Jason Verrett

How 49ers rookie Tim Harris is adjusting to life in NFL, in Bay Area

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How 49ers rookie Tim Harris is adjusting to life in NFL, in Bay Area

SANTA CLARA -- 49ers rookie Tim Harris Jr. attended college fewer than 100 miles from his high school. The cornerback went to Varina High School just outside of Richmond and played for the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, spending his formative years in the commonwealth.

Naturally, one difference already has stood out to Harris during his short time in Santa Clara.

“Probably the weather,” Harris told NBC Sports Bay Area on Thursday at the 49ers’ practice facility. “Beautiful day. What's today, like, 75, 80, no humidity? Back at home, it's probably 95, 100 percent humidity.”

Harris was off by a few percentage points, but his point was understood. The Santa Clara heat doesn’t hit the same as the muggy summers on the east coast.

But the 24-year-old has had to learn about more than just the local climate in his transition to the NFL. After season-ending injuries in what would have been his senior seasons at Virginia in both 2016 and 2017, Harris finally is getting a chance in the professional ranks after the 49ers selected him No. 198 overall in the sixth round of April’s draft.

Harris was third in line for reps at cornerback Thursday, but said he expects to see the field a lot in Saturday’s preseason opener at Levi’s Stadium against the Dallas Cowboys. Many regulars are expected to sit out, opening the door for Harris to take significant reps in his first professional game.

“I'm excited,” Harris said. “I know when I go out there [and] go in warm-ups and stuff, I'll be like, 'Whoa, I'm really about to play in the game.' But once I get out there, I'll be fine."

Like most rookies, Harris still is learning on the job. He has observed the work his veteran teammates put into preparing their bodies for a long NFL season and still is adjusting to the speed of the pro ranks.

During 11-on-11 walkthrough Thursday, Harris received instruction from his teammates and coaches as his wide receiver motioned across the offensive formation. In addition to knowing the 49ers’ defensive playbook, he also has had to learn to recognize the offense’s plays.

Cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon was in Harris’ cleats two summers ago, and said keeping up with coach Kyle Shanahan’s complex offense was a challenge in and of itself as a rookie.

“Just the speed and everything moving, all the moving parts,” Witherspoon said of going against Shanahan’s offense in camp as a rookie. “But really at the end of the day, you’ve got to guard the man in front of you, but you just don’t know where that guy is all the time.”

[RELATED: How Tarvaris Moore embraces challenge of moving back to safety]

Harris has relied on the 49ers’ veterans to help him acclimate. He reconnected with Richard Sherman after first meeting him at a football camp in high school, and said veteran cornerback Jason Verrett has been particularly helpful in camp.

The rookie will lean on that insight in his bid for a spot on the 53-man roster or the practice squad. After all, he wants to enjoy the Bay Area’s summers for a while.

"Nah, I don't,” Harris laughed when asked if he missed the summer humidity back home. “I would stay out here as long as I can. I'd live out here forever."

What Jason Verrett ankle injury means for 49ers' Ahkello Witherspoon

What Jason Verrett ankle injury means for 49ers' Ahkello Witherspoon

SANTA CLARA -- 49ers cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon said he felt the absence of the man he is directly competing with in training camp.

Jason Verrett did not practice Thursday after injuring his ankle in Wednesday’s practice. Coach Kyle Shanahan said the team feared Verrett’s injury would be more significant, but they hope he will be ready for the start of the regular season.

The 49ers signed Verrett to a one-year deal this offseason, and he was competing with Witherspoon for the starting cornerback spot alongside Richard Sherman.

"The dude's very talented,” Witherspoon said of Verrett on Thursday. “Period. [He’s p]hysically gifted. He's very focused. He loves to play football, and a guy like that, you just love to have in the room, you love to compete with straight-up. It's just unfortunate what happened to him, but we'll have him back and he'll be a big part of our team."

Witherspoon’s up-and-down second NFL season ended two games early after he sprained his PCL in Week 15 against the Seattle Seahawks. He showed signs of improvement before the injury, and Shanahan said at the end of the season that the team hoped that would continue during the offseason program.

The 24-year-old arguably was the 49ers’ best defensive player during OTAs, which Verrett was held out of. Verrett, 28, tore his Achilles on the first day of training camp with the Los Angeles Chargers last year, and has dealt with myriad of injuries throughout his career. The 2015 Pro Bowler has played in only 25 NFL games, and just five since the start of the 2016 season.

