SANTA CLARA – Only 13 players remain among the players coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch inherited with the 49ers when they took over 18 months ago.
Wide receiver Aaron Burbridge is one of them. He must be doing something right.
After all, Burbridge was a sixth-round pick in 2016 from Trent Baalke’s final draft class. And Burbridge missed all of last season with a significant hamstring tear. He is still around, and making a serious bid for a roster spot among a deep group of 49ers receivers.
It is a crowded field, as the 49ers are likely to keep only six receivers on their 53-man roster. Pierre Garçon, Marquise Goodwin, Trent Taylor, Aldrick Robinson, Kendrick Bourne, Victor Bolden and Max McCaffrey spent time on the roster last season, while Burbridge was on injured reserve. Plus, the 49ers drafted Dante Pettis and Richie James.
“It feels good to be back out here playing ball, in general,” Burbridge said. “I’m more comfortable with the offense. I’m more comfortable with the new coaching staff and everything, so everything is going way more smooth this year.”
Burbridge is considered an ace on special teams. He is continuing to develop his skills as a wide receiver, and has enjoyed an active camp. On Tuesday, quarterback C.J. Beathard found him on a deep pass during 11-on-11 work, and he caught a touchdown pass during a 7-on-7 period.
But Burbridge does the little things, too. Cornerback Greg Mabin was lined up against Burbridge in press coverage. Burbridge knew he wasn’t getting the ball, so he made an adjustment to drive Mabin off the line of scrimmage to create traffic for a linebacker, enabling tight end Cole Wick to make the reception.
“The coaching staff saw something in me and kept me around, and I feel like it’s my job to go prove that they might the right decision to keep me here,” Burbridge said. “That’s all I’m trying to do.”
Offensive Play of the Day
Tight end Garrett Celek ran a sideline route against the tight coverage of strong safety Jaquiski Tartt. Jimmy Garoppolo’s pass fluttered 30 yards down the field, and Celek and Tartt each appeared to get a hand on the ball. Celek maintained his concentration and hauled the ball into his body with one hand and got both feet in-bounds.
Defensive Play of the Day
Free safety Adrian Colbert cut under Marquise Goodwin’s deep post pattern to make a leaping interception of a Garoppolo pass. Colbert came down with the pick, then made some nifty moves while returning it 75 yards for a touchdown. The play prompted some verbal back-and-forth, as well as some non-verbal dialogue between Goodwin and Colbert on opposite sidelines while the second units took the field.
Sherman Intercepts Garoppolo
Cornerback Richard Sherman was matched against veteran wide receiver Pierre Garçon for each of his one-on-one practice reps. Garçon caught a deep pass from Garoppolo on the first play. The second deep pass was incomplete, and Sherman intercepted Garoppolo, trying to hit Garçon on an in-cutting route, on the final one-on-one rep. Later, during a 7-on-7 red-zone drill, Sherman broke up a Garoppolo pass on a fade route intended for Garçon.
Defensive lineman Arik Armstead sustained a hamstring injury during Sunday’s practice and the club lists him as “week to week.” Rookie Jullian Taylor saw his first action with the first-team defense in Armstead’s absence at the “big end” position. Taylor is a seventh-round pick from Temple.
"He’s got size. He’s got power and he’s been playing real well," Shanahan said of Taylor. "So we were going to do that anyways and give him a chance because he’s earned it by of some of the reps he’s been doing. Then, it made it pretty easy because of what happened to Arik two days ago. Seemed pretty good out there, but we’ll see again when I watch the tape.”
Tight end Cole Hikutini (groin) will miss at least a week of practice, and could be worked slowly back onto the practice field next week. Guard Joshua Garnett (knee) missed his second day work, but is expected back soon.
Cornerback Jimmie Ward and linebacker Brock Coyle left practice during individual drills with what Shanahan described as “tightness.” Linebacker Reuben Foster was also slowed by a nagging quadriceps condition. Shanahan said he was not too concerned.
Cleared for practice
Linebacker Malcolm Smith, who missed four practices with a lower-leg injury, worked with the first-team defense, alongside Reuben Foster, after receiving clearance. Smith was one of five 49ers players who were cleared for practice after opening camp on injury lists. The others who put on pads for the first time in camp were guard Jonathan Cooper (knee), receiver Trent Taylor (back), linebacker Dekoda Watson (calf) and rookie safety Marcell Harris (Achilles).
Rookie defensive lineman Kentavius Street, who sustained a torn ACL in a pre-draft workout with the New York Giants, remains on the non-football injury list and is likely to sit out the entire season.
After the injury to Hikutini, the 49ers decided to add some depth at tight end with the signing of Wes Saxton to a on-year contract. Saxton (6 foot 4, 235 pounds) originally signed with the New York Jets as an undrafted rookie in 2015. He has spent time with the Jets, Washington, Buffalo and Detroit during his career. The Lions released him on June 14. The 49ers cut three-year veteran cornerback C.J. Goodwin to make room for Saxton.
This ‘n’ That
Beathard hit tight end George Kittle for a deep pass against the coverage of Chanceller James... Rookie receiver Richie James had a 35-yard pass reception from Garoppolo against Tartt... DeForest Buckner and Solomon Thomas had would-be sacks during 11-on-11 drills... Veteran linebacker Korey Toomer leveled Wick with a hit after a reception along the sideline... Rookie cornerback Tarvarius Moore broke up a Nick Mullens pass at the sideline intended for Kendrick Bourne... Undrafted rookie offensive lineman Alan Knott was in charge of the "Rookie Hype Machine." He ran toward the crowd and performed a front flip/roll before running the length of the bleachers to get the fans fired up... Referee Ron Torbert headlines a group of NFL officials who will be working the 49ers' practices this week. The officials will discuss the rules changes with the players during a meeting.