C.J. Beathard is the 49ers' crash test dummy


C.J. Beathard is the 49ers' crash test dummy

It takes a lot to get football people – and I include fans here – to move past old narratives and code words.

Like 49er backup-quarterback-to-be C.J. Beathard, whose surname has actually become an instructional manual since he replaced Brian Hoyer. Now that he is quasi-officially cannon fodder for Jimmy Garoppolo, the new toy the 49ers are still keeping in the shrinkwrap until a later time, we hear a lot about how tough he is, and how he knows that this is all part of being a quarterback.

“That's what's so impressive,” head coach Kyle Shanahan said after Sunday’s 20-10 loss to the Arizona Cardinals. “I think those hits affect almost everybody. I haven't seen them affect him.”

Except that he knows that they will. They could make him skittish, or shell-shocked, career-devaluing, but they will not enhance his or his future job prospects. Being the tough guy as a quarterback never gets better, and the credit he gets for taking the weekly poundings never count in his favor later, except anecdotally.

And you don’t get reps with a future team because you provide great stories of individual heroism. Indeed, after a dodgy hit by former 49er Antoine Bethea that sparked a brawl that resulted in three ejections, one of those ejectees – 49er running back Carlos Hyde – won praise from Shanahan.

“I really loved how he went to our quarterback, went and got our quarterback's back,” Shanahan said in reference to Hyde. “And I thought our quarterback had a couple helmets to the head when he was in the pocket a few plays before and then he ended up scrambling and sliding and he got one again. I think our players had had enough.”

You know who else had enough? Beathard. Only he can’t say anything about it. He gets to get out of bed in slow motion, go to work with the same eagerness and know that the same thing is coming this Sunday. And then he gets to lose his starting job simply because the 49ers went out to get a designated savior – as though what they are saving the franchise from is Beathard, which isn’t entirely true.

But that’s the job of being a crash test dummy, and while the idea is that it is noble and honorable, it is also without any reward in the end. You can’t even complain about it.

“That’s one thing — I’m not afraid of getting hit,” Beathard said after the game, no doubt while his inner voice was shrieking at him, ‘THIS SUCKS! THIS IS LOUSY! TELL THEM!”

“That won’t affect me. It never has. I’m tough and I've been able to take things. Obviously if I’m injured I won’t force myself in there.”

Except that he will, and he will do it every time he is asked. Soon, though, if he hasn’t already come to this conclusion, he will realize that sympathetic sentences and statements of admiration from people safe from the chaotic menace cannot be turned in later for fabulous prizes. There is no “A Football Life” for C.J. Beathard. Just more (and this is the last time we’ll be resorting to this particular rhetorical cheapery) hard beatings.

Rookie LB Fred Warner is setting the tone for 49ers, but he might be a little too loud


Rookie LB Fred Warner is setting the tone for 49ers, but he might be a little too loud

When the 49ers selected inside linebacker Fred Warner of BYU in the third round of the draft, it was easy to see how he fit into the team's plan with the degree of uncertainty surrounding Reuben Foster.

While Foster remained away from the team’s offseason program for five weeks, Warner felt a need to get up to speed quickly if he was needed to be a starter for Week 1 of the regular season. Warner said he was determined to learn as quickly as possible at whatever position he lined up.

“They want consistency over a guy who can make a play here and there,” Warner said on The 49ers insider Podcast. “Because if you’re a liability and you’re out there missing assignments, stuff like that, that’s going to get you cut. You have to be able to retain this information very quickly and be able to produce on the field and put a good product out there. That’s the biggest thing.”

The 49ers consider the middle linebacker (mike) and weakside linebacker (will) positions as nearly interchangeable. The major difference is the mike position is the player who communicates in the huddle. Malcolm Smith is lining up with the first team at mike, while Foster is at will. Warner is leading the second team at mike.

Foster joined the 49ers’ offseason for the final four weeks after a judge dismissed two felony charges of domestic violence. Warner knew all about Foster, the player, before meeting him as a teammate.

“He’s a very physical player, and something I didn’t know about him that I know now, he’s probably the smartest guy in the room,” Warner said. “This dude has the memory of an elephant. He doesn’t have to write notes down. He just retains things very quickly. And I think that’s what allowed him to play at such a high level as a rookie last year, aside from his physical talent.”

Warner has also learned a lot from Smith, who played six NFL seasons before sitting out last year with a torn pectoral.

“We’ve worked after practice on man coverage on tight ends and running backs.,” Warner said. “Even though that might not be something we touch on in practice or a meeting, he just wants to touch on that with me because he said, ‘If you can do this, you can play on any team in the NFL.’ “

One of the few critiques of the rookie during the offseason program is that Warner, who said he was a quiet kid as a youngster, has been a little too loud.

“He’s very smart and he plays like it on the field,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said during the first week of OTAs. “He doesn’t hesitate. He’s a rookie out there, but he’s calling the plays maybe even too loud because I can hear him from the offensive side. But, he doesn’t mind speaking up. He’s confident in what he’s doing.”

Warner said he wanted to win the confidence of his teammates, so that might have contributed to his increased decibel level.

“I want to make sure that when I get in that huddle and I’m talking to these guys, that they know that I know what I’m doing and I’m ready to go,” Warner said. “I’m the one who’s going to set the tone in the huddle before the play even happens.”

Former 49ers lineman Keith Fahnhorst, 66, passes away


Former 49ers lineman Keith Fahnhorst, 66, passes away

Keith Fahnhorst, who played 14 seasons with the San Francisco 49ers and started on two Super Bowl-winning teams, died on Tuesday. He was 66.

Fahnhorst was among a large group of players from the 49ers’ first Super Bowl championship team that gathered at Levi’s Stadium in October in a celebration of Dwight Clark. Fahnhorst and Clark were teammates for the 49ers’ Super Bowl-titlle teams of 1981 and 1984. Clark passed away on June 6 from ALS.

Fahnhorst, who was in a wheelchair during his trip to the Bay Area last season, battled many physical ailments since his career ended in 1987. He was diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease and underwent a kidney transplant in 2002. Fahnhorst was also later diagnosed with primary progressive multiple sclerosis.

A second-round draft pick of the 49ers in 1974 from the University of Minnesota, Fahnhorst was a mainstay at right tackle as the organization struggled in the mid-to-late 1970s, then found success in the 1980s under coach Bill Walsh.

“Everybody knew they could count on Keith,” Walsh said in the 2005 book, “San Francisco 49ers: Where Have Gone?”

Fahnhorst appeared in 193 regular-season games, ranking behind only Len Rohde among offensive linemen in 49ers history. He started 170 games, including all 10 postseason games in which he appeared. He was named to the NFC Pro Bowl team and was selected as a first-team All-Pro after the 1984 season. He was a two-time winner of the Bobb McKittrick Award for best representing the courage, intensity and sacrifice displayed by the longtime 49ers offensive line coach.

Keith Fahnhorst and his younger brother, Jim, were 49ers teammates for the final four years of Keith’s career. Jim Fahnhorst, a linebacker, played for the 49ers from 1984 to 1990. Neither Keith nor Jim Fahnhorst played for any NFL team other than the 49ers.