Kyle Shanahan believes 2019 is first season 49ers can overcome injuries

Kyle Shanahan believes 2019 is first season 49ers can overcome injuries

After spending the past nine weeks with the majority of the 49ers’ 90-man roster, coach Kyle Shanahan arrived at one major conclusion.

Approximately one-quarter of the team’s roster was held out of offseason practices due to injuries or surgeries resulting from the 2018 season, so he got a good look at a lot of different players. Shanahan said he believes the team is better equipped to win games in 2019 even if the organization experiences another injury-filled season.

“You always want to keep improving, so we’ll never say, ‘All right, we made it,’” Shanahan said. “This is the first year going into a year that -- I want to say this truthfully, but it is -- it’s the first year that we can overcome injuries.

“We expect to have injuries. That’s part of football. But I’m definitely a lot more confident going into this year if that does happen, we have guys who have experience. And we also have guys who have some talent who can step in and help us out.”

A year ago, the 49ers lost a significant amount of contributions to starters, most notably quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, running back Jerick McKinnon, and safeties Jimmie Ward and Jaquiski Tartt.

Like most NFL teams, the 49ers would have a difficult time overcoming a long-term absence of Garoppolo, but C.J. Beathard and Nick Mullens also appear to be improved as they compete for the backup role.

Another position where the 49ers could be hard-pressed to keep it together is at offensive tackle.

Behind Joe Staley and Mike McGlinchey is projected swing tackle Shon Coleman, who started all 16 games at right tackle for the Cleveland Browns in 2017. Coleman was working at left tackle, while rookie Justin Skule saw action at right tackle with the 49ers’ No. 1 offensive line.

The 49ers believe they have acceptable depth in the defensive backfield.

Jimmy Ward and Jaquiski Tartt are the team’s presumptive starting safeties with Adrian Colbert, Marcell Harris, Tarvarius Moore, Antone Exum and D.J. Reed in reserve.

Richard Sherman is slated to start at one cornerback spot, and Ahkello Witherspoon placed himself into the front-runner spot at the other position. Jason Verrett, a Pro Bowl selection in his only healthy NFL season, is expected to challenge Witherspoon. K’Waun Williams is set to play the nickel spot. Greg Mabin, Dontae Johnson, Emmanuel Moseley and draft pick Tim Harris will compete for backup roles.

Despite a large number of players who sat out organized team activities, Shanahan was encouraged that there were no injuries sustained during the workouts that will have a carryover impact once training camp opens in late-July. Tight end Garrett Celek is expected to miss significant time in training camp after undergoing back surgery. All the other players are expected to be cleared at or near the beginning of camp.

“I think we were pretty fortunate with OTA injuries,” Shanahan said.

When the 49ers began practices, they knew they would hold out more than a dozen players from participation. The lower numbers of available players placed more stress on the healthy players, Shanahan said.

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“But then if one guy gets a little tight and stuff, you want to take care of him, which is good for that guy,” Shanahan said. “But then that next guy has to take a lot more reps and it becomes a trickle-down effect. When you get to this week, that’s why you decide to cut back a couple periods and take care of the guys.”

In keeping with his actions of his first two offseason, Shanahan canceled the final practice of the team’s mandatory three-day minicamp on Thursday to have a family day with nose tackle D.J. Jones’ father handling the BBQ duties for approximately 200 people.

Hall of Famer Steve Young believes 49ers' Jimmy Garoppolo 'will do a great job'

Hall of Famer Steve Young believes 49ers' Jimmy Garoppolo 'will do a great job'

Jimmy Garoppolo, 28, had the first 16-start season of his NFL career in 2019.

The 49ers quarterback is three years ahead of Hall of Famer Steve Young, who did not become San Francisco's full-time starter until 1992 at 31.

Young, appearing this week at "Letters to 87 Live!" for the Golden Heart Foundation, said he believes Garoppolo showed maturity and development over the course of the season. Young believes Garoppolo has what it takes to lead the 49ers into the Super Bowl.

“He’s been remarkable this year because he’s older, but yet this is his first full season,” said Young, whose thoughts about this year’s team are included in the latest episode of The 49ers Insider Podcast.

Young said the 49ers’ support of the quarterback is similar to when he and Joe Montana before him were playing the position.

