Smith: 'We've got to do better'


Smith: 'We've got to do better'

Q: How would you describe the last two days as far as it pertains to who has gotten the better of whom out there?
Alex Smith: Lopsided the last couple of days. New phase of camp for us in the sense that, kind of going first, second and third down and all of the sudden the last two days were red zone and red zone emphasis. First two days of it and not good. The defense definitely got the better of us, I felt like, in all aspects, 7-on-7 and team. So, obviously room for improvement, need to get better.

Q: Was that due to the fact that there just hasnt been a lot of contact up to this point and that favors the defense?

No, I dont think that. Theres a lot of things that go into it. One, theyre a great defense. Great players, ready players, they know what theyre doing, play fast. Were not game planning what our defense is doing necessarily. Youre putting stuff in that youre potentially going to see down the line versus different defenses. We still have got to go execute. Theres no excuse. Yesterday, a lot of turnovers for a multitude of reasons. Today was a little better in that regard, but still didnt get much done. Just falls on us as a whole on offense, just need to execute better.

Q: Head Coach Jim Harbaugh just described DT Justin Smith as a guy who every other team wants but still goes out there every day like hes trying to make the team. Do you guys ever tell him to slow down?
I dont. Maybe the O-Linemen do. It seems like its contagious. I feel like the entire D-Line plays like that. A lot of great players up there and they all practice that way. They all practice extremely hard and love football. The whole defense in general too, but especially that front. On one hand its great for us. Its great to go against them every single day. They play every defense imaginable, every coverage, every pressure. Theyve got the whole gambit and they let you see it. So in that in sense, its great work for us. Weve got to get better though, better than we were the last two days at least.

Q: Hows the passing game progressed since training camp began?

I feel like weve had a good camp. Obviously, I feel like everybody on offense has really zoned in on the last two days and made a lot of emphasis of it, and it hasnt been good enough. Prior to that, I feel like we got off to a good start. In the passing game especially been doing some good things. This is situational football. The last two days has been heavy red zone and like I said, its a tough opponent but weve got to get better too.

Q: That first day of camp I raised the question of potentially having WR Michael Crabtree for the whole camp and here he hasnt been out there for a week. Does that set you and that combination back?

At this point, not worried about it. He had such a great spring and summer. I dont know when hes going to be back, but well look forward to his return. Hopefully its not too long. I know I feel good about what he got done this off-season. Its a long camp. I feel like hell get back and get some good work in.

Q: What are your thoughts on DT Ray McDonald? He was riding the bench for a while, now hes getting his chance and playing really well. To what degree have you seen over time his confidence grown both off the field and in the locker room?
I feel like that entire D-Line just feeds off each other, highly competitive group. They do everything together. They compete with each other at everything. Whether theyre in the weight room squatting or out there on the field, whos making plays and whos not on game day as well. Theyre a fun group. Its infectious and I think it rubs off on each other. Rays a big part of that. You see hes a big time player, really coming into his own as a player. No question when you do that, it creeps in and you get confidence as a teammate and leader.

Q: You of all people must be happy that the radio system is new this year?

Yeah, hopefully its better than the last couple years.

Q: Could you tell any difference today?

It does seem better. Its clearer off the bat, comes in better. The last couple years it always seems like we never really had many problems on the practice field. Its not until you get to the stadium that for some reason it doesnt seem to work as well. Hopefully this one does better up at The Stick.

Q: Did you guys ever suspect that it was a home cooking type of thing where the visiting team would always have something weird?

Yeah, but itd even happen at home sometimes. It just seemed like it was a touchy deal. Go in and out. For sure on the road it seemed like it would happen more often, but it would happen at home too. You expect more when you come in as a rookie, youre thinking this is going to be some crazy high-tech stuff and then you actually look in the helmet and its not. Youve got like AAA batteries sitting in there.

Q: When you talk to Packers QB Aaron Rodgers, those other guys do they have the same problem?
I think the headset problem is universal across the NFL. I think every quarterback has dealt with it and you have problems. Youve got to have a plan ready, a Plan B, what youre going to do.

Q: And how many times have you had to hear half the call and then make up the rest?

That happens quite a bit. Sometimes no call at all and you just got to go with something. Sometimes it goes out. We were very proactive here especially last year with the backup system. With the wristband it makes it easier using signals and things like that we can get a play in.

Q: Whats your perspective on where WR A.J. Jenkins is as far as his progress?
I feel like hes coming along just great. I think a lot got made of his offseason which is tough. I mean as a rookie the expectation level is nothing, to come in in an offseason and expect something. I think hes in a great place. Hes got a lot of guys to learn from, a lot of guys that have played a lot of football, guys that all have different strengths. He can watch them play and see how they win. How they play to their strengths. Watch how professional they are. I think hes in a great place, a great place to just steadily keep improving. I think hes going to be just fine. No question about his talent. I think the big thing obviously is the playbook size is just so much different than the college level, run and pass, and just continuing to learn it and the details of it.

Q: What is his talent level? What does he do that distinguishes him?

I think hes a guy that can just about do everything. I think the thing that really distinguishes him is you just see the natural, I dont know if you want to call it foot talent, speed, in and out of cuts, that type of stuff. You see him in and out of breaks and you can see it there. The separation he can get, it just comes natural. Especially coming out sideways, breaking down, getting in and out of cuts, things like that. He has a great feel, great body language. I think its something that is one of his strengths.

Q: RB Brandon Jacobs was saying hes lost 15 pounds since the spring, he still looks fairly large, can you tell if the guys changed his body?

Yeah, I can. I dont think hell ever not look large. But no question, I do feel I can tell hes slimmed down since the first day I saw him. In a good way. I feel like he looks really good. I know from the little bit Ive heard talking to him, I know he really likes whats going on in our weight room and conditioning and stuff like that and has really taken to it. I think he looks great.

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.