunter is yet to be determined. The two were placed on injured reserve on Tuesday, and are done for the year after getting hurt on the same play in New Orleans on Sunday.

MAIOCCO: How do 49ers replace Williams & Hunter?

The quarterback situation is also unofficial at this point, as head coach Jim Harbaugh isnt expected to announce his starter until Wednesday, at the earliest.

The message from inside the San Francisco locker room, however, is crystal clear. No matter who suits up on Sunday against the Rams or is lined up when the ball is snapped, the players who spoke with the media on Tuesday projected a absolute belief in the roster from top to bottom.

Yeah, were very confident, safety Donte Whitner said. These guys have been on our developmental team, is what we like to call it here. Theyve been in two, three, four times a week, lifting and running, doing everything that we do in practice, and still going to the same meetings. So, when called upon, we expect guys to step up. We believe that they will.

That was a major hit. Kyle and Kendall are both go-to guys in our offense, running back Anthony Dixon said. They made a lot of plays for us this year, and to see them go down on one play man, thats crazy. We pride ourselves on being a stacked team, on being deep, and we just got to show up this week.

Frank Gore, who has 914 rushing yards on 5.2 yards-per-carry and five touchdowns, will continue to get the majority of carries. But after that, its up in the air. Second-round pick LaMichael James may be the most intriguing option, although Dixon and Brandon Jacobs are also available.

Dixon has just 48 yards on 12 carries this season, while Jacobs didnt get his first touch until last Sundays game against New Orleans, when he carried it once for a single yard.

James, a 5-9, 185-pounder out of Oregon, could provide a change of pace in the backfield from the bruising Gore, just as Jenkins was doing before his injury. In fact, Whitner compared him to a player that the Niners saw just last weekend.

Hes a guy similar to Saints running back Darren Sproles. He can still carry the ball up inside. I know hes anxious to get out there and play, Whitner said.

Dixon, too, was complimentary of his teammate in the backfield.

I expect dynamic plays, man, Dixon said. I watch him every day on the practice field, and hes making plays, going up to get the ball. They have him doing Percy Harvin stuff when were playing teams like that, and he really is a great talent. I feel like hes going to come in and make plays. I know hes hungry. He hasnt got the chance to really get his feet wet yet, so I know hell come in with the hunger. I expect a lot of great plays out of him.

Gore said: "He's been working hard, he's been practicing hard. I know he wants to play. I know running backs coach Tom Rathman or coach Harbaugh, if they decide he'll be the next guy, I know coach Rathman will get him ready to play."

As for the recent opening at the wide receiver position, theres a chance 2012 first-round pick A.J. Jenkins could get on the field. If thats the case, Whitner, who has spent plenty of time covering him in practice, appeared anxious to see what Jenkins can bring.

A.J. is an extremely talented guy. He came in here, and we have a lot of depth at wide receiver, but hes been getting better and better as hes been going against the first team defensive backs in practice. Hes actually made some plays on us, and made some big plays, Whitner said.

Colin Kaepernick made a brief appearance in the San Francisco locker room to get dressed, and was quickly surrounded by microphones, cameras and iPhone voice memo recorders. After a brief chat with a Niners PR rep, though, the media was informed that the probable starter for Sunday wouldnt be talking until Wednesday.

The team has still not been informed whether it will be Kaepernick or Alex Smith behind center on Sunday, according to Whitner.

They havent told us who that guy is. Thats all coachs decision. I know Alex really wants to get in there and I know Kap really wants to get in there.

It is a tough situation, especially when you have a good football team and those guys are really good competitors. Its tough. I believe that coach will make the right decision on which guy he wants to go with, and that guy will go in there and do an outstanding job for us.

Kaepernick, of course, has played very well the past two weeks, leading the Niners to wins over the Bears and Saints after Smith suffered a concussion the previous week against St. Louis.

Gore said: "Kap's a football player. We've got two good quarterbacks. Whatever way coach decides to go, we're behind him. They're both going to play well. It don't matter."

Gore was unambiguous in stating theres no fear of a quarterback dilemma dividing the locker room.

"That's not here, he said. We're a team. That's one thing about our locker room. We're one. We're all as one. If it's Alex, we're going to be behind Alex. If it's Kap, we're going to be behind Kap."

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.”