LB Michael Wilhoite says activation for Sunday's game is 'fate'

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LB Michael Wilhoite says activation for Sunday's game is 'fate'

SANTA CLARA Well, this sure beats selling sneakers.

Linebacker Michael Wilhoites long journey to the NFL has culminated in a spot on the 49ers active roster for Sundays game in St. Louis. The 25-year-old out of Division II Washburn University, who was signed to the practice squad late last season, confirmed that he expects to serve on special teams when the 49ers battle the Rams.

Wilhoite got word on Monday that it was a possibility he would suit up, but it wasnt made official until just before Fridays damp practice in Santa Clara.

It was a great feeling. Its an honor to get on the field with these guys and have fun and help the team any way I can, Wilhoite said.

Prior to joining the Niners practice squad last December, Wilhoite had just completed his first year playing for the UFLs Omaha Nighthawks. After the season ended in November, he returned to his hometown of Topeka, Kansas, where his title changed from linebacker to shoe salesman at the retail store Finish Line, among other things.

Wilhoite, who graduated with a degree in mass media from Washburn, remembers that time in his life as a low point in his professional career. Fortunately, it didnt last very long.

Thats tough. Thats the toughest part. When youre home doing nothing, every day goes by so slow and youre thinking, whats next? What do I do? Do I pick up another career?

The good thing was, I had a degree in mass media, so I could find a job. So, I was just at home working at Finish Line, working as a personal trainer, working at the radio station (WIBW 580 in Topeka). I got the call to come out here, and it was a blessing then and still a blessing now. Im just going with the flow, and enjoying it and loving it, and taking it one day at a time.

Wilhoite was able to take advantage of several vacancies in the roster since the 49ers' win in New Orleans last weekend. Wide receiver Kyle Williams and running back Kendall Hunter suffered season-ending injuries, while versatile special teamer Demarcus Dobbs was arrested following a single-car accident early Friday morning and wont be making the trip to St. Louis, as originally reported by CSNBayArea.coms Matt Maiocco.

Wilhoite doesnt think its a coincidence that his first game will be in St. Louis. His friend Joe Hastings, a former 49ers wide receiver whom he played with at Washburn, also made his debut against the Rams late last season at the Edward Jones Dome.

I was at home and brushing my teeth and something just hit me like, Joes first game was at St. Louis. What if I got pulled up and my first game was in St. Louis? That would be pretty awesome, Wilhoite said.

It just shows to me that this stuff doesnt just happen. Its not by coincidence, its by fate. Its pretty special and pretty powerful, really, if you think about it.

Head coach Jim Harbaugh, who gave credit to the teams scouting department for unearthing Wilhoite, had nothing but good things to say about the 6-0, 240-pound linebacker who played safety in college and even lined up as a fullback for some snaps in the preseason.

Michael has shown to be a real professional. Hes showed its really important to him. Hes chomping at the bit to get on the field, and well see if thats a possibility in this game, Harbaugh said, minutes before Wilhoite confirmed hed be playing.

Special teamer Tavares Gooden was also very complimentary of Wilhoite, saying: Hes a hard worker. Strong guy. Hes a 49er, thats why hes activated. Everybody who gets an opportunity, Im excited for. I cant wait to see him play. Hes a real humble guy, and hes ready.

What can he bring to the field on Sunday?

Were going to find out, Gooden said.

Boedker tops list of disappointing Sharks depth forwards

Boedker tops list of disappointing Sharks depth forwards

SAN JOSE – The Sharks didn’t make any blockbuster moves last summer, content to make another run in 2016-17 with largely the same group that came within two wins of capturing the Stanley Cup.

They still acquired a notable player, though, when Mikkel Boedker was signed on July 1 to add an element that the Sharks knew they needed more of moving forward – speed. Boedker was expected to make the team faster, after the Sharks were exposed for not having enough of that against Pittsburgh in the NHL’s final round, as well as play in a top six role. 

At the time, it was hailed as a slick, under-the-radar move that wasn’t going to change the dynamic of the club but could help push it over the top.

When Boedker was a healthy scratch in games three and four of the first round against Edmonton, the evidence became clear, though, that this was a decision that fell flat on its face. 

Frankly, Boedker – who is signed for three more years with a $4 million salary cap hit – brings back visions of Sharks bust Marty Havlat. You know the skill is there, but the desire to use it on a nightly basis while showing any semblance of a battle level is lacking. 

