Nick Mullens shows he's with 49ers for a reason in win over Raiders

Nick Mullens shows he's with 49ers for a reason in win over Raiders

SANTA CLARA -- Nick Mullens looked calm while taking his first NFL snaps in his first NFL start Thursday night.

He led the 49ers' offense down the field and threw touchdown passes on his first two drives of the game. But he said he never really felt at ease until the clock ran out and the 49ers had secured a 34-3 win over the Raiders at Levi’s Stadium.

“I was on edge until the clock hit zero, to be honest,” Mullens said. “I was just ready to win and ready to just keep going. The O-line, we worked together with the skills guys, and thought we worked well as a unit.”

Mullens was thrust into the spotlight in front of a national television audience with C.J. Beathard still limited with wrist and thumb issues. Mullens found out Wednesday he would be the starter against the Raiders.

How did he sleep?

"I slept good, except I woke up every hour,” Mullens said without a hint of irony.

While Beathard came to the 49ers as a third-round draft pick in 2017, Mullens signed with the 49ers as a free agent from the same draft class.

Mullens took one pre-draft visit a year ago after the completion of his record-breaking career at Southern Miss. He visited the 49ers. When he went undrafted and other teams called to ask him to sign, he made the easy choice to join the 49ers.

He spent his entire rookie season on the 49ers' practice squad. Finally, Mullens moved up to the 49ers’ 53-man roster this year after starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo sustained a season-ending knee injury in Week 3.

“I think I’m here for a reason, and this was my opportunity to prove that I can play,” Mullens said.

And that is exactly what he did.

Mullens became the first player to throw two or more touchdown passes in his first NFL start with the 49ers. He completed 16 of 22 passes for 262 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions. His passer rating was 151.9.

Mullens said he prepared for his opportunity through hard work and study. He even did some out-of-the-box thinking to help himself.

After a college career in which he took snaps exclusively out of the shotgun formation, he used video instruction to familiarize himself with how to take snaps under center before preparing for the East-West Shrine Game.

Then, after coming to the 49ers, he downloaded crowd noise on Apple Music and practiced reciting play calls, as if he were in the huddle at a raucous road stadium.

Mullens describes himself as “chill” in the locker room, but he said he relished the opportunity to speak to his teammates before Thursday’s game.

“On game day, I love to compete,” Mullens said. “That’s what’s it’s all about. So I was ready to go, and the whole team was. We brought great energy and played with great energy on offense, defense and special teams.”

Mullens said he also was appreciative of his teammates for not tuning him out. He said he talks a lot in the huddle, giving constant encouragement to the 10 players around him.

“I appreciate that they listen in the huddle,” he said. “I’m probably pretty annoying sometimes, to be honest. But I appreciate that they listen and respected me and gave me a chance to lead the offense.

“Everybody worked well tonight. I think we distributed the ball well. We ran the ball well, and they blocked their butts off up front. I thought everybody worked well together.”

It was an all-around great night for Mullens.

During the game, Mullens received Twitter verification and picked up thousands of new followers.

“I guess, it's pretty cool," Mullens said. "(But) I was really excited about a lot more things than that.”

That's understandable. After all, he received a pre-game text from Southern Miss alum Brett Favre. Afterward, on the NFL Network set, Favre congratulated Mullens in a phone call.

“He just told me how proud of me he was," Mullens said. "He sent me a message before the game. He said, ‘No pressure. Just be yourself,’ and that’s what I tried to do before the game and during the game. So (I) just tried to stay calm out there and lead the offense."

49ers sign kicker Robbie Gould to four-year contract as holdout ends

49ers sign kicker Robbie Gould to four-year contract as holdout ends

After months of acrimony, a deadline brought the 49ers and kicker Robbie Gould together,

The two sides agreed to terms Monday morning on a contract extension, a league source confirmed. The 49ers announced the agreement later Monday afternoon.

“Over the years, Robbie has established himself as one of the best at his position in the NFL, which is precisely why we were so committed to working out a new contract with him,” 49ers general manager John Lynch said. “I would like to thank everyone who worked so hard to make this deal come to fruition. We are very happy to start off the year on the right foot with this agreement in place so that Robbie can get back with his teammates and focus on making the most out of the upcoming season.”

