49ers

49ers QB Matt Barkley: 'This is what I know and do best'

49ers QB Matt Barkley: 'This is what I know and do best'

SANTA CLARA – Quarterback Matt Barkley has lived a suspenseful NFL life since the conclusion of his storied USC career.

Considered a certain first-round pick a year earlier, Barkley had to wait until the fourth round to hear his name called in the 2013 NFL draft. After spending time with Philadelphia, Arizona and Chicago in his first four seasons, it could have been expected that Barkley would remain a free agent for a while this offseason.

Instead, he found a spot with the 49ers on the first day of free agency. New coach Kyle Shanahan targeted Brian Hoyer to be his quarterback. When Matt Schaub decided to remain as Atlanta’s backup, Barkley became Shanahan’s choice among all other free-agent options. Barkley signed a two-year, $4 million contract, including a $500,000 signing bonus.

“It was later in the night, so that day was still a little stressful, knowing everything that was going on,” Barkley said on the "The 49ers Insider Podcast" on NBC Sports Bay Area. “I actually texted Hoyer when he signed here, saying ‘Congrats. That’s a great fit for you. I hope you do well.’

“I didn’t even know at the time that I was a consideration because I thought Schaub was probably going to come with Kyle to be a quarterback here. So when he ended up signing back at Atlanta, things kind of opened up. And I found out later that night when Kyle and (49ers general manager) John Lynch called me. I was pretty happy about it.”

Barkley said he understands and feels comfortable in the offense he is learning with the 49ers during the offseason program. His offensive coordinator with the Bears last season was Dowell Loggains, who served as Shanahan’s quarterbacks coach in 2014 with the Cleveland Browns. Hoyer was on the Browns that season. Last year, Hoyer and Barkley were teammates in Chicago.

“This offense is best-suited for my style of play,” Barkley said. “It’s kind of what I ran in college -- even a lot of concepts that I ran in high school (Mater Dei of Santa Ana), as well.

“This pro-style system, along with the routes that we have, the responsibility the quarterback has to read everything out and get long play calls out and just really understanding what Kyle is seeing and how sees plays and defenses, I think it’s a great fit.”

Barkley ran a pro-style offense during his four-year career at USC. Then, in a bizarre twist, he entered the NFL in Chip Kelly’s spread offense with the Eagles. Barkley might be the only quarterback who has been asked to make an NFL conversion opposite of what has become common.

“I kind of did it backwards, if you look at it that way,” Barkley laughed. “I do think playing for Chip in that offense was definitely a unique experience – to gain experience in that type of offense, running those plays, the zone read and all the different options he ran.

“At the same time, being back in an offense like I am now with Kyle, this is what I’ve grown up playing in football and this is what I know best. Whatever way you get there, the fact that I’m here, this is what I know and do best. Hopefully I’m here for a while.”

Members of 49ers' last Super Bowl winner share messages with current team

Members of 49ers' last Super Bowl winner share messages with current team

There were no instant results from an inspirational 49ers’ meeting on Saturday night.

Former 49ers standouts John Taylor, Brent Jones and Steve Wallace – members of the Super Bowl-winning 1994 team – spoke to the current team in Santa Clara on the eve of the game against the Los Angeles Rams. They shared their thoughts about that experience on The 49ers Insider Podcast.

On Sunday, the Rams crushed the 49ers, 39-10, but the messages Taylor, Jones and Wallace delivered focused on a bigger picture.

“I wanted to encourage them to keep fighting,” said Jones, a four-time Pro Bowl performer and three-time Super Bowl champion. “Sometimes people on the outside can look at your record and say, ‘Gosh, you guys are struggling' or whatever. But I said, ‘This team is so close.’ We talked about the variables. The difference between winning and losing in the NFL is so minute. It’s attention to detail and the small things.

“I wanted these guys to know from an outsider’s perspective and a guy that played the game, I can see that they’re building something special. You can feel it. I know that there’s something great going on in that locker room, and these guys have to keep at it. They’re a young team but they’re absolutely heading in the right direction.”

Wallace, who played left tackle, was flattered that coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch would ask him speak to the team.

“For a former player, that was like a dream to go back and speak to the guys and let them know we’re all for one,” Wallace said. “You try to inspire the guys, that when you come here to play, you can’t just do what the coaches tell you to do.

“Jerry Rice and the leaders like that, they go get on the treadmill extra, StairMaster extra. They’re lifting. Joe Montana is doing the extra film work. That’s what sets you at a different level. If you just do what the coaches tell you to do, you’ll only be as good as everyone else.”

