Dixon accepts challenge from 49ers coaches

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Dixon accepts challenge from 49ers coaches

SANTA CLARA -- When the 49ers brought in three veteran free-agent running backs for tryouts on Tuesday, it did not escape the attention of Anthony Dixon."I'm not going to say I didn't see it or I didn't hear about it," Dixon said Friday as he sat in front of his locker after practice."They want me to bring it even more. I feel like I have, but there's always room for improvement. I'm down for it, so I'm ready to go."Dixon, a sixth-round draft pick in 2010, carried the ball 70 times for 237 yards and two touchdowns in his first NFL season out of Mississippi State. But rookie fourth-round pick Kendall Hunter beat out Dixon for the backup job during training camp.
Dixon said head coach Jim Harbaugh, running backs coach Tom Rathman and special-teams coordinator Brad Seely have each challenged him to improve every aspect of his game."Coaches are just trying for me to be perfect," Dixon said. "That's the way I see it. They want me to be perfect, and we all know how hard that is to achieve. But they feel like I can do it, and I feel like I can do it.""They want me to be just that much more crisp. I'm down for it. I've accepted it (the challenge), and I'm ready to go."Dixon has been primarily a special-teams player for the 49ers. He played just two snaps of offense while starter Frank Gore and Hunter have combined to take the vast majority of the plays.On a third-and-1 on the final play of the first quarter against the Dallas Cowboys, Dixon gained 6 yards off left tackle. The 49ers went on to score a touchdown on the drive. It was the only time Dixon touched the ball through four games.With Gore hobbled with an ankle sprain, Dixon expected to see some action Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles. But he never got onto the field for any offensive plays."Yeah, that was disappointing," Dixon said. "It definitely threw my attitude off a little bit. He (Harbaugh) challenged me to get my attitude back in check, too. I got to work on getting my attitude back into shape and being that much more polished on my plays."While Harbaugh and the coaches have asked Dixon to turn up his level of execution, the head coach has requested that he tone down his action on special teams. Dixon said Harbaugh has told him to stop talking to the opponent's sideline after plays."It's what he wants me to do," Dixon said. "It's the Harbaugh way. I got to learn to do things the Harbaugh way, and then maybe I'll see the field some more."I'm ready. I can't wait to get the opportunity. I feel like I can bring another dimension to the offense. I just got to wait for my opportunity. . . . It kind of messes with my attitude sometimes, but I know coach wants me to get (it) right, get special teams right, be perfect on that."So how did Dixon perform in the week of practice after accepting the challenge from the 49ers' coaching staff?"I definitely picked it up, working harder," he said. "I'm just trying to get perfect and hope I can go out there and deliver a perfect performance."

Why Shanahan chose Hoyer and Barkley over Kaepernick

Why Shanahan chose Hoyer and Barkley over Kaepernick

PHOENIX – Coach Kyle Shanahan walked into a position with the 49ers in which he had no quarterbacks on the roster.

On the first two days of free agency, the 49ers added Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley. He determined they were better fits for the offense he would be installing over Colin Kaepernick, who started 64 regular-season and postseason games for the 49ers over the past 4 ½ seasons.

Shanahan appeared to be looking for quarterbacks who are more proficient at going through progressions and making plays from the pocket. Kaepernick was not deemed as a good fit for Shanahan's offense.

“Colin’s had a great career, and he’s done some really good things,” Shanahan said on Wednesday at the NFL owners meetings. “I think Colin has a certain skillset that you can put a specific offense to it that he can be very successful in.

“When we first looked at it, you got to look at each quarterback and what type of offense you want to put in. That wasn’t necessarily the direction I wanted to go. I wanted to put in a different type of offense.”

Kaepernick opted out of his contract to become an unrestricted free agent. General manager John Lynch has confirmed the 49ers would have released Kaepernick if he had not opted out of his deal.

“The type of offense I wanted to run was somewhat different and that’s why we went that type of direction,” Shanahan said.

The 49ers’ top target in free agency was Hoyer, who enters his ninth NFL season with his sixth different team. Shanahan was offensive coordinator with the Cleveland Browns in 2014 in Hoyer’s second and final season with the club.

Hoyer started five games with Chicago in 2016 before getting sidelined with broken left arm. Hoyer completed 67 percent of his passes with six touchdowns and no interceptions in 200 attempts.

“All these questions about what I like in a quarterback, Brian is like that,” Shanahan said. “He’s obsessed with the game. He will learn your offense. He’ll be able to execute and run it. That gives other guys a chance to perform in your offense. If your quarterback can’t execute it and go through it, it doesn’t always matter what the O-line or the receivers are doing.

“With Brian, you have a very smart guy who works at it, will hang in the pocket and is fearless, will keep his eyes down the field and deliver the ball to the right spots. It gives people a chance to be successful.”

The 49ers also reached a contract agreement with Barkley, who started six games with the Bears due to injuries to Jay Cutler and Hoyer. Barkley saw the most extensive playing time of his career. He completed 59.7 percent of his passes with eight touchdowns and 14 interceptions.

“Just watching Matt since college, Matt’s always been a solid player, even coming out and playing at an early age at (USC),” Shanahan said. “He’s battle-tested in that way. He’s gone through the pressure of college, the pressure of the draft, being in the NFL, being with some different teams. Even watching Matt in Chicago this year, I think he played better this year than he has throughout his career. That means the guy is continuing to work at it.”

The 49ers figure to go to training camp with four quarterbacks, so the team is not finished at the quarterback position.

“We’ll look to add anyone who can really help us,” Shanahan said. “I’m very happy with the two we got. You know we’re not only going to take two to camp. So we got to see how the draft works out and then you see what else is out there.”

Goodell reacts to suggestion Kaepernick is being 'blackballed'

Goodell reacts to suggestion Kaepernick is being 'blackballed'

PHOENIX – NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said Tuesday he does not believe quarterback Colin Kaepernick is being “blackballed” in his attempt to continue his career.

“I haven’t heard that from our clubs in any way that that’s an issue,” Goodell said during his press conference to conclude the NFL owners meetings.

“My experience in 35 years is that our clubs make independent evaluations of players. They work hard to try to improve their teams. But if they think a player can help improve their team, they’re going to do that.”

Kaepernick remains unsigned as an unrestricted free agent after opting out of his 49ers contract earlier this month. Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman this week was asked on ESPN’s "First Take" whether he felt Kaepernick was being blackballed.

"I'm sure he is," Sherman answered. "It's difficult to see because he's played at such a high level, and you see guys, quarterbacks, who have never played at a high level being signed by teams. So it's difficult to understand."

General manager John Lynch on Tuesday said the 49ers have not had any contact with Kaepernick since he and coach Kyle Shanahan met with Kaepernick on Feb. 22 in Santa Clara. The 49ers signed free-agent quarterbacks Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley have shown no interest in re-signing Kaepernick.

Kaepernick, 29, created a controversy last season when he opted to take a knee during the playing of the national anthem to protest racial inequality in the United States. Kaepernick has decided to stand for the national anthem this season.

Earlier in the day, Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh said it was “stupid” and “intellectually lazy” to think teams have colluded to keep Kaepernick out of the league. Last week, former 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh, John’s brother, said Kaepernick is still an outstanding player and can win championships.

“I absolutely think he’s going to get signed,” John Harbaugh said. “I agree with Jim. He can win games for people.”