SANTA CLARA – The 49ers’ management team was the subject of some second-guessing when the club targeted and got a commitment from free-agent linebacker Kwon Alexander to a lucrative contract shortly after the beginning of the open negotiating period in March.
After all, Alexander’s contract season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers ended in Week 7 with a torn ACL in his left knee.
Alexander has made a relatively quick return. He was on the practice field for the first days of non-padded work over the weekend during 49ers training camp.
On Monday, the team will practice in pads for the first time in 2019. And Alexander is looking forward to that experience.
“Yes, for sure,” he said. “I can’t wait. I’m itching right now.”
Alexander might have to wait a little longer. Coach Kyle Shanahan has already stated Alexander will not play in the 49ers’ preseason opener on Aug. 10 against the Dallas Cowboys. And a club source indicated a cautious approach could be used with Alexander when it comes to assimilating him into work in full pads.
Alexander said Sunday that he doesn't know the specifics of the plan from the team’s newly organized player performance staff. He said he finds out his work schedule for the day when he shows up at Levi's Stadium in the morning.
His rehab from the season-ending knee injury has moved along at a steady pace, enabling him to take over at the Will linebacker position, next to Mike linebacker Fred Warner, in the 49ers’ defense. His reactions and speed were on display early in practice Sunday when he closed in quickly while in coverage on a pass toward the sideline.
“It feels great,” Alexander said. “Me just moving around, It felt great. Then being able to read and react, I can still do it. That’s what it is, getting the confidence back and making sure my team can trust in me and I can trust in them. And that’s the main goal.”
The 49ers were in dire need of a playmaker on defense when the club signed Alexander to a four-year, $54 million contract. In 46 games over four seasons with Tampa Bay, Alexander intercepted six passes, forced six fumbles, recovered two fumbles and registered seven sacks.
Alexander was left off the NFC Pro Bowl team after recording 145 tackles in 2016. A year later, he was selected to the Pro Bowl. Alexander figured to increase his free-agent stock in 2018, but then his season came to an abrupt end when his knee gave out while rushing up the middle against Cleveland quarterback Baker Mayfield on Oct. 21.
Through the ups and downs, Alexander maintained an upbeat approach that he epitomizes with his vocabulary. When asked how he’s doing, he steps it up a notch: “Legendary.”
“I don’t like to use the word G-O-O-D. 'Good,' ” he said. “I’m trying to be better than that. So I use that (‘legendary’) to get my mindset where it needs to be.
“The thing was to stay focused and keep your mind straight because a lot of people get down in those situations. I’m just telling myself to stay focused, keep praying, and I’m going to get back to myself even better. That was the main goal.”