Should the Sharks give Boedker another chance next season, or should they do everything in their power to try and move him? That’s a question that will likely be debated in the front office over the next several weeks.

On get-away day on Monday, indications were that the Sharks were planning on sticking with the 27-year-old, who finished with 26 points in the regular season (10g, 16a) and added one goal and one assist in four games in the playoffs.

“He has the things we’re looking for: his career scoring average, his speed, [penalty killing] ability,” general manager Doug Wilson said. “Did he meet the expectations that he had for himself [or] that we had for him? No. Can we get that out of him? Pete [DeBoer] believes we can.”

DeBoer has known Boedker since he played for him in 2007-08 in Kitchener (OHL). Despite scratching him in the playoffs, DeBoer said he saw “huge improvement” in Boedker throughout the course of the season after the forward spent nearly all of his NHL career in Arizona.

“There was an adjustment. He’s played 6-7 years a certain way in the NHL,” DeBoer said. “We’ve asked him to play differently here, and there was an adjustment.”

Boedker still believes that he can be a fit in San Jose.

“I think it will be and it can be,” he said. “It’s learning period, but you’ve also got to look in the mirror yourself and see what you can change and what assets you need to bring. I’ve learned a lot, and I’m ready to do that.”

The list of Sharks depth forwads that had frustrating seasons hardly begins and ends with Boedker, though.

Veteran Joel Ward’s production dipped from 43 points last season to 29 in 2016-17, although that probably isn’t too surprising considering he’s 36. Tomas Hertl is proving to be a streaky player, too, although his season was interrupted by another a knee injury.

The bigger disappointment came from players like Chris Tierney and Joonas Donskoi, who both made big impressions in the 2016 playoffs but struggled to produce consistent offense this year. Both were mentioned by name by DeBoer on Monday.

There are some promising youngsters in the pipeline like Timo Meier, Kevin Labanc and Marcus Sorensen, but it’s still too early to project any of them as can’t-miss scorers at the NHL level.

“I think we’ve got a large group of guys that I like, but need to step up,” DeBoer said. “Is Sorensen [like] Donskoi next year, where he takes a step back, or [does he take a] step forward? We’ve got a lot of guys that there’s a lot of potential there – Chris Tierney. 

“There’s a lot of those guys, but they need to have big summers and take a step, and show that they’re not just one season or one month players.”

Facial fractures for Couture; Thornton undergoes surgery

Facial fractures for Couture; Thornton undergoes surgery

SAN JOSE – Just in case there was any question as to the grisly nature of Logan Couture’s mouth injury, the Sharks forward shared a picture on his personal Instagram account on Monday.

If you haven’t seen it yet, proceed with caution.

The photo was taken the night of his injury on March 25 in Nashville, showing several top teeth missing in a mouth that can accurately be described as a bloody mess, after he was hit with a defected puck while standing in front of the net in a game against the Predators.

Couture revealed on Tuesday in a conference call that there was more to his injury that just damaged teeth. He also has some facial fractures, including one above his upper lip that extends to his nasal area, and another that is under the bottom row of his teeth.

The one that’s higher in his face is still painful. 

“Still struggle to eat and sleep. … It’s not a comfortable state to be in,” said Couture, who missed the final seven games of the regular season before returning for the six-game first round series loss to Edmonton.

As for the next step, Couture has yet to sit down with his dentist, although further work is on the horizon.

“There’s going to be some implants to get the teeth fixed,” he said. “Hopefully get it done in the next few weeks, and then I’ll head back to Canada.”

Couture doesn’t yet know how many teeth need to be replaced.

“All depends on how the teeth respond,” he said.

* * *

Joe Thornton had successful surgery on his left knee on Monday afternoon, NBC Sports California has learned, and according to a team statement released later on Tuesday he is expected to "make a complete recovery and be ready for the start of the 2017-18 season." 

According to a source, the damage to Thornton’s MCL was more significant than his ACL. The team declined to give any details about the surgery in its statement, including who performed it and where it was done. 

Thornton played four playoff games against Edmonton despite damaged knee ligaments, head coach Pete DeBoer revealed on Monday, when he said Thornton was dealing with a “torn MCL and ACL” after getting hurt in Vancouver on April 2.