Matt Maiocco

49ers notes: Joe Williams, Erik Magnuson sidelined with injuries

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AP

49ers notes: Joe Williams, Erik Magnuson sidelined with injuries

Running back Joe Williams and offensive lineman Erik Magnuson, a pair of second-year players who are competing for spots on the 49ers’ 53-man roster, sustained injuries Saturday that will sideline them for at least the opening of the regular season.

Williams sustained a fractured rib and a deep hip bruise in the 49ers’ exhibition game against the Houston Texans. And Magnuson, who appeared to be in good shape to win a roster spot due to his versatility, is expected to miss six to eight weeks with a bad hamstring injury.

Head coach Kyle Shanahan, speaking on a conference call Sunday with reporters, said a decision will likely be made in the next week how to handle the injuries. Magnuson could be a candidate to begin the season on injured reserve and return to the roster after at least six weeks.

Backup quarterback C.J. Beathard sustained a foot sprain Saturday and could be limited in practice this week. The 49ers return to practice on Tuesday in preparation for Saturday’s exhibition game against the Indianapolis Colts.

The 49ers expect to get cornerback Richard Sherman back on the field this week to take part fully in practices leading up to the third preseason game. Sherman did not play in the 49ers' first two exhibition games.

Defensive end Arik Armstead (hamstring), linebacker Malcolm Smith (hamstring) and defensive back K’Waun Williams (ankle) are likely to begin taking part in individual drills this week.

Defensive lineman Solomon Thomas and offensive lineman Garry Gilliam are still going through the return-to-play concussion protocol. They sustained head injuries in the exhibition opener Aug. 9 against Dallas.

Elvis Remains an Option

The 49ers did not pick up the contract option on veteran defensive end Elvis Dumervil, who led the 49ers with 6.5 sacks last season. Shanahan said if he and general manager John Lynch determine Dumervil can help them upgrade a group comprised of unproven young pass-rushers, they will place that phone call to get him back with the team.

“Elvis is a guy I have a lot of confidence in,” Shanahan said. “He did a great job for us last year. And if we felt that was the right opportunity at the end of this, Elvis is a guy that John and I would not hesitate to reach out to.”

High Expectations for Pettis

Jimmy Garoppolo’s pass sailed high against the Texans on Saturday, but Shanahan seemed to place more blame on rookie receiver Dante Pettis for the second-quarter interception. Pettis jumped and appeared to get both hands on the ball. Shanahan said it was a pass that should have been a reception -- not a play that turned into Houston cornerback Johnson Bademosi’s interception.

“Without a doubt,” Shanahan said immediately after the game. “I’d love for it to be perfect (pass). It would make it a lot easier, which Jimmy is capable of. Jimmy has to take responsibility for that. But Dante should catch it every single time. He’s capable of it.”

A day later, Shanahan softened his stance. He said it would have been a difficult catch for Pettis, but it’s one he expects the second-round pick to secure.

“It was harder than I talked about, but my opinion doesn’t change,” Shanahan said. “And that’s because of what I think of Dante. I have a lot of respect for Dante, and I think he can catch just about anything that touches his hands. So when it does, I expect him to. And if he doesn’t, I’m disappointed.”

Garnett Knocks off Rust

Joshua Garnett played 35 snaps at right guard and his bothersome right knee checked out just fine afterward, Shanahan said. Garnett is in competition for the starting job with Mike Person and Jonathan Cooper, who has also been limited as he returns from knee surgery.

“Now I think he has to put that string of practices together and really improve,” Shanahan said of Garnett. “I know we’re coming toward the end here, but hopefully he can get this going in the next two weeks and give him a chance to win that position.”

49ers unclear on what constitutes penalty under new NFL helmet rule

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USATSI

49ers unclear on what constitutes penalty under new NFL helmet rule

HOUSTON -- In two preseason games, the 49ers have been penalized three times under the new NFL rule that prohibits any player from lowering his head to initiate contact with the helmet.

Around the league, there appear to be different interpretations of the rule being enforced by different officiating crews through two weeks of the exhibition season. Count 49ers Kyle Shanahan among those who is not sure what defines a penalty.

“We’re all still trying to figure it out,” Shanahan said following the 49ers' game Saturday night against the Houston Texans. “We’ll see how it goes.”

In the exhibition opener, 49ers linebacker Elijah Lee was penalized for a tackle on Dallas running back Bo Scarbrough. Lee appeared to use his shoulder and helmet to make simultaneous contact with the back of Scarbrough, as he turned away from contact.

Lee told NBC Sports Bay Area that not only was he not fined for the play, but the NFL informed a representative of his that referee Ron Torbert’s crew incorrectly threw a flag.