Taylor was one of the best receivers in the game. But rather than insisting on going somewhere else to be featured, he said he did not mind being the No. 2 receiver behind Rice because his focus was on winning championships with the 49ers. He was also a member of three Super Bowl winners.

Taylor provided one of the great moments in 49ers history with a 10-yard touchdown catch of a Montana pass in the final minute of Super Bowl XXIII for the game-winning points against the Cincinnati Bengals. Taylor came through with the kind of career moment that should be a goal for every player in the room.

“Remember growing up and playing football in the streets,” Taylor said. “Everyone says, ‘If I make this throw we win the Super Bowl’ or ‘If I make this catch, we win the Super Bowl.’ I can honestly say I lived that part. It’s amazing.”

What's with Witherspoon, Colbert's sophomore slump? 'You've got to ask them'

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AP

What's with Witherspoon, Colbert's sophomore slump? 'You've got to ask them'

SANTA CLARA - Several 49ers players in their second season have not lived up to the expectations set after break out rookie campaigns. Coach Kyle Shanahan can't put his finger on why exactly this has happened, but hopes to see continued improvement. 

The 49ers ended the 2017 season with one of the most productive rookie classes in the league. They collectively played 2,874 snaps which was significantly more than any other rookie class. It helped them get valuable playing time under their belts. The Saints rookie class had the second most, collectively playing 2,213 snaps. 

The 49ers rookies were forced into action due to injuries, but they stepped up and performed when they were called upon. 

Injuries have been an issue again in 2018, but what has been surprising is the lack of production by several of the standouts that are now in their second seasons. Shanahan spoke after the team's 39-10 loss to the Los Angeles Rams about several of the second-year players who have struggled. 

“They came in ready to take it to another level and they haven’t,” Shanahan said. “They haven’t done that so far. That stuff is hard. The NFL is not easy. You’re not just guaranteed because you had some success at the end of the year that you’ll come in and just pick up right where you left off.”

[RELATED: Shanahan focused on big picture]

Of course it hasn’t all been bad, but living up to expectations set from a productive rookie campaign has been tough on some of the players. Defensive back Ahkello Witherspoon and safety Adrian Colbert were thrown into the fire last season and played well above expectations. 

This season, Witherspoon has been challenged by playing opposite of veteran Richard Sherman, who has rarely been targeted.

“I didn’t think he got off to the same start this year,” Shanahan said about Witherspoon. “He’s been a lot more up and down. I thought yesterday he took a step in the right direction. I thought he had one of his better games this year. Hopefully, that’ll continue to trend that way so he can get back to the level of last year and more.”

Shanahan couldn’t put his finger on what has been the challenge for Witherspoon and Colbert. 

“You’ve got to ask them," Shanahan said. “You fight through some things. You come in as rookies, you’re not really sure what to expect and you get a little bit of feel as the year goes and you have a little success as the year ends. You come in and those guys worked extremely hard in the offseason."

Witherspoon will have the opportunity to keep working and improve through the remaining nine games. Colbert will have to wait until 2019 after being placed on injured reserve after he suffered a high ankle sprain facing the Rams. 

“They’ve had to really work through that," Shanahan said. "Work through some of these games, some ups and downs, losing some playing time. They’ve gotten better in practice and I thought it carried over to the game this week. I know it won’t for Colbert as we go, but hopefully Ahkello will continue to grow from it.”

Trent Taylor and Reuben Foster have been fighting through injuries, but their production hasn’t been as high as expected after their rookie seasons. The expectations were also high for Solomon Thomas, coming in as the third overall pick of the 2017 draft. He has struggled to receive significant playing time in the defensive line rotation. 

Shanahan spoke about the reality of the cliché "sophomore slump."

“I’ve seen it a lot over my years, Shanahan said. “I say percentage-wise it happens to a lot of people. That doesn’t mean everybody in their second year is like that. But I think you come in as a rookie, you don’t really know what to expect. 

“You’re just wide eyed and just trying your hardest to make a dream come true and you don’t even look back. You grind every day trying to get there and you don’t even know why you got in or what happened. You’re just sitting there trying to survive and not get cut. Then you start to gain some confidence that you can play in this league. 

“Then you come back the next year and you want to take it to the next level. You do a little bit more, you work more, put a little bit more pressure on yourself and try to do extra and you end up forgetting kind of what got you there. I think that does happen to people when you say the sophomore slump, but it doesn’t happen with everyone.”