49ers

49ers begin final phase of offseason program

49ers begin final phase of offseason program

The 49ers have graduated back to the phase of the offseason when offense-vs.-defense drills are allowed.

Because of the hiring of Kyle Shanahan, the 49ers were allowed an additional “voluntary” minicamp before the NFL draft. That meant the 49ers were permitted to skip from the two-week conditioning phase of the offseason straight to what is allowed under Phase III.

But after the three-day minicamp in late-April, the 49ers were forced to retreat back to Phase II, when on-field drills but could not include offense vs. defense.

Beginning Monday – and over the next three weeks -- the 49ers can get back to conducting the standard one-on-one, 7-on-7, 9-on-7 and 11-on-11 "non-contact" drills. The 49ers have the maximum number of 10 organized team activities scheduled. The official offseason program concludes with a mandatory minicamp scheduled for June 13-15.

The real competition does not begin until the pads go on during training camp. but here’s a look at the team’s most notable offseason competitions (one position you will not find is quarterback, where the depth chart of Brian Hoyer, Matt Barkley and C.J. Beathard appears clearly set):

Running back: Carlos Hyde, entering the final year of his original four-year contract, has a lot of competition to hold onto his role as the featured back. He is coming off his most-productive season, finishing just 12 yards shy of the 1,000-yard mark when he sustained a knee injury with one game remaining. Shanahan and running backs coach Bobby Turner lobbied for Utah running back Joe Williams in the draft. They clearly see a fit for him within the system.

Pass-rush end: The 49ers’ pass rush was among the worst in the NFL the past two seasons. Arik Armstead will be given an opportunity to see if he can adapt to the “Leo” position. Aaron Lynch must earn the confidence of the coaching staff and front office. The 49ers added explosive, 243-pound pass Pita Taumoepenu in the sixth round.

Tight end: The 49ers confirmed Vance McDonald was available for a trade during the draft. After finding no takers, the 49ers brought back McDonald and he rejoins the competition among rookies George Kittle and Cole Hikutini, and veterans Logan Paulsen, Garrett Celek and Blake Bell.

Cornerback: Rashard Robinson is the obvious choice to start on one side. And assuming Jimmie Ward remains at free safety, the 49ers have no other player on the roster who has started a significant number of games at cornerback. Rookie Ahkello Witherspoon, a third-round draft pick, will have a legitimate opportunity to win a starting job, as long as he displays a willingness to stick his nose into the action and play with the requisite level of physicality. Dontae Johnson, Keith Reaser and Will Redmond should also be in the mix to replace Tramaine Brock, who was released shortly after his arrest after an alleged domestic incident last month.

Center: Jeremy Zuttah, a Pro Bowl performer, was added in the offseason via a trade with the Baltimore Ravens. Daniel Kilgore has been the 49ers’ center the past three seasons but injuries have limited him to just 23 starts over that period of time. Zuttah has position flexibility. The 49ers could determine the best thing for the offensive line is to move Zuttah to one of the guard positions – to challenge Zane Beadles or Joshua Garnett -- if he is not clearly better than Kilgore.

Weakside linebacker: The 49ers signed veteran Malcolm Smith on the first day of free agency, providing him with $11.5 million of fully guaranteed money. The 49ers ranked Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster as the No. 3 overall prospect in the draft. They traded up to select him at No. 31 overall. Assuming Foster is ready to compete at the beginning of training camp after undergoing offseason shoulder surgery, it appears likely he would line up in that position and compete with Smith. The 49ers’ medical staff does not believe Foster will require any additional surgery, and Foster said he expects to be cleared for the opening of camp.

Travis Scott, Colin Kaepernick reportedly spoke about Super Bowl halftime show

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AP

Travis Scott, Colin Kaepernick reportedly spoke about Super Bowl halftime show

Travis Scott ultimately agreed to perform at the Super Bowl LIII halftime show on Feb. 3, but he reportedly spoke with former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick beforehand.

The two "had at least one phone conversation" before Scott took the gig, Variety's Jem Aswad reported Tuesday. Although "the two did not necessarily agree, they emerged from the conversation with mutual respect and understanding," a source close to Scott told Aswad.

Scott's presence at the show was first reported last month, but not confirmed until he announced he and the NFL would donate $500,000 to Dream Corps, a nonprofit focused on social justice initiatives. That was not before Scott received intense criticism on social media and elsewhere, largely because of the NFL's treatment of Kaepernick.

Kaepernick sat, then kneeled, during the playing of the national anthem before games during the 2016 season to protest racial inequality and social injustice. He has not played in a professional football game since Jan. 1, 2017, and has remained unsigned by a team since officially opting out of his contract with the 49ers on March 3 that year. The 31-year-old ultimately filed a collusion grievance against the league, and his hearing reportedly is scheduled for early this year.

Rihanna reportedly turned down and cited Kaepernick's absence from the league, and Cardi B reportedly did the same. Jay-Z tried to convince Scott not to perform, and Scott himself would not until the NFL agreed to donate to Dream Corps, Aswad reported, citing sources. Neither Scott nor Kaepernick commented on Variety's report.

49ers' DeForest Buckner named Pro Bowl injury replacement for Fletcher Cox

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AP

49ers' DeForest Buckner named Pro Bowl injury replacement for Fletcher Cox

Move over, Mickey Mouse. DeForest Buckner is headed to Orlando. 

The 49ers defensive lineman will play in his first career Pro Bowl on Jan. 27, as the 24-year-old was named as an injury replacement for Philadelphia Eagles defensive tackle Fletcher Cox.

Buckner broke out in a big way in his third NFL season. The Oregon product finished 2018 with a career-high 12 sacks, tying for the 14th most in the league. He also had the second-most quarterback pressures at his position, according to Pro Football Focus. 

Named an alternate when the NFL announced Pro Bowl rosters in December, Buckner arguably was one of the biggest snubs from the main roster. After Tuesday's news, he won't need to worry about that for much longer.