49ers notes: Kyle Shanahan admits second-guessing Joe Williams pick


49ers notes: Kyle Shanahan admits second-guessing Joe Williams pick

After two days of the 2017 draft, running back Joe Williams was not even on the 49ers’ draft board.

But through the persistence of coach Kyle Shanahan and running backs coach Bobby Turner, 49ers general manager John Lynch reconsidered. Williams’ talent was obvious. But some questions remained after Williams took a hiatus during his final season at Utah. But when Williams rejoined his college team, he was better than ever.

Wiiliams said a personal struggle of the past 10 years -- being there when his sister passed away -- led to him step away from the game to confront some of those issues. After Lynch spoke with Williams over the phone in the morning of Day 3 of the draft, he was placed on the team's draft board. The 49ers traded up to select him the No. 121 overall pick.

Williams had a rough training camp as a rookie, and the 49ers placed him on injured reserve with a minor foot injury. Shanahan did not mince words when asked on Friday if he second-guessed himself for going to bat for Williams a year ago.

“Yeah, of course,” Shanahan said. “You think that with everybody. I do believe in Joe’s ability and his talent. That’s why we wanted him here.

“You’ve got to be talented and it’s got to mean a lot to you. I think it does to Joe. But I think it’s taken him time to see the difference and the urgency that it takes to succeed at this level.”

Williams has run with more urgency during training camp this summer. And he appears more willing to sacrifice his body and take the hits required from the position.

“Joe wasn’t quite as ready last year and that does make you wonder, because you can’t succeed if you don’t have that mindset,” Shanahan said. “But I’ve seen it this year. I saw it in the way he worked and I feel that he fixed his body, got a lot more muscle and got in better shape.

“But you really never know until you put the pads on because he showed it in OTAs and we’ve had the pads on for a while now and it’s been what we were hoping to see. Hopefully it will continue over to games.”

Williams is likely to compete against special-teams ace Raheem Mostert for the job as the 49ers’ No. 3 running back behind Jerick McKinnon and Matt Breida.

Wrapping mind around helmet rule

Those who play the safety position are likely to face the biggest challenge when it comes to avoiding penalties associated with the NFL's new helmet rule.

This week, referee Ron Torbert and his crew officiated practices in Santa Clara and met with the players to discuss rules interpretations. Topic No. 1 was the new rule that makes it illegal for any player to lower his head and initiate contact with the helmet. The players watched video examples of legal and illegal hits.

“There were a few plays, like, ‘Wow, if I’m trying to tackle a guy low and he ducks and I hit him with my facemask, what can I do then?’” 49ers strong safety Jaquiski Tartt said. “At a point, it’s like we might as well be playing two-hand touch.

“I feel like it’s still in the gray area. We work on trying to keep the head out of the way, so I don’t think it’ll be a problem.”

Still getting up to speed

The 49ers evaluated center Weston Richburg as a good fit for their scheme due to his smarts and athletic ability, requirements for the team’s offensive linemen.

The center must be the focal point of the offensive line because of the communication required from the position. Richburg is still learning Shanahan’s system.

“I know I have some more work to do in that aspect,” Richburg said. “I want to be able to be very consistent and very dependable with what my responsibilities are. I’m glad we have several more weeks of camp, so I can really work on those things and become a consistent person they can trust up front.”

McGlinchey’s up and downs

Right tackle Mike McGlinchey, the 49ers’ pick with the No. 9 overall slot in the draft, has his hands full in his first training camp. Defensive end Cassius Marsh has been seemingly winning most of the battles during one-on-one drills, and outside linebacker Dekoda Watson beat McGlinchey twice during a three-play period during an 11-on-11 session on Friday.

That is all part of the learning experience, Shanahan said.

“Those guys are going against each other every day,” Shanahan said. “Guys should beat you eventually. Hopefully the quarterback gets rid of the ball. Sometimes you have a halfback in there to chip him, things like that. But, him and Marsh have been battling a lot. I think McGlinchey is getting better and I also think our D-Line is getting better. So it’s been a fun battle for all of those guys.”

Watch 49ers WR Dante Pettis crush BP homers in Minute Maid Park


Watch 49ers WR Dante Pettis crush BP homers in Minute Maid Park

The 49ers arrived in Houston on Tuesday, where they will hold joint practices with the Texans on Wednesday and Thursday. On Sunday, the two teams will play a preseason game.

