49ers notes: Rookie tight end Kittle impresses in offseason program

49ers notes: Rookie tight end Kittle impresses in offseason program

SANTA CLARA -- Tight end George Kittle, a fifth-round draft pick, asserted himself during the 49ers’ offseason program as the team’s top rookie and set himself up to compete for a starting job in training camp.

Defensive lineman Solomon Thomas, the No. 3 overall draft pick, was prohibited from participating in the practices due to Stanford’s late conclusion of classes. And linebacker Reuben Foster, the first-round selection at No. 31, was limited to individual drills as he continues rehabilitation from shoulder surgery.

Kittle ended on a high note on Wednesday, as he caught touchdown passes of 8 and 5 yards from Matt Barkley and C.J. Beathard during red-zone drill. On Tuesday, he took advantage of a blown coverage to score on a 60-yard touchdown from presumptive starter Brian Hoyer.

“George is coming, really battling,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. “He’s competed in the run and the pass game. George is a guy you can tell he is going for it, because of the way he competes on the field.

“Mainly, what he does off the field, too. He’s really trying to learn it and that’s given him a chance to show up a little bit.”

Kittle caught six passes in the two days of practice during the team’s minicamp, which wrapped up its on-field work Wednesday afternoon. Only Pierre Garçon (eight) and Carlos Hyde (seven) caught more passes than Kittle.

Kittle appeared to place himself into solid position to compete for a starting job against veterans Vance McDonald, who caught two passes, and Garrett Celek, who had one reception in the two days.

“He has a really good football awareness -- a feel for where to break, how to break, read zones,” Hoyer said of Kittle. “I've been surprised and, obviously, it's a good thing for us to have a guy who has that football awareness and some feel of the game to it.”

Here are some other notes and observations from the final 49ers practice of the offseason before the club reports back to Santa Clara on July 27 for training camp:

--Foster took part in individual drills and showed no signs of a the right shoulder condition that some national reports have suggested will keep him sidelined for his entire rookie season. Shanahan stated that Foster is on track to be cleared for full participation at the beginning of training camp.

--Linebacker Ahmad Brooks, wide receiver Bruce Ellington, and cornerbacks Rashard Robinson and K’Waun Williams took part in some individual work but were held out of team drills due to what appear to be minor soft-tissue injuries.

--Twenty different players caught passes in 11-on-11 drills over the two days, including DeAndre Smelter, who worked inside of rookie left cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon on a slant pattern to catch a 5-yard touchdown from Barkley. Smelter was a fourth-round pick of the 49ers in 2014. He appeared in two games last season and caught one pass for 23 yards.

--Jeremy Kerley, Trent Taylor, Raheem Mostert, DeAndre Carter and Victor Bolden fielded punts from Bradley Pinion during a special-teams drill.

--The defense came through with six interceptions against three different quarterbacks during a six-play stretch near the beginning of practice. Safety Eric Reid picked off a Hoyer pass. Three plays later, veteran cornerback Will Davis, whom the 49ers recently signed, made a leaping grab of a deep Barkley pass intended for Aldrick Robinson. Linebacker Ray-Ray Armstrong got pressure on Barkley, forcing him to throw from his heels. Then, undrafted rookie Chanceller James stepped in front of a Beathard pass intended for Carter and returned it for a touchdown.

--The offense put together a strong red-zone session with five touchdowns over a sequence of six pass attempts. Garçon found an opening between NaVorro Bowman and Malcolm Smith for a touchdown. Hyde caught a throwback screen. Kittle worked inside of cornerback Adrian Colbert for an 8-yard TD from Barkley. Smelter caught his scoring pass against Witherspoon, and Kittle followed up with another scoring grab from former Iowa teammate Beathard against the coverage of Prince Charles Iworah.

--Undrafted rookie wide receiver Kendrick Bourne was finally allowed to join the 49ers practices after the conclusion of classes at Eastern Washington. He made a reception from undrafted quarterback Nick Mullens.

--Cornerback Keith Reaser and free safety Jimmie Ward, beaten a day earlier on a deep Marquise Goodwin pass, had tight coverage on Kerley on an incomplete pass off a play fake.

--Defensive linemen Chris Jones and Arik Armstead had multiple quarterback pressures.

--With Williams sidelined, Will Redmond and Lorenzo Jerome lined up at nickel back with the first- and second-team defenses.

--Sam linebacker Eli Harold nearly had an interception at the line of scrimmage on a Hoyer pass, but backup left tackle John Theus aggressively separated Harold from the ball as they tumbled to the ground.

