Swain eager for possible starting role


Swain eager for possible starting role

SANTA CLARA -- Brett Swain flew in from San Diego in October to take part in a one-day competition to fill the spot on the 49ers' roster that opened due to Joshua Morgan's season-ending injury.Obviously, he knew T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Brian Finneran and Chris Chambers. But he identified somebody else that day as a threat.When all the receivers lined up to race 40 yards, Swain finished a close second behind undrafted rookie receiver Joe Hastings. Still, Swain was signed ahead of the 49ers' practice-squad receiver.Hastings is expected to join Swain on the 49ers' 53-man roster for the regular-season finale on Sunday against the St. Louis Rams after the club released Braylon Edwards this week.
And Swain might join Michael Crabtree in the starting lineup, 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman said. Ted Ginn (ankle) and Kyle Williams (concussion) were not expected to practice Thursday.Since signing with the 49ers in mid-October, Swain has suited up for four games. He has played 20 snaps from scrimmage and has one catch for nine yards. Offensive coordinator Greg Roman said Thursday that it's possible Crabtree and Swain will be the starters Sunday against the St. Louis Rams."If I got in there at any position, I'll be ready to be able to make plays and hopefully help the team win," Swain said. "I think the expectations for everybody is the same. Coaches put in the guys they think they can win games with. When I get on the field and able to jump in there, I have to be ready to roll."Swain remained ready for his opportunity after the Green Bay Packers released him prior to the start of the season. He remained in shape and took advantage of the chance the 49ers gave him as part of a tryout.
"That day was definitely a competitive environment," Swain said. "There were four or five guys out here fighting for a job. Joe stood out as, 'Hey, I'm going to be out here and I'm going to be working hard just like you guys.'"And I think that's what it came down to, is who was going to outwork each other. And Joe was that guy that I had my sights on. This guy is going to work hard. He's going to run his routes hard. He's going try to be good technically at everything he does."Swain and center Jonathan Goodwin are the only 49ers with Super Bowl rings. Swain caught six passes last season for the Green Bay Packers and played special teams in the Super Bowl.

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.