The real reason the 49ers parted ways with KD Cannon

The real reason the 49ers parted ways with KD Cannon

One of the more notable undrafted rookies the 49ers landed this year did not even last one week on the team's 90-man roster.

At the conclusion of the rookie minicamp, the 49ers unceremoniously parted ways with Baylor wide receiver KD Cannon. The 49ers filled his roster spot with the signing of unheralded Georgia Southern wide receiver B.J. Johnson, who was invited to attend the minicamp on a tryout basis. The New York Jets claimed Cannon off waivers.

While there were questions about the urgency with which Cannon performed during the practices, 49ers wide receivers coach Mike LaFleur said the Johnson-for-Cannon swap had more to do with the team being impressed with Johnson.

“Nothing happened with KD Cannon,” LaFleur said. “It had nothing do with KD. It was more of a testament to what B.J. showed.”

Cannon ranks No. 3 all-time in Baylor receptions (195), receiving yards (3,113) and touchdowns (27). But he was not one of the 32 wide receivers selected in the draft. The 49ers invested a fifth round draft pick in Louisiana Tech slot receiver Trent Taylor.

Cannon was waived after the 49ers’ rookie minicamp last month, while the 49ers kept undrafted rookie wide receivers Victor Bolden (Oregon State) and Kendrick Bourne (Eastern Washington).

Johnson’s best college season came as a senior when he caught 42 passes for 600 yards and three touchdowns. Johnson is 6 foot 1, 210 pounds, while Cannon is listed at 5-11, 182.

LaFleur said the 49ers liked the toughness he showed while fulfilling his blocking responsibilities in Georgia Southern’s run-based offense.

“When we brought him here, seeing that size, seeing his hands, we thought, ‘This is a guy we definitely want to work with,’” said LaFleur, who noted that Johnson has been spending time with veteran Pierre Garçon. “He’s done a really good job. He really loves it.”

Johnson concluded practice on Thursday with a sprawling intermediate reception in the middle of the field on a pass from fellow rookie quarterback C.J. Beathard. When Johnson realized nobody had touched him while he was on the ground, he got to his feet and finished off the 67-yard touchdown with linebacker Donavin Newsom and safety Malik Golden in pursuit. (The 49ers waived Golden on Friday.)

LaFleur said a premium is placed on how well a player separates and how he performs on plays in which the ball is not thrown his way. The 49ers' coaching staff is always watching, he said.

“There’s one ball out there every single time we snap the ball, but we’re watching every single thing you do,” LaFleur said. “We’re watching if you’re, first of all, on your details. Second, we’re watching if you don’t get the ball. Are you separating? When you don’t get the ball and someone else gets it, are you transitioning to go block for that guy?”

49ers hire Dustin Little as head athletic trainer, staff revamp continues


49ers hire Dustin Little as head athletic trainer, staff revamp continues

The 49ers named Dustin Little head athletic trainer Tuesday, locking in one of the final pieces of their new strength and conditioning and athletic training structure. 

After 17 players spent time on injured reserve during the 2018 season and 24 players the season prior, the 49ers sought change. The team fired longtime head athletic trainer Jeff Ferguson and head of strength and conditioning Ray Wright. 

General manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan both identified streamlining the two programs as an offseason priority. 

“It’s about where we want to go, how we can make the overall process of it better,” Shanahan said after the season ended. “Injuries happen, and we’ve looked into that, and we’re going to do everything we can to improve that. We have to, because that has hurt us a lot in the last two years.”

“We consulted with some other teams,” Lynch said a few months ago. “Organizations in some other sports, looking for the right answers, and trying to put our own stamp on it. We’re not trying to re-invent the wheel. We’re just trying to get that deal right."

Hiring Ben Peterson as the head of player health and performance several weeks ago was the first step of that process. Peterson and Little will work together closely, as the 49ers model their structure after the NHL and NBA. 

[RELATED: Football kept Kwon Alexander going after adversity]

“We are excited to add Dustin to our health and performance team and believe he is a tremendous fit for our group,” Lynch said in a statement Tuesday. “A wide net was cast for this search, and we simply kept coming back to him. 

“Our due diligence and a great recommendation from the Broncos organization, which is highly regarded for the care of its players, made us extremely confident in bringing Dustin aboard.”

Little comes to Santa Clara after spending more than five years in Denver in a variety of roles, including as an assistant athletic trainer and director of rehabilitation. 

49ers sign punter Justin Vogel as potential replacement for Bradley Pinion

49ers sign punter Justin Vogel as potential replacement for Bradley Pinion

After losing punter Bradley Pinion in free agency last week, the 49ers signed someone to take his place.

Or, at least, they signed a player who must withstand a likely competition to take his place.

The 49ers on Tuesday signed punter Justin Vogel, 25, who had an impressive rookie season with the Green Bay Packers but was cut after the team drafted punter JK Scott in the fifth round.

Vogel (6-foot-5, 220 pounds) originally entered the NFL in 2017 after signing with the Packers as an undrafted rookie free agent from Miami.

He appeared in all 16 games and posted a club-record with a net average of 41.6 yards. He was named as a Pro Bowl alternate after also recording a gross average of 44.4 yards.

The Cleveland Browns claimed Vogel, but released him before the start of the regular season. He did not appear in an NFL game last season.

[RELATED: Watch Dante Pettis throw down alley-oop windmill dunk to himself]

The 49ers are expected to add another punter to compete with Vogel during training camp.

Pinion last week signed a four-year, $11 million contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.