49ers

Why 49ers' joint training camp practices with Broncos are so critical

Why 49ers' joint training camp practices with Broncos are so critical

The 49ers are experiencing a day off in Denver on Thursday before taking part in their two biggest practices of training camp.

After 13 days of working against one another, the 49ers will get a fresh look during practices Friday and Saturday against the Denver Broncos at their training facility in Englewood, Colorado.

Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo will try to bounce back after his roughest practice as a member of the 49ers. On Wednesday, Garoppolo threw interceptions on five consecutive pass attempts.

Coach Kyle Shanahan said he has not decided how much Garoppolo will play when the 49ers and Broncos meet Monday night in a preseason game.

“I haven’t decided, yet,” Shanahan said. “That depends on how the practices go this week. That’s something I’ll probably decide on Sunday.”

In addition to providing the coaching staffs and personnel departments a chance to evaluate their own roster against players from another team, the practices are an opportunity for bubble players to impress another organization. There are also the possibility of trades as the teams assess the strengths and weaknesses of their rosters.

“I think you should always use these opportunities as an advantage to learn other teams and things like that as much as you can,” Shanahan said. “Not just knowing each other, but also scouts, everyone. It helps you for trade possibilities.

“But it also helps you (because) each year, guys eventually become free agents and sometimes it’s nice to see how guys work and things like that as opposed to watching guys on game tape. It’s nice to see how guys practice and things like that.”

There are coaches on both teams that already are familiar with many players on the team’s roster.

First-year 49ers defensive backs coach/passing game coordinator Joe Woods spent the past two seasons as Broncos defensive coordinator. He was Denver’s defensive backs coach the two years prior to his promotion.

And Rich Scangarello, whom first-year Broncos coach Vic Fangio hired as his offensive coordinator, spent the past two seasons on Shanahan’s staff as quarterbacks coach.

“It’s always good to be around other people in this league, because it’s a pretty close fraternity and usually your paths cross more than once,” Shanahan said.

Shanahan and Fangio, along with the coordinators for both teams, have communicated to work out the scripts for the practice sessions. One element of the joint practices that might not meet Shanahan’s approval, however, is the soundtrack.

Fangio did away with music playing during practice at Broncos practices because, he said, it does not replicate a game environment and he felt it interferes with his ability to relay coaching points to his players.

Shanahan, however, is a proponent of music to keep the practices upbeat.

When asked if there will be music during the joint practices, Shanahan answered, “I haven’t asked that yet. I’m really hoping so, but I have a feeling there won’t be.”

Shanahan was correct.

[RELATED: King believes 49ers can make the playoffs if this happens]

He acknowledged that Fangio gets the final say because of his homefield advantage.

“Yeah, it’s his spot,” Shanahan said. “So, yeah, he’s got it.”

How 49ers star George Kittle reminds retired Rob Gronkowski of himself

How 49ers star George Kittle reminds retired Rob Gronkowski of himself

Gronk has spoken. 

The Athletic's Daniel Brown asked the former New England Patriots tight end in the lead-up to Super Bowl LIV who he would take between 49ers star George Kittle and Kansas City Chiefs counterpart Travis Kelce. There are no wrong answers, considering either can credibly claim themselves to be the NFL's best tight end since Gronkowski retired last March. 

Gronkowski, though, has a personal preference. 

“Kittle, for sure,’’ Gronkowski told Brown in Miami. “Because he just reminds me of myself a little bit with the way he plays the game.”

In 2018, Kittle and Kelce both broke Gronkowski's single-season record for the most receiving yards by a tight end. Kittle (1,377) barely edged Kelce (1,336), finishing the year with the most prolific campaign by a tight end in NFL history. 

In fact, no tight end caught more passes (216) for more yards (2,945) in the first three years of their NFL career than Kittle. But Kittle's not just a pass-catcher, enjoying run-blocking just as much -- if not more -- than scoring touchdowns. 

Kittle's complete skill set allowed him to break another one of Gronkowski's single-season records, earning Pro Football Focus' highest grade by a tight end. Combine the all-around skills, passion for the sport and a fun-loving personality, and you'd be forgiven for mistaking Gronkowski and Kittle for the Spider-Man meme. 