“You feel for a guy, just the injuries he's been through,” Witherspoon said. “Definitely a big relief that it's not nothing longer. And then in the same respect, you just feel bad for anything -- even a day off -- for a guy that loves to play the game like he does, it's tough to see.”

In the meantime, Witherspoon will continue to get reps with the 49ers’ No. 1 defensive unit as he did Thursday. Witherspoon returned to practice Tuesday after dealing with glute tightness during the first week of training camp, and he said he feels “great” now. At one point during 11-on-11 drills, Witherspoon blanketed receiver Dante Pettis and forced an incompletion, turning to the referee in hopes of drawing an offensive pass-interference penalty.

Witherspoon said he wasn’t sure how much he would play in Saturday’s preseason opener against the Dallas Cowboys at Levi’s Stadium. In Verrett’s absence, he likely will line up with the first-team defense when the 49ers hold joint practices with the Denver Broncos next week and during the team’s “dress rehearsal” in the third preseason game against the high-octane Kansas City Chiefs.

[RELATED: 49ers initially feared Bosa would miss whole season]

Provided he stays healthy, Witherspoon is in line for a lot of reps through the remainder of training camp and the preseason. Still, Shanahan said “there will be some good competition” when Verrett is able to return.

“He’s one that we can be more patient with,” Shanahan said of Verrett. “We know the football player he is, we’ve seen the guy since he’s been here. He’s as good of a guy and as good of a competitor as I’ve been around. We’ve got ultimate trust in him, it’s just about him getting his body right.”

49ers hope Nick Bosa, Jerick McKinnon, others will be ready for Week 1

49ers hope Nick Bosa, Jerick McKinnon, others will be ready for Week 1

SANTA CLARA – The bad news came Wednesday morning.

But one day later, 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said he felt fortunate that the outlooks for defensive end Nick Bosa and cornerback Jason Verrett were not altogether gloomy.

Bosa and Verrett sustained ankle injuries in practice that could keep each player out for approximately four weeks. Shanahan said he hopes that both will be available for Week 1 of the regular season on Sept. 8 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Shanahan said Bosa was lucky to avoid a season-ending knee injury when a 300-pound-plus teammate landed on his lower leg. And, initially, the 49ers thought Verrett’s injury was significant.

“I think he was in a little dark place yesterday morning because we thought it was going to be worse than it was,” Shanahan said of Verrett. “The day ended up positive.”

Bosa and Verrett are not the only 49ers players whose availabilities for Week 1 are in question. Running back Jerick McKinnon, nickel back K’Waun Williams and center Weston Richburg will be sidelined for multiple weeks.

McKinnon had a platelet-rich plasma (PRP) treatment after experiencing soreness in his knee after two days of returning to practice. He’ll have two weeks to recover after the treatment, then 18 days before Week 1 of the regular season, Shanahan said.

“If he’s ready, that would be great,” Shanahan said. “If not, we’ll be patient with him.”

Williams underwent an arthroscopic procedure, and Richburg remains on the physically unable to perform list after offseason surgery.

Bosa and Verrett have experienced their share of injuries in the past, which makes the injuries they sustained in practice even more difficult to handle.

“You’re dealing with two guys that it means more to them to play football and be successful than you could ever imagine,” Shanahan said. “It’s their livelihoods. It’s everything they do.”

Bosa was one of the standouts of training camp through the team’s first 10 practices. The 49ers selected him No. 2 overall in the draft despite him playing in just 2 ½ games in his final college season before sustaining a core muscle injury.

“I’ve been around one of the most physical rookies I’ve been around, as far as playing the run and playing the pass,” Shanahan said. “He gets after it. He’s tough as can-be.”

[RELATED: NFL rumors: 49ers' Nick Bosa, Jason Verrett have ankle sprains, MRIs show]

Verrett has appeared in just 25 games since entering the 2014 as a first-round draft pick of the Chargers. He missed all of last season with an Achilles tear.

“What Jason’s been through these last few years,” Shanahan said. “Everybody knows how good of a corner he is – not just us, everyone does. And for him to not be able to go out there and show that has got to be frustrating for him.”