With no team activities schedule on Tuesday, rookie wide receiver Dante Pettis took full advantage of the free time. His father is Astros third base coach Gary Pettis, so the younger Pettis donned Astros gear and took batting practice at Minute Maid Park.

In video posted by Fox 26's Mark Berman, Pettis deposited a few balls into the Crawford Box.

Check out the video here:

49ers notes: Practices heat up with Texans in Houston

49ers notes: Practices heat up with Texans in Houston

The 49ers arrived Monday evening in Houston, where temperatures in the mid-90s – and more than a bit of humidity -- await the team’s two practices this week against the Texans.

After 14 practices at the team’s facility in Santa Clara, the 49ers figure to learn a lot more about their roster while facing a different opponent during two-hour practice sessions scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday.

“We’re very sick of going against the same scheme every day,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. “It’ll be nice to go against something else, you know? Offensively and defensively, and it gives you two practices where you can go against different stuff, which prepares all your players for what they’re going to see during the year.

“And just for the monotony of camp, it’s good to change it up.”

The 49ers will be a bit short-handed for the practices. Eleven players sat out the team’s practice Monday due to injuries. Running back Joe Williams is scheduled to rejoin the team. The 49ers also plan to sign veteran running back Alfred Morris. The 49ers’ top two running backs, Jerick McKinnon and Matt Breida, are out for the remainder of the preseason with injuries.

The injuries across the board have impacted how the 49ers practice. Because of thinning depth, the 49ers do not have enough healthy bodies to form a full No. 3 unit.

“Once you start losing those guys, it adds a lot on another person,” Shanahan said. “Once you see a guy having to take reps with the twos and with the threes, it’s just a matter of time before that guy gets hurt. Those are the things you’ve got to pay attention to. You can get away with it for a little bit and you know you’re going to put a lot on a guy, but eventually once you see it’s too much you’ve got to stop the drill and just move on. It’s not worth it.”

After two practices against the Texans, the 49ers will have a day off on Friday before facing Houston on Saturday in the second preseason game for both teams.

McGlinchey Readies for Work vs. Watt

After being satisfied with his performance during his 23 snaps in the exhibition opener against the Dallas Cowboys, 49ers rookie right tackle Mike McGlinchey is bracing for what figures to be his best learning experience since being the No. 9 overall draft pick.

McGlinchey is likely to go up against Texans perennial All-Pro defensive lineman J.J. Watt in two practices. The reports out of Houston is that Watts has looked close to his former self after two injury-plagued seasons. He did not play in the Texans’ exhibition opener, though. McGlinchey could see practice time against Watt and Jadeveon Clowney.

“It’s definitely going to be fun,” McGlinchey said. “It’s why you play in the NFL, to play against the biggest and baddest dudes.”

Morris Steps in to Compete

Part of the reason the 49ers are bringing in Morris to join the team is because he already is familiar with Shanahan’s system. But Morris will also get an opportunity to compete for a spot on the 53-man roster. Morris spent two seasons with Shanahan in Washington, and Shanahan said he should have no problem picking up the 49ers playbook.

“There’s not big changes and it’s not that tough for a back,” Shanahan said. “They’ve got to set their track the right way and you hand it off to them and go run. We have a way that we coach guys and stuff, but everyone, when you’re away from something, it’s going to take some time. He is going to be rusty with that stuff, but he’ll get the hang of it.”

Undrafted rookie OL Alan Knott was waived to make room for Morris. 

This ‘N’ That

Shanahan bristled when asked if the injuries of training camp could have been avoided. “Soft tissue injuries, yeah, they can be prevented by having them not doing anything and sit there and just not get hurt and then it will happen in Week 1,” Shanahan said. “It’s just part of it. I think we are pretty smart with what we do. There’s a fine line, a very fine line. If a player is complaining about being tight, we can sit there and shut him down and then every single person who ever complains about being tight, you can shut down and then ask a group of 90 people in training camp to raise their hands on who’s tight. Ninety people will raise their hand.” . . . McKinnon grabbed behind his right knee after sustaining an injury in practice on Sunday. The fears were alleviated when an MRI revealed a calf strain, which will keep him sidelined for the remainder of the exhibition season. “No one realizes your calf goes that high,” Shanahan said. “So I think he was worried about it just where it was and then once he got the assurance that it was his calf, it made sense that he didn’t have that much pain. I think he felt much better. But at least he feels good that he’ll be ready for Week 1.”