'Used to' yearly coaching turnover, CB Dontae Johnson ready to start


'Used to' yearly coaching turnover, CB Dontae Johnson ready to start

Dontae Johnson enters his fourth training camp with the 49ers under his fourth head coach and fourth defensive coordinator. He’s also adjusting to new faces and personalities in the team’s front office. But the cornerback contends the upheaval he’s experienced each of the last three seasons is why he’s more prepared than ever to lock down a starting position this season.

“It sucks to say I’m used to it, unfortunately, but at the same time I understand,” Johnson told NBCSportsBayArea.com after a recent practice. “I’ve figured out how to pretty much cope with different things and cope with certain situations and new schemes and learning different things and that nature. It’s not as hard as it would be to most people.”

For Johnson, coping means “being locked into the now” and concerning himself only with the things he can control.

“My main focus this offseason was to make sure I was the best that I could be in any situation given whatever scheme or coaches we had here. Just put my best foot forward just because it is a new slate,” Johnson said. “Everything else will fall into place.”

The 25-year-old has made some eye-popping plays this week in camp including an over-the-back grab for an interception and a hit to break up a would-be touchdown. They’re the kind of plays that make one raise an eyebrow and wonder if the fourth-round draft pick may live up to the expectations that come with the speed and length packaged in his 6-foot-2 frame.

Johnson is currently running with the "ones" at right corner and lines up second in the defensive back drills behind assumed starting left corner, Rashard Robinson. With Keith Reaser missing time due to injury and rookie Ahkello Witherspoon having a tough week, (he was trucked on back-to-back days by Carlos Hyde and Vance McDonald) the starting role is there for Johnson’s taking. He’s not wasting the opportunity.

“Every practice is a game to me. Every play is just as important as the play that happened or the next play,” Johnson said. “Once that play is gone and it happens, it’s over with. I’m going to go on to the next play."

Johnson’s evident improvement comes down to confidence and know-how. He credits the veteran defensive backs he’s played with, being sure to mention former teammates Antoine Bethea, Perrish Cox, Chris Culliver, as being his most influential teachers.

“Watching them and playing my role in the past three years, I feel like I’ve taken all that knowledge and understanding and information and I’m able to put things together now,” Johnson said. “Being able to get in the playbook and understand where my help is, understand leverages and learn that from older guys and seeing that, has really helped me to slow the game down and understand where I can play aggressive and take a little more chances and make plays.”

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.