49ers

Veterans most vulnerable to losing roster spots with 49ers

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USATI

Veterans most vulnerable to losing roster spots with 49ers

At the midway point of the 49ers’ exhibition season, there continues to be a lot of competition and more than a handful of veterans who have yet to lock down roster spots.

“I can tell you, it’s going to be real tough to cut it down to 53,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said last week. “We’re going to need all this game and practices to evaluate that.”

Here are the 49ers’ returning veteran players whose roster spots appear to be the most vulnerable with two weeks of practices and two exhibition games remaining to prove themselves:

OLB Ahmad Brooks
Brooks’ $4.45 million base salary is not much of a concern, considering the team is still $65.2 million under the salary cap. The number that factors into this decision the most is 33. That’s Brooks’ age.

If he is not clearly better than 23-year-old Eli Harold at the SAM linebacker position, the 49ers might want to keep the younger player to develop. Brooks is not talked about for his locker-room presence, so this decision will be made solely for what he does on the field and what he is expected to give the team in the future.

“You want to know who’s got the most upside and things like that,” Shanahan said. “Who’s going to be better throughout the year, if given the opportunity. But you also want to know who when it’s all said and done who’s going to affect your win-loss record the most. Those are the things that I look at personally. You don’t always want to think who’s the best guy for Week 1. Who’s the best guy for the 2017 49ers?”

OG Zane Beadles
Beadles is currently working with the first-team offense, but his spot on the roster remains vulnerable. The 49ers’ decision-makers do not seem impressed with their offensive guards. The 49ers could look to pick up a guard from another team before the start of the season.

The jury is still out on Joshua Garnett, who had a good start to camp. But his play dropped off in Week 2 – perhaps because of the knee injury that required a procedure to clean up cartilage. Garnett may not be available for the start of the regular season.

Also, the 49ers may want to hold onto undrafted rookie lineman Erik Magnuson, who has a bigger upside than Beadles with youth, size and ability to play guard and center.

NT Quinton Dial
Earl Mitchell appears locked-in as the 49ers’ starting nose tackle. The 49ers also seem to have high hopes for rookie D.J. Jones. It’s unclear where that leaves Dial, who does not appear to be a great fit for the 49ers’ new 4-3 scheme.

Dial should be a starter in the NFL. But he is better-suited to be positioned in a 3-4 scheme, using his strength and power as a two-gap player rather than adapt to a one-gap scheme in which quickness and agility are the main requirements.

DE Aaron Lynch
Before sustaining an ankle injury, Lynch had done everything the 49ers wanted of him – including reporting to camp at the weight that was ordered. Lynch also looked very good in the 49ers’ exhibition opener, recording two sacks against Kansas City.

But Lynch’s spot is not guaranteed, by any means. Arik Armstead, Elvis Dumervil, Ronald Blair and rookie Pita Taumoepenu all can play similar roles. If Lynch does not eat well or maintain his conditioning while rehabbing from his ankle injury, he could erase all of the positive steps he took at the beginning of camp.

TE Vance McDonald
The onus was on McDonald at the beginning of camp to win his way onto the team. His solid play has increased his odds of a roster spot, but it is not a sure thing. This is a position where all the incumbents – McDonald, Garrett Celek and Blake Bell -- face stiff challenges.

George Kittle will definitely be on the team. Blocking specialist Logan Paulsen and rookie Cole Hikutini are also in the mix. Hikutini does not appear ready to be a contributor this season. If they waive him with hopes of placing him on the practice squad, it seems unlikely another team would claim him for their 53-man roster. But is that a chance the 49ers are willing to take?

DE Tank Carradine
Carradine appears to be on solid footing at the 49ers’ big-end position, considering he remains on the first-team defense despite the addition of Solomon Thomas, the No. 3 overall selection. But it seems to be only a matter of time before Thomas takes on a greater role. Carradine could still be kept around as a backup.

Ronald Blair, a fifth-round draft pick in 2016, was buried on the depth chart at the beginning of camp. And a pulled groin muscle that has kept him out of action for more than a week does not help is cause, either.

Jed York compares 49ers' journey through muck to 'Shawshank Redemption'

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AP

Jed York compares 49ers' journey through muck to 'Shawshank Redemption'

SANTA CLARA -- 49ers CEO Jed York was in a good mood Friday afternoon. He was sarcastic, funny and a bit self-deprecating during a 20-minute surprise interview session with reporters on hand for the final 49ers access period before the team leaves to play Super Bowl LIV in Miami.

It’s easy to find a smile with the 49ers doing so well. They dominated the regular season, rolled through the NFC playoffs and are now set to play the Kansas City Chiefs on Feb. 2 for the NFL title.

Just because the sun is now shining, it doesn't mean York has forgotten recent days with rainclouds overhead.

