How 49ers cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon impressed Bucs' Mike Evans

How 49ers cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon impressed Bucs' Mike Evans

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — 49ers cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon impressed Bucs All-Pro wide receiver Mike Evans so much Sunday that the two swapped jerseys after the game.

Late in the fourth quarter of the 49ers' 31-17 win, Witherspoon picked off quarterback Jameis Winston's pass and returned it for a touchdown. It was Witherspoon's first interception in a live game since a spring game while he was at University of Colorado.

Witherspoon chuckled as he recounted the play.  

“My only other one in my career was actually in a spring game,” Witherspoon said. “I got in trouble for holding the ball out by my head coach. So it’s kind of funny, when I got it, I had the ball out and I was thinking how terrible my ball security was. But I guess that’s just my immediate reaction. 

“I was so hyped I couldn’t even really think. It was just like get in the end zone and go crazy.” 

In that flash of a second, Witherspoon did have a moment of panic as a Bucs player closed in on him.

“That’s when I tucked it away at the end one more time," Witherspoon said. "Like, let me get in the end zone before I get in trouble by my college coach again.” 

That play and several others impressed Evans enough to not only swap jerseys with Witherspoon, but to also ask a question that surprised the third-year cornerback. 

“He just told me I did a really good job, honestly,” Witherspoon said. “He was asking me -- I don’t know if I’m supposed to say this -- but he was asking me if we knew the offense. I was like, ‘No, we’re just out here playing ball, my man, but thanks for the compliment.’ 

“Yeah, it was crazy. I was like ‘No, not at all, but can you sign that for me?’” 

Players never use illness or injuries as an excuse, but Evans was battling the flu the week prior to Sunday’s matchup. Witherspoon said he didn’t see much difference in Evans’ play but noted that the heat and humidity was tough on everyone. 

“He told me one play that he was tired,” Witherspoon said. “But once again, that made be ball up even more because I’m not going to let off the gas. But I definitely saw him, he gives a little more effort on the back side like run blocks and he was just less active. I think just trying to conserve, but it was tiring for anyone, sick or healthy out there.

"It was probably tough for him.” 

[RELATED: How 49ers made impact on Youngstown community on off day]

Playing against someone to Evans' caliber for the second season in a row motivated Witherspoon. 

Having history with the imposing 6-foot-5, 231-pounder helped, too.

“Last year he said something to me after the game, he liked how I played,” Witherspoon said. “This year I was coming in with the mentality to dominate him and then take his jersey. Love to compete against a guy like that.” 

49ers sign Damontre Moore, place Ronald Blair on season-ending IR

49ers sign Damontre Moore, place Ronald Blair on season-ending IR

SANTA CLARA -- Defensive end Damontre Moore made a strong bid for a roster spot with the 49ers with an impressive training camp and exhibition season.

Moore finally made it to the team’s 53-man roster on Wednesday, filling the roster spot that was vacated when the 49ers placed defensive end Ronald Blair on injured reserve. Blair is scheduled for season-ending surgery to repair a torn ACL in his right knee.

Moore, 27, has appeared in 54 games over the past seven seasons with the New York Giants, Miami, Seattle, Dallas and the Raiders. He has 10 sacks in his NFL career.

Moore signed a one-year contract with the 49ers on Wednesday after originally coming to the organization in the spring.

[RELATED: Shanahan confirms Witherspoon will resume starting role]

He played with the San Diego Fleet of the Alliance of American Football in the spring, and signed with the 49ers. He registered two sacks during the preseason but was among the team’s final cuts when the 49ers were required to trim their roster from 90 players to the regular-season limit of 53.

Blair served as the 49ers’ No. 3 edge rusher behind Nick Bosa and Dee Ford. Moore is likely to see action in a backup role, beginning Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals at Levi’s Stadium.

Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury expects 49ers' George Kittle to play

Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury expects 49ers' George Kittle to play

49ers coach Kyle Shanahan is hopeful tight end George Kittle will make a quicker-than-expected recovery to play Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals.

And Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury said Wednesday that his team is preparing as if they will face Kittle at his best at Levi’s Stadium this weekend.

Kittle, the 49ers’ top receiving threat, sat out the 49ers’ game Monday night against the Seattle Seahawks due to unspecified left knee and ankle issues he sustained on Oct. 31 against Arizona. Kingsbury was asked on a conference call with Bay Area reporters if he expects to see Kittle in top form on Sunday.

“No doubt,” Kingsbury said. “I thought it was amazing that he was able to stay in our game and push through and have such a great night.

“He’s one of the best, if not the best, tight ends in the league -- just kind of a physical freak. That’s matched by his personality, his relentlessness, his want to. It’s through the roof. As a competitor, you appreciate that. And I’m sure he’ll be ready to go on Sunday.”

Kittle sustained the injury on the first play of the 49ers’ Week 9 game against the Cardinals when the helmet of Cardinals defensive end Chandler Jones struck Kittle’s knee as they were running toward each other on a running play. Kittle was blocking, and Jones went to the ground as he made the tackle on 49ers running back Tevin Coleman.

[RELATED: 49ers coach Shanahan losing patience with Dante Pettis]

Kittle exited the game, but he returned to play 49 of the 49ers’ 70 offensive snaps in the Thursday night game. Kittle caught six passes for 79 yards, including an impressive 30-yard TD where he threw Arizona safety Budda Baker to the ground near the goal line.

But the impact from the injuries worsened to the point that Kittle could not continue to play in the fourth quarter. He did not practice all last week, and he remains questionable -- or, even, doubtful -- for this week’s game.

“Kittle’s just a little bit of a different bird,” Shanahan said to reporters Tuesday. “We’re never going to decide on Kittle too early in the week. He’s always got a chance with some of the stuff he’s been able to go through here in these last couple years.”