SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Upon his hiring as the San Francisco 49ers head coach in January, Kyle Shanahan said his father, Mike, would occasionally be around the team but made it clear those visits would be more for family reasons than work.
"He lives in Denver," Shanahan said at the time. "If he comes to visit me, maybe he could come up. But probably going to make him babysit my kids, so my wife and I can go out. [Laughs.] ... No, my dad will be a sounding board for me my whole life, just like most people’s dads are. It’s a benefit for me that my dad and I are in the same profession, so I do talk to him about work more than most kids. My dad and I are close, but it’s never a working thing."
Perhaps babysitting is still on the agenda for this week, but Mike Shanahan made an appearance at the team's organized team activity on Wednesday. The elder Shanahan, of course, led the Denver Broncos to two Super Bowl championships and was once the offensive coordinator for the Niners.
Mike Shanahan spent much of the practice next to general manager John Lynch. Shanahan coached Lynch in Denver from 2004 to 2007.
Some additional notes and observations from Wednesday's open practice session:
As you'd expect for a team learning new systems on both sides of the ball, the defense again appeared to be ahead of the offense. The third-string offense seemed to gain the most traction, but the starting group, including quarterback Brian Hoyer, had a tough time finding much rhythm.
Tight end Vance McDonald missed the practice while tending to what the team termed a personal matter. Defensive lineman Solomon Thomas and receiver Kendrick Bourne are still not present because of league rules preventing them from joining OTAs until their schools have completed the year. Center Jeremy Zuttah and receiver Bruce Ellington also did not participate because of minor injuries.
True to their promise of competition, the Niners continued to rotate in different players at various positions. At Sam linebacker, Eli Harold got some work with the first team along with Ahmad Brooks, while Dontae Johnson worked at the starting corner spot opposite Rashard Robinson in place of Keith Reaser, though Reaser still got reps there. K'Waun Williams continues to get a long look as the primary nickel corner. On the offensive line, the 49ers continue to cycle through different looks but opened team drills with a line of (from left to right) Joe Staley, Zane Beadles, Daniel Kilgore, Joshua Garnett and Trent Brown. Garnett did some moving between sides, allowing Brandon Fusco some reps at right guard, and John Theus and Garry Gilliam got some snaps at the tackle spots.
While tight end seems to be a group with a lot up for grabs, there are early indications that Logan Paulsen is the closest thing to a sure thing at that position. Paulsen is heavily involved with the offense, lining up in multiple spots, and seems to be a guy that his quarterbacks already trust. Paulsen didn't make any eye-popping plays on Wednesday, but he did have a few grabs to help bail out quarterbacks in peril and was sure-handed in doing so.
One interesting note from watching how the Niners practice: Linebackers coach Johnny Holland is responsible for coaching only the Will and the Mike in this defensive scheme. Because the Sam linebacker spot is so similar to a defensive end, that position actually falls under defensive line coach Jeff Zgonina's jurisdiction. Zgonina is thus able to look at and cross-train players who might be able to play both the Sam linebacker and Leo defensive end spot, since the pass-rushing responsibilities bear a strong resemblance.
It wasn't all bad news for the offense on Wednesday. Hoyer hung in the pocket and delivered a strike to receiver Jeremy Kerley between the safeties during team drills. It was undoubtedly Hoyer's best throw of the day. Quarterback Matt Barkley looked sharper than last week and had a nice hookup with receiver DeAndre Carter on a post route down the right side. Rookie quarterback C.J. Beathard also connected with rookie wideout Trent Taylor on a well-timed deep out late in the session. And tight end Cole Hikutini made his presence known with a pair of nice catches, including on a deep ball up the seam from Barkley.
On the other side, Robinson continues to impress. He had a couple of pass breakups and earned praise from coordinator Robert Saleh after the workout. "He's a dog," Saleh said, grinning. "I like him. He's made of the right stuff." The Niners are considered a bit thin at corner overall, but Robinson is already embracing his role and looks like the one corner who has a firm grip on a starting job at this stage.
While the Niners were wrapping up the session, seven free-agent defensive backs were preparing to work out on a different practice field. That group includes safety Jairus Byrd. Depth, particularly at free safety, is a need, and San Francisco continues to seek it through any means possible.
The 49ers are scheduled to be back at it on Friday.