49ers

Remaining healthy and productive is a stretch for 49ers tight end Kittle

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AP

Remaining healthy and productive is a stretch for 49ers tight end Kittle

Coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch spoke separately in February about the need for 49ers tight end George Kittle to find a way to remain healthy.

It’s a reasonable concern. After all, Kittle sustained a hamstring injury on the third day of training camp. He was treated for injuries to his hip, chest, elbow, back, leg and ankle during the season.

Through it all, Kittle missed just one game due to an ankle injury and came through with an impressive rookie season after being chosen in the fifth round of last year’s draft from Iowa.

Kittle ranked second in the NFL among rookies in receiving yards last season. His 43 catches for 515 yards were the most by any rookie NFL tight end drafted after the fourth round.

The future is bright. But – as Shanahan and Lynch were pick to point out at the NFL scouting combine – Kittle must find a way to avoid injuries. Kittle addressed his offseason training regimen during the 49ers Insider Podcast.

“I was banged up a little bit,” Kittle said. “I did a whole offseason of just preparing my body -- a lot of band work -- to get my body used to hard hits and stuff like that. I did as much stretching as I could because the more flexible you are, the less likely you are to pull something.”

Kittle said no player can ever eliminate the possibility of injuries, but he took steps he believes will give him a better chance to remain able to perform.

“I think you can protect against some injuries,” Kittle said. “You can’t protect against, you’re running an outside zone and a guy falls down behind you onto your ankle or something. You can’t control stuff like that.

“I think a lot of it is luck of the draw, in my opinion. But there are things you can do to help yourself. If a stiff guy gets hit from behind, his likelihood of getting hurt is probably higher than a guy who’s super-limber.”

As a tight end, Kittle has to balance building up the weight and strength required to block defensive ends, while also remaining light enough to run pass patterns against defensive backs.

Kittle is currently in the same situation as quarterbacks Jimmy Garoppolo and C.J. Beathard, as each is going through his first full offseason program with the 49ers in Santa Clara.

“They’re both fantastic quarterbacks,” Kittle said.

Beathard, a college teammate of Kittle, started five games last season.

“He proved his toughness, taking hits, getting up, making plays,” Kittle said of Beathard.

In the final five games with Garoppolo at quarterback, Kittle caught 15 passes for 224 yards. He caught four passes for 100 yards in the season finale against the Los Angeles Rams to become the first 49ers rookie tight end since Monty Stickles in 1960 to have 100 yards receiving in a game.

Kittle praised Garoppolo for his leadership and his uncanny ability to locate the open man.

“It’s fun because you know you’re going to get the ball,” Kittle said. “He sees the whole field at all times.”

49ers camp report: Joshua Garnett begins to compete at RG

49ers camp report: Joshua Garnett begins to compete at RG

HOUSTON – Joshua Garnett worked primarily with the 49ers’ No. 1 offense during practice Thursday, as he has gotten healthy and inserted himself into the competition for the starting job at right guard.

”It feels great to be out there with the boys, and running around with them,” Garnett said after the 49ers’ second practice against the Houston Texans. “I was out here doing all the reps today. I’m feeling good.”

Garnett missed two weeks of practices and the 49ers’ first exhibition game after banging knees with a teammate in practice on July 28. It was the same knee that required surgery last August, knocking him out for the entire season.

He showed some rust on Wednesday with some missed assignments, but he otherwise looked good enough to move up to the first team on Thursday.

“He looked good on tape yesterday.” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. “He definitely looked healthy yesterday. The test will be after fatigue sets in. Today was his second day in a row. We upped his reps, so I’m looking forward to watching the tape when I get in.”

Garnett, a first-round pick from Stanford in 2016, is competing against Mike Person and Jonathan Cooper for the starting job. Cooper has yet to spend much time working with the first team after slowing rounding into shape after sustaining a knee injury in the final game of last season while with the Dallas Cowboys.

Garnett is expected to see significant action Saturday night against the Texans and could even be in the starting lineup.

“Whatever coaches see on tape and whatever coach says, that’s what I’m going to roll with,” Garnett said. “Whether I’m going with the ones, twos or threes, I’ll go out there and go as hard as I can.

“Every day is important, not just the games -- every practice, every walkthrough, every install, every meeting. I’ve got to approach it with that mindset.”

Garoppolo’s Evaluation of Practices

Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo said the 49ers’ offense benefitted from the two days of work against the Texans’ defense. Houston’s defense appeared to have the upper hand during the practices, which serve as warmups for Saturday’s exhibition game.

“I think it was good,” Garoppolo said. “They gave us a lot of different looks that we’re not used to getting. They run a different defense than what we’re used to so it got our guys thinking and I think we handled it very well.”

Garoppolo and the first-team offense were stymied during a pair of two-minute drills at the end of practice. On the first play of the first series, Garoppolo’s arm was hit as he was throwing. The pass fluttered into the secondary for an easy interception by safety Kareem Jackson. When Garoppolo got another chance, the 49ers’ offense failed to record a first down on four plays.

