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.”

49ers host two free-agent cornerbacks


49ers host two free-agent cornerbacks

The 49ers hosted two veteran cornerbacks on free-agent visits the past two days and could be signing either Jaylen Watkins or LaDarius Gunter as they wind down their activity on the free-agent market.

“We’re really pleased with what we’ve done,” 49ers general manager John Lynch said Thursday. “I’ll never say never. We’ve had a couple of guys visit in the last couple of days. Perhaps we’ll do something there. But for the most part, we’re wrapped up and pleased with what we’ve been able to do.”

The 49ers do not have much depth behind presumptive starting cornerbacks Richard Sherman and Ahkello Witherspoon. The team is also likely to add to its depth in the draft.

The 49ers met with Gunter (6-foot-2, 201 pounds) on Thursday. Gunter, 25, started 15 games for the Green Bay Packers in 2016. He recorded 54 tackles and broke up 12 passes. He signed with the Packers in 2015 as an undrafted rookie from Miami.

Gunter was waived at the beginning of last season and the Carolina Panthers claimed him. He appeared in just four games with Carolina, which did not tender him as a restricted free agent.

The 49ers on Wednesday met with Watkins, 26, a versatile defensive back who appeared in 36 games with five starts in four seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles.

Watkins (5-11, 195) played three snaps on defense and 17 plays on special teams in the Eagles’ 41-33 victory over the New England Patriots in Super Bowl 52 on Feb. 4. He entered the NFL in 2014 as a fourth-round draft pick from Florida.

Eric Reid discusses free-agent status, 'going to consider different ways to be active'


Eric Reid discusses free-agent status, 'going to consider different ways to be active'

STANFORD – Free-agent safety Eric Reid chatted with 49ers general manager John Lynch on the sideline, then moved into position onto the field for an up-close view of his brother’s pro day workout Thursday at Stanford University.

Younger brother, Justin, is aiming to be a first-round draft pick like Eric, whom the 49ers selected with the No. 18 overall pick in the 2013 draft.

Both football futures of the Reid brothers remain uncertain. Justin's fate will be determined on draft day. Eric Reid remains in limbo as an NFL free agent. He has not gotten any action in the first week of free agency, and the 49ers have not made him a contract offer, he said.

But Lynch said the 49ers are closely monitoring Reid’s situation. However, the organization already has three safeties they like: Jimmie Ward, Jaquiski Tartt and Adrian Colbert.

“Eric played and played well for us last year,” Lynch said. “I think he’s stuck in a safety market that’s been quiet. And I would anticipate things starting to shake for him and we’ll see.

“I’d never say never. I really do think opportunities will start to come his way. We’ve been monitoring it closely and we’ll see how that shakes out.”

Reid, 26, a six-year NFL veteran, said his agent has spoken recently to “a couple of teams,” but no contracts or visits have been proposed.

Reid’s market might be impacted by his up-front role in the protests of racial inequality of the past two seasons. Reid and Colin Kaepernick were the first players to take a knee during the national anthem at the beginning of the 2016 season.

Reid said he would probably not take part in any future protests during the national anthem.

“From the beginning, Colin has been flexible,” Reid said. “He started by sitting. He changed it up. We decided to kneel. And we understand that you got to change with the times. So I’m not saying I’m going to stop being active, because I won’t. I’m just going to consider different ways to be active, different ways to bring awareness to the issues of this country to improve on.

“I don’t think it’ll be in the form of protesting during the anthem. And I said ‘during’ because it’s crazy to me that the narrative got changed to we were protesting the anthem, because that wasn’t the case. But I think we’re going to take a different approach to how to be active.”

Reid said he has no regrets. He said he is willing to deal with the consequences of how NFL teams viewed his role in the protests.

“I stand by what I’ve done,” Reid said. “I know why I’ve done it. My faith in God is the reason. I can go to sleep at night confident I did what I was called to do. I’m just gong to stay positive and keep trying to stay in shape and wait and see what happens.

“I said at the end of last season I’m OK no matter what happens.”