Five things to watch as 49ers begin phase one of NFL offseason program

Five things to watch as 49ers begin phase one of NFL offseason program

The 49ers start their offseason program Monday, as veterans and newly-signed players will all meet for the first time as a group and start their conditioning program.

As tight end George Kittle explained, it’s like the first day of school. 

Phase one of the offseason program lasts for two weeks and consists of eight four-hour days for the team. It is limited to strength and conditioning or “dead ball” exercises only. 

The team can specify the plan for two of the four hours, with a maximum of 90 minutes on the field with only the strength and conditioning staff. The remaining two hours can be used for weight training and other activities. 

These workouts are strictly voluntary but most of the players under contract are expected to be in attendance. Since the last time the team was assembled in January, a few things have changed. 

Here are five things to watch as the 49ers unofficially open their 2019 season.

Free-agent signings 

There will be several new faces in the ‘classroom’ this week. Defensive lineman Dee Ford, linebacker Kwon Alexander, receiver Jordan Matthews, cornerback Jason Verrett and running back Tevin Coleman will meet their new teammates for the first time since they signed. 

Verrett, who is returning from a torn Achilles, can pick the brain of fellow cornerback Richard Sherman who has gone through the same process. Verrett has been rehabbing in Southern California during the offseason. The staff hopes he can return to the top caliber player he was when healthy.

GM John Lynch revealed that Alexander would be around the facility for a few weeks prior to organized team activities (OTAs) working on rehabbing from a torn ACL. Lynch added that Alexander’s return to the field will not be rushed as the plan for the linebacker is long-term.

New strength and conditioning staff

It’s not only the first day of school for the players, it is also the first offseason program in Santa Clara for the new health and performance/strength and conditioning staff. Rehabbing players have been able to work with the staff since they were hired, but many have been away from the facility since January. 

The 49ers overhauled their strength and conditioning and medical staff after 17 players spent time on injured reserve in 2018 and 24 did so in 2017. 

Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan looked to other professional sports like basketball and hockey to have a more cohesive union between the two staffs to hopefully prevent the same issues in the future. 

Injuries like ACL and Achilles tears cannot be solely blamed on the S&C staffs but they do affect players returning from soft tissue injuries like hamstring strains. Lynch and Shanahan hope that better communication and a cohesive program will prevent, or at least expedite the return of players with those types of injuries. 

Garoppolo and McKinnon on track to return

All reports regarding QB Jimmy Garoppolo and running back Jerrick McKinnon throughout the offseason have been positive. Both players have been at the facility during the time off, working with the medical and training staffs. They're both on schedule to be full-go for training camp in July. 

Garoppolo will not participate in any 11-on-11 work through OTAs as a precautionary measure but will be allowed to throw in 7-on-7s starting in phase three of the program. Lynch, Shanahan and CEO Jed York reported that Garoppolo has been practicing drops and throws to trainers and appears to be looking very sharp.

McKinnon’s participation during that same time is uncertain, as movement for running backs is a much early need than for quarterbacks. He is still reported to be on schedule to participate during training camp. 

Kicking game questions 

The 49ers used the franchise tag on veteran kicker Robbie Gould, punter Bradley Pinion signed with the Buccaneers, and long-snapper Kyle Nelson will serve a 10-game suspension for the use of PEDs 

Gould has still not signed his franchise tender and will not attend OTAs. He has been very vocal on social media about his love for Chicago, where his family remained for the last two seasons of his time with the 49ers. Gould could sign prior to the start of the season and remain with the team -- or he could hold out. 

The 49ers signed long-snapper Colin Holba and punter Justin Vogel to the team during free agency but could still look to add options through the draft or with an undrafted free agent. 

[RELATED: Here's Mel Kiper Jr.'s dream three-round mock draft for 49ers]

New faces on the coaching staff

Although the 49ers finished the 2018 season with only four wins, much of the coaching staff was still poached -- to the surprise of Shanahan. 

Shane Day is the team’s new quarterbacks coach and Wes Welker will be working with the wide receivers. Former defensive backs assistant Daniel Bullocks will oversee the safeties under secondary coach Joe Woods. 

Kris Kocurek will look to improved the team’s pass rush, having taken over the defensive line coaching duties. 

NFL rumors: Nick Bosa first on Cardinals' draft board, ex-player says

NFL rumors: Nick Bosa first on Cardinals' draft board, ex-player says

Nick Bosa or Kyler Murray. Kyler Murray or Nick Bosa.

