Q&A with ex-49ers CB Nate Clements

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Q&A with ex-49ers CB Nate Clements

Cornerback Nate Clements said Wednesday morning that he didn't figure he'd be playing for the home team this week when the 49ers visit the Cincinnati Bengals.He figured a new contract would be worked out and he'd be back for a fifth season with the 49ers. But the 49ers released Clements and he quickly signed with the Bengals.On Sunday, he'll be facing an offense that looks nothing like the one he saw while with the 49ers, he said. And he sees an offensive philosophy under new coach Jim Harbaugh that plays to the strengths of quarterback Alex Smith.Here is what Clements had to say in a conference call with Bay Area reporters:On so many former 49ers in the locker room:
Clements: "It's one of those things where it's just a coincidence. It happened to work out that way."

On whether Bengals asked him about Taylor Mays:
Clements: "No. I really don't have anything to do with the front office decisions. So those guys, they're capable in what they're doing when it comes to that, and I just focus on playing football."How soon after you got released did Bengals go after you?
Clements: "Actually, I didn't even expect this to happen. But things happen for a reason. I was fortunate enough that I didn't have to wait too long for a call."Did you expect to be back with the 49ers?
Clements: "Well, yeah, I mean, at the time, my mindset was I'm a player who's still under contract. I knew we'd have to talk contract issues, and I was fine with that. I definitely didn't think things would play out the way they did. And so like I said, things happen for a reason. That's the nature of this game.On whether they talked about a smaller contract:
Clements: "I really don't want to get into details about that situation. All I know is I had to do what was best for me and my family, first and foremost. And if it wasn't in me and my family's best interest, I wasn't going to do it."Is there any resentment the way the 49ers handled your situation?
Clements: "None at all."When you signed with the Bengals to did you look at the schedule and circle this one?
Clements: "I didn't circle it. I'm anxious. I was excited because this year is definitely unique in the sense we had the lockout and guys missed a whole offseason. So it was a unique offseason and just be able to play football and get out there every week. The season opener, I was anxious and excited. I'm excited every week."On looking back on the years in San Francisco:
Clements: "Great. Great. I had great teammates. The fans are still good to me. They show me a lot of love out there. I felt blessed for the opportunity and fortunate enough to play for an organization with that much tradition."How much do you miss it here?
Clements: "I miss my teammates. That was the big deal. But I've been in the league awhile. And I see things as I've been playing. I think I've been prepared for this time, for anything that had to happen. I was prepared for it."Do you play the slot on third downs?
Clements: "I do a little bit of everything."When you now start studying the 49ers' receivers, what do you see?
Clements: "My impression is the same as it was before -- a young, talented receiver corps that definitely has what it takes to have potential stars in this league. They definitely have speed, talent, size. I had a chance to face those guys every day in practice, so my perception has not change."Has the 49ers offensive philosophy changed?
Clements: "It's pretty much changed every year that I was there. But, just looking at it on film, you definitely see a major difference -- a major difference. It's nothing like last year. You can see major difference in the philosophy, formations and how they approach the set up. You can see the difference."Can you can give an example?
Clements: "Well, the one thing I notice is they move guys around in different positions. It's a very versatile type of offensive philosophy. They stick different guys in and run the same thing. It's very versatile. You can do a lot with it."Does that put more pressure on you guys?
Clements: "I wouldn't say pressure. I'd say you really have to be focused and play with technique and within the defensive scheme when you face an offense like that."Have you noticed a change in Alex Smith? It seems like he's sticking with plays longer and not just throwing the ball out of bounds.
Clements: "I think Jim Harbaugh is doing an excellent job of playing to Alex's strengths. You can look at him and see he has a higher completion percentage, which is key for a quarterback. That's a great thing for them. He's definitely playing to his strengths."On the 49ers' defense of past years not getting over the hump:
Clements: "We definitely had the players, had the chemistry. I can't really pinpoint on one thing. Things didn't pan out the way we all wanted them to."How much has your game changed through the years? Are you even more physical?
Clements: "I just try to play my strength and be who I am."On sharing tips about 49ers offensive players with Bengals coaching staff:
Clements: "I've definitely told my teammates things to look out for and what guys are good at -- things of that nature."Is Vernon Davis one of those guys you've talked about?
Clements: "Vernon and, yeah, pretty much all the skill players and what they can do and what they're capable of."Did you see Cowboys and Seahawks trying to take Vernon away from the passing game?
Clements: "I'm not sure what their game plan was. A guy like Vernon, he's an explosive player and he's going get a lot of balls thrown at them. You just got to minimize -- and be fundamentally sound when you go up against a guy like that."On what the Bengals defense offers?
Clements: "I'm excited about our defense. We have some talented players on that side of the ball. We have some players, young and hungry. You can see we make plays. We try to be opportunistic in making plays and be confident and stripping and deflecting balls and try to get interceptions. It's exciting playing with this group."Did you expectDonte Whitner to sign there?
Clements: "I'm not sure. I wouldn't be the one to talk to about that. You'll have to talk to management about that one."How is Manny Lawson doing?
Clements: "Manny's doing great. He's getting acclimated, not only to our system but being back on the East Coast."How is Lawson's role different than it was in San Francisco?
Clements: "It just a different style of defense. It's a 4-3 here, 3-4 there, so it's completely different style of defense."After having gone against Andy Dalton in training camp, how much has he improved from those days to the first two games of the regular season?
Clements: "One thing about him is he's getting better every day. And you can see it. The key is with guys who are young, in general in the NFL, they key is confidence. You can continue grow and get better and you gain more confidence. When you play with confidence, it's not a better feeling than going out and playing with confidence and feeling, 'Hey, I can make this throw' or 'Hey, I can make that throw.' It's exciting to see him progress every day and do it in practice."

