O'Neil: Ward one of 49ers' top 11 defensive players


O'Neil: Ward one of 49ers' top 11 defensive players

SANTA CLARA – Defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil has already figured out that Jimmie Ward is one of the 49ers’ better players.

Now, it’s a matter of figuring out where he should lineup. Ward made two starts at safety last season. Last week, Ward lined up at right cornerback and will continue to practice at cornerback this week, O’Neil said.

“We don’t know what Jimmie’s going to be right now,” O’Neil said Wednesday the 49ers hit the practice field for another day of organized team activities.

“I know he’s one of our best 11. That I do know. We’re trying to find ways to get our best 11 on the field. So far what he’s shown now on the practice field, I’m confident he could be out there (at cornerback). He’ll continue to be out there this week.”

O’Neil said he was impressed with Ward’s athletic ability and his football knowledge.

“He’s a guy I know we have to get on the field,” O’Neil said.

Here are some other topics O’Neil addressed during his first session with reporters since joining Chip Kelly’s staff:

--O’Neil introduced a new name into the mix at the competition for the starting job next to inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman.

“It’s a three-man race right now,” O’Neil said. “The way we’re doing it, we have nine OTAs. Everybody’s going to get three starts. So Ray-Ray Armstrong is going to get three, Mike Wilhoite is going to get three, and Gerald Hodges is going to get three.

“We probably won’t know, given the nature of that position, who’s going to win it until we get the pads on. I’m very comfortable with any one of those guys. And if all three of them deserve to play, all of them will play.”

--Tank Carradine will be “living” in the meeting rooms of both the outside linebackers and defensive linemen, O’Neil said. Carradine will be working at outside linebacker on early downs and play on the edge as a defensive end on passing downs.

--Kelly has attended every installation meeting for the defense. O’Neil said he wants the defense to complement the team’s offense. Ideally, O’Neil sees opposing offenses becoming more predictable because of the pace of the 49ers’ offense.

“Obviously, we’re going to go fast, so teams for us (will) try to run the ball a little bit more to wind the clock and keep their defense off the field,” O’Neil said.

--O’Neil said the 49ers are building a strong mental and physical foundation. The three things he stresses are playing relentlessly, being accountable and being productive.

--He said he has been impressed with safeties Antoine Bethea and Eric Reid. He said those players are further ahead than other safeties he’s coached in their first seasons in the scheme.

--Rookie defensive lineman DeForest Buckner is versatile enough to be a difference-maker in the run game and the pass game. Fellow rookie Ronald Blair is working with the defensive line.

Jed York says 49ers are bringing entire staff to Super Bowl LIV vs Chiefs

Jed York says 49ers are bringing entire staff to Super Bowl LIV vs Chiefs

The 49ers will fly to Miami on Sunday to play in the NFL franchise’s seventh Super Bowl. Despite this being a semi-regular thing, CEO Jed York isn’t treating it that way.

York said Friday that he’s bringing all full-time staff to Miami for Super Bowl week and treating them to the game. He even mentioned bringing interns.

That’s, you know, a lot of people on the 49ers’ dime.

“We're taking a lot of people. We wanted to make sure that our entire staff had the opportunity to go,” York said in a meeting with local reporters. “Everybody from [head coach Kyle Shanahan to general manager John Lynch] all the way down to interns, everyone's been a part of this, and we wanted to make sure they're there to help and also celebrate the moment that hopefully gets us over the hump."

That’s unusual benefit for support staff outside football operations, one that will allow everyone involved with the 49ers to enjoy a week basking in the team’s achievements leading up to Super Bowl LIV against the Kansas City Chiefs at Hard Rock Stadium.

[RELATED: Jed York felt 49ers could reach Super Bowl when they drafted Nick Bosa]

The 49ers are trying to win their sixth Super Bowl title, which would tie them with the Pittsburgh Steelers and New England Patriots for the most in NFL history. The Chiefs are currently 1.5-point favorites in this clash of Titans.

Super Bowl 54 odds: Kyle Shanahan at 100-1 to blow another 28-3 lead


Super Bowl 54 odds: Kyle Shanahan at 100-1 to blow another 28-3 lead

Kyle Shanahan hasn't forgotten that the Atlanta Falcons infamously blew a 28-3 lead in their Super Bowl LI loss to the New England Patriots. 

The 49ers coach cited the loss as a valuable learning experience in the lead-up to Super Bowl LIV on Feb. 3, and he doesn't think he'll repeat history in Miami. If you think he will against the Kansas City Chiefs, then you can get action on that. 

New Jersey-based sportsbook PointsBet listed the 49ers as having 100-1 odds of blowing a 28-3 lead against the Chiefs in a prop bet, according to ESPN's David Purdum. The Super Bowl is synonymous with highly specific wagering, and it's only fitting that one of the most-memed moments in NFL history has earned such a designation. 

The Falcons' long history of heartbreak, providing the movable object, came to the forefront against the unstoppable force that was (is?) the Patriots' historic dominance. New England completed the 25-point comeback in the Super Bowl's first overtime session, as Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and Co. won their fifth ring -- all at the expense of a city once called "Loserville."

[RELATED: How Kittle's run-blocking enthusiasm rubs off on 49ers]

Shanahan's first season on the 49ers' sideline came the following season, and San Francisco's appearance in Super Bowl LIV will be his first in the big game since, well, 28-3 happened. The 40-year-old hasn't let the scoreline define him, but it has since defined his approach as a head coach. He told reporters in Santa Clara this week that the blown lead is "something that keeps you humble every single moment until the game is over." 

And, surely, so will the Chiefs erasing double-digit playoff deficits with regularity.