SANTA CLARA -- On Nov. 11, 2012, then 49ers quarterback Alex Smith sustained a concussion and was pulled from the game. His back-up, Colin Kaepernick, took his place and played so well that Smith never got his starting job back.
That scenario will not be the case between 49ers cornerbacks Ahkello Witherspoon and Emmanuel Moseley according to coach Kyle Shanahan. Moseley, who appeared in only one game as a rookie in 2018, has flourished in place of Witherspoon in his six starts this season.
Moseley has already racked up 17 solo tackles, five pass breakups and one interception. In three games Witherspoon had amassed seven solo tackles, five pass breakups and one interception. Both have been so effective in coverage that they are interchangeable opposite of veteran Richard Sherman.
“Ahkello earned his spot with the way Ahkello was playing when he went out,” Shanahan said Tuesday in his conference call. "If Ahkello can come out to practice, gets three good days in, show exactly where he’s at, then we’d give him his job back. He’s going to have to have a good week of practice to do that."
Witherspoon spoke to NBC Sports Bay Area prior to the team’s Monday night loss to Seattle and revealed that he feels 100-percent and is ready to get back onto the field. With the health of the secondary at a premium in the NFL, Shanahan is pleased to have a solid option available.
“Emmanuel’s played at a high level,” Shanahan said. “I agree with everybody else in that. It’s been great to see him step up with the injury and how well he’s played. I know we’ve got another guy who’s capable of being a starter out there. If Ahkello can get in a full week of practice then it would be his job.”
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With a short week ahead, Witherspoon has a little less time to show he is ready to return to the field to face the Cardinals. The team wants to make sure he is fully healthy, not risking his long-term availability.
“It would be very similar to how it’s been with our tackles with [Mike] McGlinchey getting three good days in last week is why he went ahead of [Daniel] Brunskill. If he wouldn’t have, then we would have kept Brunskill out for another week. We’ll see how that goes with Ahkello this week, but it's nice with how good E-Man’s been playing. It makes us a lot more patient with Ahkello’s injury.”