“I see a little bit of me in both, but I would say I’m definitely more of a Kittle, hands down,’’ Gronkowski said. “I would say that because of the attitude that he brings to the table, just the grit he brings into the trenches. He wants to bring it every time. He wants to be that guy that’s fierce out there and just wrecking guys whether it’s the passing game or the running game.”

[RELATED: Shanahan convinced Sherman to sign with 49ers over Lions]

Gronkowski will be covering Super Bowl LIV as an analyst for Fox Sports, getting an up-close view of the player he sees much of himself in. Kittle will have another chance to better Gronkowski, too.

The retired tight end didn't pick up a ring in his first Super Bowl appearance, as his Patriots once again lost to Eli Manning and the New York Giants. Sunday will mark Kittle's first appearance on the NFL's biggest stage, and he -- and the 49ers -- will hope for a better outcome than that of his predecessor. 

Programming note: NBC Sports Bay Area feeds your hunger for 49ers Super Bowl coverage with special editions of “49ers Central” all week (8 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, 9 p.m. Tuesday and 3 p.m. Saturday).

Also tune in at 1 p.m. on Super Bowl Sunday for a two-hour special of "49ers Pregame Live" with Laura Britt, Donte Whitner, Jeff Garcia, Ian Williams, Kelli Johnson, Greg Papa and Grant Liffmann. That same crew will have all the postgame reaction on "49ers Postgame Live," starting immediately after the game.

Why Richard Sherman passed on more guaranteed money to sign with 49ers

Why Richard Sherman passed on more guaranteed money to sign with 49ers

Richard Sherman bet on himself, and it paid off in a big way.

The 49ers' standout cornerback took a big risk when he decided to sign with San Francisco, and that's without even considering the other options that were on the table at the time. The three-year, $39 million contract he signed with the 49ers was not only incentive-laden but carried less guaranteed money than a contract Sherman ultimately passed on from coach Matt Patricia and the Detroit Lions.

"But that’s not the kind of football I want to play,” Sherman said of the Lions to The Athletic's David Lombardi. “The way you run their scheme, your culture. You want to do it the Patriots’ way and that’s really not the way I do football."

Patricia, of course, is a disciple of New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick.

"I have fun," Sherman continued. "I like music at practice. I like to hang out and be relaxed in meetings. I don’t like the stressful environment in football. [The Lions] condition every day after practice. My body isn’t built to run all day and night. I’ll be prepared, but I don’t have to be run into the ground."

Sherman has been wise to be extra cautious with his body, particularly being just over two years removed from tearing his Achilles. The 31-year-old might be getting a little long in the tooth for an NFL cornerback, but he was attracted to San Francisco at least in part due to coach Kyle Shanahan's modernized approach.

"That’s what I appreciate about Kyle,” Sherman explained. "His culture and the way he did things was very similar to how we did things in Seattle and what I was accustomed to. That made a huge difference. Hey, I can get this $20 million guaranteed and be in Detroit and lose football games. Or I can go to a place where I’m very comfortable with the scheme, coach and culture and I’m very comfortable with the things they do and I really believe we can win.

"Because I don’t think there’s anybody that can stop Kyle when he has the personnel that he has picked and put into spots, and I don’t think there’s anyone that can beat Saleh when he has the personnel that he has picked and put into spots."

[RELATED: Chiefs rookie believes he's ready to test 49ers vet Sherman]

Sherman has been correct about many things. He was right about Shanahan and Saleh, he was right to bet on himself, and after watching Detroit go a combined 9-22-1 over the last two seasons, he clearly made the right decision to pass on the Lions' offer.

Programming note: NBC Sports Bay Area feeds your hunger for 49ers Super Bowl coverage with special editions of “49ers Central” all week (8 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, 9 p.m. Tuesday and 3 p.m. Saturday).

Also tune in at 1 p.m. on Super Bowl Sunday for a two-hour special of "49ers Pregame Live" with Laura Britt, Donte Whitner, Jeff Garcia, Ian Williams, Kelli Johnson, Greg Papa and Grant Liffmann. That same crew will have all the postgame reaction on "49ers Postgame Live," starting immediately after the game.