49ers

49ers' Ahkello Witherspoon healthy, ready for Seahawks QB Russell Wilson

49ers' Ahkello Witherspoon healthy, ready for Seahawks QB Russell Wilson

SANTA CLARA — Ahkello Witherspoon is listed as questionable for Monday night's NFC West showdown with the Seahawks, but the 49ers cornerback insists he feels 100 percent recovered from the foot sprain he suffered two months ago.

The 49ers finally having a healthy secondary begs the question of how defensive coordinator Robert Saleh will integrate Witherspoon back into the scheme. Richard Sherman's play has returned to a Pro Bowl level, and Emmanuel Moseley, who has been very effective in Witherspoon's place, has proven his worth, allowing just 11 of 21 passes (52.4 percent) to be completed against him, along with one interception.

No matter who starts Monday, Witherspoon told NBC Sports Bay Area that he's ready to get back on the field, knowing the challenge that lies ahead in stopping Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson.

The third-year pro hopes the 49ers' stout defensive line can shorten the amount of time the secondary will have to cover the Seahawks' receivers, but he recognizes they'll be pushed nevertheless.

"The biggest thing is Russell," Witherspoon said. "He makes it all click. If they [the 49ers' D-line] can help minimize that challenge, it is what it is, but that's kind of the thing with this week -- embracing that uniqueness of what he does.

"There are some people that try to hide from it. The reality is that he's going to do his thing. He's going to break out of there, and we've got to be great."

Secondary coach Joe Woods has altered the 49ers' strategy in preparation for Wilson. Woods knows his players must stay with their man longer because of Wilson's talent of buying time in the back field.

Ultimately, Seattle receivers will run one route from the line of scrimmage, and then a second route once Wilson starts to scramble. Witherspoon and his secondary mates are prepared to cover both.

"Joe has been saying all week -- cover them twice," Witherspoon explained. "I think that kind of mentality coming into the game, who cares if you cover them once? This week, you cover people twice, and that's the standard. It's not always that way. And then other weeks, because of the D-line, we don't have to do that. But this week, he's a talented guy, and that is going to be a reality."

Witherspoon also will heed the advice of someone who knows Wilson very well: Sherman, the QB's former Seahawks teammate.

"Sherm even tells us to be hesitant to break on the first route because it's not really going to come out too often." Witherspoon said. "That's not who he is as a player. I've kind of been doing it the last two years playing with him."

[RELATED: Gordon reportedly will play 'fairly significant' role in Seahawks debut]

The misconception about Wilson is that he needs to be covered like a running back, but he has just 44 carries for 203 yards so far this season.

“He's buying time, and then in critical situations, he will run, which is Russell at his best,” Witherspoon said. "He's not really trying to get yards, and he's going to protect himself. He knows what he means to that organization, and he's going to play it safe and look to pass. I think it's a great challenge for us as a team."

Should the 49ers answer that challenge, they'll find themselves 9-0, with essentially a three-game lead over the Seahawks atop the division.

NFL rumors: Odell Beckham Jr. wants to leave Browns after one season

beckhamusatsi.jpg
USATSI

NFL rumors: Odell Beckham Jr. wants to leave Browns after one season

The Odell Beckham Jr. era in Cleveland reportedly could be over after just one season.

Fox Sports' Jay Glazer reported Sunday that the Browns receiver, who the 49ers pursued this offseason, wants out of Ohio. 

"[Throughout] this year, Odell Beckham has actually told other players and coaches before games, during games, 'Hey, come get me. Come get me out of here,'" Glazer said Sunday on "FOX NFL Sunday." "Remember: It was not Odell's choice to go to the Cleveland Browns. He got traded there. There now also is reports he needs sports hernia surgery. I've gotta say, I don't see that relationship ending well for them after this year."

The Browns acquired Beckham in a blockbuster trade with the New York Giants this offseason, but things have not gone according to plan in Cleveland. Beckham as 57 catches for 805 yards and just two touchdowns this season, and Cleveland.com's Mary Kay Cabot cited multiple sources describing the Browns' offense as "dysfunctional." 

As Glazer noted, Beckham reportedly is playing through a sports hernia. NFL Media's Ian Rapoport reported Sunday that Beckham will need surgery and he has mostly been limited in practices. 

Beckham remains under contract through 2024, after signing a massive extension with the Giants last August. His demand rather than his team's motivation to move him would drive a potential trade this offseason, and it's fair to wonder if changing circumstances on the 49ers' part would affect their interest. 

Defensive lineman DeForest Buckner, tight end George Kittle and breakout defensive end Arik Armstead are all eligible to sign contract extensions this season. Armstead can become a free agent this offseason, while Kittle and Buckner can do the same in 2021. Whether or not the 49ers retain Armstead, it could prove difficult to bring in Beckham given San Francisco's existing salary commitments.

Over The Cap lists the 49ers as having just over $16 million in salary-cap room heading into the offseason. Parting ways with players such as injured running back Jerick McKinnon could free up space, but Beckham will carry a cap hit of at least $14.25 million in each of the next four seasons. It's also hard to envision Beckham wanting to restructure his deal after being surpassed by Julio Jones as the NFL's highest-paid receiver.

[RELATED: 49ers' Kittle on pace for best tight end season of PFF era]

The financial concerns are real, but a down season in a historically downtrodden organization shouldn't be what dissuades the 49ers from pursuing Beckham if he is made available or demands a trade. Kyle Shanahan's offense can't exactly be described as "dysfunctional." 

Beckham tweeted Friday that he didn't say he was unhappy in Cleveland, but that he is "hopeful for better results." Whether that hope takes him elsewhere will be a storyline to monitor all offseason. 

49ers center Weston Richburg carted off field in Week 14 vs. Saints

richburgap.jpg
AP

49ers center Weston Richburg carted off field in Week 14 vs. Saints

The 49ers lost a key to their offensive line with just over 10 minutes left in the third quarter Sunday against the Saints in New Orleans. 

Center Weston Richburg was carted off the field with an injury to his right knee and ankle. Richburg's right leg got caught on guard Mike Person's left leg, causing the center's leg to awkwardly bend as he went to the ground. 

San Francisco officially ruled Richburg out for the game.

[RELATED: 49ers' Ford aggravates hamstring, ruled out vs. Saints]

The 49ers had 339 total yards to the Saints' 265 at the time of Richburg's injury, but they trailed 30-28. Ben Garland took over for Richburg, and the 49ers immediately scored a touchdown on their first drive without their starting center. 

The 49ers signed Richburg to a five-year contract in March 2018.