49ers

Tyrann Mathieu returns to practice: 'I've got my swag back'

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Tyrann Mathieu returns to practice: 'I've got my swag back'

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Tyrann Mathieu, Justin Bethel and Frostee Rucker practiced for the first time this training camp Sunday and Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said "there's no doubt" all three will be ready for the Sept. 11 season opener.

Mathieu, an All-Pro safety last season who is coming back from surgery to repair a torn right ACL, participated in several plays 11-on-11 drills with the first unit, surprising himself and his teammates with how much he was able to do.

"I've got my swag back," he said. "I feel good, confident."

Bethel, a cornerback, is returning from foot surgery and defensive lineman Rucker had a foot injury that might have been related to offseason ankle surgery.

Arians also welcomed back wide receiver John Brown, out with a concussion since early in camp. However, Brown went back in the locker room after doing some individual work.

Arians said outside linebacker Alex Okafor, who did not practice, had decided to keep playing despite a torn biceps tendon rather than opt for surgery.

Mathieu returns a much wealthier "Honey Badger" after he signed a five-year, $62.5 million that included $21.5 million guaranteed and another $18.75 million guaranteed if he's on the roster at the start of the 2018 season.

The do-everything player is listed as a safety but played more snaps at cornerback last season before he went down with the knee injury on Dec. 20. It was his second significant knee injury in his three NFL seasons. He sustained a far more severe injury to his left knee in his rookie season.

Mathieu said he was "real surprised" by how good he felt and how much he was able to do in his first practice.

"I didn't feel any pain. I didn't really get tight at all," he said. "I was surprised with where I was at but I also was pleased with what I've been doing."

Bethel, a three-time Pro Bowl selection on special teams, started four games at cornerback last season and was considered a leading candidate for the job this year opposite All-Pro Patrick Peterson. But, in Bethel's absence, the job has gone to rookie Brandon Williams.

Bethel, who participated in 7-on-7 drills and a little bit of 11-on-11, said he would love to think he could win the starting job but understands that might not happen.

"Brandon's been playing really well," Bethel said. "Either way, the way we run our defense, we'll all be out there at some point."

Williams struggled in his first preseason game but was noticeably improved in Friday night's 19-3 loss at San Diego. Arians said Williams also showed improvement in the team's two joint practices with the Chargers.

"I thought Brandon got really better last week," Arians said before practice Sunday, "going against different receivers, seeing different things. I thought he held his own all week."

Asked if he thought Mathieu, Bethel and Rucker would be ready for the opener against New England, Arians said, "There's no doubt. It's just a matter of conditioning now, football conditioning, hit, getting the pad level down and all the things we've been doing the last 15-18 days."

Okafor, in the final year of his contract, missed nearly all of his rookie season with a biceps injury but came back with a team-high eight sacks in 2014. He got in the coach's dog house last season when he injured his toe during the team's bye playoff weekend and wasn't able to play in the postseason.

Arians said he was hopeful first-round draft pick, defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche, would be able to practice some Wednesday. Nkemdiche has been sidelined with a high ankle sprain since rookie training camp four weeks ago.

The Cardinals have been outscored 49-13 in two losses this preseason but Arians brushed aside any concern. He was unhappy — he used a stronger word — with the offense's performance in San Diego after the game but didn't dwell on the subject on Sunday.

He considers "95 percent" of the team's problems Friday night to be easily correctable.

"Nobody's shaken in their confidence in any way. It's preseason," Arians said. "I think the tendency (of those outside the team) is 'woe is me' but when our starters have played maybe 20 plays, that's not even a good half. We've had bad halves before and come back and won games. So it's not a doomsday situation by any stretch of the imagination."

49ers sign OL Laken Tomlinson to three-year extension

49ers sign OL Laken Tomlinson to three-year extension

Guard Laken Tomlinson appears to have wrapped up a starting position on the 49ers’ offensive line, as the club signed him to a three-year extension on Thursday.

Tomlinson, who started the final 15 games of last season at left guard, is now signed through the 2021 season, the 49ers announced.

