Tolzien closely following Texans rookie QB


Tolzien closely following Texans rookie QB

SANTA CLARA -- Third-string quarterback Scott Tolzien, an undrafted rookie the 49ers acquired off the waiver wire after San Diego Chargers cut him in September, has no problem getting motivated to come to work every day.
And all he has to do is look at his buddy, T.J. Yates, to see how quickly things can change.
Yates was a fifth-round draft pick of the Houston Texans. He was the No. 3 quarterback behind Matt Schaub and Matt Leinart. But in the span of two weeks, both veterans experienced season-ending injuries.And, now, Yates is the starting quarterback for the playoff-bound Texans, who are pursuing home-field advantage in the AFC playoffs.RELATED: NFL Standings
"It's crazy," Tolzien said. "I remember texting him four weeks ago and he was actually playing scout-team receiver because they were low on numbers and he was helping out the team any way he could."And now he's starting, wins a game and throws a touchdown. I couldn't be more happy for him. He's a really unassuming, down-to-earth guy. He's a smart guy and hard-worker."As the No 3 quarterback, Tolzien has not suited up for a game this season. During practice, he's not real active either.He has participated in some special-teams work during practice, but he has not been asked to line up at any other positions. He does not get any practice snaps with the 49ers offense, either. Instead, he and backup Colin Kaepernick run the scout team -- the unit that simulates the upcoming opponents' plays to get the 49ers defense prepared."You try to make it as game-like as possible and try to relate it to your playbook and maximize it so it's not wasted reps," Tolzien said.Tolzien (Wisconsin) and Yates (North Carolina) spent a lot of time together in February at the NFL scouting combine. Considered among the lower ranked of the quarterbacks invited to the combine, Tolzien and Yates were tabbed as "throwing quarterbacks."After the entire group of quarterbacks worked out for NFL coaches, scouts and executives, Tolzien, Yates and Ryan Colburn (Fresno State) remained in Indianapolis as the throwers for receivers, running backs, defensive backs and linebackers."Every position group is there for only three days," Tolzien said. "We were there all week. We did our workouts with the quarterbacks, but then we kind of serviced the other positions."Tolzien said he felt the assignment gave him additional opportunities for NFL decision-makers to get to know him."It got you into the combine," he said. "It was increased exposure. We were there all week. It's the receivers day, but I'm throwing to the receivers. Maybe the coaches are up there and I'm throwing to the receivers and maybe it pops out, 'This kid throws a nice ball.' It was fun, too. I hung around all the position groups and got to know a lot of guys."Tolzien went undrafted but chose to sign a free-agent contract with the Chargers instead of the 49ers, who had already invested a second-round pick in Kaepernick.And if there's anything he has learned from Yates, it's that a third-string quarterback is only two snaps away from being thrust into a playoff push. In his first NFL start, Yates completed 12 of 25 passes for 188 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions in a 17-10 win over the Atlanta Falcons. Tolzien said he planned to watch the video of that game."Yeah, definitely, for two reasons," Tolzien said. "He's a buddy and you're curious to see how he did. And, also, it's good learning. He started the year as a third-string quarterback, so I want to see how he attacked it and learned from it?"

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.