49ers

These important competitions begin this week for 49ers during OTAs

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AP

These important competitions begin this week for 49ers during OTAs

Organized team activities are all about the passing games – offense and defense.

Those areas are where the most important competitions will take place on the practice field as the 49ers slowly start to prepare for their season opener on Sept. 8 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Full pads are not allowed to be worn in practices during the offseason program, so the real competitions begin the third day of training camp, which opens in late-July. That's when practices change from two-hand-touch to real football.

This week marks the first time since the end of last season that offense vs. defense competition is allowed to take place on the 49ers’ practice field. Although 9-on-7 run drills are permitted, it’s the 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills where reasonable opinions can start to be formed.

Here are the positions where players have a chance to take leads in their competitions heading into training camp:

Quarterback

The 49ers will take it slowly with Jimmy Garoppolo, who faces no challenge for the starting job. Garoppolo is not expected to see any 11-on-11 practice snaps until training camp.

The competition will be for the backup job.

Nick Mullens produced better statistics last season in his eight starts, during which the 49ers went 3-5 (winning 75 percent of their games for the season). But the 49ers have not given up on C.J. Beathard, a third-round draft pick in 2017.

Beathard’s skillset and toughness keep him in this competition. Mullens has his limitations, but he performed at an exceptionally high level when given his opportunity last year. Only Patrick Mahomes, Andrew Luck and Cam Newton threw for more yards in their first eight NFL starts.

But all that means is that Mullens, now, will be given a fair shot to win the backup job. He and Beathard start this offseason on equal footing.

Running back

Jerick McKinnon and Tevin Coleman likely will be expected to share the load at running back with Matt Breida not far behind. Breida proved to be a reliable pass-catcher last season. He still needs work with his route running, and this is a great time for him to polish those skills.

Coleman has experience in Kyle Shanahan’s offense. That's a huge advantage. There is no hurry to get McKinnon on the field after he missed all of last season with a torn ACL he sustained a week before the start of the regular season.

Wide receiver

There should be competition at every level of the team at this position. Dante Pettis is the closest thing to a “lock” to be a starter. He caught just 27 passes in 12 games as a rookie, but he averaged 17.3 yards and had five touchdowns.

Rookie Deebo Samuel, the 49ers’ second-round draft pick, will compete against the field, including Kendrick Bourne, for the duties on the other side. Bourne was the 49ers’ leading wide receiver last season with 42 receptions for 487 yards and four touchdowns.

Marquise Goodwin, Jordan Matthews and rookie Jalen Hurd will be angling for significant roles, while Trent Taylor and Richie James are the candidates for the primary slot job.

Cornerback

The offseason program is huge for Ahkello Witherspoon and Tarvarius Moore. There is no questioning the physical talent of both players. They were third-round draft picks in 2017 and ’18, respectively.

Witherspoon vs. Moore could be an elimination battle during the offseason program to see which of those players will go against Jason Verrett in training camp.

Verrett is coming back from a torn Achilles, which he sustained during the camp-opening conditioning test last summer with the Los Angeles Chargers. Verrett is not expected to cut it loose during the offseason program, so Witherspoon and Moore will have the advantage of a full offseason of preparation.

Safety

Jimmie Ward has bounced around from free safety to cornerback over the past few years. He is back at free safety after signing a one-year contract with the club in the offseason. Adrian Colbert entered last offseason as the starter at free safety, but now the onus is on him to beat out Ward.

The free safety position is more on display during non-padded practices than strong safety, because so much of being a box safety is coming up to finish tackles in the run game. Jaquiski Tartt and second-year player Marcell Harris will compete for that job. Pass coverage is important there, too, but that job will be won after the pads go on.

[RELATED: 49ers Insider Podcast . . . previewing organized team activities]

The rules during Phase Three allow for players to be at the facility for six hours a day for a maximum of three organized team activities during the first and second weeks. No pads are allowed, except for protective knee and elbow pads. Helmets are permitted.

49ers OTA workouts
This week: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday
May 28-29, May 31
June 3-4, June 6

Mandatory minicamp
June 11-13

Stephen Jackson insists Colin Kaepernick is owed apology by 'fake' NFL

Stephen Jackson insists Colin Kaepernick is owed apology by 'fake' NFL

On Saturday, five days after George Floyd died while in police custody in Minnesota and with protests raging across the country, the NFL released a statement.

The words from the NFL didn't go over well.

In Twitter-speak, the tweet is getting ratio'd. More than 24,000 replies to just over 4,000 retweets.

NFL players Kenny Stills, Eric Reid, and filmaker Ava DuVernay had strong reactions to the NFL's tweet.

Former Warriors forward Stephen Jackson, who considered Floyd a brother and called him "Twin," did not appreciate the NFL's statement either.

"That's so fake, man," Jackson told The Undefeated's Marc J. Spears on Monday. "It's so fake, it's so fake, it's so fake."

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Jackson believes the league should have apologized to former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who took a knee during the national anthem in 2016 to raise awareness for social injustices.

"Like, why even do it?" Jackson said. "We know it's not real. We know it's not real. You're making yourself look bad. That's one of those situations where they shouldn't even say nothing, bro. They shouldn't even say nothing. ... If anything, they need to apologize to Kaepernick. If they're gonna respond on this type of stuff, start it off with an apology to Kaepernick. Then maybe we'll accept it."

Kaepernick hasn't played in the NFL since 2016. In a column posted by CNN over the weekend, former NFL executive Joe Lockhart said one team official told him they feared losing 20 percent of their season-ticket holders if they signed Kaepernick.

Kaepernick worked out for teams last year, but wasn't signed.

[SPORTS UNCOVERED: Listen to the latest episode]

How Colton McKivitz earned 49ers' prized 'gold helmet' before NFL draft

How Colton McKivitz earned 49ers' prized 'gold helmet' before NFL draft

When general manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan took over the 49ers in 2017, they established an ideal set of criteria for potential draft-eligible prospects. An array of attributes are evaluated, from off-the-field character to football IQ.

49ers vice president of player personnel Adam Peters recently told The Athletic's Matt Barrows that fifth-round pick Colton McKivitz was one of around 15 potential draftees the team deemed worthy of this "gold helmet" designation.

“Gold helmet is not something we give out a lot,” Peters told Barrows. “The person really has to be exemplary, really has to stand out.”

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

McKivitz is a unique personality to say the least, as his father became famous around the West Virginia campus for wearing various animal skins as hats at every Mountaineer game.

But McKivitz also was a National Honor Society recipient and started 47 of 50 games in his collegiate career, even earning Big 12 Co-Offensive Lineman of the Year honors in 2019.

[RELATED: Trent Williams explains why 49ers were his ideal trade destination]

McKivitz has an aggressive reputation on the field, but his former offensive line coach and family friend says the 49ers couldn't be getting a better all-around person.

“You’re not going to find a better human being as far as moral conduct is concerned,” Brion Schiappa said. “He will never embarrass the 49ers. Ever.”

San Francisco dealt with injuries across the offensive line in 2019, and will be counting on McKivitz's versatility in 2020 for depth.