Thought of Manning as 49er never took off locally


Thought of Manning as 49er never took off locally

Reports are surfacing about teams holding internal discussions and checking their bank accounts with the intention of landing soon-to-be-former Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning.There's been some national buzz that the 49ers, a team that advanced within an overtime loss in the NFC championship game from the Super Bowl, would be a nice landing spot for the 11-time Pro Bowl quarterback.Locally, the thought never seemed to gain a lot of traction.Coach Jim Harbaugh, who has the respect of the locker room for being a man of his word, seemed to put an end to any speculation weeks ago."Yeah, Alex (Smith) is our guy," Harbaugh said. "He had a tremendous season. Definitely, as a coach you worry about a lot of things. And when a quarterback is not signed and he is a free agent that leads to some lost sleep."MAIOCCO: Alex Smith and the 49ers: What's taking so long?
General manager Trent Baalke said the 49ers feel "very comfortable" with their situation at quarterback, namely with Smith as the starter and Colin Kaepernick and Scott Tolzien behind him.And Baalke went so far as to claim on Tuesday that there were no in-depth conversations within the 49ers organization on the subject of Manning wearing 49ers colors after his release from the Colts."We haven't had Peyton in here nor are we even talking about those things internally right now," Baalke said in an interview on KNBR. "Is he going to play? I don't know. That's for the doctors to make the decision on and for him."REWIND: Manning makes no sense for 49ers with Smith, Kaepernick around
Before the doctors even played a role in this -- and the doctors must play a role in this -- the team would have to come to a decision to make a huge commitment to Manning.And we're not just talking about finances.Manning was in the same system with the Colts since he arrived as the No. 1 overall pick in 1998. Part of what made him so good was his encyclopedic knowledge of the offense.RELATED: Jerry Rice says the 49ers should pursue Manning
He'll be going to a different team, leaving the team for which he had been a de facto offensive coordinator as well as one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL for so long.So how much of the Colts' offense will his new team allow Manning to bring with him? Probably as much as Manning wishes to bring with him.
Manning will turn 36 later this month, and it only seems wise that his new team will have to make a major adjustment. Any team that signs Manning must let him be who he has always been. The rest of the team and the coaching staff would have to learn from him.Manning did not play in 2011 because of multiple neck procedures, including spinal fusion in September. If he is (and remains) healthy enough to play again, he'll be with a different team -- a team that will be putting its season in Manning's hands.REWIND: 49ers feel good about their three QBs
Would Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Greg Roman dramatically rework their playbook to accommodate one player?The 49ers and Alex Smith remain in contract talks toward a multi-year extension. You can still assume that a new deal will be reached before or shortly after the opening of free agency on March 13.Harbaugh said -- and continues to repeat -- he is committed to Alex Smith. And Smith, theoretically, still has his best football years ahead of him. He turns 28 in May. Manning had his three best seasons when he was 28, 29 and 30.This offseason should also provide Smith and the others with a full offseason to learn the intricacies of the offense. Roman said late in the season that Smith will not have to spend as many late nights at the 49ers facility during the 2012 season because he'll have a better grasp of the offense.
The team that signs Manning might do it the other way. Manning would be teaching the coaching staff.That's why around these parts it was difficult to get too carried away with the thought that the 49ers ever would consider making such a dramatic commitment.

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.