SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- The San Francisco 49ers will have some sort of football activity for all three days of their mandatory full-squad minicamp this week. But they will have their final practice of the offseason program Wednesday, as coach Kyle Shanahan has adjusted the schedule to not include one final session on Thursday.
While Shanahan is the first to admit he doesn't like the idea of canceling any practices -- especially for a team coming off a 2-14 season -- he has his reasons.
“It’s tough for me to do that," Shanahan said. "I would rather practice every day. But, just trying to be smart. I’ve been a part of a lot of, many years of that last practice before you get a month off, before everyone goes on vacation, and then you come back for training camp. That practice hasn’t ever been very productive. Usually, and when it’s the last day of school, school’s not always that productive and that wouldn’t be that big of a deal if that was the only thing you were risking. But, you’re risking injuries and I have just always gotten worried."
Shanahan said cutting the minicamp a little short isn't exactly a new idea and that has been protocol at previous stops he's had as an assistant coach. Instead of a practice Thursday, the Niners will have normal meetings and there will be a two-hour workout with strength and conditioning coach Ray Wright. From there, Shanahan wants players and coaches to bring their families for a barbecue that will take place on the practice fields, complete with bounce houses for the kids.
"Most teams I’ve been on, you always cut it short," Shanahan said. "You end up just trying to get off the field and not have an injury. So, even though I would much rather practice, I just don’t think it’s the right thing to do. I’d rather end the camp healthy. The guys have been working hard. I’m going to try to get the families up here, give guys’ wives and kids a chance to meet each other before just showing up to game day and meeting at the stadium. So, I think that’s important and I do think, as I always say, the main thing in OTAs and minicamp is to get out healthy. And by stopping that last day, it gives you the best chance to do that.”
Some more notes and observations from Tuesday's practice:
Newly added defensive end Elvis Dumervil did not participate in practice, as Shanahan wants him to get acclimated before throwing him in the mix. Dumervil was on the field for the practice but watched from the side. Dumervil was wearing No. 58, a number also assigned to center Jeremy Zuttah. The pair played together in Baltimore and when asked if he was going to get his old number, Dumervil smiled and called Zuttah a "nice guy," perhaps indicating an agreement had already been reached.
Among those not participating because of injury were cornerbacks Rashard Robinson and K'Waun Williams and linebacker Ahmad Brooks. None of those injuries are thought to be serious, but it kept them out of the bulk of Tuesday's practice. Keith Reaser and Dontae Johnson handled the outside corner spots with Eli Harold filling in for Brooks. Offensive lineman Norman Price, who was in a walking boot last week, also did not practice and receiver Bruce Ellington continues to be held out of team drills.
Rookie Solomon Thomas will not be able to participate on Wednesday as he continues to wait for classes to end at Stanford. He will be able to attend meetings and the workout on Thursday before parting ways for the summer. It's also possible Thomas will join teammates DeForest Buckner, Arik Armstead, Ronald Blair and Harold in Hawaii for training with the Seattle Seahawks' Michael Bennett. Buckner indicated that Thomas was considering joining that quartet.
Tuesday’s practice was the first time the offense found a rhythm during the offseason program in a practice that was open to the media. Shanahan has said the offense has had its good days, but it just so happened those didn’t come in open practices. Regardless, there was much more to take from this practice if you were looking for offensive production.
Quarterback Brian Hoyer finally connected on some deep balls, including one down the middle of the field to Marquise Goodwin for a touchdown and another to tight end George Kittle deep down the seam. Both connections came off of play-action and a number of underneath throws that seemed to help set them up. Hoyer still missed on some throws and was a little late on a couple for open receivers, but it was one of his best days in front of outside observers.
It was a busy day for running back Tim Hightower, who already looks at home as a safety valve in the offense. Hard to say how much he’ll be involved in the run game, but Hoyer and the Niners clearly already trust him in the passing game.
Kittle had a bit more of an up-and-down day, but it’s worth noting he’s starting to get a lot of run with the first-team offense. He had the long catch and hauled in a few others, but also had a couple of miscues on catchable balls.
The offense again struggled in the red zone, with one sequence that featured three straight plays that could have been sacks if the action was live and a fourth play in which end Tank Carradine knocked a pass down. There were also a couple of interceptions thrown in the red zone, including one by linebacker NaVorro Bowman.
Rookie receiver Trent Taylor continues to impress with his feel for finding the soft spot in the zone as well as his sure hands. He even started to get some work in the slot with the first team. If he can add some value as a returner, he’s got an excellent chance to make the roster and possibly contribute.
Earlier in the offseason program, I asked Shanahan if he was still adjusting to coaching the entire team. He honestly answered that yes, he occasionally finds himself unsure of where to go. That seems to be dissipating a bit, though. Before the Niners started team drills Tuesday, Shanahan was working closely with defensive coordinator Robert Saleh and offering tips to the defense on route options for pass-catchers. He even served as the “quarterback” for part of the drill.
The offensive line continues to rotate a number of bodies through multiple positions. Brandon Fusco, Zane Beadles and Joshua Garnett are getting a chance to work with the starters at guard, while Zuttah and Daniel Kilgore are doing the same at center. At right tackle, Trent Brown is leading the way, but Garry Gilliam is also getting some reps. Heading toward camp, there figures to be a lot of competition on the line with only left tackle Joe Staley seemingly locked in.
Quarterback C.J. Beathard signed his four-year rookie deal on Tuesday afternoon, leaving Thomas as the only unsigned member of the 49ers' draft class.
Kyle Shanahan's father Mike attended Niners' practice again Tuesday, watching most of the workout alongside general manager John Lynch.