Blount earned Kelly's respect for handling self-inflicted situation

Blount earned Kelly's respect for handling self-inflicted situation

SANTA CLARA – Chip Kelly’s first game as Oregon head coach in 2009 ended in defeat and forced him to deal with an excruciatingly difficult decision regarding his star running back.

On the field after Oregon’s upset loss in front of a national-television audience, Boise State player Byron Hout taunted LeGarrette Blount, who responded with a punch that buckled Hout to his knees. Kelly suspended Blount for the season but allowed him to remain on scholarship and practice with the team.

Ultimately, Kelly reinstated Blount for the Rose Bowl after he met academic and behavioral conditions. Blount is now in his seventh NFL season, and leads the New England Patriots with 678 yards rushing and 12 touchdowns.

“I developed a great amount of respect for him in terms of what he went through and how he handled himself in a really bad situation that he knows he put himself in,” said Kelly, whose 49ers will face Blount and the Patriots on Sunday at Levi's Stadium. “But the way he was willing to stick with it. It could have been easy for him to say, ‘All right, I’m going to quit and go get ready for the NFL.’

"But he stuck it through, practiced with us not knowing if he was ever even going to play in a game. I think there was a lot of things that he had to do to get himself back in position to play and he did that. So I think it tells you a little bit about L.G. in terms of his perseverance and his attitude and understood. (He) was very remorseful for what he did, understood that he made a mistake, but stayed around to help correct that mistake in terms of what we asked him to do as a student and as a member of our team to give himself an opportunity to play again.”

Listed at 6 foot, 250 pounds, Blount figures to be a load for the 49ers’ run defense, which ranks last in the league. He thrives in the red zone, taking advantage of defensive tendencies to pay particular attention to quarterback Tom Brady and the Patriots’ passing game.

Kelly said Blount’s vision, size and athleticism set him apart.

“Sometimes I think you see a back and your preconceived notion is he’s just a ram it up in there and kind of push the pile guy, but the one thing we knew right when we first got him was what great vision he has and then what great athleticism he has,” Kelly said. “He’s got some highlight reel-type runs both in college and in the NFL of hurdling people.”

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.”