Joe Williams

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.”

Four 49ers to watch in tonight's NFL preseason opener vs. Cowboys

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Four 49ers to watch in tonight's NFL preseason opener vs. Cowboys

SANTA CLARA – The first exhibition game of the season is rarely about the starters, and 49ers’ summer unveiling will be no exception.

Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and the 49ers’ healthy starters on both sides of the ball are expected to see limited action -- one series or two -- Thursday night when the pre-cuts version of the Dallas Cowboys comes to Levi’s Stadium.

It will be a notable evening for many of the team’s young players who are either battling for spots on the roster or roles for the regular season.

Here are four 49ers players to watch in the preseason opener:

RB Joe Williams

The 49ers’ top two running backs appear set with Jerick McKinnon and Matt Breida. Talent-wise, Williams might be their equal. Now, he must prove to the team’s coaching staff that he has the “urgency” to turn his potential into reality.

Coach Kyle Shanahan has been quite blunt about Williams, a fourth-round draft pick in 2017. Shanahan saw very little outside his talent last summer that convinced him Williams could be an NFL keeper. This summer, however, Williams is playing with more aggression. He and Raheem Mostert, an ace on special teams, are competing for the No. 3 job.

“I’m just excited to watch him play out on the field,” Shanahan said. “I’m a lot more excited now than I was last year, just because of what he’s shown in practice.

“He’s come a long way in a year, and he’s given himself a chance to be a good running back. We’ll see how he looks on Thursday.”

FS D.J. Reed

Reed, a fifth-round pick from Kansas State, is a versatile defensive back who also can make a contribution in the return game. After playing cornerback in college, Reed has lined up at free safety during his first summer in the NFL. Then, in nickel situations, he moves down to cover the slot receiver.

“He’s got a great mindset, a great mentality,” 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh said. “He’s fighting. We’re asking him a lot for a rookie to learn free safety and nickel. He’s doing a good job with it.”

Reed has similar skills as Jimmie Ward, whose $8.5 million salary for this season is fully guaranteed. Ward enters his contract year, so Reed has a chance in future seasons to take over in the jack-of-all-trades role as a younger, less-expensive option.

WR Dante Pettis

Pettis, a second-round pick from Washington, has gotten off to a good start in training camp. He has put himself in position to compete to become the No. 4 receiver at the start of the regular season due to his ability to play a number of different positions.

Pettis has a unique, deceptive route-running style. His running style also is one of the reasons he was so difficult to corral as a punt returner. He set the college football record with nine career returns for touchdowns.

“He moves differently than most guys," Garoppolo said. "He has some long limbs, long arms, long legs, and it helps him create space with defenders. He has a unique ability, I call it wiggle.”

DL Jullian Taylor

Arik Armstead, who plays the 49ers' "big end" position, was expected to miss a month with a hamstring injury that he sustained on July 29. Armstead’s absence has opened the door for Taylor, a seventh-round pick, to not only make the 53-man roster but to earn a significant role in the defensive-line rotation.

Taylor (6-5, 280) looks and plays bigger than his listed size. He saw action in just 15 games during an injury-plagued college career at Temple, so the exhibition season is important for his development.

“He brings an awesome mindset of physicality, violence and effort,” Saleh said. “The guy’s got unbelievable strain in his game. He’s got a very, very long way to go.”

49ers notes: Kyle Shanahan admits second-guessing Joe Williams pick

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49ers notes: Kyle Shanahan admits second-guessing Joe Williams pick

After two days of the 2017 draft, running back Joe Williams was not even on the 49ers’ draft board.

But through the persistence of coach Kyle Shanahan and running backs coach Bobby Turner, 49ers general manager John Lynch reconsidered. Williams’ talent was obvious. But some questions remained after Williams took a hiatus during his final season at Utah. But when Williams rejoined his college team, he was better than ever.

Wiiliams said a personal struggle of the past 10 years -- being there when his sister passed away -- led to him step away from the game to confront some of those issues. After Lynch spoke with Williams over the phone in the morning of Day 3 of the draft, he was placed on the team's draft board. The 49ers traded up to select him the No. 121 overall pick.

Williams had a rough training camp as a rookie, and the 49ers placed him on injured reserve with a minor foot injury. Shanahan did not mince words when asked on Friday if he second-guessed himself for going to bat for Williams a year ago.

“Yeah, of course,” Shanahan said. “You think that with everybody. I do believe in Joe’s ability and his talent. That’s why we wanted him here.

“You’ve got to be talented and it’s got to mean a lot to you. I think it does to Joe. But I think it’s taken him time to see the difference and the urgency that it takes to succeed at this level.”

Williams has run with more urgency during training camp this summer. And he appears more willing to sacrifice his body and take the hits required from the position.

“Joe wasn’t quite as ready last year and that does make you wonder, because you can’t succeed if you don’t have that mindset,” Shanahan said. “But I’ve seen it this year. I saw it in the way he worked and I feel that he fixed his body, got a lot more muscle and got in better shape.

“But you really never know until you put the pads on because he showed it in OTAs and we’ve had the pads on for a while now and it’s been what we were hoping to see. Hopefully it will continue over to games.”

Williams is likely to compete against special-teams ace Raheem Mostert for the job as the 49ers’ No. 3 running back behind Jerick McKinnon and Matt Breida.

Wrapping mind around helmet rule

Those who play the safety position are likely to face the biggest challenge when it comes to avoiding penalties associated with the NFL's new helmet rule.

This week, referee Ron Torbert and his crew officiated practices in Santa Clara and met with the players to discuss rules interpretations. Topic No. 1 was the new rule that makes it illegal for any player to lower his head and initiate contact with the helmet. The players watched video examples of legal and illegal hits.

“There were a few plays, like, ‘Wow, if I’m trying to tackle a guy low and he ducks and I hit him with my facemask, what can I do then?’” 49ers strong safety Jaquiski Tartt said. “At a point, it’s like we might as well be playing two-hand touch.

“I feel like it’s still in the gray area. We work on trying to keep the head out of the way, so I don’t think it’ll be a problem.”

Still getting up to speed

The 49ers evaluated center Weston Richburg as a good fit for their scheme due to his smarts and athletic ability, requirements for the team’s offensive linemen.

The center must be the focal point of the offensive line because of the communication required from the position. Richburg is still learning Shanahan’s system.

“I know I have some more work to do in that aspect,” Richburg said. “I want to be able to be very consistent and very dependable with what my responsibilities are. I’m glad we have several more weeks of camp, so I can really work on those things and become a consistent person they can trust up front.”

McGlinchey’s up and downs

Right tackle Mike McGlinchey, the 49ers’ pick with the No. 9 overall slot in the draft, has his hands full in his first training camp. Defensive end Cassius Marsh has been seemingly winning most of the battles during one-on-one drills, and outside linebacker Dekoda Watson beat McGlinchey twice during a three-play period during an 11-on-11 session on Friday.

That is all part of the learning experience, Shanahan said.

“Those guys are going against each other every day,” Shanahan said. “Guys should beat you eventually. Hopefully the quarterback gets rid of the ball. Sometimes you have a halfback in there to chip him, things like that. But, him and Marsh have been battling a lot. I think McGlinchey is getting better and I also think our D-Line is getting better. So it’s been a fun battle for all of those guys.”