49ers

How 49ers' D.J. Jones plans to raise his game with ankle now healthy

How 49ers' D.J. Jones plans to raise his game with ankle now healthy

D.J. Jones was playing well despite a bum ankle last season, remaining an integral part of the 49ers during a heated NFC West race with the playoffs coming on fast. He ignored the pain and kept on grinding through a Week 14 game at the New Orleans Saints, turning in one of his best performances that year in a tense, back-and-forth affair.

Jones had two tackles and a forced fumble the 49ers recovered deep in Saints territory and easily turned into a touchdown, part of a breakout year for the Mississippi product. At some point in that 48-46 win at the Superdome, while playing on one bad wheel, he hurt the other one.

It was an ill-timed high ankle sprain that landed him on injured reserve and unable to continue on the 49ers' run that extended into Super Bowl LIV. That was a significant blow for the team and Jones alike.

“It was very disappointing for me,” Jones said Thursday in a video conference with local reporters. “I felt like I was on the rise and that there was a lot more out there for me. I feel like I could’ve helped my team along the way. At the same time, God doesn’t make mistakes. There’s nothing I can do about the past. I can only work hard for the future.”

He’s working hard toward next season with a clean bill of health.

“Physically, I’m doing great and getting my body in great shape,” Jones said. “The ankle is 100 percent. I’m able to run and cut. There are several places out here where I’m able to work to get the work done.”

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Jones is back home in South Carolina with his family, finding places to train during the coronavirus pandemic. He doesn’t just expect to rejoin the 49ers in Santa Clara as the same run-stopping nose tackle or three-technique he was in 2019. 

The defensive tackle wants to prove a better pass rusher than in the past. He only has two career sacks, both of them last year, in relativity limited opportunities.

“I know I have it in me,” Jones said. “I need the opportunity and I need to continue to work at my craft to get better. If I stop my feet, I’ll get stuck in mud and I won’t be able to make many plays. If my hands keep working and my feet keep working, I can get to the quarterback.”

[RELATED: D.J. Jones expects Javon Kinlaw, veterans to step up on 49ers' D-line]

Jones is particularly motivated this offseason, especially after missing out on last year’s run to the Super Bowl and that heartbreaking loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.

“It was motivating than disappointing because I wasn’t able to play,” Jones said. “To see my brothers out there fighting, to see that we had an opportunity to win is motivation, to me, that we can get back to that game. That’s why I’m working hard right now trying to get back.”

Roger Goodell says NFL didn't listen, doesn't mention Colin Kaepernick

Roger Goodell says NFL didn't listen, doesn't mention Colin Kaepernick

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell admitted Friday that the league was wrong for "not listening to NFL players earlier" and that they "encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest," but his 81-second video didn't mention former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

Kaepernick first sat, then kneeled during the playing of the national anthem before games in the 2016 season to protest police brutality and institutional racism. The QB's protest has recently received renewed attention, as demonstrations against the same issues spring up around the globe following the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old African American man, in Minneapolis police custody last Monday.

"We, the [NFL], believe black lives matter," Goodell said Friday. "I personally protest with you and want to be part of the much-needed change in this country. Without black players, there would be no [NFL] and the protests around the country are emblematic of the centuries of silence, inequality and oppression of black players, coaches, fans and staff.

"We are listening. I am listening. And I will be reaching out to players who have raised their voices and others on how we can improve and move forward for a better, more united NFL family."

The commissioner's comments came shortly after the league shared a video of players asking for the NFL to "listen" and admit they were "wrong in silencing our players from peacefully protesting." Multiple players, including star New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley, first shared the video Thursday.

"We will not be silenced," the players said. "We assert our right to peacefully protest."