That appears to be the debate going on in Arizona, as the Cardinals hold the No. 1 overall pick in Thursday's NFL draft.

Murray long has been rumored to be the Cardinals' choice at No. 1, but the team reportedly has cooled as of late on taking the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback.

That sentiment continued Monday when former NFL player Antonio Bryant claimed he has heard Bosa is No. 1 on the Cardinals' draft board.

The Cardinals, of course, used their 2018 first-round pick to select a QB in Josh Rosen. With all of the speculation surrounding the Cardinals and Murray, Rosen has found himself at the center of trade talks -- with the Giants and Dolphins reportedly showing the most interest.

But according to Bryant, Rosen would be staying in Arizona, as the Cardinals decide to shore up their defensive line by instead adding Bosa.

Meanwhile, the 49ers own the No. 2 pick in the draft and have been heavily linked to Bosa with that pick. If Bosa is off the board, as Bryant suggests, the ripple effects will be felt all over the league -- especially in San Francisco.

The 49ers appear set at QB with Jimmy Garoppolo, but they could use plenty of help on the defensive line. Alabama's Quinnen Williams and Kentucky's Josh Allen could be viable options for the Red and Gold at No. 2 if the Cardinals select Bosa.

San Francisco also could trade the No. 2 pick and receive two later first-round picks in return. If the Cardinals indeed pass on Murray, it would not be surprising if the 49ers' phone lines were flooded with potential trade offers for the dynamic Oklahoma QB.

49ers GM John Lynch indicated as much Monday afternoon when asked if he expected calls to trade up for Murray.

“I would, wouldn’t you?” Lynch said Monday at his draft preview media availability. “There seems to be a ton of interest, and I understand, man. We, a couple times, just threw him up in here [the draft room] and it’s electric stuff, it really is."

[RELATED: Lynch discusses Bosa's social media activity]

With so many rumors swirling around, it's hard to keep track of what is real and what might be a smokescreen.

Is it Thursday night yet?

49ers GM John Lynch makes assurance Robbie Gould will return as kicker


49ers GM John Lynch makes assurance Robbie Gould will return as kicker

SANTA CLARA – As expected, 49ers general manager John Lynch was short on making promises and speaking in absolutes during his pre-draft session Monday with reporters inside the team’s draft room.

But Lynch made one clear projection about the 2019 season: Robbie Gould will be the 49ers’ kicker.

“Robbie is going to be a part of us this coming year, I know that,” Lynch said of the 49ers’ unsigned franchise player. “We would like it to be longer than that. We’ve made an attempt to make it happen. We haven’t come to an agreement as of yet, and we’ll see where that goes.

“But Robbie will be a part of us this coming year, and we’re excited for that because he’s very good at what he does and he’s also a big part of this team.”

The 49ers signed Gould to a two-year, $4 million contract on the first day of free agency in 2017. As the team’s franchise player this season, he has a one-year contract for $4.9 million waiting for him. He has yet to sign the one-year tender, and Lynch said the 49ers would still like to work out a multi-year deal with him.

Gould is not taking part in the team’s offseason program. He is working on his own in the Chicago area. All indications are Gould did not want the 49ers to lock him up as the franchise player. He previously said he was looking forward to considering all options as an unrestricted free agent.

Gould, 36, ranks second all-time in NFL history with a field-goal accuracy of 87.745 percent.

The 49ers showed interest then-free agent kicker Stephen Gostkowski, NBC Sports Bay Area reported on April 9. Just hours later – and shortly before Gostkowski was scheduled to make a trip to visit the 49ers – the New England Patriots re-signed him to a contract. Gostkowski ranks No. 3 in all-time field-goal accuracy.

“We’ve got to do our due diligence in terms of being prepared for all scenarios, and Stephen was a free agent, and (he is) also very good,” Lynch said. “Our No. 1 priority in that respect was to try to figure out something with Robbie. Stephen was there. I think our interest quickly got the Patriots to lock him down.”

[RELATED: How trading No. 2 could get 49ers two first-round picks]

Lynch said he is not sure when Gould will sign and report to the team. Training camp opens in late-July, and the 49ers’ regular-season opener is scheduled for Sept. 8 at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

“I can’t speak to when he’s going to be here,” Lynch said. “But when we kick it off, he’ll be here.”