Ross Dwelley trying to follow in George Kittle's footsteps with 49ers

Ross Dwelley trying to follow in George Kittle's footsteps with 49ers

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The 49ers appear to have dodged a bullet, as the injury to George Kittle’s knee does not appear to be that serious. But thankfully, they know they have a very reliable backup option in Ross Dwelley if Kittle ever misses any time. 

Dwelley not only has lined up at tight end, but he has also stood in at fullback for Kyle Juszczyk, who has been out nursing a knee injury since Week 5. 

Dwelley only had an average of 0.5 yards per catch prior to the 49ers' 28-25 win in Arizona, but it’s what he does that doesn’t show up on a stat sheet that has been key for the 49ers. Regardless, the team still took the time to give him a hard time about his low yard totals. 

“We were messing with Dwelley all week,” coach Kyle Shanahan said after the game. “We said the No. 1 goal in this game was to win, but the No. 2 goal was to improve his yards-per-catch average because we think he was at zero or one. To do that on the last play was pretty cool. I know the guys were pumped up.”

That last play might have been Dwelley’s most important catch as a member of the 49ers. The offense faced a third-and-9 situation that could have either ended the game or resulted in a punt that would give the ball back to the Cardinals. 

After making the grab from QB Jimmy Garoppolo, Dwelley took a page out of Kittle’s yards-after-catch book and spun around, taking Cardinals cornerback Kevin Peterson with him. He ended up gaining 11 yards and effectively clinching the game. 

“I always know where the first down marker is,” Dwelley said. “So I knew when I caught it I needed three or four extra yards, so I ducked my head to get it.”

That particular play is designed for Kittle, who had taken himself out of the game knowing he had lost some mobility due to injury. Garoppolo knew he could count on Dwelley to make the play.  

“He’s just locked in,” Garoppolo said. “Every opportunity he gets, whether it’s a choice route, something down the field, blocking … he’s just locked in and you love to have a guy like that. A guy you can trust, and in big moments, makes big plays.”

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Dwelley finished the night catching all four of his targets for 29 yards, giving him a new average of four yards-per-catch through eight games. 

The 49ers hope to get Juszczyk back in Week 10 for the matchup with the division-rival Seahawks but if Kittle has to miss any time, Dwelley will be ready to stand in. The University of San Diego product has followed so closely in Kittle’s footsteps that he has proudly earned the nickname “Baby George.” 

“That’s a heck of a compliment, so I’m fine with that.”

How adjusting Fred Warner's workload has unleashed his speed for 49ers

How adjusting Fred Warner's workload has unleashed his speed for 49ers

BRADENTON, Fla. — For the second time in as many months, a member of the 49ers has been named NFC Defensive Player of the Month.

Linebacker Fred Warner took home the title for November after Nick Bosa had the honor for October. During the month, Warner tallied 44 total tackles, three sacks, four tackles for loss, three quarterback hits and two forced fumbles. 

49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh believes altering the linebacker’s responsibilities has given Warner an opportunity to play with more speed. 

“We’ve taken a lot off his plate so he can just go line up and play,” Saleh said Thursday. “Putting more of the onus on making sure that guys lineup and go play. We were playing some of those read-option teams, the Arizona teams, we’re asking him to make a lot of checks and see if he can get us in the perfect defense. 

“While he’s busy trying to do that, he’s not able to focus on his job. Even though he was getting everyone lined up and everything was perfect, it’s just not fair for him. So, to take a little bit off his plate so he can go ahead and go play, I think that’s really been the difference.”

Saleh is not alone in praising Warner. Veteran cornerback Richard Sherman also has been impressed with the young linebacker's work ethic and growth in his second season. The fact that Warner didn’t play inside until he was with the 49ers makes his accomplishments even more significant. 

“The inside linebacker already has so much on his plate,” Sherman said. “Being able to take some of that off—there was one game I think he had six calls in one play. Where if this guy moves here, he has to readjust the line. He has to tell the DBs this, he has to tell this guy this and sometimes that just doesn’t allow him to play fast.

“He’s getting everybody else lined up to play fast but he can’t play fast. He has to think about all these calls, all these adjustments. Maybe you put a little more strain on the rest of the guys. You spread out the strain and it allows him to play fast and for us to be a better defense.”

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Now in his second year, Warner sees things developing on the field more quickly. No matter the workload given to him by Saleh, the BYU product has been able to adjust.  

“I think as the year has gone on, he has kind of started to realize what’s too much, what’s too little,” Warner said. “I agree completely. Ever since kind of the midway point of the season, I think he has lined it up for me to just go out and play fast.”  

49ers' Richard Sherman, Dee Ford speak out on Tim Ryan's comments


49ers' Richard Sherman, Dee Ford speak out on Tim Ryan's comments

BRADENTON , Fla. -- Following radio broadcaster Tim Ryan's one-game suspension for his comments regarding Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson, several 49ers players spoke out, believing there was no malicious intent behind what the analyst said. 

Known as being outspoken on most topics, Richard Sherman did not mince words about what Ryan said. He even mentioned that the commentator had personally apologized to several players while at the team hotel after the announcement of his suspension. 

“I know Tim personally, and I listened to the dialogue and saw it, read it,” Sherman said. “Honestly, I wasn’t as outraged as everybody else. I understand how it can be taken in a certain context and be offensive to some. 

“But if you’re saying, ‘Hey, this is a brown ball, they are wearing dark colors, and he has a brown arm,’ honestly sometimes we were having trouble seeing it on film. He’s making a play fake and sometimes he’s swinging his arm really fast and you’re like, does he have the ball? And you look up and [Mark] Ingram is running it.

“So it was technically a valid point but the way he said it, you can always phrase things better. I’ve had a relationship with him since I’ve gotten here and he’s never been anything other than a great guy and a professional and a guy who takes his job seriously.” 

Edge rusher Dee Ford expressed similar sentiments about Ryan’s comments, and confirmed that the two had spoken since the incident. 

“He walked up to me earlier and before he even said anything I told him. ‘I got your back.’” Ford said. “I already knew the story. The words kind of got taken out of context, and of course, now he knows he could have used better judgment with his words. But we got his back. I knew what he was trying to say. 

“This era we live in, it is just what it is, but I know him personally. I speak to him a lot. He loves to watch the D-line and there’s not one -- type of bone -- you know what bone I’m talking about, in his body. So I got his back, so put that to bed really fast.”  

49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh also spoke about Ryan’s nature, not believing that there was negative intent behind his comments. 

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“I’ve always, as a human being, tried to judge people on how I interact with them,” Saleh said. “And I love the man. He’s a very genuine human being and he knows he made a mistake and he’s just trying to move this on as quickly as possible.” 

Dennis Brown will be on the call with Greg Papa during Ryan’s absence for Sunday’s matchup against the Saints in the Superdome.