Spencer remains ready despite demotion

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Spencer remains ready despite demotion

SANTA CLARA -- For five of his seven NFL seasons, 49ers cornerback Shawntae Spencer's role with the 49ers was never in question.Spencer, 29, who entered this season with a streak of 32 consecutive starts, knew in the past that he would line up every game as a starter.
On Sunday, for the first time in his career, he was delivered the news he would not be one of the 46 players allowed to suit up for the 49ers. He watched his team's 19-11 victory over the Washington Redskins from the sideline.Spencer is healthy after recovering from a hyperextended toe -- known as "turf toe" -- sustained Oct. 2 against the Philadelphia Eagles. But, now, Spencer is the team's No. 5 cornerback behind starters Carlos Rogers and Tarell Brown, and behind youngsters Chris Culliver and Tramaine Brock.Spencer lined up with the first-team defense when training camp opened. But he sustained a torn hamstring on the third day of practice and aggravated it a couple weeks later.After getting healthy, Spencer stepped in and played well as the No. 3 cornerback against Cincinnati and Philadelphia when Brock was sidelined with a hand injury.But, then, Spencer was injured again. And, now, Culliver is the third cornerback. Brock is No. 4. And Spencer does not have a role on game days.
"I wasn't too surprised," Spencer said of receiving the news he would not suit up against the Redskins."The injuries. There really wasn't a chance to participate in training camp. I guess they (the 49ers coaches) weren't able to make an assessment of what kind of player I was in training camp. That, on top of some other things . . . some guys are playing great. No, I really wasn't too surprised."Spencer started 12 games as a rookie in 2004 after the 49ers acquired him in the second round of the draft. He started 14 games in 2005 and 13 in 2006, as he missed games due to ankle and quadriceps injuries.He lost his starting job in 2007 when the 49ers added veteran free agents Nate Clements and Walt Harris. He was back in the same role as the team's third cornerback in 2008 before sustaining a season-ending knee injury early in the season.But, then, Spencer rebounded to start every game in 2009 and 2010."It's a different experience," Spencer said of his current situation. "But at the same time, winning cures everything. So it's not as bad."I take it for what it is. Keep working for what it is I'm trying to accomplish: to get better each day and go from there."The 49ers needed all five cornerbacks to play significant roles in the first five games of the season, so Spencer might end up with a prominent role again this season."That's the NFL in general," he said. "You never know. So you always got to prepare like you may be a play or two away from always being in the game. It's part of being professional athlete. You have to always prepare like you're going to play." Coach Jim Harbaugh was asked Wednesday how guard Chilo Rachal and Spencer, two starters of previous seasons, have handled their new roles as reserves. In his answer, Harbaugh focused on Rachal, who suits up for games and enters on special teams for certain specialty plays on offense."They've really been team guys, especially Chilo," Harbaugh said. "I really have to take my hat off to him. He is really chomping at the bit to be in there, after practice, before practice. Really on point. His time will come again and he plays and contributes for us in our extra O-linemen package. He's on field goal. He's on kickoff return. He's preparing like a starter and that's how we think of him. (I'm) especially pleased with him."

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.”