SANTA CLARA -- Will Tukuafu earned his spot on the 49ers' season-opening roster a year ago as a defensive lineman.But he could become a legitimate two-way player this season. Tukuafu, listed at 6-foot-4, 293 pounds, is seeing extensive work at fullback behind Bruce Miller.On Tuesday, Tukuafu motioned out of the backfield and caught a short touchdown pass from quarterback Alex Smith during a practice session that was open to the media.Tukuafu, who the 49ers originally signed in August 2010 after Carolina cut him as an undrafted free agent, declined comment . . . at least until September, he said."See if I make the team first," he said. "Got to graduate first."Coach Jim Harbaugh said he is eager to see Tukuafu at his new position in training camp when the pads come on and contact is allowed."Will is doing a great job, athletically, picking up the offense and the defense, both, and I think the best will come when he puts the pads on," Harbaugh said on Tuesday. "That's when it'll get really exciting and fun -- and 280-plus guy playing fullback is going to bode well for us."Tukuafu played in four games last season before sustaining a season-ending wrist injury while blocking on a kickoff return.He could become the next in a line of defensive players to see action for the 49ers on offense. Nose tackle Isaac Sopoaga was used as an extra blocker last season for 42 snaps on offense. Safety Colin Jones shifted to offense and played one snap as a wide receiver. In the playoffs, defensive linemen Justin Smith and Demarcus Dobbs saw limited time on offense.This offseason, Dobbs has seen more action at tight end. Defensive backs Cory Nelms and Ben Hannula have also been used at receiver.With each NFL team allowed to suit up just 46 players for regular-season games, the 49ers have sought creative ways to deal with the limitation.The team did not offer contracts a pair of veteran unrestricted free agents: Fullback Moran Norris and tight end Justin Peelle. So the 49ers are looking at the possibility finding reserves at those positions from the other side of the ball.
Running back Glen Coffee, who walked away from the 49ers during training camp before his second NFL season, was reinstated Friday off the reserve-retired list.
As part of the same transaction wire released by the NFL office, the 49ers released Coffee, making him a free agent.
After seven seasons away from the game, Coffee is attempting a comeback, his agent told NBC Sports Bay Area on Saturday.
“I can tell you, he’s in great shape,” agent Ray Oubre said. “The man doesn’t have a six-pack, he’s got a 12-pack. He’s been waiting for the right time to hopefully get a workout with someone and show what he can do.
“He had a calling, and right now he feels like it’s his time to show what he can do. He explained to me, ‘I can do things now that I couldn’t do when I was initially with the 49ers.’ That’s the kind of shape he’s in.”
Coffee, who turns 30 on May 1, was a third-round draft pick (No. 74 overall) of the 49ers in 2009. He was the sixth running back selected in that year's draft. Coffee appeared in 14 games as a rookie and carried 83 times for 226 yards and one touchdown. He also caught 11 passes for 78 yards.
During training camp the next year as his teammates were exiting the locker room for the practice field in August 2010, Coffee cut the tape from his shoes and left the team's Santa Clara practice facility. He later informed then-coach Mike Singletary of his decision to stop playing football. Coffee said he believed God had a bigger plan for him.
Coffee was a specialist in the Sixth Battalion of the Army Rangers after enlisting in 2013. He is no longer active, Oubre said.
“He’s been training several months,” Oubre said. “The rigors of the Army Rangers, he was already in shape. He’s taking it to another level now. He’s been training for more than four months.
“He feels like he served and now the time is right. He’s in a good place. He understands, you can’t play football forever and you can’t do any one thing forever. He’s in a place right now that he wants to use his God-given ability as a football player.”
Coffee turned pro after his junior season at Alabama. In his final college season, Coffee rushed for 1,383 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Coffee has been training under Johnny Jackson at JDPI Sports Performance in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Oubre said he will be in contact with all 32 NFL teams to see if there’s any interest in bringing in Coffee for workouts. He might also hold an open workout for any interested teams.
Former 49ers quarterback and current free agent Colin Kaepernick has been named one of TIME's 100 Most Influential People on Thursday.
Each person named to the list is represented by a sponsor who then writes on why they are worthy of the honor. For Kaepernick, his former coach Jim Harbaugh wrote on him.
Harbaugh coached Kaepernick for four seasons from 2011-2014. The two reached the Super Bowl together in the 2012 season.
Other sports figures named to the list include Conor McGregor, Theo Epstein, LeBron James, Tom Brady, Simone Biles, and Neymar.
Kaepernick made national headlines this past season for his decision to first sit and then kneel during the national anthem as a fight against social injustices.
Below is what Harbaugh wrote on Kaepernick's influence:
Colin Kaepernick was alone in his early protests last year when he boldly and courageously confronted perceived inequalities in our social-justice system by refusing to stand for the national anthem. At times in our nation's history, we have been all too quick to judge and oppose our fellow Americans for exercising their First Amendment right to address things they believe unjust.
Rather than besmirch their character, we must celebrate their act. For we cannot pioneer and invent if we are fearful of deviating from the norm, damaging our public perception or—most important—harming our own personal interests.
I thank Colin for all he has contributed to the game of football as an outstanding player and trusted teammate. I also applaud Colin for the courage he has demonstrated in exercising his guaranteed right of free speech. His willingness to take a position at personal cost is now part of our American story.
How lucky for us all and for our country to have among our citizens someone as remarkable as Colin Kaepernick.