Mindi Bach

Shanahan showed patience with Beathard; Will now have to show more

Shanahan showed patience with Beathard; Will now have to show more

Kyle Shanahan is, self admittedly, not a patient person. As he watched quarterback C.J. Beathard run the scout team over the last couple of weeks -- how he visualized an unfamiliar play, went through his progressions and handled the defensive coverages -- the head coach saw rapid improvement every day. But he suppressed any urge to play the rookie before he was ready.

“I tried to wait for the right time for him and the right time for the team,” Shanahan explained.

Down 14-0 to Washington halfway through the second quarter with starter Brian Hoyer struggling, Shanahan knew Beathard’s time had come.

“I felt the team needed it right then,” Shanahan said. “It also made me more confident to do it because I thought he was ready for it, also.”

Moments after the game was over, Shanahan named Beathard the starter. Watching the game tape on the flight home only bolstered his decision.

“By no means was he perfect, missed a couple of things, but that always happens,” Shanahan said. “I thought he came in there, didn’t hesitate, competed. The moment was not too big for him. Made a few plays in rhythm, made a few off schedule plays and was a big reason we got back in that game.”

Beathard led the 49ers on two scoring drives and finished 19-of-36 with 245 passing yards, a touchdown and an interception, though it came on fourth-and-20 on his final pass attempt of the game. On his 45-yard touchdown pass to Aldrick Robinson, Beathard extended the play when the fifth year receiver wasn’t where he expected him to be.

“He was supposed to go to the post for a certain coverage, and they had a busted coverage, so he just hung out there which is why C.J. didn’t see it right away,” Shanahan explained. “We had enough protection where he could take a couple more hitches. He drove the pocket and saw where Aldrick was, and he didn’t hesitate. Made that throw with that arm strength.”

Shanahan smirked at his not-so-subtle dig at those who questioned Beathard’s arm strength during the draft process. He sees a quarterback who can make all the throws, and make them from the pocket, and scramble when he needs to. All he needs now, Shanahan contends, is experience.

“It’s about playing in the game and reacting to defenses, reacting to coverages, reacting to adjustments. He’s going to see a lot of things he hasn’t seen before, and that will change each week. It will probably change each quarter.”

Helping Beathard continue to grow through those experiences will require patience, but in this situation, it’s the kind the head coach can handle.

“You’re never going to get a quick answer. You see over time, but he’s got the ability to do it. He’s got the mental toughness to do it. I think he will get better the more he plays.”

49er players shocked, surprised at release of Bowman

49er players shocked, surprised at release of Bowman

Before Friday’s practice, Kyle Shanahan called a team meeting to tell the players NaVorro Bowman, the four time All Pro linebacker, had been released. The news caught even the most veteran players off guard.

“I’m shocked. I didn’t see the writing on the wall,” said Daniel Kilgore. The center and Bowman had been teammates for seven seasons.

“It’s tough, man. We spent a lot of time together. Our families have spent a lot of time together,” Kilgore said.

“I think everybody was pretty surprised,” added tackle Joe Staley, the longest tenured player on the 49ers. “I have nothing but positive things to say about NaVorro and the leader he’s been and the player he’s been here. He’s a great person. A hell of a teammate.”

Shanahan and John Lynch made the decision to release Bowman at the linebacker’s request. Bowman’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, contacted the general manager to discuss Bowman’s reduced playing time on Monday, following the 49ers 26-23 overtime loss to the Colts. Rookie Brock Coyle was subbed in for Bowman for a few series throughout that game. From the locker room afterward, Bowman told NBCSportsBayArea.com he knew he would be coming off the field, but in no way did he agree with the decision.

“They’re doing what they want to do, and . . . I don’t know. I don’t like it. Nobody likes coming out of the game, but I’m a team player,” Bowman said.

“They told me. But it’s hard to do that in the midst of a tough game. No player likes being taken out.”

Shanahan and Lynch met with Bowman after Thursday’s practice. The head coach intended to stick with his plan to limit Bowman’s time believing it would keep his legs fresher in a defensive scheme which, he says, requires the eight year veteran to run more and cover more ground. Bowman was not satisfied with his status and the parties began searching for a trade.

Lynch said the 49ers contacted every team in the league and had one deal in place. The trade did not appeal to Bowman. Instead, he asked for his release in order to work out his own deal with any of the 31 remaining teams. Shanahan realizes the decision may be difficult for many players on the team to understand.

“I hope they respect what our intentions are, and that no matter how hard it is, we are going to do what is best for this team,” Shanahan said. “I know whenever you are talking to a group of guys that lost a brother in that way, a good friend to everybody, it’s always a tough conversation. But I think our team, we’ve got a strong team, and I think our team will respond.”

