49ers

Ahmad Brooks earns his way back

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Ahmad Brooks earns his way back

Ahmad Brooks has talent. But early in his career, bad decisions kept him from reaching his potential. As a sophomore at the University of Virginia, Brooks was one of three finalists for the prestigious Butkus Award, an honor granted to college footballs best linebacker. A season later, coaches kicked him off the team. His college career done, Brooks entered the NFLs supplemental draft. Cincinnati took him in the third round. But in his two seasons with the Bengals, Brooks drew more attention for a womans accusation that he hit her than for anything he did on the field. The Bengals released him before the 2008 season.
I went through some adversity, Brooks said. I guess Im like a walking example right now as far as that.But Brooks self-destructive ways are in the past. In his four years with the 49ers he has only had to deal with the trouble of injuries. Brooks says, no doubt, hes matured. He is two weeks away from turning 28, was recently baptized and after receiving a new six-year, 44.5 million contract, Brooks wants to make sure his experience serves as an example to kids.
RELATED: 49ers show confidence in Brooks with lucrative deal
Not to give up on your dream. Not to give up regardless of whats going on in your life, Brooks explained to me a day after his new deal was announced. When you wake up in the morning and you got a new day, a fresh start to be productive, better yourself as a person and be making the right decisions.
Brooks plans to tell kids his story and message at camps and wherever else he can. He never started more than one game in his first three years with the 49ers. But when Jim Harbaugh became the head coach, Brooks says he looked at it as yet another chance for that fresh start, that chance to become a better player.RELATED: 49ers announce six-year extension for Ahmad Brooks
"They may have heard of me," Brooks explained, "and seen me on film, but it was my chance to earn a starting position."He didnt waste his opportunity. By the end of training camp, Brooks was the starting outside linebacker. He started all 16 regular season games in 2011 and became an every down player for the first time in his career setting career highs in tackles and sacks. Along the way, he also earned much more.
RELATED: Ahmad Brooks career stats 2011 game logs splits
They believe in me, believe in me as a player, Brooks said of the coaches and what his new contract means to him. I thought it was going to be a five year deal. But when I looked at the contract it said six, but it had extra base salary on there, so I was happy with the deal.Brooks is mostly happy that the length of his deal should allow him to retire with the 49ers. But happy does not mean satisfied. Brooks is staying in the Bay Area for the first time this offseason, working out with weight room regulars Justin Smith and Ray McDonald at the team facility. He views the 2011 season as just a start of what kind of player he can be, especially when it comes to rushing the passer.Because Aldon Smith was making so many sacks, and I was just so close to getting there, and I was like Dang! He beat me to the punch, Brooks said laughing. I want to get better at that.There is no reason to believe he won't.

What rookie CB Ahkello Witherspoon did to earn role in 49ers' defense

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USATSI

What rookie CB Ahkello Witherspoon did to earn role in 49ers' defense

SANTA CLARA – Rookie cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon did not win the right to suit up for the 49ers’ first four games. Behind the scenes, he made it his mission to earn a contributing role.

“He really started to get better with his coordination with his feet from the bump-and-run coverage and from playing ‘off.’ There’s always a light that goes on,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. “And we felt that for a couple weeks from Ahkello. Once he did that, he definitely earned the right to be out there.”

The plan was for Witherspoon to rotate into the action and share time with starters Rashard Robinson and Dontae Johnson. But he played just six snaps on Oct. 8 against Indianapolis before sustaining a concussion. Witherspoon returned to action last week and played 34 of the 49ers’ 74 snaps last week at Washington. He showed enough to coninue getting significant playing time.

“He’s earned the right to play,” 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh said. “He works his tail off in practice. He’s so deliberate in his approach. Whether it was scout team, whether it was team reps, whether it was walk-through, it didn’t matter.”

Witherspoon, the 49ers’ third-round draft pick at No. 66 overall, had a pedestrian training camp. Taking his lumps in August showed him what he needed to do to get into real games in October.

“I really turned up my focus, my intent every day in practice,” Witherspoon said. “What I did in camp wasn’t good enough to be a starting corner in this league, and that’s what I learned.

“I really focused on being aware of what it takes. That’s something I implemented these last four weeks -- that every day focus and competing on every single ball, and taking the mindset that no ball’s caught on me. I think that’s really helped my game, and helped these coaches trust me, as well.”

Witherspoon expected Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins to attack him. But of the 25 plays he was in coverage last week, Witherspoon saw only three passes come his way. He surrendered two receptions for 33 yards, according to Pro Football Focus.

“Just being a rookie, I thought it was going to come, where they were going to be taking that one shot,” Witherspoon said. “I kept waiting for it to happen, but it didn’t happen. Going up against a smart quarterback, I know he saw me out there.

“There were a few times he looked my way in coverage. I wasn’t perfect in coverage, but I think he was looking. And I thought I did a good job.”

Witherspoon (6 foot 3, 195 pounds) is comfortable lining up on either side of the field, which he did during his college career at Colorado. He said he has not put on much weight but he has added more muscle, which has allowed him a better chance to compete physically against bigger NFL receivers.

Witherspoon fully expects to be challenged on Sunday when he is expected to see considerable playing time against the Dallas Cowboys at Levi’s Stadium. Witherspoon figures Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott will be paying particularly close attention any time Dez Bryant lines up on his side of the field.

“They’re going to be looking at the ‘rook,’ ” Witherspoon said.

Said Shanahan, “They’re going to try to do that with all our DBs, so I don’t think it even matters who’s out there. They’re going to attack when we’re in single safety, which we are the majority of the time. They’re going to go outside and keep going out there until you stop them.”

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EDITOR'S NOTE: Watch Kyle Shanahan's full sit-down interview with Matt Maiocco on "49ers Game Plan," which is scheduled to air Saturday at 9 p.m. on NBC Bay Area (Ch. 3).

49ers wide receiver Pierre Garçon handed hefty fine

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AP

49ers wide receiver Pierre Garçon handed hefty fine

The NFL fined 49ers wide receiver Pierre Garçon $24,309 for unnecessary roughness in last week’s game against Washington.

Garçon, who was not penalized on the play, lowered his helmet and struck Washington safety Montae Nicholson at the end of an 8-yard pass reception in the second quarter.

In 2013, the NFL passed a rule that bans the ball carrier from initiating contact with the crown of his helmet in the open field.

Nicholson’s helmet flew off and he remained on the ground for a couple of minutes. He was evaluated for a possible concussion and shoulder injury. However, Nicholson was cleared and he returned to action.

After the play, Garçon and Washington safety D.J. Swearinger exchanged words, and Swearinger took a swipe at Garçon’s facemask. Swearinger was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct.

The NFL fined Swearinger $9,115 for unnecessary roughness.