“I try to think every day about banners flying over the stadium asking for me to step down from the team,” York said with tongue firmly planted in cheek. “That’s always my favorite experience. No, I’m just focused on what we have to do. ... I am happy for our fans. Being in the Super Bowl seven years ago doesn't feel that long, except for the deep valley we went into in between.”

The 49ers now have a chance to do something great. They can add a sixth Lombardi Trophy to their collection with one more win this season.

They can do so right after emerging from a dark era that included two disappointing seasons to start the Kyle Shanahan-John Lynch regime. York expected that when he gave his head coach and general manager six-year contracts. Looking back, York is glad he decided to offer such long-term deals. He wanted stability after several seasons of turmoil.

“I think I’m still paying, like, three coaches,” York said with a smile. “I thought, 'If we’re going to pay them, we might as well pay the same one for six years. Seems like a good idea to me.' It was clear that [Shanahan and I] had the vision and sync. I know that it was a six-year deal but, to me, it was two years of fixing what we needed to fix and then this was Year One of a four-year deal. It was important knowing that Kyle is someone that I can work with and John is someone I can work with to get through the tough stuff.”

The tough stuff. 49ers fans know all about that after suffering through some terrible seasons after the Jim Harbaugh era ended. York evoked “Shawshank Redemption” when describing the journey through bad times to reach this good one. The description was both apt and dead-on accurate.

“I made an Andy Dufresne reference earlier. Everybody wants to get to the beach at the end [of "Shawshank Redemption"], but no one wants to go through what he went through to get to the beach,” York said. “We had to get through that. Kyle and John were guys I knew could help us get through that. I wanted to send a message to our fans and our team that these guys are here. Not that we knew we weren’t going to win games, but it was unlikely that we were going to win from Day One and win the Super Bowl right away.

“I didn’t want people to wonder in Year Three if they were on the hot seat. No. It’s a six-year deal. We’ve walked into this thing together and we’re going to build this thing the right way. We didn’t make every right trade or draft pick. We didn’t sign the right free agents all the time, but it’s the culmination of everything we do. We want to build the right team. You have to have a long-term vision and, when you can make those long-term decisions the right way without worrying and trying to shortcut it, then you give yourself a chance.”

[RELATED: York hopes 49ers in position to receive White House invite]

York kept working through mistakes in both personnel and executive/coaching decisions, but didn’t lose sight of his goals trying to dig the 49ers out of a hole. He used more movies to describe how he was mentally able to get through it without shaken confidence.

“My philosophies are pretty simple. "The Godfather," "Bull Durham" and "Major League" make up my philosophy on life. And maybe Shawshank a little bit. But it goes back to Crash Davis talking to Nuke LaLoosh. You’re going to get lit up when you’re in the pros. You have to remain cocky. You have to remain confident. You can’t let them get you down. It’s hard to not let outside noise affect you, but you have to block it out. I think our team has done a great job blocking out the noise and I hope I’ve done the small [things] to help them focus on the task at hand.”

Richard Sherman believes chemistry will help 49ers in Super Bowl LIV

Richard Sherman believes chemistry will help 49ers in Super Bowl LIV

SANTA CLARA — All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman has taken part in 14 playoff games and two Super Bowls, but he believes that those experiences are overrated as an asset, whereas team chemistry is not. 

Many 49ers players have been influenced by Sherman’s leadership and character. Watching him interact in the locker room is akin to mayor working the room but without the negative connotations. He talks to everyone, offense, defense and special teams alike. 

While Sherman’s play on the field speaks for itself, coach Kyle Shanahan believes that what he represents in the locker that might be just as important. 

“I think he's meant a ton,” Shanahan said. “You can probably ask each guy and probably get a different answer. He's helped us the most by how he's played, but also having a guy that's been there and done that, especially having a young team.

“When you have a guy who guys have grown up watching a little bit, and being in big games like this and even starting out the year 8-0, going through that, and having guys who have kind of been at the top of the league halfway through, echo how tough it's going to be to keep that going. 

“Any time you have guys with experience who have been through it who are also one of your better players, it helps a ton.”

Someone who appreciates Sherman’s open door attitude is fellow All-Pro George Kittle.  

“Sherm's the best. He's such a leader," Kittle said. "He talks to every single person in the locker room. He's not one of those guys that sits in his locker space and just talks to guys around him. He's always around. 

“He wants to talk to everybody and he doesn't really force knowledge on you. He's definitely an open book. If you have questions for him, he'll sit and talk football with you all day. That's one thing that's incredible about him.” 

[RELATED: Jimmy G, Sherman using criticism as fuel]

The elements that Sherman believes are evident in most championship teams are what he sees in the 49ers' locker room. While it’s likely unintentional, his influence on the team's chemistry is part of what makes it so special. 

“Great players, great execution, great coaching and poise,” Sherman said. “There’s a sense of brotherhood for sure in the building. There's a trust in one another. There's a bit of adversity, you know, overcoming adversity throughout the season, and we've had all those ingredients. Then it's just guys that play hard for one another. They won't take no for an answer.”