The 49ers and Gould agreed to a fully guaranteed contract worth $10.5 million over two years but with an option clause, it could become a four-year, $19 million deal with $15 million guaranteed, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter, who first reported the agreement.

The two sides have seemingly been at odds since the 49ers restricted Gould’s ability to become an unrestricted free agent this offseason with the application of the franchise tag -- a deal that was set to pay him $4.971 million for one year. Gould requested a trade, but coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch both declared that the 49ers would not trade him because of his importance to the team.

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Gould, a 14-year NFL veteran made 72 of 75 field-goal attempts in his first two seasons with the 49ers after signing a two-year, $4 million contract on the first day of free agency in 2017. Gould ranks No. 2 all-time in the NFL in field-goal accuracy at 87.7 percent behind only Baltimore’s Justin Tucker.

With Gould now set to report to training camp in Santa Clara on July 26, the only players under 49ers control who remain unsigned are defensive end Nick Bosa and wide receiver Deebo Samuel, the team’s top two draft picks.

NFL preview 2019: 49ers' three most important players for next season

NFL preview 2019: 49ers' three most important players for next season

After combining to win a total of 10 games the last two seasons, 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch enter a crucial third year steering the ship in Santa Clara. 

The 49ers recently have been closer to the No. 1 overall pick in the draft than the playoffs. It's time for that to change. But it won't be easy. 

Rising up the ranks in the NFC West is a tough task. The Los Angeles Rams were an ugly Jared Goff game away from winning the Super Bowl last year, Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks are always competitive, and the Arizona Cardinals should be exciting with Kyler Murray and a healthy David Johnson. 

In order for the 49ers to have a successful 2019 season, these three players will have to perform on the field. 

Jimmy Garoppolo, QB

Thanks, Captain Obvious. 

Everything starts with Garoppolo. The 49ers go as he goes. It's simple as that. 

Garoppolo says he's "good to go" for training camp, which begins July 27th, after tearing his ACL in the third game of the season last year. Through nine games with the 49ers -- eight starts -- Garoppolo has gone 6-2 as a starter while throwing 12 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He has thrown for 2,278 yards in red and gold, and has completed 64.8 percent of his passes. 

To contend for the playoffs, Garoppolo will have step up his game and prove he's worth his $137.5 million contract this season.

Ahkello Witherspoon, CB

This easily could have been Richard Sherman. The 49ers badly need their secondary to improve this season after snatching only two interceptions. In his first season as a 49er, Sherman failed to have an interception for the first time in his career. He also was coming off a ruptured Achilles tendon. 

“I’m much healthier. I was kind of out there on one leg," Sherman told the Sacramento Bee in May. 

Sherman should have a better year after going through an offseason where he didn't have to focus on rehabbing his Achilles. He's expected to still be the team's top cornerback, but as he ages, the No. 2 cornerback is just as important. 

There's still plenty of competition for who will line up opposite of Sherman. It's Witherspoon's job to lose, though, and he looked like the 49ers' best player on defense at times during the offseason program. 

Witherspoon, standing 6-foot-2 and 195 pounds, has the same kind of long build at cornerback as Sherman. He suffered a PCL injury last year and missed the final two games, but proved he's healthy during the offseason.

This could be a make-or-break year for the 24-year-old. If he proves the offseason program wasn't a fluke, Witherspoon might turn into one of the best surprises in the NFC West this season.

Fred Warner, MLB

Warner was one of the better draft picks in all of football last season. Selected in the third round by the 49ers, Warner started all 16 games and recorded 124 tackles as a rookie.

This year, it's time for him to captain Robert Saleh's defense. 

In just his second professional season, Warner is expected to man the middle with Kwon Alexander and Malcolm Smith playing on the outside. That could be an extremely athletic group of linebackers, but Alexander is coming off a torn ACL and Smith constantly has been injured the last two years. 

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The 49ers are expecting big things out of Warner in his sophomore season, and reasonably so. Seen as a natural leader, Warner can't have a slump this season.

With a dominant defensive line in front of him, Warner must keep it going and turn the team's linebackers into a force to be reckoned with.