“The feeling, the spirit, the coaching, the expertise, the talent, all of it together, he’s got the help,” Young said. “So that, as he’s learning, he can make mistakes and he can say, ‘OK, I’ve learned that one.’ And I like the fact that I don’t see the same one again.”

The 49ers play the Green Bay Packers on Sunday in the NFC Championship Game at Levi’s Stadium. The winner advances to Super Bowl LIV in Miami on Feb. 2. Garoppolo and his teammates are "locked in," he said.

The dominant 49ers' running game grabbled all the headlines out of their 27-10 victory over the Minnesota Vikings in the divisional round of the NFC playoffs. But Young was impressed throughout the season that Garoppolo proved he has the ability to lead crucial late-game drives. Garoppolo was credited with four fourth-quarter comebacks and game-winning drives.

“When they’ve asked him to raise up and go win it, he did it,” Young said. “Those are hard things to do. That just doesn’t happen. When you see it in the NFL and someone is able to do it, you go, once you’ve done it, you can do it again. You can keep doing it.

“I don’t think Jimmy cares whether he throws one or five touchdowns. He really enjoys the fact that everybody’s in to win it, and that’s that same spirit. When your leaders of your team are all in with you and are not about themselves, and yet still talented enough to go win games and be heroes, I feel like we’re in a great spot.”

Young believes the 49ers will win Sunday’s game, but he also cautions about how quickly things can go awry. After all, the 49ers’ season will come down to one 60-minute game and approximately eight to 10 offensive and defensive possessions.

“He’s ready to do great things,” Young said. “If something goes wrong, I don’t think it’ll be Jimmy. I think he’ll do a great job.”

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So what can go wrong for the 49ers? Young looks across the field and believes it will take something special from a very special player to prevent the 49ers from advancing.

“If Aaron Rodgers is Superman and he puts his cape on and does something only he can do, and if that happens, we’ll tip our cap and we’ll move on,” Young said. “But that’s the only way we’re losing this ball game.”

Why 49ers' Kwon Alexander has big role no matter how much he plays


Why 49ers' Kwon Alexander has big role no matter how much he plays

SANTA CLARA -- Kwon Alexander has gone through more than two weeks of 49ers practice after returning from a pectoral injury earlier than anyone expected.

The linebacker was worn a blue non-contact jersey the entire time since being designated to return from injured reserve.

Alexander finally took it off last week for the divisional-round playoff victory over the Minnesota Vikings. The tackling machine didn’t show up in the stat sheet but was no worse for the wear heading into Sunday’s NFC Championship game against Green Bay at Levi’s Stadium.

Even six days after his first career playoff game, Alexander didn’t want to address how -- or if -- he felt better, stronger or faster.

“We feel legendary every week,” Alexander said Friday. “We all come to work with no doubts in our body about how we’re going to perform.”

That, more than anything else in his current state, shows his value to this 49ers team. He’ll never say it, but he’s not at full strength. That would be impossible so soon after a major injury many initially thought might end his season.

Alexander’s positivity is palpable in everything he says and how he acts around the team.

“It’s extremely real with Kwon,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said this week. “He’s like that every second, and our guys gravitate to him. I think just the same way fans feel about him, that’s how we feel about him. Kwon is ride or die in everything he does for this football team. He will go out there, he plays that way when he’s healthy, he plays that way when he’s hurt. He talks that way. He lives football. That’s why his football character is one of the highest I’ve been around. That’s just his character as a man, to me, is just that way too.”

The team loves Alexander’s energy, and he appreciates how much they have supported him through a trying first season in Santa Clara. He signed a four-year deal in free agency, but Alexander played in just eight regular-season games due to the aforementioned injury.

“The people in this building are so great,” Alexander said. “They all really care for me. That was a big part of my decision to come, to be around people who care for you. I think really think we can do great things around here.”

The 49ers played great against the Vikings, even though Alexander didn’t have a tangibly productive day.

He didn’t have tackle and missed a few last week against the Vikings, per Pro Football Focus, but he could be felt on film while working as a strongside linebacker. He came out in sub packages, with Dre Greenlaw manning the weak side. The rookie has done that since Alexander got hurt and has fared extremely well.

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Shanahan was predictably non-committal about specific roles earlier in the week, but they could well stay the same. Alexander doesn’t seem to care. He’s just happy to be playing with his teammates on such a big stage.

“As long as we keep flying around and making plays, we’re going to be alright,” Alexander said. “That’s for sure.”