While the three penalties called on the 49ers surprised the three players flagged for infractions, Lee said he understands the purpose behind the rule. He said he is determined to improve his technique to keep his head out of tackling as much as possible.

“It shouldn’t have been a penalty, so it makes me feel a lot better to know that,” Lee said of the play on which he was penalized. “But at the same time, I watched the play, and I do have to keep my head up. I have to keep playing safer and practicing to keep playing safer.”

On Saturday, the 49ers were called for two more questionable interpretations of the rule from referee Walt Anderson’s crew.

Raheem Mostert, who was the gunner on the left side on a punt, lowered his body as he approached Houston return man Tyler Ervin. Mostert appeared to turn to avoid a direct helmet hit on Ervin but might have made glancing helmet contact with the arm in which Ervin was holding the ball after fielding the punt.

“They said it was bad form, but I thought it was good technique by me,” Mostert said. “But I got to go look at the film. I know I tried to keep my head up, but I got to go check out the film.

“It is tough, but that’s why we have film, so we can go watch it and learn from that.”

Defensive end Jeremiah Attaochu was called for unnecessary roughness, lowering his helmet to initiate contact while rushing the passer against Texans right tackle Chad Slade. But Attaochu appeared to extend his arms first. He appeared to initiate contact with his hands before any his helmet made contact with Slade's helmet.

“I had no idea, actually,” Attaochu said. “I just tried to put my hands on his chest and turn into him, trying to stay underneath him. I didn’t understand it.”

Taking the helmet out of tackling has been a major emphasis for the NFL as a safety issue. And there are almost certain to be more complications and controversy as officiating crews must make important and, in some cases, game-changing calls in a split-second.

“It’s whatever they call it, and at the end of the day, we can’t argue with what they call,” Lee said. “I guess we’ll see after we get out of the preseason if they change or how it will change or how it will effect us.

“At the same time, you can’t play hesitant because a big play might happen for the offense. You just got play your game and hope it’s not a penalty.”

Three things you need to know from 49ers' 16-13 preseason loss to Texans

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USATSI

Three things you need to know from 49ers' 16-13 preseason loss to Texans

HOUSTON -- Here are three things you need to know about the 49ers’ 16-13 loss to the Houston Texans on Saturday night in Week 2 of the exhibition season...

Interior D-line has Depth

The 49ers still don’t really know from where their outside pass rush is going to come, but the interior of the defensive line looks to be in good shape. Veteran Earl Mitchell is a solid presence at nose tackle. And DeForest Buckner could become one of the league’s better defensive tackles.

Behind Mitchell and Buckner are a couple of young players who have put together strong training camps. Sheldon Day and D.J. Jones continued their impressive play on Saturday with strong showings against the Texans.

Day recorded five tackles and forced a fumble, while Jones came up with three tackles and a forced fumble, too. Day is in his first summer with the 49ers after the club claimed him off waivers from the Jacksonville Jaguars last season.

Jones, meanwhile, has made tremendous strides since his rookie season. He said he lost 20 pounds from the end of last season when he regularly found himself on the inactive list for games.

“I feel like it’s been a big turnaround, the way I changed my body in the offseason,” Jones said. “Toward the end of the season when I wasn’t playing, the way I practiced, it got me prepared for this season.”

In the Right Slot

Second-year player Trent Taylor missed most of the offseason program after undergoing surgery to remove bone spurs in his lower back. He has slowly been working back into form during training camp.

Taylor clearly made a lot of progress during this week in Houston. He was Jimmy Garoppolo’s favorite target during the two days of practices against the Texans. And Garoppolo looked for Taylor again on Saturday with a 2-yard touchdown pass to cap the 49ers’ first drive of the game.

“I’m starting to get stronger and get my legs back under me,” Taylor said. “It’s always good to feel improvement as you work. I still have a little ways to go, but it definitely felt great being out there tonight and getting my first catch as a TD.”

Taylor, the team’s primary slot receiver, had only two catches for 7 yards. But his other reception was a 5-yard catch to extend the 49ers' second drive on a third-and-4 play.

Penalties Galore

The 49ers certainly have a lot of room for improvement, especially when it comes to avoiding flags. Kyle Shanahan’s team was called for 15 penalties, totaling 140 yards.

What always gets to Shanahan most are the pre-snap penalties. Joe Staley (false start), Kendrick Bourne (illegal formation), Darrell Williams (false start) and Cedric Thornton (neutral zone infraction) were called for those kinds of infractions.

The worst sequence of penalties, however, went to veteran center Weston Richburg. He was guilty of a rare double-penalty on the first play of the second quarter when he was flagged for holding, then another 15 yards for his ensuing dialogue with the official.

Two of the penalties might have been excusable, though. Raheem Mostert and Jeremiah Attaochu were called for strict interpretations of the NFL’s new rule on lowering the helmet to initiate contact.