“To me, it’s most important because you get different coverages,” Shanahan said. “You go against our defense, you’re going against cover three about 90 percent of the time. So it’s nice to get some different looks, some more two-shell defenses, some clouds, some quarters, things like that. So it’s good work.”

Running Back Rotation

Jeremy McNichols handled most of the first-team reps at running back with Jerick McKinnon (calf) and Matt Breida (shoulder) out for the remainder of the exhibition season. Joe Williams, Raheem Mostert, Jeff Wilson and newly signed veteran Alfred Morris split the duties.

“We just try to get a look at everyone,” Shanahan said. “You try to give everyone their opportunity. We have had guys down and other guys like Joe [Williams] and Raheem, they have gotten more opportunities with the (No. 1) offensive line. So we wanted to give all of the running backs as well as you can, time with the one O-line. Also, you want to see them go against some NFL defenses. Sometimes those twos and threes aren’t quite NFL defenses, yet.”

Offensive Play of the Day

Garoppolo and rookie receiver Dante Pettis hooked up on a 30-yard corner route. Garoppolo lofted the pass to Pettis’ back shoulder, and Pettis tracked the ball and made an over-the-shoulder catch.

Defensive Plays of the Day

The No. 2 defense had an outstanding sequence during its two-minute drill. The series started against Houston with Jeremiah Attaochu breaking free for what would’ve been a quarterback sack of Brandon Weeden. (The ensuing pass was completed for a first down.) Then, on the next four plays, linebacker Fred Warner, safety Antone Exum and cornerback Tyvis Powell broke up passes. On fourth down, Greg Mabin recorded the interception.

Mental and Physical Test

At the suggestion of 49ers nose tackle Earl Mitchell, who played four seasons with the Houston Texans, left tackle Joe Staley was one of several players who took intravenous fluids before practices to combat possible dehydration from the heat.

“I had two IV bags yesterday and I went with one IV bag this morning,” Staley said. “I felt a little more sluggish today, so I think two is the go.”

In 12 NFL seasons, Staley has never experienced anything like the two days practicing in the Houston heat. The two-hour practices began at 9:15 a.m. Along with the suffocating humidity, the temperatures reached the mid-90s.

“It’s good to get work in an environment that we don’t usually get work in,” Staley said. “Training camp in California is probably some of the nicest weather you’re going to get in the NFL. So to come out here and work through the heat and test yourself mentally, it’s good for everybody.”

This ‘n’ That

There was a scary moment for rookie safety Terrell Williams, who fell hard on the concrete at the side of the field after a one-on-one coverage drill. Williams injured his knee. But afterward he was walking around fine, and said he felt fine. . . Rookie safety Marcell Harris sustained a hamstring injury in practice Wednesday and was not available. . . Mostert caught a deep pass against linebacker Zach Cunningham from Garoppolo on a wheel route. . . Exum recorded an interception at the sideline on a Joe Webb pass attempt intended for tight end MyCole Pruitt. . . . D.J. Reed broke up a well-thrown Deshaun Watson pass 35 yards down the field intended for rookie receiver Vincent Smith. . . Texans safety Kevin Drummond intercepted a C.J. Beathard pass that deflected off the hands of tight end Cole Hikutini. . . Watson hit tight end Jordan Akins on a 25-yard touchdown against the coverage of Reuben Foster. . . Cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon had an eventful three-play sequence against DeAndre Hopkins in a two-minute drill. Hopkins caught a 20-yard pass on Witherspoon. On the next play, Hopkins was flagged for offensive pass interference. Then, Witherspoon broke up a pass intended for Hopkins. . . Veteran cornerback Richard Sherman did not practice during team drills and will not play in Saturday’s game. But Sherman and Hopkins spent some time helping each other on technique after practice.

Elway revisits idea of signing Kaepernick: 'He had his chance to be here'

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USATSI

Elway revisits idea of signing Kaepernick: 'He had his chance to be here'

Two years ago, Denver Broncos GM John Elway tried to acquire quarterback Colin Kaepernick from the 49ers.

The Broncos wanted Kaepernick to agree to a restructured contract. Kaepernick's deal with the 49ers was set to pay him $26.4 million in base salary in 2016 and 2017, but Denver wanted him to take a paycut that would have paid him $7 million each of those two seasons, costing him as much as $12.4 million. At the time, sources told NBC Sports Bay Area that Kaepernick was open to taking a pay cut, but just not the sizable one the Broncos wanted him to take.

No deal was ever completed and Kaepernick played out the 2016 season with San Francisco before being released.

Two years later, the idea of signing Kaepernick to be a backup was brought up to Elway after Broncos practice.

"I said this a while ago but Colin had his chance to be here. We offered him a contract. He didn’t take it. As I said in my deposition, and I don't know if I'm legally able to say this, but he had his chance to be here. He passed it," Elway told reporters on Thursday.

Kaepernick has remained unsigned after completing the 2016 season. He drew widespread attention for bringing awareness to social injustice by taking a knee during the national anthem prior to games.