49ers

49ers' Jerick McKinnon eager to get back on the field, could play Week 1

49ers' Jerick McKinnon eager to get back on the field, could play Week 1

SANTA CLARA — After 11 months and five days, 49ers running back Jerick McKinnon finally gets his first taste of practice, as he was activated off the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list Tuesday. 

While the coaching staff is happy to have McKinnon back on the field, they will ease him back into action gradually. Expect to continue to see Matt Breida and Tevin Coleman carrying the load of the snaps with the ones as they have thus far. 

Coach Kyle Shanahan detailed how they will keep McKinnon out of team drills for the time being, monitoring his health as training camp progresses. There is no concrete time table for him to participate in team drills but playing in Week 1 has not been ruled out. 

“I mean, I think there’s enough time,” Shanahan said. “But that depends on, that’s why you want to be so smart, see how things go. That’s why you always try to avoid setbacks. That’s why we’re easing him in slowly."

“We were just glad to have him out. I know he probably had a lot of butterflies getting out for the first time, but we only let him go on air. He was just able to do individual and stuff like that.” 

Like any athlete rehabbing from an injury, McKinnon is itching to get back on the field but will follow the advice of the medical staff. 

“It’s been a long process, just thankful to get back out there, around the guys, in the huddle, hear play calls, just get into the small things about football,” McKinnon said. “I told myself, just feel it out, make sure everything is smooth, focus on the details, work on trust, cutting off that knee. 

“Everything will come, so trying to not get ahead of myself. It really hits you when you have something you love taken away from you. So every little thing was exciting for me today. 

Jimmy Garoppolo, who is also working his way back from an ACL tear, has been practicing with a lightweight brace on his repaired knee. McKinnon returned to practice without one and explained why. 

"I don’t need it,” McKinnon said. “I haven’t been wearing one for, I can’t even count how long I haven’t been wearing it. There’s no need to wear it. It’s a mental mindset thing for me. I don’t plan on wearing it during the season, so, no need to wear it right now.”

[RELATED: 49ers, Jimmy Garoppolo are way 'overhyped', NFL.com analyst explains]

Time off the field was frustrating for McKinnon, but he took advantage of everything he could. Like Jimmy Garoppolo, he spent a lot of time with coaches and says he’s smarter because of it. He even spent time picking the brain of Mike Shanahan. 

“Being around the coaches, hearing their verbiage, it is definitely going to make you smarter,” McKinnon said. “Being around those guys seeing how they see the game versus how I look at it as a running back, expanded my view.” 

Kyle Shanahan's Super Bowl loss with 49ers lingers more than Falcons'

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USATSI

Kyle Shanahan's Super Bowl loss with 49ers lingers more than Falcons'

INDIANAPOLIS -- Kyle Shanahan answered countless questions about losing to the New England Patriots with the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI during the week leading up to Super Bowl LIV.

The 49ers coach lost again after all the questions, this time to the Kansas City Chiefs. He's grieving all over again and having a more difficult time reconciling this time around. 

“I think this one was harder than the last one,” Shanahan said Tuesday from the NFL Scouting Combine. “The last one was a bigger loss, I mean at the end and stuff. I just thought we were a better team. The hardest thing for me is I thought we were the best team in the NFL.

“And when you really believe that, and I thought it for a while, it wasn’t just like the last couple weeks of the year. In Atlanta, we kind of got hot at the end of the year, so I felt pretty fortunate.”

Shanahan's 2016 Falcons and his 2019 49ers entered the playoffs with a first-round bye.  The difference is that the 49ers started the 2019 season with an 8-0 run, and finished with a 13-3 regular-season record, clinching the No. 1 seed.

The 2016 Falcons, however, had a 5-3 record at the halfway point. Atlanta won its last four straight games to clinch the No. 2 seed, but played two playoff home games only because the top-seeded Dallas Cowboys lost in the divisional round to the Green Bay Packers. 

[RELATED: 49ers want to bring everyone back, but know it will be tough]

The 49ers have come a long way under Shanahan. They had a fourth-quarter lead in the Super Bowl after winning the 10 games the previous two seasons, but it's difficult to focus on the journey following a painful ending. 

“This year I thought we had it,” Shanahan said. “We were the second-worst team in the league last year, and now we got to live with being the second-best, which I’m proud of. But that is harder, because I truly believe it was there for us.” 

NFL rumors: 49ers' DeForest Buckner rejected contract extension last offseason

NFL rumors: 49ers' DeForest Buckner rejected contract extension last offseason

Atop the list of 49ers' offseason priorities sit the prospective contract extensions for tight end George Kittle and defensive tackle DeForest Buckner. Both players are entering the final year of their current contracts and rank among the best talents at their respective positions throughout the entire NFL.

San Francisco selected Buckner with the No. 7 overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, and he has served as the keystone of the defensive line ever since. He was a critical part of the 49ers' run to Super Bowl LIV, and the team reportedly tried to lock Buckner down for the foreseeable future before the journey to Miami it even got started.

The Athletic's John Middlekauff reported Monday that San Francisco offered Buckner a lucrative extension last offseason, which he ultimately turned down.

"I was told that last year they made a very aggressive offer to him," Middlekauff said on "The Haberman and Middlekauff Podcast." "We're talking in the $60 million range ... Fletcher Cox, years ago, got $63 [million]. They offered less than that, and he said no."

However, Buckner recently took to Instagram to argue against Middlekauff's report.

"When did we start believing everything on the internet," Buckner commented.

Entering his age-25 season in 2016, Cox signed a six-year contract extension with the Philadelphia Eagles for $63.3 million guaranteed. Buckner will turn 26 in March, and one could argue he was more productive over his first four NFL seasons than Cox was. Yes, Cox forced two more fumbles than Buckner, but the 49ers' standout started six more games, deflected nearly twice as many passes, recovered one more fumble and totaled 6.5 more sacks.

For that reason, combined with inflation and the fact that the salary cap has risen since Cox signed his extension, it wouldn't be surprising if Buckner sought a higher guaranteed total from San Francisco -- and received it. 

[RELATED: 49ers want to bring everyone back, but know it'll be tough]

Whether or not he already has turned down such an offer is anyone's guess. But it shouldn't be long before we find out exactly how much is guaranteed on Buckner's next deal.

One thing is certain: It's going to be a lot.