“Laken is a very talented player who has improved consistently since joining the team one week before last year’s season opener,” 49ers general manager John Lynch said in a statement. “This offseason, his hard work and dedication paid off as he continued to progress and performed at a high level. We were confident we could work out a contract extension with Laken and we are fired up to get that done before training camp.”

The 49ers acquired Tomlinson in a trade from the Detroit Lions for a 2019 fifth-round draft pick shortly before the start of last season. The Lions selected Tomlinson with the No. 28 overall pick from Duke in 2015.

The 49ers did not pick up the fifth-year option on Tomlinson for the 2019 season, which would have cost $9.625 million. Instead, the 49ers and Tomlinson agreed to a three-year extension worth up to $18 million with $10 million guaranteed, reports the NFL Network.

Tomlinson, 26, started 24 of 30 games in his first two seasons with Detroit. He entered the 49ers’ starting lineup in Week 2 and every game for the remainder of the season.

The 49ers appear to have four starting positions set along the offensive line, with Tomlinson and tackle Joe Staley on the left side. Veteran center Weston Richburg is slated to start at center, while rookie Mike McGlinchey is settling in at right tackle.

Joshua Garnett, Jonathan Cooper and Mike Person will compete at right guard during training camp, which opens on July 25.

Rookie LB Fred Warner is setting the tone for 49ers, but he might be a little too loud

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AP

Rookie LB Fred Warner is setting the tone for 49ers, but he might be a little too loud

When the 49ers selected inside linebacker Fred Warner of BYU in the third round of the draft, it was easy to see how he fit into the team's plan with the degree of uncertainty surrounding Reuben Foster.

While Foster remained away from the team’s offseason program for five weeks, Warner felt a need to get up to speed quickly if he was needed to be a starter for Week 1 of the regular season. Warner said he was determined to learn as quickly as possible at whatever position he lined up.

“They want consistency over a guy who can make a play here and there,” Warner said on The 49ers insider Podcast. “Because if you’re a liability and you’re out there missing assignments, stuff like that, that’s going to get you cut. You have to be able to retain this information very quickly and be able to produce on the field and put a good product out there. That’s the biggest thing.”

The 49ers consider the middle linebacker (mike) and weakside linebacker (will) positions as nearly interchangeable. The major difference is the mike position is the player who communicates in the huddle. Malcolm Smith is lining up with the first team at mike, while Foster is at will. Warner is leading the second team at mike.

Foster joined the 49ers’ offseason for the final four weeks after a judge dismissed two felony charges of domestic violence. Warner knew all about Foster, the player, before meeting him as a teammate.

“He’s a very physical player, and something I didn’t know about him that I know now, he’s probably the smartest guy in the room,” Warner said. “This dude has the memory of an elephant. He doesn’t have to write notes down. He just retains things very quickly. And I think that’s what allowed him to play at such a high level as a rookie last year, aside from his physical talent.”

Warner has also learned a lot from Smith, who played six NFL seasons before sitting out last year with a torn pectoral.

“We’ve worked after practice on man coverage on tight ends and running backs.,” Warner said. “Even though that might not be something we touch on in practice or a meeting, he just wants to touch on that with me because he said, ‘If you can do this, you can play on any team in the NFL.’ “

One of the few critiques of the rookie during the offseason program is that Warner, who said he was a quiet kid as a youngster, has been a little too loud.

“He’s very smart and he plays like it on the field,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said during the first week of OTAs. “He doesn’t hesitate. He’s a rookie out there, but he’s calling the plays maybe even too loud because I can hear him from the offensive side. But, he doesn’t mind speaking up. He’s confident in what he’s doing.”

Warner said he wanted to win the confidence of his teammates, so that might have contributed to his increased decibel level.

“I want to make sure that when I get in that huddle and I’m talking to these guys, that they know that I know what I’m doing and I’m ready to go,” Warner said. “I’m the one who’s going to set the tone in the huddle before the play even happens.”