49ers get taste of Youngstown, expect to benefit from Eastern time zone


49ers get taste of Youngstown, expect to benefit from Eastern time zone

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The 49ers are not difficult to find on their five-day stopover between their season-opening games in Tampa and Cincinnati.

Exit U.S. Route 422 at Madison Avenue just north of downtown, and they can be found practicing on a warm September afternoon at the fully exposed Youngstown State soccer and track facility.

But don’t expect to be able to watch for too long – or at all. Security members line the perimeter of the field, making sure a passerby keeps passing by. You never know when vital information gleaned from just one play at practice might end up in the hands of the Bengals.

“I’ve done it long enough to realize that you should have some paranoia, not everyone’s like that, but some people are,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. “You can never be too safe.”

For more than just a passing glance at the 49ers, it’s a good bet that you can find a familiar face at Handel’s Ice Cream, a regional favorite since it was founded in Youngstown in 1945. There's an ice cream stand across the street from the team hotel in nearby Boardman.

“I went with cookies and cream and a waffle cone,” 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo said. “Very traditional.”

Was it the best ice cream he’s ever had?

“It was up there, man,” Garoppolo answered. “It was really good.”

The 49ers – just as they did under Jim Harbaugh in 2011 and 2012 – decided to remain on the road between back-to-back games away from the Bay Area. Youngstown has been the choice each time because of its location in the Eastern time zone and its history with the 49ers. The DeBartolos have deep ties to the region, where 49ers co-chairs Denise and John York still reside and remain active in the community.

Youngstown State, with a lower-Division I NCAA program, has facilities worthy of hosting an NFL team.

“It’s impressive,” said Garoppolo, who played at the FCS level at Eastern Illinois. “I’ve told some of the guys, this isn’t your normal I-AA looking school, that’s for sure. The stadium, weight room whatever it is. I’ve been to a number of them, and this is pretty impressive.”

The 49ers will look to open the season 2-0 for the first time since 2012 after a 31-17 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. They return to action in Week 2 against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Shanahan believes the decision to remain on the road and avoid the back-and-forth travel will enable the 49ers to be more fresh and better prepared.

“I think it’s huge,” Shanahan said. “I’ve learned that the hard way over these last couple of years. Not just the time change, which is very tough going back and forth, especially when you have an early game, but also just the flying, how long it is. And when you play a long game and how much you can swell up on that plane after and having to come back, so I think it’s a huge advantage.”

The 49ers arrived in Youngstown late Sunday night, and Shanahan said he did not go outside until Wednesday. He and his staff have been spending extra hours working on getting the team prepared for the Bengals – without such time drains as dealing with Bay Area traffic on their commutes to and from the team's facility in Santa Clara.

They are basically able to roll out of bed at the Holiday Inn and get straight to work breaking down video and creating the game plan for the upcoming game.

“I think it’s all right for one week,” Shanahan said. “If I didn’t go home for the entire season, my family would definitely kill me. But I’d also end up probably killing myself. I’d be exhausted. You can’t do it too long, but it’s nice for just one week.

“We usually end late at night, but you don’t have to have a drive home, so you kind of hang out there and I think I had to stay up until one to finish the Monday night game. Back to East Coast times, I forgot how late those start out here. That was kind of nice to be able to do that.”

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Cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon said the team still is adjusting to the time change, but it should be helpful in getting prepared for Sunday in Cincinnati with a kickoff time that is 10 a.m. back home.

“During the week, you stay up late and then in the morning you’re tired, because it’s really like 4 in the morning at home,” Witherspoon said. “So it’s just pushing through and getting adjusted ... It’ll be a help on Sunday.”

Kwon Alexander impressed with what he saw from Dre Greenlaw, stepping into his role


Kwon Alexander impressed with what he saw from Dre Greenlaw, stepping into his role

SANTA CLARA – In the locker room following the 49ers’ first loss of the season, veteran cornerback Richard Sherman preached to his teammates about using the 27-24 overtime loss to the Seattle Seahawks as a learning experience.

“Like Sherm said, it’s just what we needed,” 49ers rookie linebacker Dre Greenlaw said on The 49ers Insider Podcast.

The 49ers entered Monday night as the only unbeaten team in the NFL. They come out of the game with an 8-1 record, and a half-game lead over the Seahawks (8-2) in the NFC West.

“In this league, you’re never going undefeated. But at the same time, it’s a wake-up call," Greenlaw said. "It lets you know you can be beat any night. You got to bring your 'A game' every time. I think from here on out, a lot of guys are going to bring forward their best foot and play and execute and finish out the season strong.”

