49ers all in on 'next man up' philosophy

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49ers all in on 'next man up' philosophy

Rael Enteen
CSNBayArea.com staff writer 

SANTA CLARA – Jim Harbaugh and Colin Kaepernick are both well versed in the 'injuries open up opportunities' narrative.

Alex Smith’s concussion on Nov. 11 paved the way for Harbaugh to hand the starting quarterback job to Kaepernick, who emerged as a breakout NFL star as he led the 49ers to the Super Bowl.

While Michael Crabtree will be sidelined until November at the earliest as he recovers from surgery to repair a torn Achilles tendon, both Harbaugh and Kaepernick displayed more confidence than concern Wednesday after practice.

[RELATED: Crabtree out with torn Achilles]

“We have a lot of talent out here,” Kaepernick said, echoing his head coach’s sentiments. “We have a lot of great players. It’s just who’s going to step up and fill that role now.”

Minutes after Kaepernick and Harbaugh dropped the “step up” line, Patrick Willis followed suit.

“It’s an opportunity for someone else to step up,” he said.

[RATTO: Crabtree injury leaves Harbaugh with three options]

In Kaepernick’s 10 starts between the regular season and playoffs, he targeted Crabtree 92 times, compared to just 39 passes thrown to Vernon Davis and Randy Moss.

When asked why he looked Crabtree’s way so often, Kaepernick took a page from his head coach’s media playbook and kept it simple.

“He got open. That’s what you want from a receiver.”

Kaepernick was equally complimentary of two 49ers receivers who stand to benefit the most from Crabtree’s injury. A.J. Jenkins, the 2012 first-round draft pick who didn’t catch a pass his rookie season, and Ricardo Lockette, an undrafted free agent who has been Kaepernick’s roommate since he joined the 49ers’ practice squad in September, could be leaned on heavily in Crabtree’s absence.

“They’re great players that have been working hard,” Kaepernick said after throwing passes to both Jenkins and Lockette in 7-on-7 drills during Wednesday’s practice.

While Kaepernick toes Harbaugh’s ‘next man up’ line about the in-house talent, he was very vocal about his appreciation for veteran receiver Randy Moss’ leadership last season. But, like Harbaugh, he wouldn’t comment on the possibility of bringing the future Hall of Famer back in the fold.

[RELATED: Replacing Crabtree not a one-man job]

“That’s not my decision,” he said.

 

49ers select CB Ahkello Witherspoon in third round of the 2017 NFL Draft

49ers select CB Ahkello Witherspoon in third round of the 2017 NFL Draft

AHKELLO WITHERSPOON
Position: Cornerback
College: Colorado
Height: 6-2 3/4
Weight: 193
Selection: Third round, No. 66 overall

SANTA CLARA – The 49ers selected Colorado cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon, a Sacramento native, in the third round of the NFL draft with the No. 66 overall pick.

“Being close to home is an incredible opportunity, as well as the type of defense they play -- press man, up in your face,” Witherspoon said. “When I came in for a visit, they were asking me if I’ve adopted that role and if I’d be willing to continue that. And I said, ‘Absolutely.’

“It’s an opportunity to play for such a great organization, close to home, with such a savvy defensive mentality. I think it’s going to be a great place for me.”

The 49ers were also scheduled to have the next pick, but traded the selection at No. 67 for the New Orleans Saints’ second-round pick in next year’s draft, as well as a seventh-round selection (No. 219 overall) this year. The 49ers now have 10 picks in next year’s draft.

The Saints used that pick at No. 67 to select Tennessee running back Alvin Kamara.

Witherspoon began his college career at Sacramento City. He played his final three college seasons at Colorado. He started 12 games last season and earned second-team All-Pac-12 honors.

Witherspoon led the nation with 22 pass breakups. He recorded one interception -- a game-saving pick in the end zone to preserve a 41-38 victory over Oregon. A pre-med student majoring in ecology and evolutionary biology, he said he aspires to be a doctor after his football career.

But Witherspoon said he is committed to football and promised the 49ers during his visit to Santa Clara that he will make huge strides over the next few years as he continues to develop as a player.

Reuben Foster: Shoulder recovery on pace for training camp clearance

Reuben Foster: Shoulder recovery on pace for training camp clearance

SANTA CLARA – Linebacker Reuben Foster is likely to be a spectator when the 49ers hold their rookie minicamp next week.

But Foster said he is on pace to be fully cleared for football activity by the time the 49ers open training camp in late July. Recent national reports have suggested Foster would require another surgery on his right shoulder.

“That’s not accurate at all,” said Foster, who took part in a press conference on Friday after the 49ers selected him with the No. 31 overall pick in the draft on Thursday. “I’m fine. I’m on schedule.”

Foster said he 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.

There were reports Foster could require additional surgery after he went through the medical re-check in Indianapolis.

“I’m making big progress,” Foster said. “I’ll be limited in OTAs. Training camp, I’ll be full-go, but if it’s my decision, I think I can go now.”

Later, Foster said the 49ers have all of his medical information.

“I guarantee they have enough X-rays, exams, MRIs to know where I stand,” he said. “I had the surgery. They already knew how many weeks I was out.”

Foster dropped in the draft over apparent concerns about his shoulder and character issues. Alabama coach Nick Saban told AL.com on Thursday that Foster did not consult him before undergoing surgery.

"Look, the way we like for things to get handled, that didn't get handled," Saban said. "We have the best doctors in the world in Dr. (James) Andrews and Dr. (Lyle) Cain who operate on most NFL players and his agent chose to take him someplace else. I think (Andrews and Cain) have tremendous credibility.

"So, you know, all these choices and decisions that you make have consequences and I hate it for our players when they do it, but he didn't seek my advice in what he should do. So, if that was an issue, that was an issue. It shouldn't have been an issue but if it was, I don't really know much about it."