--During the course of the two practices, Hyde had nine run attempts, while Tim Hightower had eight. Rookie Joe Williams carried six times, while Raheem Mostert rushed five times. Veteran addition Kapri Bibbs and undrafted rookie Matt Breida had two rush attempts apiece.

--Goodwin had a good showing over the two-day camp with four receptions, as he hones in on running different routes in Shanahan’s scheme. Goodwin told NBC Sports Bay Area he was eager to show he could execute more than just the speed routes that he ran while with the Buffalo Bills.

“That’s what’s been fun with Marquise, because you haven’t seen a lot of it on tape,” Shanahan said. “He’s been pretty much outside the numbers his whole career, even in college. Now to move him all over, it’s new for him, its trial and error.”

Staley's reaction to new 49ers regime: 'I’m enjoying football again'

Staley's reaction to new 49ers regime: 'I’m enjoying football again'

SANTA CLARA -- Five-time Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Staley confirmed Wednesday what appeared obvious for the past several seasons inside the 49ers' locker room.

Many of the players were not having a whole lot of fun working in some of the previous 49ers regimes. But, now, Staley said there is clearly a purpose within the 49ers, and he feels a rebirth.

“The energy is back in the building, the excitement level, the attention to detail,” Staley said just moments after the 49ers’ final practice of the offseason program.

“This might sound kind of bad, but I’m enjoying football again. I’m excited to come to work every single day. The last couple of years, there were days when I couldn’t honestly say that. That’s awesome to have that feeling back.”

The biggest reason for Staley’s renewed enthusiasm, he said, is coach Kyle Shanahan, whom he called “the smartest coach I’ve been around.”

First, Shanahan impressed Staley with his honesty. He kept tight end Vance McDonald in the loop when there were trade talks during the weekend of the draft. And Staley said he holds all players to the same high standards.

“He calls out myself and (NaVorro) Bowman the same way he calls out a rookie free agent,” Staley said. “No one’s above anybody.”

Players on both sides of the ball have expressed their amazement with Shanahan’s unique ability to break down a play from the perspectives of every player on offense and defense.

Staley said he had one of those moments Wednesday during a team meeting when Shanahan dissected plays for both sides of the ball.

Said Staley, “Even today we had a meeting, and I looked over at (Daniel) Kilgore – I was sitting next to him in a team meeting – and (said), ‘This is awesome.’ You get chills, almost.

“It’s cool to see football talked about that way. Instead, of ‘Hey, you have to do your job.’ ‘OK. Yes, sir.’ ‘Why do I have to do my job?’”

Staley said Shanahan is able to pinpoint the details of every play that determine why it is successful and articulate it in an easy-to-follow manner.

Staley has been familar with Shanahan's system for a while, he said. He has watched film of offensive tackles Trent Williams and Joe Thomas, who played in Shanahan’s offenses with Washington and Cleveland, respectively.

“I felt I’d be a good fit,” Staley said. “(I’m) excited, but kind of bummed it’s happening in Year 11, and not Year 4 or 3 or 1.”

Shanahan expects 49ers rookie Foster to be cleared for camp

Shanahan expects 49ers rookie Foster to be cleared for camp

SANTA CLARA – The 49ers expect rookie linebacker Reuben Foster to be cleared for the first day of training camp.

“He's been doing great with his rehab," 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. "We really have no concerns. I think he'll be more than ready to go by training camp. That's my feeling. I can't promise that but I'd be surprised if he wasn't (cleared for camp)."

The 49ers were scheduled to hold their final offseason practice before reporting to training camp on July 27. Foster has been held out of team drills.

Shanahan said Foster’s surgically repaired right shoulder continues to make progress. He said he expects Foster to be in pads for the first practice of training camp in which pads are allowed.

Foster, the No. 31 overall pick in the draft, was the subject of national reports that he would require another surgery and could miss his entire rookie season. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported, citing a “well-placed source,” that Foster’s surgery “didn’t take.”

After the 49ers drafted him, Foster disputed the reports.

“That’s not accurate at all,” Foster said in April. “I’m fine. I’m on schedule.”

Foster sustained the tear of the labrum in his right shoulder during Alabama’s national semifinal game against Washington. He played in the championship game against Clemson with the injury.

He underwent surgery on his rotator cuff that forced him to sit out drills at the NFL scouting combine in February. Foster was sent home from Indianapolis after an argument with a hospital worker while he was waiting to undergo a physical.