Spencer's kindness strikes chord with lifelong 49ers fan

648450.jpg

Spencer's kindness strikes chord with lifelong 49ers fan

SANTA CLARA -- Cornerback Shawntae Spencer is the longest-tenured 49ers player who has never appeared in an NFL playoff game.And that might not change Sunday, either.Spencer, an eight-year veteran, was inactive for the 49ers' divisional playoff game against the New Orleans Saints. And there's a strong chance second-year player Tramaine Brock -- and not Spencer -- will again be in uniform as the 49ers' fourth cornerback in the NFC Championship Game against the New York Giants.But in the eyes of one 49ers fan, Spencer has performed extraordinary acts in a season in which he suited up for just nine of the 49ers' 17 games.
Jim Barone was with his wife and son dining at San Jose's Santana Row about two months ago. Spencer was at the same restaurant with former 49ers strength coach Terrell Jones."I explained to him in detail how much of a diehard I am," Barone recalled. "Twenty minutes later, he said he would send us some tickets."Said Spencer, "Our tables were next to each other. Somehow, we sparked a conversation. As the conversation went on, he talked about how he was a lifelong Niner fan. We talked. I ended up signing a napkin or something for him and we took a picture. I told him, 'If you just give me your information, I'll send you something.'"Weeks passed without any contact, and Barone said he figured Spencer had forgotten."As time went on, holidays and all that craziness, I kind of got behind," Spencer said. "But I didn't forget about him. I had some extra tickets for the game. So I had those sent to him."Barone was shocked last week to receive Spencer's tickets in lower reserved Section 16 to the 49ers' divisional playoff game against the New Orleans Saints."Please, please tell him for us this was the most incredible experience and we are so, so grateful for his kindness," Barone told CSNBayArea.com. "I've been a 'Faithful' for 25 years, and this was hands-down the greatest game ever."But the story does not end there.This week, Barone received another message that Spencer had something else waiting for him at 49ers headquarters in Santa Clara. When Barone arrived, he was presented with a 49ers helmet. Spencer had each of his teammates autograph it for Barone.Said Spencer, "He was a good guy. Nice family, funny kid. His little boy was so funny. I enjoy doing those things. It's not the first time I've done it. And for however long I play, it won't be the last, either."Spencer said he observed those random -- and not-so random -- acts of kindness from Bryant Young, one of the all-time 49ers greats."I got these ideas from Bryant Young," Spencer said. "I used to see him do all these good things my rookie year."So beginning with his second season in the NFL, Spencer began getting gifts for 49ers employees, including those who work in janitorial services. This year, Spencer delivered iPads for the equipment room staff and Google TVs for the training staff.
"His kindness is beyond anything I have experienced," Barone said.

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.”