Harbaugh: 49ers open camp with five No. 1 receivers


Harbaugh: 49ers open camp with five No. 1 receivers

SANTA CLARA -- Randy Moss is not the 49ers' best wide receiver, coach Jim Harbaugh said Friday.Instead, Harbaugh in his camp-opening press conference claimed the 49ers have five receivers tied for that honor.Former Raiders quarterback and current SiriusXM NFL radio personalty Rich Gannon recently on the air relayed a conversation he had with Harbaugh. Gannon said that Harbaugh informed him Moss was the team's best receiver.Harbaugh disputed Gannon's version of their conversation."The way that was reported was misunderstood," Harbaugh said Friday. "What I said -- and I remember the conversation vividly -- I was describing Randy having the fastest time in a specific drill on a specific day of the offseason OTAs."What we have here on this team, really, we've got five guys who are No. 1 receivers as we go into camp. It will play out what the roles are, who the starters are, who the backups, the contributors. We've got five guys tied for first."The five players Harbaugh mentioned are the veterans: Michael Crabtree, Randy Moss, Mario Manningham, Ted Ginn and Kyle Williams.Rookie A.J. Jenkins has to earn his way onto that list. Jenkins had a quiet first day of camp with no receptions during the 49ers' 11-on-11 sessions. Crabtree picked up where he left off with an impressive opening to camp. He had several receptions during the team's 7-on-7 sessions.But Crabtree sat out the final 20 minutes of practice with an apparent ankle injury. After being examined by the team's staff, Moss came over, took a knee beside him to check on his condition. The injury did not appear to be serious. Crabtree left the field under his own power but was walking gingerly. His status for Saturday's practice is not known.This could be the first full training camp in which Crabtree and Alex Smith will get a chance to work with each other. Smith said big strides were made during the offseason months.
"He had such a great spring and summer," Smith said. "I think just keep doing what he's doing, what we're doing. I felt like he had a great offseason. And I think just continue to work hard. The guy does so many things, he can do so many things. You need a guy in that sense to just keep getting better, more consistent and just continue to strive to get better." The first day of camp opened the way the 49ers' offseason program began: With no question Smith is the team's best quarterback. Smith looked sharp, including two well-thrown deep balls to Moss during one-on-one sessions. The other quarterbacks -- Colin Kaepernick, Josh Johnson and Scott Tolzien -- were not as sharp. The 49ers signed massive guard Leonard Davis on the eve of camp. He is a man with 155 career regular-season starts, and he could challenge Alex Boone for the starting job at right guard."I loved his comments (Thursday)," Harbaugh said. "When asked about competing, he said he wouldn't be here if he wasn't here to compete, so I thought that was spot-on and (I) take the man at his word."Leonard told us and he talked about being comfortable at either (guard) spot. And I think that's something that would be valuable for our team, for him to be able to play both spots. He's played a little more on the left side, but I think being prepared to do both would be great for him and us." When asked if his time away from football last year gave him more appreciation for the game, Moss answered, "No, because the reason I walked away from the game wasn't really to do with the game. One thing that I have learned is that people don't like the truth. So I'll just wait until my book comes out just to see why I did walk away from the game for a year."Moss quipped as he left the podium that his book can be expected in 10 or 15 years.

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


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


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.