49ers begin final phase of offseason program

49ers begin final phase of offseason program

The 49ers have graduated back to the phase of the offseason when offense-vs.-defense drills are allowed.

Because of the hiring of Kyle Shanahan, the 49ers were allowed an additional “voluntary” minicamp before the NFL draft. That meant the 49ers were permitted to skip from the two-week conditioning phase of the offseason straight to what is allowed under Phase III.

But after the three-day minicamp in late-April, the 49ers were forced to retreat back to Phase II, when on-field drills but could not include offense vs. defense.

Beginning Monday – and over the next three weeks -- the 49ers can get back to conducting the standard one-on-one, 7-on-7, 9-on-7 and 11-on-11 "non-contact" drills. The 49ers have the maximum number of 10 organized team activities scheduled. The official offseason program concludes with a mandatory minicamp scheduled for June 13-15.

The real competition does not begin until the pads go on during training camp. but here’s a look at the team’s most notable offseason competitions (one position you will not find is quarterback, where the depth chart of Brian Hoyer, Matt Barkley and C.J. Beathard appears clearly set):

Running back: Carlos Hyde, entering the final year of his original four-year contract, has a lot of competition to hold onto his role as the featured back. He is coming off his most-productive season, finishing just 12 yards shy of the 1,000-yard mark when he sustained a knee injury with one game remaining. Shanahan and running backs coach Bobby Turner lobbied for Utah running back Joe Williams in the draft. They clearly see a fit for him within the system.

Pass-rush end: The 49ers’ pass rush was among the worst in the NFL the past two seasons. Arik Armstead will be given an opportunity to see if he can adapt to the “Leo” position. Aaron Lynch must earn the confidence of the coaching staff and front office. The 49ers added explosive, 243-pound pass Pita Taumoepenu in the sixth round.

Tight end: The 49ers confirmed Vance McDonald was available for a trade during the draft. After finding no takers, the 49ers brought back McDonald and he rejoins the competition among rookies George Kittle and Cole Hikutini, and veterans Logan Paulsen, Garrett Celek and Blake Bell.