Protests have taken place nationwide in each of the 10 nights following Floyd's death prior to this story's publication. Floyd pleaded that he couldn't breathe as Derek Chauvin, a since-fired officer who is white, pressed his knee into Floyd's neck for nearly nine minutes. The 46-year-old's death occurred within months of Breonna Taylor, 26, and Ahmaud Arbery, 25, dying, all as the coronavirus pandemic continues to disproportionately affect African Americans. Louisville police fatally shot Taylor in her home while reportedly performing a "no-knock" warrant, and two white men allegedly shot and murdered Arbery as he jogged around his Georgia neighborhood.

Demonstrators have taken the streets to protest the same issues Kaepernick highlighted, nearly four years after he first began protesting. Kaepernick, who agreed to kneel during "The Star-Spangled Banner" after consulting with former Seattle Seahawks long-snapper and Green Beret Nate Boyer, faced criticism for disrespecting the American flag and the country's veterans. Goodell said he didn't "necessarily agree with what [Kaepernick was] doing" in his first public comments after Kaepernick's protest.

“We have to choose respectful ways of doing that so that we can achieve the outcomes we ultimately want and do it with the values and ideals that make our country great,” Goodell told The Associated Press on Sept. 7, 2016. “I think it’s important to have respect for our country, for our flag, for the people who make our country better; for law enforcement; and for our military who are out fighting for our freedoms and our ideals.”

Goodell said in 2017 players had a "responsibility" of demonstrating "at the right time and in the right way." The NFL owners approved a national-anthem policy in May 2018 that would've required players to stand on the sideline as "The Star-Spangled Banner" played, but the league and the NFL Players Association announced in July there would be no new policy.

[RELATED: 49ers' Shanahan wants NFL to fix coaching diversity issue]

Kaepernick argued his protest cost him his career in a collusion lawsuit he settled with the league last February. The quarterback opted out of his contract ahead of the 2017 season, when the 49ers told him he'd otherwise be released, and has not been signed since. The NFL organized a workout for Kaepernick at the Atlanta Falcons' facility last November, but Kaepernick pulled out of the workout after the league barred media access and his lawyers deemed a liability waiver "unusual."

"I've been ready for three years, and I've been denied for three years," Kaepernick told reporters after moving the workout to a high school outside of Atlanta. "We all know why I came out here and showed it today in front of everybody -- we have nothing to hide. So we're waiting for the 32 owners, the 32 teams, Roger Goodell, all of them to stop running. Stop running from the truth, stop running from the people."

Goodell said in December that the NFL had "moved on" from Kaepernick after he "chose not to take" the opportunity the NFL gave him by moving the workout.

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

49ers' George Kittle reveals which NFL players are toughest to block

49ers' George Kittle reveals which NFL players are toughest to block

George Kittle has never kept his love for run-blocking a secret. Any opportunity to drive a defender into the turf is embraced by the 49ers tight end the same way kids greet the arrival of Christmas morning.

During a recent appearance on the “Bussin’ With The Boys” podcast with fellow NFL players Will Compton and Taylor Lewan, Kittle revealed two blocking assignments he doesn’t exactly live for.

“Khalil Mack’s tough,” Kittle said. “He’s pretty good. (Jadeveon) Clowney is pretty good too.”

Kittle and Mack faced off late in the 2018 season, during a low-scoring dogfight at Levi’s Stadium between the 49ers and Chicago Bears. Mack got three hits in on quarterback Nick Mullens, but didn’t end up with a sack among his five tackles.

[RELATED: Ranking top 49ers plays in franchise's storied history: No. 5-1]

Clowney was a difficult assignment for the Niners in both matchups last season, although Kittle was inactive for the Seattle Seahawks’ win on "Monday Night Football" in Week 10.

The current free agent had six tackles and five QB hits over those two games against San Francisco, not to mention scoring one of his two touchdowns on the season after scooping up a fumble.

Mack and Kittle could face off when the 49ers and Bears meet during the 2020 preseason on Aug. 29, but it remains to be seen where Clowney will wind up signing in free agency. 

Some have even postulated he could be a fit for the 49ers, if no team is willing to meet a reportedly exorbitant asking price.

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]