Dixon expands versatility in quest for roster spot

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Dixon expands versatility in quest for roster spot

SANTA CLARA -- In a period of five days late this month, 1,184 hopefuls will be trimmed from NFL rosters.Running back Anthony Dixon, whose role on the 49ers is anything but secure, does not expect his name to be one of the team's 37 cuts."I feel like I'm still one of the best at what I'm doing, and I can help any other team," Dixon said Tuesday. "But to tell you truth, I don't feel like that's going to happen. I feel like I'll be right here. I'm going to keep working my butt off and make sure that happens."Dixon said he has not changed positions, though the 49ers depth chart now lists him at fullback. Rather, Dixon said he opted to show his versatility when he approached coach Jim Harbaugh and running backs coach Tom Rathman on the first day of training camp to ask for snaps at fullback."Coach is always preaching, 'The more you can do, the more you can do for the team -- the more value you have,'" Dixon said. "That was big coming into the camp. Of course, we signed Brandon (Jacobs). Of course, we drafted LaMichael (James). I didn't change my position. I wanted to expand my role and make my value more."Dixon played just 52 snaps for the 49ers last season as the team's No. 3 running back behind Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter, both of whom return. With the additions of Jacobs and James, there stood little chance for Dixon's return as the third back.So Dixon is banking on an improved work ethic and a willingness to contribute at fullback and special teams to enable him to earn a roster spot. The 49ers added veteran Rock Cartwright in the offseason for a potential special-teams ace.MAIOCCO: 49ers camp battle -- Anthony Dixon vs. Brandon Jacobs
Dixon realizes his best chance to win a roster spot is to prove his game features qualities of Gore, fullback Bruce Miller and Cartwright. He is slated to be starting on three special-teams units when the 49ers open the exhibition season on Friday at Candlestick Park against the Minnesota Vikings.Dixon had a rough beginning to his second NFL season, and that is why he entered the offseason program and training camp more focused.He admits that he did not report to camp in the best shape a year ago after the lockout. Dixon had difficulty learning the new offensive system. He also says he got into Harbaugh's doghouse when he said some things to opposing players on the field during games."My actions weren't what coach Harbaugh wanted," Dixon said. "I had to learn that. Dealing with a new coach, I had to learn that, I had to learn how he wanted us to do things. As the year went on, I got better and better."Now, he said all the feedback has been positive. Harbaugh recently singled out Dixon on the practice field for keeping his pad level low. And his position coach has appeared impressed, too.
"Coach Rathman helps me every day," Dixon said. "He tells me he loves the way I'm making contact. And my stock is going up."I feel like I am a good running back and I'm becoming a good fullback."

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.”