Swiss Army knife Juszczyk giving edge rushers fits: 'He's confusing me'

Mindi Bach

Swiss Army knife Juszczyk giving edge rushers fits: 'He's confusing me'

If at first it seemed a bit weird seeing Kyle Juszczyk wearing Tom Rathman’s No. 44, it's clear after a few days of training camp that it's actually a perfect fit. Juszczyk is similar in size and skill to the Super Bowl-winning San Francisco fullback.

But in Kyle Shanahan’s offensive system, Juszczyk is taking on more responsibilities typical of a tight end, a position he played at Harvard. In fact, former NFL tight end Dallas Clark is the inspiration behind his choosing No. 44 when he was with the Ravens.

“I’m getting a little more work with the tight ends than I had previously,” Juszczyk told NBCSportsBayArea.com on Wednesday, shortly after a padded practice under his new head coach. “I had taken some snaps in Baltimore in that sort of tight end position, but I think just a little more so here.”

Juszczyk often arrives early to work with assistant head coach Jon Embree, who is also the tight ends coach. He also credits veterans Vance McDonald, Garrett Celek and Blake Bell for teaching him the finer points of the position, much of which is taking place off the field.

"A lot of it has been in the classroom," Juszczyk said. "How to stay on your grind and study and what exactly I’m looking for at tight end."

The value of Juszczyk's grind can't be found on any stat sheet. He has never rushed for more than 15 yards in a game or had more than 56 yard receiving. Touchdowns are also rare -- six in four seasons. San Francisco snatched the 6-foot-1, 240-pounder out of free agency and made him the highest paid fullback in the league in large part because his ability to line up anywhere on the field gives defenses fits.

In the span of just a few plays at practice, Juszczyk caught a pass in isolation against cornerback Will Davis, blocked the much taller and much heavier Aaron Lynch, and disrupted Ahmad Brooks’ passrush.

"I have this conversation with Tank [Carradine] every single day," Brooks said about facing Juszczyk. The outside linebacker’s job is simple – set the edge, get to the quarterback. The daily conversation with his defensive lineman is how to deal with Juszczyk to accomplish that.

"What Kyle does so well at the fullback position and also in Kyle Shanahan’s offense is widen out the edge guys. When they do want to run the ball outside, his angle is so wide to block me. Even in pass situations, his angle is the same way. Sometimes I think that he’s going to block me, and he’s going out for a pass. Sometimes I think that he’s going to go out for a pass, and he’s blocking me. He’s so good at redirecting on his track and on his angle to where it’s kind of confusing me, but he’s making me better as a player."

"You have to have a mindset and whether you’re going against Ahmad Brooks or Will Davis, you have to bring that same intensity," Juszczyk explained. "It’s being able to bring the same intensity every day."

A successful game for Juszczyk is a team victory. He'd also like the running back he’s blocking for to top 100 rushing yards, the team to rush for more than 120 yards, and maybe to get a few touches himself.

"I’m never mad if you throw in a couple of receptions for myself," Juszczyk said smiling.

Juszczyk's smile grows bigger when asked about his move to the Bay Area. 

"I don’t know why I haven’t been here my whole life," Juszczyk said. "It’s beautiful here. Quality of life has definitely increased, and I couldn’t be happier."

The Ohio native bought a house in San Jose and he and his fiancé are scouting locations for a possible West Coast wedding. 

“We plan on being here awhile,” Juszczyk said.

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.

Ronnie Lott: Chance to show Dwight Clark how much we care


Ronnie Lott: Chance to show Dwight Clark how much we care

SANTA CLARA – In less than a year since a group of former 49ers players came together to form the Golden Heart Fund, the non-profit organization has provided valuable assistance.

“We’ve made some progress with the idea of knowing there are some people in need, so we’ve been able to make some grants to some of the ex-Niners,” Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott told NBC Sports Bay Area.

“We’ve been able to respond. This is more about us being able to give guys the ability to know they can have, as (former 49ers linebacker and Golden Heart Fund board member) Ron Ferrari says, a hand up not a hand out.”

The organization is in the midst of a fund-raising drive this week in conjunction with "Dwight Clark Day" on Sunday. The 49ers face the Dallas Cowboys at Levi’s Stadium, and Clark will be the guest of honor. More than 35 players from the 49ers' first Super Bowl championship team are expected to be in attendance.

Clark played nine seasons for the 49ers and provided the most memorable play in franchise history with “The Catch” against Dallas in the 1981 NFC Championship game, which propelled the organization to its first Super Bowl. Clark served as a front-office executive for a decade after his playing days.

In March, Clark announced he was diagnosed with ALS. He is scheduled to attend Sunday’s game and make some remarks at halftime from a suite.

“It’s unbelievable we are having an opportunity to celebrate an incredible day for this gentleman,” Lott said. “We can all say there was a moment in time in which we stood on his shoulders after making that catch. Now, we get a chance to lift him up a little bit and let him know how much we all care.”

Lott said Clark has been a champion of the Golden Heart Fund from its inception. Past and current 49ers ownership has supported the organization, which provides financial support for former 49ers players in times of physical, emotional and financial need.

“It’s the spirit of Dwight,” Lott said. “It’s more about the funds going in through his efforts. He’s paying it forward.”

--The public can made a direct contribution to the fund at GoldenHeartFund.org.

--Proceeds from the 50/50 raffle at Sunday’s game will benefit the Golden Heart Fund.

--Twenty-five percent of proceeds from the sales of Dwight Clark apparel purchased on game day will go to the fund.

--Half of all proceeds from admission to the 49ers Museum at Levi’s Stadium throughout the year will go to the charity.

-- On Sunday, Nov. 19, Levi’s Stadium and race grand marshal Roger Craig will host the first Golden Heart 4.9K Run with all proceeds from the event going to the Golden Heart Fund. Runners can register GoldenHeartRun.com.