49ers

Killion: Smith grooming Kaepernick for 49ers

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Killion: Smith grooming Kaepernick for 49ers

June 30, 2011

KILLION ARCHIVE49ERS NEWS 49ERSVIDEO
Ann Killion
CSNBayArea.comIts a fascinating exercise in human behavior thats been going on at San Jose State. No matter what some cynical observers think (and that includes you Senior Insider Ratto).The 49ers players, working without paychecks or perks, are trying to get ready for the season. Thats not something we see often in modern sports.Alex Smith is the de facto coach, giving orders and taking charge in one last gasp bid to become the 49ers leader. This is a new, changed Smith. Even Vernon Davis says its a new look for his teammate.VIDEO: Vernon Davis on Chronicle Live
Hes really being a leader out there, Davis told Chronicle Live this week. Thats what Alex shouldve been doing but it takes time for some guys to get to where you need to be.But the most interesting thing is that Smith is also helping Colin Kaepernick the young quarterback who fans are already swooning over get ready to take his job away. Hes doing everything he can to help Kaepernick prepare for the NFL and become the 49ers' starting quarterback.Its not awkward at all, Kaepernick said when I talked to him a few days after the first Camp Alex. Alex is a great guy. Hes said, If I can help you with anything just let me know. Hes been very welcoming and its a good relationship. The situation were in doesnt have to define the relationship we have with each other.Kaepernick, and all the rookies, are in a strange spot. Theyre unable to talk to their new bosses and their first taste of the NFL is coming in do-it-yourself practices at a college facility.MAIOCCO: Smith takes charge at Camp Alex
Its a very odd situation, he said. But at the same time being a rookie dont know what normal situation is. Right now, its not too different from what Im used to coming from college.Kaepernick, finally cleared to play after his mysterious procedure on his left leg (something he declines to talk about), was out there this week. He opted to work with his new teammates rather than go to this weeks rookie symposium in Florida.Thats not surprising if you know Kaepernicks background. Before his senior year in college, the Chicago Cubs offered Kaepernick -- who had been an outstanding high school pitcher -- 30,000 to spend a month throwing bullpen sessions in Arizona so they could check out his arm. Thats a lot of money for a college kid to turn down, but Kaepernick knew he couldnt be away from his teammates.As the quarterback you cant leave your team a month before you go into camp, he said.That same lesson applies now.Coach Jim Harbaugh is following along with the players activities as best he can through the media. Though hed obviously rather have the team participating in organized team activities at the 49ers facility, hes encouraged by what hes seeing. Not just the action but also the motivation behind it.These guys love football and theyre committed to getting in great shape and planning for the future, he said. I think its beneficial for all of them. The players have to organize things, find the field, get the balls, figure out whos doing what, whos responsible for what, what plays are they going to run.I wonder how often this generation of men have had to do that growing up, he added. They were probably over-supervised and over-committed as youngsters.Taking ownership of the team and their own future cant be a bad thing, especially for a group of players who were too often treated like children by Mike Singletary.All the 49ers are starting from scratch, which means that Kaepernick and Smith are dead even when it comes to knowledge of Harbaughs offense.Its a little bit of a good thing in terms of trying to compete for a starting spot, Kaepernick said. But overall its not the best situation because you want to make sure youre doing things the right way, the way the coaches want. But Alex has done a great job translating things to the best of his knowledge.The player with the most insight into Harbaughs system is just up the road at Stanford. Though there were reports that Kaepernick was relying on Andrew Luck for information, Kaepernick said those were blown way out of proportion. He and Luck became friends last summer at the Manning Passing Academy but Luck hasnt been a source of information.We just had a quick conversation, Kaepernick said.For now, Kaepernick is relying on the man he wants to replace.Clearly, the best thing Harbaugh did during his window of contact in early May was give Smith the playbook. Smith has been through six offensive coordinators in his six years with the 49ers, so he knows a little something about installing an offense and trying to translate it. And as a rookie Smith was the beneficiary of a willing mentor in Trent Dilfer so he knows the importance of helping a younger player.Smith may never be the player he was drafted to be. But hes becoming a heck of a coach.And this may end up being Smiths greatest contribution to the 49ers: grooming his replacement.

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.