49ers

Former 49er Derrick Deese explains cause for poor O-line play

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AP

Former 49er Derrick Deese explains cause for poor O-line play

Seemingly every NFL team has issues on its offensive line, and that is not a surprise to former longtime 49ers player Derrick Deese.

Deese started 116 games during his career with the 49ers through the 2003 season. He was a highly versatile offensive lineman under legendary coach Bobb McKittrick. Deese played every position on the offensive line, starting at right guard in Super Bowl XXIX before playing the majority of his career at left tackle. He said the changes after the NFL's collective bargaining agreement in 2011 have made it more difficult on offensive linemen to prepare for their jobs.

While some have pointed to the proliferation of spread offenses in college that do not properly train offensive linemen for the next level, Deese pointed to the hours of padded practices lost on the practice field as the biggest reason for the struggling play of offensive lines around the NFL.

“I think when you come down to practice, offensive line needs more practice time than a defensive lineman does because there’s so much stuff to learn – so many more variables we have to understand,” Deese said on “The 49ers Insider Podcast.”

“For one defense, sometimes there might be three different ways to block that play. So when you start cutting down practice schedules and say you only have this amount of time per week, and this amount of time per day, it’s hard to get all of that in. It’s hard to get all the reps you actually need to be successful. When they cut that down, something’s going to suffer and you see what suffers.”

After the newest CBA was ratified in 2011, teams are no longer allowed to hold two padded practices per day in training camp. The NFL also placed limits on the number of full-contact padded practices during the regular season. Teams are permitted only 14 padded practices for the season with a maximum of one per week.

Deese, 47, understands why the NFL has taken steps to reduce contact – and risk of injury – in practices. Deese said he has undergone 17 football-related surgeries and is putting off three more surgeries – two on his shoulders and one on his elbow.

“I deal with that. I understand that,” Deese said. “It was a decision I made to play the game. If you asked a lot of guys who played the game if they would do it again, I’m willing to say, probably, 95 percent of them say ‘I’d do it again.’”

As a parent, he said he has not allowed his children to play tackle football until the eighth grade, but he has not dissuaded his children from playing in high school and beyond. His eldest son, Derrick, is a wide receiver at Golden West Community College in Huntington Beach.

“I’ve talked to people that have kids and they tell their kids, ‘I don’t want you to play football.’ I know guys who have kids in high school who will not let their kids play football at all,” Deese said.

“To me, as a parent, especially one who was successful in the game, you don’t (prevent) your son an opportunity to play the game. Right now, with what they’ve done with football, I think it’s the safest time to allow kids to play the game. They’re teaching the game a whole different way. They’ve made the game a lot safer.”

Inactives: 49ers LB Reuben Foster to play vs Cowboys

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USATSI

Inactives: 49ers LB Reuben Foster to play vs Cowboys

After missing the last five games with a high right ankle sprain, rookie linebacker Reuben Foster is active for Sunday's game against the Cowboys.

Foster was injured just 11 plays into the season opener against the Panthers.

The 49ers have deemed these seven players inactive for the Week 7 showdown against Dallas:

WR Victor Bolden, DB Dexter McCoil, FB Kyle Juszczyk, LB Mark Nzeocha, LB Pita Taumoepena, DL Aaron Lynch and OL Erik Magnuson.

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).