49ers

Mike Singletary's words never far from Vernon Davis' mind

vernon-singletary-ap.jpg
AP

Mike Singletary's words never far from Vernon Davis' mind

Tight end Vernon Davis does a pretty good Mike Singletary impersonation.

He should be good at it. After all, he said those Singletary words – “I want winners!” -- directed at Davis during a midseason game in 2008 have stuck with him through his entire NFL career.

In Singletary’s first game as interim coach after taking over for fired Mike Nolan, Davis was flagged for unnecessary roughness when he retaliated to some trash talk with a shove to the facemask of Seattle defensive back Brian Russell.

When Singletary was not satisfied with Davis’ reaction to a chewing out, Singletary ordered the third-year player off the sideline and into the locker room at the end of the third quarter. After the game, Singletary’s press conference was dominated by his blistering words aimed at Davis.

Those words stick with Davis even today – as a 12th-year NFL player who ranks No. 10 all-time in receiving yards among tight ends.

“It never leaves. It’s always there. It’s always around,” Davis said. “It permeates throughout the years. It’s there. I first heard it after that game. I went home and sat on the couch and turned the TV on. And there he was, coach Singletary. . .”

Davis, a special guest on The 49ers Insider Podcast, then gave a brief impersonation of Singletary’s rant.

“I know it like the back of my hand,” Davis laughed. “I was sitting there. How could he do that? That’s horrible. I can’t believe he would do that. I was so frustrated. I was livid. I just couldn’t take it. He just threw me under the bus. That’s awful.”

But it did not take Davis long to understand that he had to change his ways, he said.

“That was the moment that turned everything around,” Davis said. “Once I saw that, I was like, ‘Wow, this guy is really serious.’ There’s nothing I can do. This guy right here, he’s just tough. I can’t beat him. So I just have to straighten myself up, and that’s what I did. I straightened myself up and did everything he asked me to do. I became a different person.”

Davis was a key member of three consecutive 49ers teams that reached the NFC Championship under coach Jim Harbaugh. He twice recorded 13-touchdown seasons with the 49ers. He ranks fourth all-time in 49ers history with 55 touchdown receptions – behind only Jerry Rice, Terrell Owens and Gene Washington.

Davis is in his second season with Washington – his hometown team. On Wednesday, Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins described Davis as a "team-first" player who can still "bring the juice." Davis showed a glimpse of the elite speed he had as a youngster when he broke free for a 69-yard reception against Kansas City recently on Monday Night Football.

On Sunday, Davis will face his former team for the first time in his career. Davis, who won a Super Bowl ring after being sent to the Denver Broncos in a 2015 mid-season trade, said he still wonders if he might have a Super Bowl ring with the 49ers if Harbaugh had not made the switch at quarterback in 2012 from Alex Smith to Colin Kaepernick.

“You know what, I think about that sometimes,” Davis said. “And I think about what if Alex had stayed in the starting role. What if he had that role? Would it have been a situation where we would’ve won the Super Bowl? I don’t know.

“That’s just a question that will always linger. Everyone wants to know. What if? What if? At the end of the day, what is written is written. Kaepernick had a shot and he did really well. He didn’t do anything wrong. The game just didn’t go in our favor. We didn’t win it. There’s always going to be what-ifs.”

Kaepernick played very well in the second half of the season and into the playoffs. The 49ers fell short in Super Bowl XLVII, losing to the Baltimore Ravens 34-31. Kaepernick threw for 302 yards, and Davis had six receptions for 104 yards.

Former 49ers lineman Keith Fahnhorst, 66, passes away

keith49ersap.jpg
AP

Former 49ers lineman Keith Fahnhorst, 66, passes away

Keith Fahnhorst, who played 14 seasons with the San Francisco 49ers and started on two Super Bowl-winning teams, died on Tuesday. He was 66.

Fahnhorst was among a large group of players from the 49ers’ first Super Bowl championship team that gathered at Levi’s Stadium in October in a celebration of Dwight Clark. Fahnhorst and Clark were teammates for the 49ers’ Super Bowl-titlle teams of 1981 and 1984. Clark passed away on June 6 from ALS.

Fahnhorst, who was in a wheelchair during his trip to the Bay Area last season, battled many physical ailments since his career ended in 1987. He was diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease and underwent a kidney transplant in 2002. Fahnhorst was also later diagnosed with primary progressive multiple sclerosis.

A second-round draft pick of the 49ers in 1974 from the University of Minnesota, Fahnhorst was a mainstay at right tackle as the organization struggled in the mid-to-late 1970s, then found success in the 1980s under coach Bill Walsh.

“Everybody knew they could count on Keith,” Walsh said in the 2005 book, “San Francisco 49ers: Where Have Gone?”

Fahnhorst appeared in 193 regular-season games, ranking behind only Len Rohde among offensive linemen in 49ers history. He started 170 games, including all 10 postseason games in which he appeared. He was named to the NFC Pro Bowl team and was selected as a first-team All-Pro after the 1984 season. He was a two-time winner of the Bobb McKittrick Award for best representing the courage, intensity and sacrifice displayed by the longtime 49ers offensive line coach.

Keith Fahnhorst and his younger brother, Jim, were 49ers teammates for the final four years of Keith’s career. Jim Fahnhorst, a linebacker, played for the 49ers from 1984 to 1990. Neither Keith nor Jim Fahnhorst played for any NFL team other than the 49ers.

Jimmy Garoppolo focuses on 49ers' red-zone efficiency

Jimmy Garoppolo focuses on 49ers' red-zone efficiency

SANTA CLARA – In Jimmy Garoppolo’s first three starts last season, the 49ers’ won games in spite of a lousy red-zone offense.

The 49ers were 0-for-5 in converting possessions inside the Chicago Bears’ 20-yards line into touchdowns. They were 2-for-4 against the Houston Texans, and just 1-of-4 against the Tennessee Titans.

That would explain why Garoppolo singled out the team’s red-zone offense as an area he would like to see the team continue to improve.

“I think a big part for us, as a whole, offensively is just finishing in the end zone,” Garoppolo said Wednesday on the final day of the team’s offseason program.

“Last year we got stopped short a couple of times, more than we’d like to. And I think we’ve done a good job in OTAs and minicamp of finishing in the end zone, for the most part. Finishing drives and stuff like that.”

The 49ers finished the season strong in the red zone, converting 11 of their red-zone trips into eight touchdowns in games against the Jacksonville Jaguars and Los Angeles Rams.

In 24 red-zone trips in the five games Garoppolo started, the 49ers scored 11 touchdowns and settled for 12 field goals. He also threw one interception. Garoppolo said the 49ers have enough weapons in the passing game to account for the added difficulty of scoring on those possessions.

“Those are point plays,” Garoppolo said. “They’re either seven-point plays or three-point plays. You know what I mean? Those are the ones that really matter.

The competition between offense and defense has led to some spirited matchups in practices. Garoppolo has routinely looked to tight ends George Kittle and team favorite Garrett Celek to get the touchdown celebrations going.

“It’s hard to complete touchdowns, especially in the red zone like that,” Garoppolo said. “Windows are tighter. Not as much room. So especially when Celek gets one, it gets everyone going.”