Will any of the 49ers running backs be happy?


Will any of the 49ers running backs be happy?

SANTA CLARA -- Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter, the 49ers' top two running backs a year ago, combined to play 95 percent of the team's offensive snaps.Those running backs return this season, as does seldom-used third-stringer Anthony Dixon.In the offseason, the 49ers added Brandon Jacobs, who played nearly 300 snaps with the New York Giants. The club invested a second-round draft pick in Oregon speedster LaMichael James.So you can appreciate the honesty of 49ers running backs coach Tom Rathman when he says, "We don't know if everyone's going to be happy with the time they get because we don't know what the situation is right now."It's difficult to imagine that any of the team's running back will be privately happy with his play time this season. And that includes Gore, who has been the unquestioned featured back since he made Kevan Barlow expendable in 2006.Among the group of Gore, Hunter, Jacobs and James, one of those players will likely be left off the regular-season roster of 46 active players on game days. Dixon, it appears at this point, faces an uphill climb to win a roster spot."First of all, you've got to figure out who's going to make the team," Rathman told a group of reporters on Wednesday. "That's where it all starts. You can't plan on who's going to play what role until you figure out who's going to make your team."We believe that it's open competition. We're going to play the best players because that's the way it should be. So they all have to understand that they've got to play at a high level when they're out on the football field -- that's the expectation of the San Francisco 49ers. When you do that, good things will happen to you as a player. You'll get more snaps."--The player with the most to lose is Gore, who played two-thirds of the 49ers' offensive plays last season. He rushed for 1,211 yards -- the second-most of his seven-year career -- during the regular season. He excelled in two playoff games, averaging 5.6 yards a carry to go along with a team-high 13 receptions (after catching just 17 passes in the regular season).As part of the contract extension Gore signed a year ago, his attendance during the 49ers' offseason program was required for him to receive a 400,000 workout bonus. This is the first time he has taken part in the full offseason program in his career. Gore can be expected to see a reduction in his playing time this season with a better group behind him.
--Jacobs played in 14 regular-season games for the Giants last season but saw action on just 27 percent of their snaps -- a little more than third running back Danny Ware. Ahmad Bradshaw played 45 percent of the time for the Giants. Jacobs has taken part in the 49ers' full offseason program and is working hard. He is incorporating squats into his training regimen for the first time in his NFL career. Jacobs could be the team's short-yardage back, but he'll have to earn his spot on the roster when training camp begins.--Hunter impressed in his rookie season. He rushed for 473 yards (4.2 average) on 112 carries. But in a sign that the 49ers have a strong roster and were set on building depth, the team selected James in the second round. James and Hunter will compete for the same role Hunter had a year ago. Because the 49ers have Hunter under contract through the 2014 season at minimum salaries, he figures to be around for a while. The 49ers have gotten only a brief glimpse at James since drafting him. He took part in a three-day rookie minicamp but has been ineligible to join the 49ers full time because Oregon has yet to hold its graduation.
--Dixon's role on the team is the most tenuous of those with previous NFL experience. He fell out of favor early last season because of concerns from the coaching staff about his level of commitment. At 235 pounds, two different 49ers regimes have wanted him to be a more decisive, no-nonsense runner. He must have an outstanding camp to lock down a spot on the 53-man roster. And if you're thinking his size would enable him to transition to fullback, think again. It is simply not a good fit for his style. He is not a pounder. He does not seek contact. The 49ers are focused finding others to back up fullback Bruce Miller, including defensive lineman Will Tukuafu.--The 49ers also signed veteran Rock Cartwright. But if Cartwright makes the team, it will be solely for his contributions on special teams. Cartwright is unlikely to see a snap of offense this season with the talent ahead of him on the depth chart.--The best hope for undrafted rookie Jewel Hampton (Southern Illinois) is to win a spot on the practice squad.--Said Rathman, "It's all going to play itself out. The good thing is we've got depth at the position, so we're going to lay it on the line when we get into training camp and see who fits what role."

Chip Kelly: Lessons learned from his late father

Chip Kelly: Lessons learned from his late father

SANTA CLARA – San Francisco 49ers coach Chip Kelly made his strongest statement, yet, about where he stands when it comes to seeking jobs elsewhere.

