Shawntae Spencer: 'This is a classy city'

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Shawntae Spencer: 'This is a classy city'

Veteran cornerback Shawntae Spencer, whom the 49ers released Thursday morning, reflected on relationships built and good times during his eight-year "roller-coaster" ride with the organization.Spencer told CSNBayArea.com that he communicated with numerous individuals from every level of the 49ers' organization in the immediate aftermath of the 49ers' announcement that Spencer was released.And Spencer received a phone call from a former coach, too. Vance Joseph, who spent six seasons as a 49ers assistant, is now defensive backs coach of the Houston Texans -- a possible Spencer destination for the 2012 season.
NEWS: 49ers release Spencer -- cut 3.3M from cap
Throughout his career, Spencer was regarded as a stand-up guy in the locker room. He never sought the spotlight, but he always took the time and effort to give thoughtful responses to questions from the media.He was a big favorite of those who work inside the building. More than any player I've ever seen, Spencer cultivated relationships with 49ers employees asides from just his teammates.Spencer was not invited to the NFL scouting combine in 2004, but then-general manager Terry Donahue selected him in the second round. Spencer would go on to start 72 games in eight seasons. He recorded 11 interceptions with the 49ers, five of which came in 2009 and 2010 while starting every game in back-to-back seasons.
Here is a Q&A that Spencer granted Thursday morning:Is this what you were expecting to happen at some point this offseason?
Spencer: "It's something that I've spoken about with the 49ers organization. (General manager) Trent Baalke and I had a nice conversation last night. Yeah, it was something that was expected on my part."Does something like this stir emotions, thinking back at all the seasons you spent with the 49ers?
Spencer: "Yeah, definitely. I've had a great experience here and I'm very grateful to the 49ers organization and to the York family for giving me the opportunity out of college (University of Pittsburgh) to continue playing football on a professional level and live out my dream. I'm very appreciative of that. And my family is very appreciative of that, as well."It's been an amazing, amazing eight years -- a roller-coaster. But I can honestly say I enjoyed every minute of the ups and downs of my career here. That's what you learn builds character and makes you a better player and person."I'm very appreciative of the people in that building. This morning, I've been getting a lot of phone calls and texts from just the staff, from Miguel (Sandoval) and Raul (Sandoval), the janitors, to Steve (Urbaniak), Doc (Dressler) and the entire equipment staff; Manny Rivera, who is one of my closest friends, one of the athletic trainers, Jeff Ferguson, and all those guys in the training room to Dario (Montenegro) to George and the guys at the security desk. They'd welcome me in, and I'd work out in the offseason at odd hours -- 2 in the morning or 12 at night. I really will miss those guys. I cherish those relationship and I'll continue to nurture those relationships and stay in contact with those guys."A few teammates . . . Reggie Smith, reached out to me early this morning. We spoke briefly. It's an emotional roller-coaster because I'm going through all the good times, and we do have a home here and I'm taking my little girls to school today. It's a good thing, but it's also a sad time because I have so many memories -- fond ones."Do you plan on staying in the Bay Area?
Spencer: "That's something that I'll determine once I actually sit down and handle the task at hand -- sit down with my agent to see which suitor is actually the best situation for me, and we'll go from there. And, then, as far as long term, life after football, that's a decision I'll make with my family. I'll always consider this my second home, you know, aside from Pittsburgh.You went through so many rough years with the 49ers with wins and losses, and the one year things turned around, you were injured and didn't get a chance to contribute much. Did that make last season bittersweet for you?
Spencer: "I was more frustrated because I know the work, year-in and year-out, I put in. I'm not a guy who ever comes into training camp out of shape. I was more saddened that I got injured in training camp. Whatever takes place after that, it's a business."It was good to see the organization and the guys have success because it's been so bad with all the coaching changes and the turnover and no winning seasons in a long time. It was good to see the guys laughing and smiling and getting to experience that. I'm not the type of person who, if things aren't going well for me, I'm not happy for anyone else. I did have my tough moments in there -- first time ever being inactive, and things like that. But I wouldn't say it was one of my worst years."The year I tore my ACL (2008) was by far my toughest year as a pro, just going through that and fighting back from that and dealing with the things the media were writing that year with maybe my career was over or my time with the 49ers was over. That was the toughest year of my career when I sustained that injury. Last year had its moments where it was tough for me, but I'll take that and use it as motivation and keep pursuing my career and working on my craft."What's next for you? Any visits scheduled yet?
Spencer: "Actually, the very first -- it had to be 9:30 when Vance Joseph called me. He's the DBs coach at Houston. He said he had spoken to my agent this morning. There are a few other suitors, but I haven't taken any time right now. I'm just trying to get my affairs in order and sit down later tonight with my agent and find out what's out there right now. The good thing about this, is I get to choose what situation is good for me. I'll take a look at who's interested and make an informed decision from there."Like I said, I'm very appreciative of the fans. This is a classy city. I've seen places where losing teams, the fans are jumping ship. It's been a good fan experience here, as well."

49ers reissue Bryant Young's number

49ers reissue Bryant Young's number

SANTA CLARA -- For the first time since Bryant Young retired following the 2007 season, the 49eres have placed his old number back into service.

Linebacker Dekoda Watson was issued No. 97 for the team’s organized team activities this week.

Young was a four-time Pro Bowl selection and eight-time winner of the Len Eshmont Award as the 49ers’ most inspirational and courageous player. No 49ers player has worn No. 97 in the past nine seasons or offseasons.

Rookie defensive lineman Solomon Thomas is now wearing No. 94 after being issued No. 96 for the rookie minicamp. Linebacker Reuben Foster is wearing No. 56.

Rookie defensive tackle D.J. Jones now wearing No. 96. Cornerback Rashard Robinson switched back to No. 33 after an earlier change to No. 26. Running back Kapri Bibbs is now 26. Rookie running back Joe Williams is No. 32 after wearing No. 33 at the NFLPA Rookie Premiere in Los Angeles over the weekend. Veteran running back Tim Hightower is wearing No. 22.

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.