'Used to' yearly coaching turnover, CB Dontae Johnson ready to start


'Used to' yearly coaching turnover, CB Dontae Johnson ready to start

Dontae Johnson enters his fourth training camp with the 49ers under his fourth head coach and fourth defensive coordinator. He’s also adjusting to new faces and personalities in the team’s front office. But the cornerback contends the upheaval he’s experienced each of the last three seasons is why he’s more prepared than ever to lock down a starting position this season.

“It sucks to say I’m used to it, unfortunately, but at the same time I understand,” Johnson told NBCSportsBayArea.com after a recent practice. “I’ve figured out how to pretty much cope with different things and cope with certain situations and new schemes and learning different things and that nature. It’s not as hard as it would be to most people.”

For Johnson, coping means “being locked into the now” and concerning himself only with the things he can control.

“My main focus this offseason was to make sure I was the best that I could be in any situation given whatever scheme or coaches we had here. Just put my best foot forward just because it is a new slate,” Johnson said. “Everything else will fall into place.”

The 25-year-old has made some eye-popping plays this week in camp including an over-the-back grab for an interception and a hit to break up a would-be touchdown. They’re the kind of plays that make one raise an eyebrow and wonder if the fourth-round draft pick may live up to the expectations that come with the speed and length packaged in his 6-foot-2 frame.

Johnson is currently running with the "ones" at right corner and lines up second in the defensive back drills behind assumed starting left corner, Rashard Robinson. With Keith Reaser missing time due to injury and rookie Ahkello Witherspoon having a tough week, (he was trucked on back-to-back days by Carlos Hyde and Vance McDonald) the starting role is there for Johnson’s taking. He’s not wasting the opportunity.

“Every practice is a game to me. Every play is just as important as the play that happened or the next play,” Johnson said. “Once that play is gone and it happens, it’s over with. I’m going to go on to the next play."

Johnson’s evident improvement comes down to confidence and know-how. He credits the veteran defensive backs he’s played with, being sure to mention former teammates Antoine Bethea, Perrish Cox, Chris Culliver, as being his most influential teachers.

“Watching them and playing my role in the past three years, I feel like I’ve taken all that knowledge and understanding and information and I’m able to put things together now,” Johnson said. “Being able to get in the playbook and understand where my help is, understand leverages and learn that from older guys and seeing that, has really helped me to slow the game down and understand where I can play aggressive and take a little more chances and make plays.”

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.