It is a view of commitment he said he learned from his father, E. Paul Kelly, who passed away on Friday at the age of 87. Kelly returned from his dad’s funeral in Portland, Maine, late Tuesday night.

Kelly held his typical Wednesday press briefing. Afterward, he went to the practice field, where numerous 49ers players greeted him with hugs. Just moments earlier, he guaranteed he will never leave a team while there are games remaining on the schedule.

“I will never leave my job for another job while a season is going on,” Kelly said. “I don’t think that’s fair. I didn’t do it when I was in college. I didn’t talk to anybody in the National Football League until after our bowl game was over.

“I will not leave a team with three games to go because I got a bigger, better deal. That’s not the way I’m wired. “

Kelly added, “It’s one thing I did learn from my dad. I have a commitment. They’ve made a commitment to me and I make a commitment to them. I’m not searching around and looking for other jobs while I have a job."

Despite stating multiple times in recent weeks he would not be returning to coach in the college ranks, Kelly’s name continued to surface in connection with the Oregon job. That possibility officially closed on Wednesday morning, as Oregon hired former South Florida coach Willie Taggart for the job.

Kelly’s father passed away on Friday night. Chip Kelly flew to the northeast to join his family, including his mother, who urged him to coach the 49ers’ game on Sunday in Chicago.

After the 49ers’ 26-6 loss to the Chicago Bears, Kelly returned to Maine to attend the services.

"I think you’re just really thankful for the time we had with him," Kelly said. "He lived a vibrant and long life, 87 years. He touched a lot of people in his life and it was evident to us yesterday when we had the funeral how many people came and expressed their condolences and reached out. He had a huge impact in his life. I think, it’s a difficult time. I think we all feel for my mom more than anything else, but it’s an opportunity to celebrate the times that we had with him and he was just a great man.”

Kelly described his dad as a “life-long learner” who had a “thirst for knowledge, an insatiable appetite for information.”

According to his obituary, which ran in the New Hampshire Union Leader, Paul Kelly taught the four Kelly rules to his kids at a young age:

Rule #1 - Have fun!
Rule #2 - Stick together!
Rule #3 - Love Mom!
Rule #4 -&%$*# Dad!

Chip Kelly has demonstrated a wry sense of humor during his first season with the 49ers. But he said he does not compare to his father.

"I don’t have any sense of humor compared to my dad," Kelly said. "I think he was special in that manner. He just had a zest for life. He was one of the happiest people you ever met.

The obituary also stated Paul Kelly was “a truly devoted San Francisco 49ers fan.”

“My dad’s loyal now," Chip Kelly said. "He knows where his son was. He actually got buried in 49ers gear. He did not want to wear a suit in the coffin. He wore a suit for his whole career as a trial lawyer, but he wanted to wear a 49ers sweat suit when he passed away.”

Cosell: It's fascinating that Kelly clearly didn't want Kaepernick to throw

Cosell: It's fascinating that Kelly clearly didn't want Kaepernick to throw

Colin Kaepernick was benched after three quarters on Sunday.

He completed 1-of-5 passes for four yards.

"To me, what's most fascinating about that is what Chip's approach was," Greg Cosell said on KNBR 680 on Monday evening. "Chip (Kelly) clearly did not want him to throw the ball ... it was clear to me that Kaepernick does not throw a wet or a cold ball very well...

"He has small hands so I'm wondering if he just couldn't really throw the ball effectively in this kind of weather.

"Hey, Troy Aikman always said, 'I couldn't throw a wet ball.'"

Kaepernick was sacked five times for -25 total yards.

"Looking at the sacks, there were opportunities for tighter window, but NFL throws -- and first of all, I don't think Kaepernick is that guy under normal circumstances -- and my sense is, he didn't feel comfortable in this weather," Cosell added. "He certainly wasn't gonna cut it loose on those kinds of throws in this weather.

"Maybe Chip knew that, maybe he didn't. But to me, as I said, it's more fascinating that he didn't have him throw the ball at all."

Blaine Gabbert supplanted Kaepernick and completed 4-of-10 passes for 35 yards. He was sacked once.