Singletary: 'They've moved on and I've moved on'


Singletary: 'They've moved on and I've moved on'

MOBILE, Ala. -- Mike Singletary sat in the top row of Ladd-Peeples Stadium on Tuesday, far above the Senior Bowl practice taking place on the synthetic playing surface.

In his new role as Minnesota Vikings special assistant to head coach/linebackers coach, Singletary has plenty to offer from his vantage point. Singletary was fired as 49ers head coach Dec. 26 with a 18-22 record in 2 1/2 seasons.

Singletary sat in the stadium with his former Chicago Bears teammate Leslie Frazier. Singletary was an interim head coach with the 49ers for the final nine games of 2008 before he was announced to take over as the head coach following the season.

Likewise, Frazier was the Vikings' interim coach, who was named to the permanent position shortly after the end of the regular season this month. Singletary actually has more experience as a head coach than his new boss.

"I think that's one of the things we sat down and talked about," Singletary told Comcast SportsNet on Tuesday. "It's very important for him, being an interim coach -- and me coming into it the same way -- there are some things that fundamentally you have to get in place early on. Sometimes as an interim coach, you say, 'I'll do that later.' But there are some things you have to do immediately in order to execute your vision and move forward."

Singletary declined to discuss many of the specifics of his tenure with the 49ers, but he did accept responsibility for a breakdown in communication with the team's top personnel executive Trent Baalke.

Team president Jed York said Singletary and Baalke did not have "great chemistry." Baalke was promoted to general manager after the season. Singletary did not dispute York's assessment of the inner-workings of the 49ers.

"I will take (blame) for all of that," Singletary said. "That's something that's on me. He's exactly right. That's something Jed knew last year. But Trent did a good job. And for me, it's a matter of some people you mesh with and others you don't. I just look at it as one of those things. Sometimes it's there, and sometimes it's not."

One source told CSN Bay Area that Singletary told team officials early in the season that if the club did not show marked improvement, he would voluntarily step down. Singletary declined to say whether he was asked to resign before he was fired, just hours after the 49ers' loss to the St. Louis Rams on Dec. 26 knocked them out of playoff contention.

"I don't really want to get into . . . it's done," Singletary said. "It's behind us. It really doesn't matter right now. I think the biggest thing is that they have moved on, and I have moved on. I wish them nothing but the best, and I'm certainly going to do the best I can do to continue the journey I'm on."

York's decision to fire Singletary with one game remaining in the season was not a shocking development, he said.

"Not totally," Singletary said. "You get to a point where frustration sets in on both sides, whether it's the 49ers; whether it's me; whether it's personnel; whoever it is. All you know is you're not going to go to the playoffs. And you're not going to have the opportunity to do something that hopefully you could have done at the beginning of the season. Like I said, it's all behind. You move forward and we'll go from there."

When asked if he wants to be an NFL head coach again, Singletary did not hesitate. "Absolutely," he said.

Singletary, a Hall of Fame linebacker, has never served as a coordinator on any level before he became 49ers head coach, and he said he does not view that as a prerequisite to get another chance.

"I'll work very closely with the coordinator there. They already have one there (Fred Pagac)," Singletary said. "Of course, Leslie Frazier is there -- one of my old teammates. That gives me an opportunity to work very closely on both sides of the ball. But to say I need to be a coordinator in order to be a successful head coach, I don't think that's totally necessary."

Singletary said the experience with the 49ers is something that will make him a better coach in the future. He said he is thankful to the organization for giving him the opportunity.

So why wasn't he successful as 49ers coach?

"Many different reasons," Singletary said. "You may know better than me. But I think many different reasons. But that's all behind, and I think for me it's continuing to be the best coach that I can be. And my goal is still be, one of these days, one of the best coaches in the league."

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.”

* * *

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.