Preseason finale looms large for Tolzien, other 'bubble' 49ers

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Preseason finale looms large for Tolzien, other 'bubble' 49ers

The preseason is the NFL lifeline for players like Scott Tolzien. The quarterback has a stellar college resume that includes a Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award and a 72.9 completion rate from 12 regular-season starts his senior season. That completion percentage set the single season school record at Wisconsin and led the nation for 2010 as well.But when no team drafted the Illinois native, Tolzien had to build his NFL resume through any game action he could get. He signed a free agent contract with San Diego and played in three preseason games with the Chargers. His third game was a 16-23, 226 yard passing performance in a loss to the 49ers with a 69.6 completion rate despite being sacked five times. Tolzien was already on the 49ers' radar, but after that game, the team picked him up and made the rookie the third quarterback as soon as the Chargers cut him.RELATED: 49ers make cuts to 75-player limit
There was other factors in that decision, just like theres other factors in everybodys decision, head coach Jim Harbaugh said of adding Tolzien to the 53 man roster last season. Body of work thats been built up, the year before, in the offseason, in training camp, in other preseason games.Tolzien has a wisdom beyond his 24-years and made sure he passed his experience onto this years crop of rookies, especially the undrafted free agents. He told A.J. Jenkins, Nathan Palmer, Chris Owusu and some of the linemen to make every moment count Thursday night.This isnt just the last preseason game before the regular season begins, this is big for us, Tolzien said. This is our chance to get a lot of playing time and really show what weve been preparing for.RELATED: Maiocco -- The numbers game: The 49ers most impacted
What these young players need to showcase to clinch a spot on the 49ers, or any NFL teams roster, differs from player to player. Tolzien is looking to relax, get into a rhythm and more than anything look for completions. Palmer wants his body of work to highlight the progress hes made throughout his first NFL training camp.One of the big things that I was labeled as is a guy that cant get separation and a guy thats not willing to block, so thats been one thing that I focused on this whole preseason here, Palmer said. Im a big critic on myself. I definitely think I can play a lot better on film, but Ive learned a lot here and it shows on film.Palmer admitted he was a nervous wreck and didnt sleep much the night before the first cut. But he understands the chances of him remaining with the 49ers past Fridays final cut are slim. Tolzien is more at ease with his situation.Just preparing as if youre the starter, whether its football or not, Tolzien said, just looking back with no regrets at the end of the day.In the NFL, just be sure that at the end of the day its all on film.

McDonald toasts Shanahan for communication of trade talks

McDonald toasts Shanahan for communication of trade talks

SANTA CLARA -- Tight end Vance McDonald became aware of a report the 49ers had engaged in trade talks involving him at his brother’s wedding in Austin, Texas.

But McDonald said he did not give it much thought because he had another immediate priority.

“I still had my best man’s speech to do,” McDonald said.

Later that evening during last month's draft, 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan called McDonald to keep him in the loop. There was no trade, and McDonald returned to Santa Clara on Monday to continue participation in the 49ers’ offseason program.

“The first thing I told him was, ‘Man, there aren’t a lot of coaches that would do this,’” McDonald said of his talk with Shanahan. “He just wanted to fill me in.”

Nearly four weeks later, it is as if nothing ever happened.

“The only trade discussions we had was when another team asked us about Vance on draft day,” Shanahan said this week. “And after a team asked us about Vance then we asked other teams if they’d be interested in that same thing.”

McDonald said he completely understood why the 49ers would check with other teams around the league to see what they could acquire in a trade.

“Basically, it’s just like any other team in the NFL would do,” McDonald said. “If you’re a 2-14 team, obviously, there are a lot of things you can improve on, a lot of spots that need to be filled. There are a lot of things you need to improve upon in the offseason. So if teams are going to call and inquire about you, then obviously the next step is to … call around to every other team.

“So that’s exactly what happened to me. It isn’t like they don’t want me here. There was never a lack of communication on any level.”

Even before he knew his immediate future with the 49ers, McDonald said he tried to maintain the proper state of mind.

“I had the mindset this isn’t going to change anything,” McDonald said. “I’m going to end up where I end up and I’m just going to continue doing what I’m doing, which is do everything to be a better football player.”

McDonald enters the fifth year of his NFL career after signing a new deal in December that amounts to a three-year, $19.7 million extension. Three days later, the 49ers placed McDonald on injured reserve with a shoulder injury.

McDonald was on pace for his best season as a pass-catcher. In 11 games, he had 24 receptions for 391 yards and four touchdowns.

Now, he is competition for a spot in the 49ers’ offense, along with fifth-round draft pick George Kittle, undrafted rookie Cole Hikutini, and veterans Logan Paulsen, Garrett Celek and Blake Bell.

McDonald said he likes what Shanahan has brought to the 49ers, including added responsibilities of the tight end position.

“Last year, all we talked about was how fast our pace was,” McDonald said. “With Kyle, it’s insanely quick. He’s a very detailed guy. It’s interesting to hear him present information. You try to apply it and play with the same mindset that he has. It’s a task that we all enjoy doing.

“We (tight ends) are the end of the line. There’s communication with us and the wide receivers and running backs. We’re also in command with receiving corps. There are a lot of things on our plate. Hopefully, this doesn’t get back to the wide receivers, but we’re supposed to be smarter than them. It’s a fun job to have. We don’t try to rub it in too much.”

Chip Kelly returns to college football -- as analyst

Chip Kelly returns to college football -- as analyst

Chip Kelly is back in college football.

The former Oregon coach, who served as 49ers head coach last season, signed a multiyear deal as an ESPN analyst, the network announced Friday morning. He will work predominantly on pre-games, halftimes and in studio wraps each Saturday on ESPN2.

“Over the last 30 years, I have experienced football from one perspective – as a coach,” Kelly said in a statement. “Working in television will allow me to see the game from a different angle; simultaneously, I‘ll provide viewers an insight to the mindset of a coach and team while offering alternative views of various situations.

“Once I decided to make the move to TV, my familiarity with ESPN, combined with their high-quality production and vital role in college football, it was easily the best network suited for me.”

Kelly, 53, was fired on the evening of the 49ers’ season finale. The 49ers went 2-14 under Kelly and set the franchise record with 13 consecutive losses. Their only victories came against the Los Angeles Rams. Kelly also auditioned with FOX for the analyst job vacated when John Lynch became 49ers general manager, sources told NBC Sports Bay Area.

Kelly served as Oregon’s head coach from 2009 to ’12. His teams compiled a record of 46-7. Under Kelly, the Ducks advanced to the 2011 national championship game, losing to Auburn 22-19.

Kelly won the AP College Football Coach of the Year. He twice won the Pac-10 coach of the year. He left Oregon to become head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles in 2013. After his first two NFL teams went 10-6, Kelly was fired in 2015 with one game remaining in the season. The Eagles were 6-9 at the time of Kelly's firing.

“Chip is one of the most innovative football minds of our generation,” ESPN senior coordinating producer Lee Fitting said. “As a coach, he saw the game from a unique perspective, never afraid to take an unconventional approach. We want him to bring that mentality to our college football coverage each week, offering fans a varying viewpoint outside of the conventional thought process.”