49ers

Why Donte Whitner thinks 49ers found slot receiver in Travis Benjamin

Why Donte Whitner thinks 49ers found slot receiver in Travis Benjamin

The 49ers last week agreed to terms with free-agent slot receiver Travis Benjamin, and Donte Whitner was not the least-bit surprised 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan wanted him.

“I played with Travis Benjamin in Cleveland while Kyle Shanahan was our offensive coordinator. And let me tell you, he loved Travis Benjamin,” Whitner said on 49ers Central.

Whitner played safety for 11 NFL seasons, including two years with the Cleveland Browns. He and Benjamin were teammates. Shanahan spent the 2014 season in Cleveland as the offensive coordinator.

“Travis Benjamin fits this offense perfectly,” Whitner said. “With those guys crossing the middle and being able to break back and have down-the-football-field speed, he fits in automatically with his offense.

“If you can get Marquise Goodwin to wake up on the outside, you’ll have two of the fastest wide receivers in the National Football League.”

Benjamin is expected to compete primarily with Trent Taylor, Richie James and Dante Pettis for the 49ers’ slot receiver role, as well as punt returner. He joins a receiving corps that currently also includes Deebo Samuel, Kendrick Bourne, Jalen Hurd and Goodwin.

Benjamin, 30, has seen his production decline for the past four seasons while with the San Diego/Los Angeles Chargers organization. The past two seasons Benjamin was limited by foot and quadriceps injuries. He appeared in just 16 games over the past two seasons and caught just 18 passes for 216 yards and one touchdown.

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Benjamin entered the NFL in 2012 as a fourth-round pick of the Browns. He ran a time of 4.36 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine, but Whitner said that number is deceiving.

“I guarantee you if you talked to any defensive back that played with him and had to cover him on a day-to-day basis, they will say that he runs a lot faster than 4.36,” Whitner said.

Why 49ers' George Kittle 'loves' playing for head coach Kyle Shanahan

Why 49ers' George Kittle 'loves' playing for head coach Kyle Shanahan

George Kittle rapidly has ascended during his three seasons in the NFL. Originally a fifth-round draft pick in 2017, Kittle has become one of the NFL's best tight ends playing in coach Kyle Shanahan's offense.

When asked what it's like to play for the young head coach, Kittle couldn't be more thrilled about having Shanahan at the helm in San Francisco.

"Awesome, Kyle is the man, I love playing for him," Kittle told Will Compton and Taylor Lewan on "Bussin' With The Boys." "One of my favorite things about him, is, he just loves football so much. And when you have a guy that loves football and its not work for him, it makes it pretty easy to play for the guy. He doesn't have to give a pump-up speech, you can just tell how much it means to him."

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

Kittle also appreciates that Shanahan doesn't beat around the bush when it comes to communicating with his players.

"He's just straight up with everybody," Kittle said. "We were 4-12 last year, and he still got up in front of the team and didn't bulls--t us or anything like, he's like 'this is why we're not good, this is what we have to do to be better, we just have to work hard and practice better.' So he's always straight up with us."

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He certainly has evoked a similar reaction from many of his players, as Shanahan's passion helped players gravitate towards the head coach.

Shanahan, Kittle and the rest of the 49ers' roster will come to training camp hungry, looking to avenge a heartbreaking loss in Super Bowl LIV.

Kyle Shanahan, 49ers targeting youth to bring about racial progress

Kyle Shanahan, 49ers targeting youth to bring about racial progress

49ers coach Kyle Shanahan has met with his players by position group, from the skill players to the offensive line, from the defensive line to the defensive backs, to create an open dialogue about both the blatant and underlying systemic racism in American society exposed by yet another act of police brutality against an African American.

Shanahan also met with a veteran group to discuss the issue and help decide what the 49ers can do to create positive change.

“We’re going to do a lot,” Shanahan said Thursday in a video conference with reporters. “There’s nothing specific yet, but our guys are working hard on it.”

George Floyd’s death while in police custody, after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed a knee against his neck for nearly nine minutes, has sparked outrage and social unrest in American society and the international community as a whole.

It has also heightened and broadened the desire to prevent such acts in the future and eliminate this American plague for good.

[49ERS INSIDER PODCASTListen to the latest episode]

Shanahan and his 49ers players believe they have found a place where they can help, by addressing an impressionable group that often views them as role models.

“We talk about that a lot, and what I hear the most from the players, which I believe in a ton, too, is what we can do for the youth and setting examples,” Shanahan said. “If all kids could watch our players interacting with each other, that’s how all people should interact with each other.”

Shanahan’s the son of a coach and is grateful to be someone who moved around a lot and interacted with a diverse football community, an experience that made him comfortable around people of all backgrounds. He believes that experience could benefit everyone and make communities more tolerant.

“I feel very fortunate that I have been around these situations because I’ve been in a football locker room since I was born,” Shanahan said. “You’re around everybody and it makes it comfortable, and the stuff people are born with and around [as a child] doesn’t leave.”

He wants his children to continue growing up in that environment. He hopes the 49ers can set a proper example for people young and older and help stop the racism passed down from one generation to the next.

“That’s the stuff we have to keep doing,” Shanahan said. “Well, how do we do that? You have to vote. You have to change all that stuff, which takes time. That may be the most important thing. How can we educate people on that? How can we make a difference? That’s something our players are looking into. Everybody wants to put money in the right spot, but you don’t want to just throw money around because people have thrown a lot of money at this stuff over the last 20 years and no one sees a ton of progress. There definitely isn’t enough, not until this type of stuff never happens.”

[RELATED: 49ers' Shanahan decries 'fact' of racism 'all over' in U.S.]

The 49ers don’t plan on just one action or only leadership by example. Instead, it will be a prolonged, thought-out effort to make a difference in this defining social issue.

“I know that our players are so passionate, black guys and white guys, about trying to fix this,” Shanahan said. “We know it’s not an easy answer. It’s the whole country admitting what is wrong. It isn’t debatable. We need to come out from being sheltered or ignorant or whatever it is. Whoever those people are, kids need to help their parents and the parents need to help their parents. We all need to speak about it and do [something about it].”