49ers

Harbaugh in no hurry to decide 49ers' starting QB

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Harbaugh in no hurry to decide 49ers' starting QB

SANTA CLARA -- Coach Jim Harbaugh said Wednesday it's in the 49ers' best interest to not make any snap decision on which quarterback will be taking snaps under center Sunday against the New Orleans Saints.He plans to keep the Saints, and everybody else guessing.
Alex Smith or Colin Kaepernick?Harbaugh said there is no wrong answer for the 49ers, who at 7-2-1 are currently in line to be the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoffs."We'll let it play out. I wouldn't expect an announcement today or any timeline on that. We'll get that to you."Smith, who sat out Monday's game after experiencing concussion symptoms, has been cleared to return to limited practice. And Harbaugh said he expects Smith to be available to play Sunday."I think it's a matter of time before he is," Harbaugh said. "He's going to practice again today."Pretty confident that it'll play out and he's going to be cleared, and that's talking to the doctors and talking to Alex. But I can't definitively say."Maiocco: Harbaugh's three options at quarterback
Smith was cleared last week for practices, but he was downgraded over the weekend after he said he pushed it too hard during practices.Kaepernick played well enough to stir up a 49ers quarterback debate. Harbaugh left the door wide open for a controversy following Kaepernick's strong performance in the 49ers' 32-7 victory over the Chicago Bears on Monday night."I know everybody took the opportunity after the big win the other night to talk non-stop about the quarterback situation and very little about the great victory, both offensively and defensively, special teams," Harbaugh said. "And the way we view it right now is we have two quarterbacks who we are confident in and who work for us and we believe in. To me, it's the opposite of a controversy, where controversy is argument between opposing points of view. This is a decision that will be made from a team aspect, coming from the same direction."Most of the people who really want to know and really care, don't really care whether we win or lose, to be honest with you. I don't know know if it's in our best interest to make a snap decision on that. We'll get all the factors weighed out and we'll come to the best decision for our team."Smith, an eight-year pro, is having his best NFL season. He ranks third in the NFL with a 104.1 passer rating. He is first in the NFL with a 70.0 completion percentage. And his 7.98 yards per attempt is third in the league."This is not one of those situations where you have the aging starting quarterback and everybody is clamoring for the young, backup quarterback," Harbaugh said. "Or the struggling guy and they want the next guy. Of the young guy is in there struggling, and people are clamoring for the popular backup. We have to really good guys."Harbaugh said it's not out of the question that the 49ers could go week-to-week with their decisions on which player starts -- or even which player goes on the field from series to series."I think it's a unique situation, yeah, to have two really good players," Harbaugh said. "Could we? Yes, we could."

Inactives: 49ers LB Reuben Foster to play vs Cowboys

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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).