49ers

Fangio isn't divulging differences between coaching Harbaughs

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Fangio isn't divulging differences between coaching Harbaughs

SANTA CLARA -- Vic Fangio is uniquely qualified to compare and contrast the NFL coaches who will make history Thursday night as the first brothers to face each other when the 49ers meet the Baltimore Ravens.Fangio, the longtime NFL assistant coach, had never met the Harbaughs before John Harbaugh retained him on the Ravens coaching staff in 2008. After two seasons with John Harbaugh, Fangio moved cross country to join Jim Harbaugh's Stanford staff as defensive coordinator.
"I'm probably the person that has the most perspective on that because I was with John his first two years in Baltimore and worked closely with him there in his first head-coaching job," said Fangio, who is currently the 49ers' defensive coordinator."And, obviously, I've been with Jim last year at Stanford and the transition coming over to here and everything that's involved with that."Jim Harbaugh and John Harbaugh were born 17 months apart and had a coach, Jack Harbaugh, as their father. But they are not exactly carbon copies, Fangio said.RELATED: The Har-Bowl page
"And I would say about 30 percent of them is similar, being that they're from the same family, same parents and all that," Fangio said. "But 70 percent of them are very different. They're two very different individuals, two very different, in most cases."And how, exactly, are they different?"That's top secret," Fangio said. "That's my information and I'm keeping it to myself."Fangio already had an extensive NFL resume when he joined the Ravens in 2006 as defensive special assistant to head coach Brian Billick. Fangio worked on both sides of the ball while with the Ravens. He was one of the lead voice in the booth to assist Billick with replay challenges."(I) basically did a lot of work with the coaches, both sides of the ball, and worked with the head coach in helping him do his duties particularly during the game," Fangio said."It was really a great experience for me. It really was, working both sides of the ball and getting a better, full perspective of everything. It's something that I would recommend for everybody to do if they could."It was that kind of perspective that helped Fangio formulate his philosophy last week as he devised a game play against Arizona Cardinals second-year quarterback John Skelton. The 49ers chose to play coverage the entire game against Skelton and Richard Bartel. Not once did he call for a defense that sent more than four pass-rushers at the Cardinals' quarterbacks.REWIND: 49ers never blitzed Cardinals
"A lot of people think when you play a young quarterback you should go after him, send the kitchen sink," Fangio said. "But many times that makes his job easier because if he sees pressure, he can throw somewhere to where he's got a one-on-one matchup."Sometimes against a young quarterback, it's good to make him be a quarterback, drop back there, read his coverage, find an open receiver, go through his progression. I think that's tougher on a young quarterback in some instances, and that's the approach I took that past game."The plan figures to be different Thanksgiving night against Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco and his explosive surrounding cast that includes running back Ray Rice, and receivers Lee Evans, Anquan Boldin and rookie Torrey Smith."They have a really explosive and dynamic personnel group," Fangio said. "I think it's probably the best offensive skill position personnel that the Ravens have ever had since they moved to Baltimore."

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.