49ers

Nick Mullens smartly leaning on 49ers vets Joe Staley, Richard Sherman

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AP

Nick Mullens smartly leaning on 49ers vets Joe Staley, Richard Sherman

SANTA CLARA -- Nick Mullens has been successful in his first seven NFL starts. And the credit for that, the 49ers quarterback says, goes to Joe Staley and Richard Sherman, two prominent veterans who have guided him along the way. 

Mullens has been praised for his work ethic and his leadership skills. Even so, he knows respect isn't a given, which is why Staley and Sherman’s support means so much to him. 

“Joe’s awesome," Mullens said Wednesday of the 49ers' veteran left tackle. "You never know what you’re going to get. He’s got a very dynamic personality. But he’s a great role model and great leader for the locker room. He has guided me along very well. 

“Let’s me know what I do wrong, what I do right, what I do good, what I do bad, and I make sure that I get very honest answers from him.”

Sherman also has been very supportive of Mullens, lauding his leadership and production, in particular after the Week 15 victory over the Seattle Seahawks, the cornerback's former team. 

“Nick Mullens has stepped up to the moment week-in and week-out,” Sherman said. “He’s shown he can play in this league. I hope we can keep him because teams need a quarterback. This guy's not just playing conservative football. He's making good throws under pressure. 

“I’d say he’s playing like a top half quarterback in this league. You have guys that are out there right now that are not playing better football than Nick Mullens. He could be a starter for a lot of teams in this football league, and we appreciate that we have him and he's playing his tail off for us."

Sherman has been a resource for Mullens, just as Staley has. Mullens has learned a lot about what the defense watches from the other side of the ball. 

“Sherm is awesome,” Mullens said. “He’s a super nice guy, great teammate, very helpful to the young guys. I love taking advantage of picking his brain. 

“He’s very specific in the coverage rules, the different looks, the way he sees a quarterback when he’s playing corner, the way he sees the quarterback’s feet, whether it’s quick game, drop-back, play pass."

Added Mullens: “So, all of the things that you really don’t know how a corner thinks when he’s playing out there. You get to ask him those type of questions.”

Mullens record, since going under center in Week 9, is 3-4. He has completed 153 of his 241 passes for 1,995 yards, which is third-most in the NFL for a quarterback’s first seven starts since 1970. (Patrick Mahomes is tops with 2,149 yards, and Cam Newton is second at 2,103 yards.)

[RELATED: Staley gives 49ers teammates, media nothing but honesty]

Using the veterans as sounding boards is something Mullens will continue to do. 

“He’s one guy I can go to,” Mullens said of Staley, “and say, ‘Hey, how do you all feel when I do this compared to this? Hey, what do I need to do better?’ So, for him to answer those questions the way he has, it’s really helped me, and it’s definitely helped guide me along in just commanding the offense and making sure that everybody’s operating, all 11 guys, on the same page.” 

The respect of both Staley and Sherman isn't taken lightly by Mullens.

“Yeah, I definitely know that he supports me,” Mullens said of Sherman. “What he said after the game meant a lot. The fact that I’ve earned his respect, I think, is the biggest thing coming into the building. For me, I’m always just trying to gain guys’ respect by the way I play, by the way I handle my business.”

It appears Mullens is on the right path to a what could be a nice NFL career.

49ers' George Kittle reveals he had rib injury while setting NFL record

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USATSI

49ers' George Kittle reveals he had rib injury while setting NFL record

You likely were impressed with George Kittle's sophomore season with the 49ers, in which he set the NFL single-season record for most receiving yards by a tight end.

But perhaps you'll be even more impressed upon learning Kittle set that record after fracturing his rib cartilage midway through the season.

Kittle said he suffered the injury on the third play of the 49ers' Week 9 win over the Raiders, in which he caught four passes for 108 yards and a touchdown. One of those receptions was with one hand for a 71-yard gain.

Despite the injury, Kittle still played in all 16 games and was on the field for nearly 88 percent of all snaps. Over the final five contests, he averaged 110.8 yards on 6.4 catches per game.

"It was fun, I guess," Kittle said of overcoming the injury. "I don't know, it's just something you play with."

[RELATED: Biggest games, narratives to watch in 49ers' 2019 schedule]

Given how he performed with the injury, the 49ers have to be feeling great about what a fully healthy Kittle could provide in the season ahead.

49ers schedule predictions: Wins, losses projected for 2019 season

49ers schedule predictions: Wins, losses projected for 2019 season

It's officially prediction season. The 49ers' schedule for the 2019 regular season was released on Wednesday, and there are plenty of interesting matchups.

Entering Year 3 of Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch at the helm, the 49ers look to build upon a disappointing 4-12 season. Will they be playoff contenders or find themselves at selecting at the top of the draft again?

With some solid additions in free agency, a healthy Jimmy Garoppolo and the No. 2 pick in the NFL draft, we expect a promising season. 

VIEW 49ERS GAME-BY-GAME PREDICTIONS HERE