49ers

49ers' Kwon Alexander excited to get back on field, return to Tampa Bay

49ers' Kwon Alexander excited to get back on field, return to Tampa Bay

SANTA CLARA -- Linebacker Kwon Alexander is finally ready for his preseason debut with the 49ers, but he’s finding it difficult to not look ahead to returning to Tampa Bay in Week 1. 

“It’s hard, it’s hard,” Alexander confessed. “But you know, I take it one day at a time. Try to make sure my team is straight and I’m straight so once we get there it’s time."

The 49ers' player-performance staff has been limiting Alexander’s time on the field, moving gradually from individual drills to 11-on-11s, and now finally a game. Alexander has tried not to compare his progress to other player’s recovery timetables. 

“Everybody is different so I’ve been working hard, been working my butt off so it’s time to go,” Alexander said. 

Alexander detailed how it's been a long road back, but also how he knew exactly when he was ready. 

"Once I got my speed,” Alexander explained. “Once I could hit it going really fast, being able to cut and everything, and being able to adjust. Now I’m ready to go.” 

Alexander is excited to get on the field after nearly a year away from the game after tearing his ACL late October 2018. He believes it’s a necessary step in getting ready for the regular season. 

“It’s a big thing for me,” Alexander said. “I haven’t played since a minute now so I’m happy to be back out there. I just think playing instead of practicing, playing in a real game, you know it’s better to be ready for the first game, so you get your feet wet, since I ain’t played so I’m ready to go out there and show what I can do.” 

Being away from the game has made the fifth-year linebacker appreciate it even more. 

“I put a lot on it,” Alexander said, “Just for me, ball can be gone away from you very fast. So it just made me be more humble, and just work harder and harder, and now I’m here.” 

One thing that Alexander has been able to do while being kept off the field is influence fellow linebacker Fred Warner and his leadership style. Alexander had nothing but compliments for his partner on the field. 

“He’s just been doing great,” Alexander said of Warner. “He’s very smart, intelligent, he’s going to be nice. I need to keep his name out there alive, he’s going to be a great middle linebacker.”

Alexander sees Warner’s potential even after only a few months together during the offseason. 

“I’ve already seen it,” Alexander said. “This is his second year, too. I remember my first two years and he’s way ahead of me so he’s going to be a great player.” 

[RELATED: 49ers being cautious with Ford, others during short week]

Along with the excitement of his return, Alexander almost seems a little relieved to have this final hurdle just a few days in front of him. 

“I’m back man, I’m back. When we’ve been practicing, I’ve been working on everything. Now it’s just time to take it to the game. It’s time. I’m ready.”

49ers' Richard Sherman blasts new NFL jersey swap policy for 2020 season

49ers' Richard Sherman blasts new NFL jersey swap policy for 2020 season

The NFL continued to do what it does best Thursday: Cast a meaningless mirage that the league actually cares about the players' safety. 

There's hypocrisy, and then there's this. NFL Media's Tom Pelissero reported Thursday morning that NFL players will be forbidden from interacting with each other after games from fewer than six feet, and jersey swaps will not be allowed. Richard Sherman blasted the NFL for "thinking in a nutshell," and couldn't help but get a laugh out of the situation. 

He's exactly right. How is the 49ers' star cornerback supposed to be tackling players and putting his body on the line for four quarters, and then the league all of the sudden cares about his health? That's not how this works. 

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

ESPN's Mina Kimes had the perfect comparison for the worthless policy if you need a good laugh right now. Who am I kidding, we all need that and plenty more to cheer us up right now. 

The NFL has tried its best to act like everything is business as usual this offseason, despite the coronavirus running more rampant than Raheem Mostert in the NFC Championship Game. Free agency and the draft still were blown into giant events with hours of coverage. The same goes for schedules being released, as if everything will be smooth sailing. 

[RELATED: Whitner believes Washington needs NFL team name change]

Training camp is right around the corner, and there's no doubt the NFL wants to do everything in their power to ensure there aren't any delays. This league cares more about reminding players that drug testing resumes when they show up to camp than the actual health risks of its players, with an invisible evil lurking through the air and into our bodies. 

Sherman and any other player has every right to call out the league right now. Until the NFL puts words into action in protecting players, silence isn't the answer.

How Jerick McKinnon impacts 49ers' negotiations with Raheem Mostert

How Jerick McKinnon impacts 49ers' negotiations with Raheem Mostert

49ers running back Raheem Mostert wants a raise or to be traded. The problem for him is, he doesn't really have any leverage. Regardless of what he deserves, that's just the reality of the situation.

49ers coach Kyle Shanahan favors a running back-by-committee approach. He will be able to employ that, regardless of whether or not Mostert wants to be a part of it. The 49ers have ample depth at the position, even after trading Matt Breida earlier in the offseason.

Tevin Coleman isn't going anywhere. Cutting him would result in a $2 million dead cap hit, and San Francisco can't afford to waste cap space at the moment.

Jeff Wilson scored five touchdowns on 30 total touches last season. He seemed to make a play whenever given an opportunity, and the coaching staff has plenty of faith in him.

The 49ers also signed undrafted free agents JaMycal Hasty and Salvon Ahmed, who originally might have been ticketed for the practice squad, but there's a reason why San Francisco pursued them. Shanahan has a long track record of creating productive rushers out of thin air, and Mostert's performance last season only backs that up.

But there's one major wild card in San Francisco's backfield: Jerick McKinnon.

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Having signed a four-year, $30 million contract with the 49ers on the opening day of free agency in 2018, McKinnon was hand-picked by Shanahan to transform San Francisco's offense. Though never a bell cow, he offered the speed and matchup versatility that Shanahan covets. McKinnon rushed for 570 yards and hauled in 51 receptions for another 421 yards in his final season before joining the 49ers, and in Shanahan's system, the possibilities were endless.

And then, all dreams were dashed.

McKinnon tore his ACL one week before the start of the 2018 season, and then sat out the entirety of the 2019 campaign after requiring additional surgery. After not stepping foot on the field in a single game over his first two seasons with the franchise, McKinnon agreed to a pay reduction for the 2020 season that will see him make $910,000 in base salary, a sign of his commitment to the team. He was scheduled to make $6.8 million in 2020 prior to the restructuring.

Given his injury history, the 49ers would be wise to be cautious with their dependence on him. That said, he has had nearly a full year to recover from the most recent surgery, and last month his trainer said McKinnon is "in the best shape of his life."

He had been working with Rischad "Footwork King" Whitfield, and on Wednesday, McKinnon posted more workout videos to his Instagram Story.

The 49ers are optimistic they'll finally be able to unleash McKinnon this coming season, with Mostert recently going so far as to predict that McKinnon will "surprise people." If he's healthy, there's no doubt Shanahan will be itching to involve him in the offense, creating yet another potential matchup nightmare for the opposing defense. Plenty can happen between now and then, but San Francisco has to be feeling good about the progress "Jet" has put on tape.

[RELATED: How Mostert's 49ers trade demand shows price of success]

If the 49ers go into the season feeling like they can count on McKinnon, Mostert inevitably will get fewer touches. There are only so many to go around, especially with receivers Deebo Samuel and Jalen Hurd liable to take a few of their own. Mostert rightfully feels like he deserves a significant raise, but that's under the assumption he is going to be the lead back in Shanahan's system.

That might still be the case, regardless of McKinnon's status. But the 49ers haven't forgotten about McKinnon, and until they do, the odds are against Mostert getting what he wants.