Swiss Army knife Juszczyk giving edge rushers fits: 'He's confusing me'

Mindi Bach

Swiss Army knife Juszczyk giving edge rushers fits: 'He's confusing me'

If at first it seemed a bit weird seeing Kyle Juszczyk wearing Tom Rathman’s No. 44, it's clear after a few days of training camp that it's actually a perfect fit. Juszczyk is similar in size and skill to the Super Bowl-winning San Francisco fullback.

But in Kyle Shanahan’s offensive system, Juszczyk is taking on more responsibilities typical of a tight end, a position he played at Harvard. In fact, former NFL tight end Dallas Clark is the inspiration behind his choosing No. 44 when he was with the Ravens.

“I’m getting a little more work with the tight ends than I had previously,” Juszczyk told NBCSportsBayArea.com on Wednesday, shortly after a padded practice under his new head coach. “I had taken some snaps in Baltimore in that sort of tight end position, but I think just a little more so here.”

Juszczyk often arrives early to work with assistant head coach Jon Embree, who is also the tight ends coach. He also credits veterans Vance McDonald, Garrett Celek and Blake Bell for teaching him the finer points of the position, much of which is taking place off the field.

"A lot of it has been in the classroom," Juszczyk said. "How to stay on your grind and study and what exactly I’m looking for at tight end."

The value of Juszczyk's grind can't be found on any stat sheet. He has never rushed for more than 15 yards in a game or had more than 56 yard receiving. Touchdowns are also rare -- six in four seasons. San Francisco snatched the 6-foot-1, 240-pounder out of free agency and made him the highest paid fullback in the league in large part because his ability to line up anywhere on the field gives defenses fits.

In the span of just a few plays at practice, Juszczyk caught a pass in isolation against cornerback Will Davis, blocked the much taller and much heavier Aaron Lynch, and disrupted Ahmad Brooks’ passrush.

"I have this conversation with Tank [Carradine] every single day," Brooks said about facing Juszczyk. The outside linebacker’s job is simple – set the edge, get to the quarterback. The daily conversation with his defensive lineman is how to deal with Juszczyk to accomplish that.

"What Kyle does so well at the fullback position and also in Kyle Shanahan’s offense is widen out the edge guys. When they do want to run the ball outside, his angle is so wide to block me. Even in pass situations, his angle is the same way. Sometimes I think that he’s going to block me, and he’s going out for a pass. Sometimes I think that he’s going to go out for a pass, and he’s blocking me. He’s so good at redirecting on his track and on his angle to where it’s kind of confusing me, but he’s making me better as a player."

"You have to have a mindset and whether you’re going against Ahmad Brooks or Will Davis, you have to bring that same intensity," Juszczyk explained. "It’s being able to bring the same intensity every day."

A successful game for Juszczyk is a team victory. He'd also like the running back he’s blocking for to top 100 rushing yards, the team to rush for more than 120 yards, and maybe to get a few touches himself.

"I’m never mad if you throw in a couple of receptions for myself," Juszczyk said smiling.

Juszczyk's smile grows bigger when asked about his move to the Bay Area. 

"I don’t know why I haven’t been here my whole life," Juszczyk said. "It’s beautiful here. Quality of life has definitely increased, and I couldn’t be happier."

The Ohio native bought a house in San Jose and he and his fiancé are scouting locations for a possible West Coast wedding. 

“We plan on being here awhile,” Juszczyk said.

49ers sign Damontre Moore, place Ronald Blair on season-ending IR

49ers sign Damontre Moore, place Ronald Blair on season-ending IR

SANTA CLARA -- Defensive end Damontre Moore made a strong bid for a roster spot with the 49ers with an impressive training camp and exhibition season.

Moore finally made it to the team’s 53-man roster on Wednesday, filling the roster spot that was vacated when the 49ers placed defensive end Ronald Blair on injured reserve. Blair is scheduled for season-ending surgery to repair a torn ACL in his right knee.

Moore, 27, has appeared in 54 games over the past seven seasons with the New York Giants, Miami, Seattle, Dallas and the Raiders. He has 10 sacks in his NFL career.

Moore signed a one-year contract with the 49ers on Wednesday after originally coming to the organization in the spring.

[RELATED: Shanahan confirms Witherspoon will resume starting role]

He played with the San Diego Fleet of the Alliance of American Football in the spring, and signed with the 49ers. He registered two sacks during the preseason but was among the team’s final cuts when the 49ers were required to trim their roster from 90 players to the regular-season limit of 53.

Blair served as the 49ers’ No. 3 edge rusher behind Nick Bosa and Dee Ford. Moore is likely to see action in a backup role, beginning Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals at Levi’s Stadium.

Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury expects 49ers' George Kittle to play

Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury expects 49ers' George Kittle to play

49ers coach Kyle Shanahan is hopeful tight end George Kittle will make a quicker-than-expected recovery to play Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals.

And Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury said Wednesday that his team is preparing as if they will face Kittle at his best at Levi’s Stadium this weekend.

Kittle, the 49ers’ top receiving threat, sat out the 49ers’ game Monday night against the Seattle Seahawks due to unspecified left knee and ankle issues he sustained on Oct. 31 against Arizona. Kingsbury was asked on a conference call with Bay Area reporters if he expects to see Kittle in top form on Sunday.

“No doubt,” Kingsbury said. “I thought it was amazing that he was able to stay in our game and push through and have such a great night.

“He’s one of the best, if not the best, tight ends in the league -- just kind of a physical freak. That’s matched by his personality, his relentlessness, his want to. It’s through the roof. As a competitor, you appreciate that. And I’m sure he’ll be ready to go on Sunday.”

Kittle sustained the injury on the first play of the 49ers’ Week 9 game against the Cardinals when the helmet of Cardinals defensive end Chandler Jones struck Kittle’s knee as they were running toward each other on a running play. Kittle was blocking, and Jones went to the ground as he made the tackle on 49ers running back Tevin Coleman.

[RELATED: 49ers coach Shanahan losing patience with Dante Pettis]

Kittle exited the game, but he returned to play 49 of the 49ers’ 70 offensive snaps in the Thursday night game. Kittle caught six passes for 79 yards, including an impressive 30-yard TD where he threw Arizona safety Budda Baker to the ground near the goal line.

But the impact from the injuries worsened to the point that Kittle could not continue to play in the fourth quarter. He did not practice all last week, and he remains questionable -- or, even, doubtful -- for this week’s game.

“Kittle’s just a little bit of a different bird,” Shanahan said to reporters Tuesday. “We’re never going to decide on Kittle too early in the week. He’s always got a chance with some of the stuff he’s been able to go through here in these last couple years.”