49ers

Why 49ers' Kwon Alexander has big role no matter how much he plays

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AP

Why 49ers' Kwon Alexander has big role no matter how much he plays

SANTA CLARA -- Kwon Alexander has gone through more than two weeks of 49ers practice after returning from a pectoral injury earlier than anyone expected.

The linebacker was worn a blue non-contact jersey the entire time since being designated to return from injured reserve.

Alexander finally took it off last week for the divisional-round playoff victory over the Minnesota Vikings. The tackling machine didn’t show up in the stat sheet but was no worse for the wear heading into Sunday’s NFC Championship game against Green Bay at Levi’s Stadium.

Even six days after his first career playoff game, Alexander didn’t want to address how -- or if -- he felt better, stronger or faster.

“We feel legendary every week,” Alexander said Friday. “We all come to work with no doubts in our body about how we’re going to perform.”

That, more than anything else in his current state, shows his value to this 49ers team. He’ll never say it, but he’s not at full strength. That would be impossible so soon after a major injury many initially thought might end his season.

Alexander’s positivity is palpable in everything he says and how he acts around the team.

“It’s extremely real with Kwon,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said this week. “He’s like that every second, and our guys gravitate to him. I think just the same way fans feel about him, that’s how we feel about him. Kwon is ride or die in everything he does for this football team. He will go out there, he plays that way when he’s healthy, he plays that way when he’s hurt. He talks that way. He lives football. That’s why his football character is one of the highest I’ve been around. That’s just his character as a man, to me, is just that way too.”

The team loves Alexander’s energy, and he appreciates how much they have supported him through a trying first season in Santa Clara. He signed a four-year deal in free agency, but Alexander played in just eight regular-season games due to the aforementioned injury.

“The people in this building are so great,” Alexander said. “They all really care for me. That was a big part of my decision to come, to be around people who care for you. I think really think we can do great things around here.”

The 49ers played great against the Vikings, even though Alexander didn’t have a tangibly productive day.

He didn’t have tackle and missed a few last week against the Vikings, per Pro Football Focus, but he could be felt on film while working as a strongside linebacker. He came out in sub packages, with Dre Greenlaw manning the weak side. The rookie has done that since Alexander got hurt and has fared extremely well.

[RELATED: 49ers list no injuries ahead of NFC title game vs. Packers]

Shanahan was predictably non-committal about specific roles earlier in the week, but they could well stay the same. Alexander doesn’t seem to care. He’s just happy to be playing with his teammates on such a big stage.

“As long as we keep flying around and making plays, we’re going to be alright,” Alexander said. “That’s for sure.”

Programming note: NBC Sports Bay Area feeds your hunger for 49ers playoff coverage at 2:30 p.m. Sunday for “49ers Pregame Live,” with Laura Britt, Jeff Garcia, Donte Whitner, Ian Williams and Grant Liffmann previewing the NFC Championship Game against the Packers. That same crew will have all the postgame reaction on “49ers Postgame Live,” starting at approximately 6:30 p.m.

NFL Draft 2020: Chase Young motivated by former teammate Nick Bosa

NFL Draft 2020: Chase Young motivated by former teammate Nick Bosa

Nick Bosa might have been the best player in last year’s draft, but the top spot went to a quarterback to fill a need for the team with the No. 1 overall pick.

Things could very well go the same way this year, with the Cincinnati Bengals taking quarterback Joe Burrow with the first selection.

That would leave the consensus top player, Chase Young, for Washington at No. 2.

Again, that player is a defensive end. Again, that player is a defensive end from Ohio State.

“Nick, he's always setting the standard,” Young said at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. “That's just motivation for me to achieve a lot of real good things.

“It's definitely been a blessing to watch him grow into the player that he is. He's definitely helped me along this passage. He hasn't stopped. I'm just grateful to be able to see him grow.”

The 49ers selected Bosa with the No. 2 overall pick last year after the Arizona Cardinals went with quarterback Kyler Murray at No. 1.

Bosa registered nine sacks during the regular season and four more in the postseason. He was the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. He and Young also have been in contact as Young goes through the same process Bosa experienced a year ago.

“He just told me to be myself,” Young said. “That's what I have been trying to do the whole time I've been here.”

Young, like Bosa, declared for the NFL Draft following his junior season. He enters the draft after compiling a more impressive college career than Bosa, who was hampered by injuries throughout his time at Ohio State.

In 34 college games, Young registered 30.5 sacks and 40.5 tackles for loss. Last season, he had 16.5 sacks, all of which came in the first nine games of the season. In 29 games at Ohio State, Bosa had 17.5 sacks and 29 tackles for loss.

[RELATEDBosa intuitively drawn to sport that shaped his life, NFL draft future]

Bosa’s brother, Joey, went to Ohio State, where he was coached by defensive line coach Larry Johnson. Nick Bosa did not have much of a decision where to attend college because the family was already sold on Johnson’s ability to groom defensive linemen.

“I think the technique that ‘Coach J’ teaches in college works in the NFL as well,” Young said. “I'll continue to perfect my technique. The toolbox that I have now, I know that it'll bring me success in the NFL. That's one thing that I took from Nick and Joey.”

Henry Ruggs, who ran 4.27 40-yard dash, met with 49ers during combine

Henry Ruggs, who ran 4.27 40-yard dash, met with 49ers during combine

The 49ers saw firsthand how a blazing-fast receiver like Tyreek Hill of the Kansas City Chiefs can change a game when Hill's deep catch on third-and-15 swung the momentum in Super Bowl LIV. Henry Ruggs, believe it or not, might be even faster. 

As San Francisco looks to upgrade its receivers for coach Kyle Shanahan's motion-heavy offense, a speedster like Ruggs could be a game-changer. The Alabama receiver said Thursday that he has met with the 49ers at the NFL Scouting Combine. 

Ruggs put on an absolute show Thursday at the combine. After measuring in at 5-foot-11 and 188 pounds, Ruggs ran a ridiculous 4.27 40-yard dash. That is the fastest among receivers this year, and the best time thus far at the combine. His time also is tied with current 49ers receiver Marquise Goodwin, who could be on his way out of San Francisco, as the fourth-fastest at the combine since 2006.

That was just the start of Ruggs' big day, too. He also recorded a 42-inch vertical leap and had a 10'11" broad jump. His athleticism simply is off the charts. 

Ruggs joins a growing list of receivers the 49ers have met with at the combine. But it seems highly unlikely he will be available for the NFC champions. The 49ers own the No. 31 pick in the draft this year, and a handful of teams ahead of them make sense as a landing spot for Ruggs. 

[RELATED: Baylor receiver Mims believes his skills match with 49ers]

Before the combine, Ruggs was selected No. 18 overall by the Miami Dolphins in our latest mock draft. It would be a big surprise to see him fall past the New Orleans Saints at No. 24 overall.

It's clear the 49ers are doing their due diligence on a loaded receiver class and could be eyeing a future star at the end of the first round. Adding Ruggs would be gold to Shanahan's offense.