Last chance: Bakhtiari works without a safety net

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Last chance: Bakhtiari works without a safety net

SANTA CLARA -- Outside linebacker Eric Bakhtiari has made a living bouncing around the NFL since 2008. But what worked for him in the past is no longer an option this season.
This is a make-or-break training camp for a guy who attracted interest from one NFL team in the offseason.And it just so happened when the phone rang, the person on the other end was the first one who gave him hope he could play at the highest level of the sport.Bakhtiari was prepared to enroll at the University of Arizona after being a one-year high school starter at Burlingame. He was not going to play football. But when he visited a friend at the University of San Diego in March before his freshman season, he saw an opportunity to continue to play college football at a lower level of competition.
After red-shirting his first year at San Diego, he was among eight players chosen to interview coaching candidates. There was one candidate who stood out among the others.Jim Harbaugh.After spring drills that first year, Harbaugh met with all 90 players. What he said to Bakhtiari that day in 2004 changed the youngster's commitment to the game."He told me -- I vividly remember this -- I walked in and we were talking and he said, 'We don't think you can be a good player here; we think you can be a great one.' And I've always remembered that," Bakhtiari said.What was his initial reaction?"I thought somebody else was in the room and he wasn't talking to me," Bakhtiari said.Bakhtiari became a three-time all-conference selection. In 2006 and '07, he was selected as the conference's Defensive Player of the Year."It gave me confidence and made me put more pressure on myself instead of being just a guy," Bakhtiari said. "Knowing the expectations were set for me, it kind of curbed my social activities on the weekends. Everything I did was geared toward football, in terms of my diet, when I went to bed, my workouts and what time I went out on weekends and what time I came back home."After going undrafted, Bakhtiari set forth on a remarkable NFL journey. He mostly lived a week-to-week existence on practice squads throughout the league, earning approximately 5,000 a week.From 2008 to 2011, he made stops with San Diego, the 49ers, back to San Diego, Tampa Bay, Tennessee, back to the 49ers, Miami, Kansas City, Cleveland, and back to Kansas City.Through it all, he has suited up for only three regular-season games. The Titans promoted him from the practice squad in 2009 for three games. He did not play any defense, but he was on the field for 47 plays on special teams.And don't bother asking him what he remembers from his first game: Nov. 13, 2009, vs. the St. Louis Rams. He sustained a concussion on kickoff coverage and he has only a hazy recollection of his NFL debut.Bakhtiari, 27, has a chance this summer to create new memories. The 49ers have a shortage of outside linebackers with injuries sidelining rookies Darius Fleming and Cam Johnson, both of whom were draft picks.Harbaugh personally invited Bakhtiari this spring to take part in a mass workout for veteran players prior to the draft at the 49ers' practice facility. Bakhtiari was brought back for a follow-up before the club signed him."I think a lot of him as a football player, as a person, and a guy," Harbaugh said. "Very talented, hard working guy, who you can count on. He's a count-on-me guy."The 49ers hope to count on Bakhtiari for more the same after an impressive opener to the exhibition season. He recorded two sacks Friday night against the Minnesota Vikings to keep himself in the conversation for a spot on the 53-man roster."For a guy that's only got one year in the league or whatever it is, credited, he's got a lot of experience because he's been in a bunch of camps," 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said. "He's a smart player. He's experienced and it showed in that game there. He took advantage of his opportunities."But if he does not make the 49ers' roster, he can forget about getting a call to the team's practice squad. He no longer has practice-squad eligibility. And there's no way to spin that as good news for Bakhtiari with each team required to trim 37 players from Aug. 27 to Aug. 31."I think any time you eliminate yourself from having a job in the NFL, it's never a good thing," Bakhtiari said. "It's a special place to be. It's an honor and I've appreciated the years of service I've had here. I don't have that safety net of the practice squad."

Reid: National anthem protest accomplished goal of awareness

Reid: National anthem protest accomplished goal of awareness

SANTA CLARA – Safety Eric Reid and linebacker Eli Harold, who joined Colin Kaepernick in kneeling during the national anthem last season, will not continue the protest this season.

Reid said Wednesday they achieved their goal of bringing attention to racial inequality in the United States.

“When we started doing that, our goal was to open up the floor to conversation. I believe we’ve achieved that goal,” Reid said. “So now we just want to move forward and just partner with people that’s trying to make a change.

“We accomplished that goal. People talked about it. I think we raised a lot of awareness about issues in this country. And now it’s time to move on to just affecting change.”

Reid and Harold are back with the 49ers, while Kaepernick remains a free agent. The 49ers have expressed no interest in retaining Kaepernick after opting to sign free-agent quarterback Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley, instead.

“I stay in touch with him,” Reid said of Kaepernick. “I’m rooting for him. Obviously, he isn’t on a team, yet, but I’m rooting for him but hopefully he gets that call after the draft.

“It’s surprising. You see some of the other quarterbacks that have been signed around the league and why he hasn’t been, it’s just unfortunate.”

When asked if thought Kaepernick was paying the price for his protest, Reid answered, “I think so. It’s unfortunate, it’s sad. People want to shy away from him because of media, PR reasons.

“You’re doing something to better the world. I mean, the guy got a plane sent to Somalia to help with the famine there. He’s been doing things that if it were anybody else in a different situation without the anthem (protest), they’d be praising him and giving him awards for it.”

 

Coming off Achilles injury, Bowman returns to 49ers practice at full speed

Coming off Achilles injury, Bowman returns to 49ers practice at full speed

SANTA CLARA – NaVorro Bowman, who sustained a season-ending torn Achilles in Week 4 of the 2016 season, has been a full participant as the 49ers return to the practice field this week.

Bowman worked with the first team at middle linebacker Wednesday and appeared to move at top speed as the 49ers went through the second day of on-field workouts at a voluntary minicamp.

The 49ers, under new coach Kyle Shanahan, are allowed an extra voluntary minicamp as part of their offseason program. Bowman's return to the practice field was the highlight as the 49ers enter their third-week of the offseason program.

In other notes:

--The 49ers had tryouts with three unsigned veteran players: cornerback Steve Williams, and offensive linemen Tim Barnes and Kitt O’Brien.

--Wide receiver DeAndre Carter made the best catch of the day on a deep throw from quarterback Matt Barkley. Carter beat Williams on the reception.

--Defensive lineman Arik Armstead, who is a candidate to play the “Leo” position, was held out of competitive drills as he continues to recovery from surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder.

--Ronald Blair lined up at the “Leo” position with the first-team defense and beat No. 2 right tackle Garry Gilliam for a sack in the “non-contract” drills. Aaron Lynch was at the “Leo” position with the second team.

--Tank Carradine lined up at the 5-technique, which is a position where the 49ers could target Stanford’s Solomon Thomas with the No. 2 overall pick.

--Kyle Juszczyk showed the versatility that prompted the 49ers to make him the highest-paid fullback in the league with several pass receptions during the 90-minute practice.

--Rashard Robinson and Dontae Johnson lined up at the cornerbacks with the first-team defense. Robinson made a leaping interception of a Brian Hoyer deep sideline pass against Rashad Ross during 7-on-7 drills.

--Hoyer and receiver Pierre Garçon teamed up for a 20-yard completion on the opening play of the 11-on-11 period.

--Wide receiver Bruce Ellington, who spent all of last season on injured reserve, did not practice due to a soft-tissue injury not related to his hamstring injury of a year ago.

--Offensive lineman Jeremy Zuttah (soft tissue), tight end Je’Ron Hamm (leg), running back Raheem Mostert (soft tissue), linebacker Eli Harold (toe) and tight end Blake Bell (cut forehead) did not practice.