49ers

Panthers RB McCaffrey braces for challenge of two 49ers rookies

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AP

Panthers RB McCaffrey braces for challenge of two 49ers rookies

SANTA CLARA – Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey’s NFL debut Sunday will be against one of his best friends.

But the bigger head-to-head challenge for McCaffrey will come from the second of the 49ers’ two first-round draft picks.

McCaffrey was chosen with the No. 8 overall pick. His former Stanford roommate, defensive lineman Solomon Thomas, was the 49ers’ selection at No. 3 overall. The Panthers and 49ers open the regular season on Sunday at Levi’s Stadium.

“It’ll be good. It’ll be pretty familiar,” McCaffrey said Wednesday on a conference call with Bay Area reporters. “We did it a lot the past three years. I’m excited, man. That’s one of my best friends in the whole world.”

McCaffrey figures to be a vital weapon for the Panthers as a runner and receiver. The 49ers will likely turn to rookie linebacker Reuben Foster to help neutralize him in coverage. The 49ers traded back into the first round to select Foster with the No. 31 overall pick.

“He’s a heck of a player, man,” McCaffrey said of Foster. “He’s fast. He’s physical. He’ll stick his nose in there. He’s good getting to the ball and he’s an high energy player, somebody that is definitely going to be tough to go against.

“He’s a good player. He can cover. You watch some of the preseason games. He did a good job doing it. He’s an all-around great linebacker. I think that’s why they chose him as one of their first-rounders.”

McCaffrey said 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan babysat him a long time ago. And McCaffrey has known 49ers general manager John Lynch, who was a Denver Broncos teammate with his dad, Ed McCaffrey.

“I kind of knew they weren’t going to pick me,” McCaffrey said. “They had some other needs. But I love all those guys over there.”

Kilgore: All of 49ers on same page 'for the first time in a long time'

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USATSI

Kilgore: All of 49ers on same page 'for the first time in a long time'

The 49ers’ coaching staff made its feelings known to center Daniel Kilgore throughout the season.

But, in the past, that would not have necessarily meant everyone in the organization had the same thoughts about Kilgore, who was scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent.

“The whole season, coaches and I had a good relationship,” Kilgore said Wednesday on conference call with Bay Area reporters. “Just talking and having one-on-ones with various coaches, I had a positive outlook for the future.

“But that’s just one thing. The coaches have an opinion of you, but then there’s also the front office. That’s two totally different things. And I think for the first time in a long time, our coaches and the front office are on the same page.”

Kilgore was working out back home in Tennessee on Wednesday when he signed a three-year contract to avoid hitting the free-agent market. Kilgore, 30, a seven-year NFL veteran, described the contract as a team-friendly deal.

The 49ers presented Kilgore with a contract offer during the season but negotiations did not get serious until just recently. While the 49ers expressed interest in retaining Kilgore, he said he did not know what the future held for him when he packed his belongings from the locker room on the day after the season ended.

“It kind of makes you nervous because in this profession, people like the younger guys,” Kilgore said. “You just never know what will happen at any time, any given day, in the NFL. So toward the end, that last day of clearing out the locker, I didn’t know if I’d be back. I didn’t know if the Niners would want me back.”

Kilgore was named the winner of the organization’s top honor for an offensive lineman. Kilgore won the Bobb McKittrick Award for best exemplifying the dedication, excellence and commitment of the long-time 49ers offensive line coach. Kilgore started all 29 games in which he appeared the past two seasons, including a career-high 16 games last season.

"I've been here seven years and I consider the Bay Area my second home,” Kilgore said. “To be able to extend my career wearing the 49ers jersey was special to me. This team is heading in the right direction, I wanted to be a part of it."

Why the 49ers did not hesitate to pay Garoppolo big money

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Matt Maiocco

Why the 49ers did not hesitate to pay Garoppolo big money

When Jimmy Garoppolo signed a contract that could pay him up to $137.5 million over the next five years, he was asked what convinced him during his nine weeks with the organization that he wanted to be with the 49ers for the long term.

“I think it was a number of things,” Garoppolo said last week. “The team, the acceptance that they had of me when I first got here from the get-go, the coaching staff, Kyle and Rich. It was a very welcoming environment, and I really liked that. We had some success down the stretch, and you could see that pieces were falling into place. We've got a long way to go, but I think we're moving in the right direction.”

Kyle, of course, is head coach Kyle Shanahan. Rich Scagarello is the 49ers’ quarterbacks coach, and the person from whom Garoppolo spent the most time after arriving in Santa Clara on Oct. 31 after a trade with the New England Patriots.

Garoppolo earned $3.5 million in his first four NFL seasons. His new contract makes him the NFL’s highest-paid player, making an average of $27.5 million per season, with $48.7 million fully guaranteed.

Scangarello, appearing this week on The 49ers Insider Podcast, talked about what he learned about Garoppolo from working so closely with him to teach him Shanahan's offense. Scangarello said there is no question in his mind the money will not change Garoppolo’s approach to his work.

“That’s why it was easy for the organization and everyone to invest in somebody like Jimmy Garoppolo,” Scangarello said. “I just think that’s not the kind of person he is. If you met his family, you know where he comes from, what he’s about. His brothers, his parents, are just good, solid people people. He’s made of the right stuff and I just don’t see that affecting him in that way.

“It’s just not who he is. That’s the fun part of working with somebody like that every day. When they’re really talented and they appreciate everything and they work at it, you have a chance to be a successful organization and they can be a great player. And I don’t think those things will ever affect him.”