In grand scheme, 49ers suffered a bad loss in preseason opener


In grand scheme, 49ers suffered a bad loss in preseason opener

A new NFL season is upon us, damn it, and for the next four weeks your nights will be filled with three things.

Anthem Watch, Heat Index Watch, and Injury Watch.

Take Santa Clara, home of the ongoing E-Z Bake Stadium promotion. There, the San Francisco 49ers and Dallas Cowboys did a thing. Most of them survived. Few of them will remember much about it, save third-string quarterback Nick Mullens, who engineered the final drive in San Franciosco's 24-21 victory.

Sure, some might bubble with glee over the result (let the Mullens-Jimmy Garoppolo controversy begin!), or that there weren’t enough helmet penalties (49er linebacker Elijah Lee topped the list at one), or that Garoppolo didn’t win the Super Bowl Thursday simply by the look on his face, but that’s not what this game was about. It was about a movement subsumed inside a song, the sizzle of fricasseed fan in a section of Levi's Stadium better classified as a hotplate, and trying to avoid the trainers room. This last one didn't work well for the 49ers, not at all.

So let’s review, shall we?

Anthem Watch was highlighted by San Francisco wide receiver Marquise Goodwin, who raised his right fist while standing to protest both racial injustices still rampant in the U.S. and to a lesser extent the NFL’s persistently feckless response to the original protests. No other 49ers seemed to take any kind of visible role during the song, and the Dallas Cowboys, inspired by hall monitor/owner Jerry Jones, stood in lockstep on the east sideline to show their enduring respect for employment.

In the stands, there were the usual acres of unused hotplates-with-armrests, as the 90-degree weather dry-roasted the east side of the stadium to its usual char, and said seats remained predominantly unused even after sundown. The annual debate over what the 49ers plan to do with it has been settled – nothing – so this will be an ongoing complaint with no solution planned. Hey, if you can’t stand the heat, try your couch.

But the real event was the high number of injuries, seemingly all by 49ers and some to important figures thereof. More to the point, they all came in the first 20 minutes of play, making the entire game a modified disaster.

The 49ers lost linebacker Malcolm Smith to a hamstring on the fourth play of the game, tight end George Kittle injured his shoulder on a deep pass on San Francisco’s only Garoppolonian possession of the night, defensive end Solomon Thomas was laid out 11 minutes into the game with what was described only as a head injury and did not return, backup running back Matt Breida went down a minute later, also with a shoulder injury, and backup tackle Garry Gilliam went out nine seconds into the second quarter, with a head injury.

“It’s what scares you about training camp, it’s what scares you about the preseason," Shanahan said after the game, explaining the entire August football phenomenon. "You kind of just want the game to end.”

So, even if you allow for precautionary decisions by the 49er medical staff and the two days off that will clarify the nature of the injuries, that part was pretty much a failure -- a bad defeat in a game in which wins and losses don’t matter.

True, it could have been worse – The Great G could have gotten hurt in any of the nine plays in which he participated. But he did not, saving both him, head coach Kyle Shanahan and the angst of the entire 49ers fan base and fantasy players across the globe.

But it was bad enough by practice game standards, even if none of the afflicted miss any regular season time, and is the one reason exhibition football scares the hell out of coaches. Not even they can say “Next man up” with a straight face this often.

Fortunately, everyone has long outgrown the exhibition season as a helpful guide to anything except detailing the health of players who either have dreams to chase, fulfill or complete. Shanahan subscribed to that theory enough to attempt a two-point conversion after the 49ers’ second touchdown in hopes of cutting the lead to a field goal with 4:26 left to play, a decision that, happily for the remaining customers, didn’t matter to the final outcome.

But the game’s outcome didn’t matter at all in the larger picture, any more than the fifth consecutive exhibition season victory by the Cleveland Browns, who have won one non-practice game in the last two years. The 49ers got hammered by injuries they are not yet deep enough to absorb, so Friday, Saturday and Sunday will be interesting days at the Auld Compound.

Call it the game outside the game.

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.”