Shanahan: 49ers intern Katie Sowers 'did as good of a job as anyone'

Shanahan: 49ers intern Katie Sowers 'did as good of a job as anyone'

The 49ers announced the addition of eight coaching interns, including the first woman in franchise history to serve in an instruction role.

Katie Sowers worked with wide receivers Tuesday for the first day of the 49ers’ mandatory minicamp as part of the team’s 2017 Bill Walsh NFL Diversity Coaching Fellowship. She is expected to remain with the club at least through training camp.

Sowers worked with the Atlanta Falcons last summer during training camp. She worked primarily with Falcons wide receivers coach Raheem Morris and Mike LaFleur, who now serves as 49ers wide receivers coach and passing game specialist. She also spent significant time as a scouting intern with the Falcons.

“She came in and worked with the receivers and did as good of a job as anyone I've had in the internship,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. “We loved having her around. She was eager to learn it, she has played professional football in a women's league in the United States for a while and she's passionate about it.

“Us spending a whole training camp with her, she did a great job and she ended up helping out in Atlanta in personnel throughout the year. She just hit me up a few months ago and said her internship was up over there and asked if we would want to have her here. There was no doubt. She does a good job and we're excited to have her.”

Sowers has served as recreation director and athletics director for the Kansas City Department of Parks and Recreation. She attended Goshen College in Indiana, where she played basketball, soccer, and ran track. Sowers received her master's from Central Missouri State University.

The other interns in the diversity program are:

--Alonzo Carter, in his first season as San Jose State’s running backs coach, will work with the 49ers’ running backs. He served as the head coach of Contra Costa College from 2010 to ’16.

--Nick Ferguson played 10 seasons safety in the NFL from 2000-09 with the Jets, Broncos and Texans. He will work with the 49ers defensive backs.

--Corey Ivy, who appeared in 113 games as a cornerback with six different teams, will work with the defensive backs.

--Jerrod Johnson will work with the quarterbacks after finishing his career at Texas A&M as the school’s all-time leading passer. Johnson spent time with the Eagles, Steelers, Seahawks, Bears and Cowboys but never appeared in an NFL regular-season game.

--Rony Sieperda joins the 49ers strength and conditioning department after serving an internship at the University of Colorado.

--Donald White, who will work with the team’s linebackers, while currently working in his 10th season as the defensive backs coach and defensive passing game coordinator at Laney College in Oakland.

--Rodrique Wright will work with the 49ers’ defensive line. He is entering his fourth season at Sam Houston State and second as the team’s defensive line coach. He previously worked in the Bill Walsh NFL Minority Fellowship with the Seattle Seahawks last year. After being a seventh-round draft pick in 2006, Wright appeared in 13 games with the Miami Dolphins in 2007.

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.