Cornerback: Rashard Robinson is the obvious choice to start on one side. And assuming Jimmie Ward remains at free safety, the 49ers have no other player on the roster who has started a significant number of games at cornerback. Rookie Ahkello Witherspoon, a third-round draft pick, will have a legitimate opportunity to win a starting job, as long as he displays a willingness to stick his nose into the action and play with the requisite level of physicality. Dontae Johnson, Keith Reaser and Will Redmond should also be in the mix to replace Tramaine Brock, who was released shortly after his arrest after an alleged domestic incident last month.

Center: Jeremy Zuttah, a Pro Bowl performer, was added in the offseason via a trade with the Baltimore Ravens. Daniel Kilgore has been the 49ers’ center the past three seasons but injuries have limited him to just 23 starts over that period of time. Zuttah has position flexibility. The 49ers could determine the best thing for the offensive line is to move Zuttah to one of the guard positions – to challenge Zane Beadles or Joshua Garnett -- if he is not clearly better than Kilgore.

Weakside linebacker: The 49ers signed veteran Malcolm Smith on the first day of free agency, providing him with $11.5 million of fully guaranteed money. The 49ers ranked Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster as the No. 3 overall prospect in the draft. They traded up to select him at No. 31 overall. Assuming Foster is ready to compete at the beginning of training camp after undergoing offseason shoulder surgery, it appears likely he would line up in that position and compete with Smith. The 49ers’ medical staff does not believe Foster will require any additional surgery, and Foster said he expects to be cleared for the opening of camp.

Barkley continues work with personal coach of Brady, Ryan

Barkley continues work with personal coach of Brady, Ryan

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan spent last offseason working with Tom House and Adam Dedeaux on his throwing mechanics.

Ryan went on to set career-bests in completion percentage (69.9), yards passing (4,944), touchdowns (38), interceptions (7) and passer rating (117.1).

New 49ers quarterback Matt Barkley worked with House and Dedeaux for the fourth offseason in Southern California before reporting to Santa Clara for the team’s offseason program.

“Kyle (Shanhan) is on board with what House and those guys are doing – I think, really, because of the year Matt Ryan had,” Barkley said on “The 49ers Insider Podcast” on NBC Sports Bay Area.

“He’s a believer in that. He saw the benefits of what Matt did with some of his drops and the timing on routes, how he changed his feet on some things. So we’re kind of sticking with that plan. Everyone is a little different, but for the most part we’re all on the same page when it comes to what our drops are looking like, our footwork and how the ball is coming out.”

House is a former major league pitcher and pitching coach who founded the 3DQB training facility in Los Angeles. Dedeaux pitched at USC and is the grandson of USC baseball coaching legend Rod Dedeaux. Former NFL quarterback John Beck is a motion mechanics instructor.

Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Alex Smith and Carson Palmer are among the NFL quarterbacks who have worked with 3DQB.

“I believe in those guys and what they’re doing,” Barkley said. “They’re at the top of their game, working with Brady and a bunch of other guys. They’ve helped me.

“He won’t change your throwing motion or really tweak how the ball comes out, but he’s going to try to maximize velocity and ground force production and torque -- a lot of sports science terms. But, really, just maximizing efficiency with your motion and making sure you’re sequencing is right.”

Barkley had never played for Shanahan before signing a two-year contract with the 49ers on the first day of free agency. But there are two obvious connections. Barkley’s offensive coordinator last season with the Chicago Bears was Dowell Loggains, Shanahan’s quarterbacks coach in 2014 when Shanahan was the Cleveland Browns’ offensive coordinator. The other connection is House.

"It’s kind of funny, he worked with Atlanta’s staff all of last year, helped Matt Ryan, kind of build his base from the ground up and helped him a lot and he had an MVP year," Barkley said of House.

"There may have been talks down the pipeline, who knows. I don’t think that was the deciding factor by any means, but it never hurts.”