Swiss Army knife Juszczyk giving edge rushers fits: 'He's confusing me'

Mindi Bach

Swiss Army knife Juszczyk giving edge rushers fits: 'He's confusing me'

If at first it seemed a bit weird seeing Kyle Juszczyk wearing Tom Rathman’s No. 44, it's clear after a few days of training camp that it's actually a perfect fit. Juszczyk is similar in size and skill to the Super Bowl-winning San Francisco fullback.

But in Kyle Shanahan’s offensive system, Juszczyk is taking on more responsibilities typical of a tight end, a position he played at Harvard. In fact, former NFL tight end Dallas Clark is the inspiration behind his choosing No. 44 when he was with the Ravens.

“I’m getting a little more work with the tight ends than I had previously,” Juszczyk told NBCSportsBayArea.com on Wednesday, shortly after a padded practice under his new head coach. “I had taken some snaps in Baltimore in that sort of tight end position, but I think just a little more so here.”

Juszczyk often arrives early to work with assistant head coach Jon Embree, who is also the tight ends coach. He also credits veterans Vance McDonald, Garrett Celek and Blake Bell for teaching him the finer points of the position, much of which is taking place off the field.

"A lot of it has been in the classroom," Juszczyk said. "How to stay on your grind and study and what exactly I’m looking for at tight end."

The value of Juszczyk's grind can't be found on any stat sheet. He has never rushed for more than 15 yards in a game or had more than 56 yard receiving. Touchdowns are also rare -- six in four seasons. San Francisco snatched the 6-foot-1, 240-pounder out of free agency and made him the highest paid fullback in the league in large part because his ability to line up anywhere on the field gives defenses fits.

In the span of just a few plays at practice, Juszczyk caught a pass in isolation against cornerback Will Davis, blocked the much taller and much heavier Aaron Lynch, and disrupted Ahmad Brooks’ passrush.

"I have this conversation with Tank [Carradine] every single day," Brooks said about facing Juszczyk. The outside linebacker’s job is simple – set the edge, get to the quarterback. The daily conversation with his defensive lineman is how to deal with Juszczyk to accomplish that.

"What Kyle does so well at the fullback position and also in Kyle Shanahan’s offense is widen out the edge guys. When they do want to run the ball outside, his angle is so wide to block me. Even in pass situations, his angle is the same way. Sometimes I think that he’s going to block me, and he’s going out for a pass. Sometimes I think that he’s going to go out for a pass, and he’s blocking me. He’s so good at redirecting on his track and on his angle to where it’s kind of confusing me, but he’s making me better as a player."

"You have to have a mindset and whether you’re going against Ahmad Brooks or Will Davis, you have to bring that same intensity," Juszczyk explained. "It’s being able to bring the same intensity every day."

A successful game for Juszczyk is a team victory. He'd also like the running back he’s blocking for to top 100 rushing yards, the team to rush for more than 120 yards, and maybe to get a few touches himself.

"I’m never mad if you throw in a couple of receptions for myself," Juszczyk said smiling.

Juszczyk's smile grows bigger when asked about his move to the Bay Area. 

"I don’t know why I haven’t been here my whole life," Juszczyk said. "It’s beautiful here. Quality of life has definitely increased, and I couldn’t be happier."

The Ohio native bought a house in San Jose and he and his fiancé are scouting locations for a possible West Coast wedding. 

“We plan on being here awhile,” Juszczyk said.

Still unconvinced there is a place for Kaepernick in a new and nastier NFL


Still unconvinced there is a place for Kaepernick in a new and nastier NFL

I hadn’t considered the notion of Jacksonville quarterback Blake Bortles bombing quite so badly Thursday night, so I hadn’t considered the notion advanced by Pro Football Talk Friday morning that Jacksonville might be a great place for Colin Kaepernick.

That’s because I long ago stopped considering the idea that Kaepernick’s exile from football was, or is, about football. It isn’t. He is the example for future player/miscreants, and trotting his name out every time a quarterback in the new NFL vomits up a practice game on national television is simply perpetuating a lie.

Until someone gets so desperate that it isn’t any more.

That’s the problem with being so definitive about Kaepernick’s perpetual ban. It only takes one owner with a willingness to stick a middle finger up to the objections and say, “I own a football team, not some branch of the USO” to end this national spitfest once and for all. And yes, I say owner because this is an owner’s decision, solely and completely. In the hypothetical of Kaepernick the Jaguar, it will be made not by Doug Marrone, who is merely a coach, or by Tom Coughlin, who is only the general manager, but Shahid Khad, one of the brightest and quietly more powerful owners in the league.

But the odds still scream No Kaep For You, because it would mean that exhibition games matter for judgmental purposes (which they don’t), that Bortles is somehow worse than half the quarterbacks in the NFL (he is part of an amorphous blob of non-producers whose numbers are growing as the differences between college and pro football offenses expand), and that owners easily break away from the herd once the herd has decided on something (Khan is not a rebel in the Jerry Jones mold by any means).

In other words, I remain unconvinced that there is a place for Colin Kaepernick in a new and nastier NFL. And he’s probably better off.

Zuttah ends up back with Ravens after release from 49ers


Zuttah ends up back with Ravens after release from 49ers

One week after center Jeremy Zuttah played his way off the 49ers’ roster in short order, he ended up back with the team that got rid of him to open the offseason.

The Baltimore Ravens on Friday announced the signing of Zuttah, whom the 49ers released on Aug. 9 after acquiring him from the Ravens in a March trade.

The 49ers determined center Daniel Kilgore was clearly better than Zuttah. Moreover, Zuttah he did not demonstrate any promise of being an asset at either of the guard positions.

Zuttah, 31, played the past three seasons with the Ravens after six seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Zuttah was named to his first Pro Bowl after last season.

The 49ers originally acquired Zuttah in a swap of sixth-round draft picks. The Ravens received the 49ers’ pick at No. 186 and selected Virginia Tech safety Chuck Clark. The 49ers took over Baltimore’s selection at No. 198 and chose Mississippi defensive tackle D.J. Jones.

The 49ers are confident in Kilgore and offensive tackles Joe Staley and Trent Brown. However, there is concern at the guard positions.

Brandon Fusco appears to be earning the confidence of the coaching staff at right guard. But left guard remains a concern. Zane Beadles is currently the starter while Joshua Garnett rehabs from arthroscopic knee surgery to repair cartilage. The 49ers are hopeful Garnett will be available for the opening of the regular season.