Mark Helfrich provides insight into Chip Kelly's line of thinking

Mark Helfrich provides insight into Chip Kelly's line of thinking

Mark Helfrich had a strong indication he would be fired as Oregon’s head coach. And he said he told Chip Kelly recently he would have no hard feelings if Kelly left the 49ers to return to coach the Ducks.

Kelly this week said he is not interested in abandoning his job with the 49ers to coach in the college ranks. Helfrich suggested during a radio interview on Friday that Kelly told him the same thing privately.

When it was suggested that Kelly hated to recruit, Helfrich did not disagree.

"That's a fact," Helfrich said in an interview on ESPN Radio's Russillo and Kanell. "I don't know hated recruiting. . . a dislike. A strong dislike. But I think Chip has that challenge in his mind right now to make it right in the NFL.

"I had some of those conversations with him a couple weeks ago when it looked like this was going south. That was a very awkward converation, but (I) just wanted to let him know that to take our personal relationship out of it in every way, shape or form if he wanted to consider this.

"But, me, reading between the lines, I think he wants to make it right in the NFL. I think he wants to win at that level. He's had a rough go of it this year, but he'll get it right."

Kelly compiled a 46-7 record in four seasons in Eugene, Ore. He left after the 2012 season to accept the head-coaching job with the Philadelphia Eagles. Kelly was fired late last season and took the 49ers job two weeks later.

In Kelly’s first season with the 49ers, the club is 1-10. The 49ers are on a franchise-long 10-game losing streak entering Sunday’s game against the Chicago Bears.

Helfrich was 37-16 in his four seasons at Oregon after his promotion from offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Kelly said he spoke with Helfrich the morning after he was fired.

“I just felt bad for Mark. I love him like a brother,” Kelly said. “He’s a tremendous person. He’s a hell of a football coach, but he’s an even better person. Just felt for him and the rest of the guys on that staff. It’s an unfortunate thing that goes on in this profession. We all know about it when we sign up, but when it happens you’re still taken aback by it.”

Kelly said he hoped his denial of any interest in the Oregon job would end all speculation about his future. When asked if intends to remain with the 49ers, Kelly said on Wednesday, “Yep. So we're all done with that, I hope."
 

Injury report: Dial set to return for 49ers; Patton, Lynch questionable

Injury report: Dial set to return for 49ers; Patton, Lynch questionable

Defensive lineman Quinton Dial, who sat out last week’s game with knee and neck issues, will return to action Sunday for the 49ers at Soldier Field against the Chicago Bears.

Dial was not listed on the team’s injury report after going through two limited practices this week. The 49ers had only a walk-through Friday in Orlando, Fla., but Dial was cleared to return to full activity, the team announced.

Wide receiver Quinton Patton (concussion) and outside linebacker Aaron Lynch (ankle) were both listed as questionable for Sunday’s game.

Patton appears to be on pace to be cleared in the NFL’s return-to-play concussion protocol. He has returned to non-contact football activity after sustaining a head injury last week against the Miami Dolphins.

Lynch has already missed four consecutive games with a high-ankle sprain. Lynch has appeared in only three games this season. He sat out the first four games of the year while serving a four-game suspension for violating the leageu’s policy of substances of abuse.

The Bears listed six players as questionable for the game, including outside linebackers Willie Young and rookie Leonard Floyd. Young leads Chicago with 6.5 sacks, while Floyd is second with five sacks.

Quarterback Jay Cutler has been ruled out for the remainder of the season with a shoulder injury. Matt Barkley will make his second career start.

49ERS
Questionable
LB Aaron Lynch (ankle)
WR Quinton Patton (concussion)

BEARS
Out
QB Jay Cutler (right shoulder)
Questionable
LB Willie Young (knee)
S Adrian Amos (foot)
WR Eddie Royal (toe)
LB Leonard Floyd (concussion)
CB Deiondre' Hall (ankle)
G Josh Sitton (ankle)

Vance McDonald makes push to be part of 49ers' future

Vance McDonald makes push to be part of 49ers' future

ORLANDO, Fla. – It has taken tight end Vance McDonald a while, but he has become a legitimate threat in the 49ers’ passing game.

McDonald, a second-round draft pick in 2013, recorded just 10 receptions in his first two seasons. He started to see more action last season after the 49ers dealt Vernon Davis to the Denver Broncos at the trade deadline. He has started 20 games the past two seasons, including all nine games in which he has appeared this year.

“I just always look back at the opportunity when Vernon went to (Denver),” McDonald said. “Just being able to have the trust and the opportunity to start games and play every down.”

Through three seasons, McDonald had not produced and given few indications that he warranted a contract extension. But as a player who is scheduled for unrestricted free agency in the offseason, McDonald is making a convincing argument to become a priority for the 49ers to re-sign.

McDonald ranks third on the 49ers with 22 receptions and second behind Jeremy Kerley with 382 receiving yards. McDonald has a team-leading four touchdown catches, including scoring plays of 75 and 65 yards.

“He’s one of our weapons on the offensive side of the ball and he runs better than most tight ends in this league,” 49ers coach Chip Kelly said. “So really depends on week to week what people have available at the safety spot to kind of match up with him. But he’s certainly someone that I think people defensively have to game plan for.”

Even the 49ers’ designated deep threat, wide receiver Torrey Smith, has not been able to shake free for as many big gains as McDonald, who is listed at 267 pounds.

“Vance has done a great job,” Smith said. “I’m very happy for him, especially knowing how hard he’s been fighting over the years. He’s finally getting a chance to show what he can do. And he’s done a great job. He’s very fast. That’s what helps him out a lot. It’s not often you can get a tight end and take it to the house, running past everyone.”

McDonald said he believes Kelly’s system allows him a greater opportunity to be part of the team’s passing attack.

“It provides the tight end an opportunity to be a big playmaker,” McDonald said. “I’ve welcomed that idea and embraced that role this year. It’s been a lot of fun.

“As an offense, I like looking at a bigger picture, and we have to be more consistent. I can help with that and I’m trying my best.”