Shanahan says Reuben Foster will move to Bowman’s ‘mike’ position, though he does not yet know if he will play against Washington this weekend. The first round draft pick returned to practice this week after missing more than a month with an ankle injury. The rookie says he learned quite a few things from Bowman in the time they were teammates.

“Toughness, pride, just different schemes, different reads, different reads that I never learned in college. It’s tough because we made a bond, and that’s my brother,” Foster said. “Just know that it’s a business, but at the end of the day it’s your heart too.”

What makes the loss of a valued teammate a bit easier is knowing Bowman has more business to tend to.

“He’s NaVorro Bowman. He’s played at an elite level his entire career, and he’s going to continue to do that wherever he goes,” Kilgore said.

Added Foster, “Wherever he’s at, wherever he goes, he’s going to do great. His career is not over with yet. Trust me.”

From feeding homeless to doing the splits, Stanford's Phillips a rare find

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From feeding homeless to doing the splits, Stanford's Phillips a rare find

Stanford has a penchant for recruiting the overachieving student-athlete. Even among those standards, Harrison Phillips is a rare find. The senior defensive tackle helps feed the homeless every Friday morning at a local shelter. He often visits the kids in the oncology ward at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital. He was named to the Pac-12 All Academic First Team and will graduate in December with a double major and a minor. He is a team captain and heir apparent to Solomon Thomas, the 49ers third overall pick in this year’s NFL draft.

“One thing you love about Harrison is, every day he’s going to get something done,” head coach David Shaw told NBC Sports Bay Area. “On the field, off the field, in the community, he’s always got a million things going on. But nothing ever suffers.

"He does everything at a high level.”

At 6-foot-4, 290 pounds, Phillips is a mountain of a man. His skill set is different than that of Thomas, but he can be just as disruptive. He plays over the center. He plays over the guards. His self-proclaimed job is to eat as many blocks as possible to keep the linebackers free.

“He’s such that hard point for us. He’s that guy up front that’s getting knock back, that force in the run game that you gotta have,” defensive coordinator Lance Anderson explained. “You have to have that strong solid point in the middle of your defense, and he provides that.”

Phillips had a game-high 11 tackles, five of them solo, in the Cardinal’s loss to USC. No other defensive lineman on the field had more than three.

“He’s outstanding against the run. He’s a very good pass rusher,” Shaw added. “He’s got a lot of tools that can work inside.”

Phillips main instruments of domination are strength, knowledge of leverage and abnormal flexibility for a man of his size.

“He can do the splits on command,” Thomas said laughing from in front of his locker after a recent 49ers practice. “He loves showing it off. We get on him for it. But he loves doing it.

And, according to Thomas, his former Stanford teammate loves to bench. So it comes as no surprise that Phillips’ upper body strength stands out.

“He’ll be really low in a position that you think he’d get knocked over in,” Thomas explained. “Because of how flexible he is, it’s not a problem for him to get in that position and stay there and move on from there. It definitely shows up on his film.”

No doubt, Phillips says, that ability comes from his wrestling experience. His high school curriculum vitae includes, “Nebraska State Wrestling Champion, Heavy Weight Division, Sophomore, Junior and Senior years.”

Phillips first year on The Farm, he vividly remembers his Stanford coaches testing him. Just a mere 245 pounds at the time, they put him up against Joshua Garnett and Andrus Peat, two offensive linemen now in the NFL and each well over 300 pounds.

“They’d double team me, almost 700 pounds on you, and I would somehow find leverage and be able to sit on some of those double teams,” Phillips said. “I think the violence that wrestling brings, and balance and being comfortable in weird positions, wrestling has a ton of scrambling, as it's called, you just know your body and know what you can do. I have tremendous flexibility, and I use everything to my advantage.”

One thing Phillips is not allowed to do is use his explosiveness away from the football field. At one time, Phillips could do a back flip off the wall, but he no longer attempts it.

“I’m not a big fan of the back hand springs,” Shaw said. “I’d like for him to stay on his feet.”

Phillips doesn’t argue. He lost his entire sophomore year to a knee injury, and doesn’t want to risk another. He has NFL aspirations and put himself in position to graduate in three-and-a-half years should he choose to enter the 2018 draft. But just as he has done at Stanford, he is looking to be more than just a name on a jersey should he play on a professional level.

“I want to build something that is really lasting,” Phillips said of his life goal, “and put my name on something to touch people’s lives and change people’s lives, pay it forward as much as I can.”