Greenlaw started Monday’s game in place of Kwon Alexander, who is out for the season after undergoing surgery last week to repair a torn pectoral. Greenlaw recorded eight tackles and had an interception of a Russell Wilson pass in overtime.

The play, along with Greenlaw’s 47-yard interception return, put the 49ers’ offense in position to win the game. But the offense stalled after gaining a first down, and rookie fill-in kicker Chase McLaughlin shanked a 47-yard field goal attempt after making a kick of the same distance to force overtime on the final play of regulation.

“I knew Greenlaw was going to step in,” Alexander said. “I had no doubt about him. I saw it on his face when he first walked through the door.

“He’s been a tremendous rookie, doing everything right, working hard. He put a lot of extra film in this week and it all paid off. He got an interception. I’m proud of him. I’m happy for him. He’s a great young man.”

Greenlaw said he played with a lot of confidence because of the support he received on the field from middle linebacker Fred Warner, along with the encouragement Alexander gave him on the sideline.

“I made some mistakes, but I made some plays,” Greenlaw said. “I felt confident. I knew Fred was going to play his heart out, and he had my back. Having Kwon out there on the sideline, he brought us confidence. I felt good running around.”

Warner said Greenlaw stepped in and did as well as could be expected in taking over for Alexander.

“He honestly stepped in and did a great job,” Warner said of Greenlaw, a fifth-round pick from Arkansas. “I can’t say anything bad. Kwon is a seasoned vet, but Dre came out and played as such. He was communicating great. He got aligned.”

Warner had an exceptional game, as he recorded 10 tackles, including his first two NFL sacks. He forced a fumble that DeForest Buckner returned for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.

What can the 49ers take from this loss?

“Just learn from our mistakes, look at yourself in the mirror and see what you could’ve done and keep moving,” Warner said.

Why Jimmy Garoppolo sees 49ers' loss to Seahawks as 'reality check'

Why Jimmy Garoppolo sees 49ers' loss to Seahawks as 'reality check'

SANTA CLARA -- After the 49ers' heartbreaking 27-24 overtime loss to the Seattle Seahawks, quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo was confident the offense didn't need a major overhaul to bounce back in Week 11.

Monday's loss at Levi's Stadium was Garoppolo's second-worst game of the season statistically. He completed just 24 of his 46 attempts for 248 yards, throwing one touchdown, one interception and posting a 66.2 passer rating. 

“I think I could throw the ball better, we could catch it better,” Garoppolo said Monday. “It’s a little bit of everything it’s not one specific thing that sticks out. It’s a bit of a reality check for us. We’ll go back and respond this week.”  

Players will never make injuries an excuse but Garoppolo lacked his top options Monday night. George Kittle, his No. 1 target, was inactive. Emmanuel Sanders, who had quickly become Garoppolo's second favorite pass-catcher, left the game in the first half with a rib injury.  

Coach Kyle Shanahan needed to make personnel adjustments during the game and had mixed results. While Deebo Samuel finished the night as the top receiver, catching eight of his 11 targets for 112 yards, Marquise Goodwin and Dante Pettis each failed to record a catch on three targets. 

“The receivers were battling,” Garoppolo said. “We had some injuries happen and people were being mixed and matched in different spots. But I thought overall those guys played well. We’ve just got to make plays when your number’s called.”

Shanahan credited the offense and his QB for making some good plays, but he said they were largely inconsistent. The 49ers trailed by 11 points headed into the fourth quarter, but Shanahan liked that his QB was not rattled facing his largest deficit of the season. 

“Jimmy doesn’t really change,” Shanahan said. “Jimmy is always the same, so there’s no difference there. I think like the whole offense, I thought he battled. I thought he battled very hard. Hung in the pocket for a while. I thought he made some big plays, but I know he made a number of plays he’d like to have back.”

Garoppolo already is looking forward to the week ahead to reduce the offense's mistakes going forward. The 49ers have a short turnaround, playing the Arizona Cardinals for the second time in three weeks Sunday. 

“It’s just about execution at the end of the day,” Garoppolo said. “It’s nothing crazy, just got to go do your job, execute and move on play after play and just do that throughout the entire game. We’ve been good at that, it just, we had a couple hiccups tonight. Just got to correct them and move on.”

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One thing that Garoppolo has no doubt about is that the 49ers will bounce back from their first loss of the season seamlessly. Most of the locker room has lived through two losing seasons under Shanahan, and the QB is confident his teammates will quickly shake off their disappointment.

“You go back and you watch the tape,” Garoppolo said. “You got to be critical on yourself. ‘What could we have done better? What caused this to happen?’ You’ve got to be hard on yourselves. I think we have a good group of guys in there with the right mindset who are going to come into work tomorrow and fight."