49ers training camp notebook: Jerick 'The Jet' is back

Niners get a running back and corner back from injury with 4 days left until preseason opener

Tommy Call
August 06, 2019 - 1:54 pm

Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

As we get into the thick of training campm, with the preseason opener looming on Saturday night, 49ers practice is getting a little tighter. The defense has been a dominant force in scrimmages so far in camp, but Tuesday the offense struck back — kinda. 

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Jimmy Garoppolo got camp going with a play action pass to back-up tight end Ross Dwelley for a big gain on the second play of the team scrimmage portion. The offense was able to put together a handful of positive plays, but mistakes turned their good day into a just okay day. 

After practice, head coach Kyle Shanahan announced that Garoppolo will play in the club's second and third preseason games, skipping Saturday's meeting with the Cowboys as had been previosuly planned.

The ball was on the ground a handful of times in practice with fumbles by Dante Pettis and a fumble from George Kittle as the play expired. Things took a turn when Garoppolo threw his first interception in training camp on a dropped pass by Kendrick Bourne. Garoppolo perfectly floated a ball over the defense to Bourne, but he tipped it into the hands of cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon. 

Although the defense was able to create some turnovers, the offense looks to be finally putting some things together barring some self-inflicted mistakes. Garoppolo was almost perfect on the day before a few drops and the interception that wasn’t his fault.

Jet’s back

Running back Jerick McKinnon was activated from the PUP list. McKinnon wore pads for the first time since he injured his knee in training camp a year ago. Kyle Shanahan was happy to have McKinnon suited up after looking good working out against air. 

Shanahan said when they brought in the former Minnesota Viking last offseason the team had expected Mckinnon to be “a huge part of the offense.” 

The plan is to keep things day-by-day with McKinnon.

“Hopefully sooner than later we will get him out there in some team drills," Shanahan said.

One interesting tidbit about McKinnon’s return was his missing knee brace. McKinnon didn’t wear a brace in his first practice back.

“There’s no need to wear it,” said McKinnon. “It’s a mental mindset thing for me and I haven’t been wearing it and I don’t plan to wear it during the season, so there’s no need to wear it now.” 

If McKinnon can return to his normal self, the 49ers could have one of the most devastating three-headed monster backfields in the NFL. Tevin Coleman, Matt Brieda and McKinnon will be angling for reps as training camp heats up. 

DB back from glute injury

Witherspoon returned to the practice field after missing a few days with a glute injury. Although veteran Jason Verrett has looked good in Witherspoon’s absence, Witherspoon lined up with the starters as the first scrimmage of the day began. 

“Ahkello was playing as well as he’s played since he got here before that injury," Shanahan said.

Witherspoon bounced right back with another strong practice today. Witherspoon parlayed a strong one-on-one portion of practice into scooping up Garoppolo’s first interception of camp. 

Witherspoon had an atrocious start to his 2018 season, but a few more good practices is a step in the right direction for a better start in 2019. 

Inconsistent WR Battle

One of the better battles to watch this camp has been amongst the wide receivers. Each day one guy flashes, but fades the next day or even the next play. 

Rookie Deebo Samuel put on a show in one-on-one’s. He had several great releases using fancy footwork to get open and that carried over to the scrimmage portion. Samuel had a few nice catches coming from Nick Mullens, but dropped a wide open touchdown on a perfect pass from Mullens later. 

Pettis also dealt with inconsistencies today. The sophomore wide receiver came up with a few catches, but got the ball stripped away by Greg Mabin on a “strip pick” situation after a nice play. 

Shanahan put a little pressure on the wide receiver room after practice.

“Sometimes you pick them up and sometimes you gotta get on them, but It’s not just the rookie receivers. It’s the veterans too,” said Shanahan. “We need that group to step up. We have some ability in that group, but the consistency isn’t there.” 

KS a fan of KB

Although Shanahan put some pressure on the receivers to step up, he did have praise for one pass catcher. Third-year wide out Kendrick Bourne seems to be on Shanahan’s good side for now. Shanahan said Bourne is “having a helluva camp.” 

“KB always works,” said Shanahan, “KB made big jumps compared to some other guys and it’s showing on the field and he deserves it.” 

This is the first bit of clarity Shanahan has provided when it comes to the receiver battle. There’s no doubt Shanahan is a fan of Bourne as a professional which should lead to him getting a shot to make this team. Bourne is in the mix with Jordan Matthews, Trent Taylor, Richie James and Malik Henry to shore up the 49ers receiver room. Shanahan’s comments today sound like Bourne is a lock to make the team. 

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