© Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports
SANTA CLARA – Jalen Hurd is unlikely to be a very popular man with the 49ers’ defense. The rookie wide receiver, who didn’t see many snaps in team drills on Saturday, got his first real run with the offense on Sunday, and it wasn’t his receiving ability that bothered the defense; it was his blocking. Hurd, as Dante Pettis said after practice, “likes putting his hands on people,” and it showed as he ended up on the ground in fights two separate times.
The first was easy to spot and clearly between Hurd and defensive back Dontae Johnson (fun fact: one of the two No. 48s on the roster, the other being tight end Tyree Mayfield) who were locked up in a blocking situation over the middle of the field on a run play. That lock up continued for longer than both seemed to enjoy, and resulted in swings being taken (or hands being thrown, if that’s your preferred verbiage) at each other.
Two plays later, Hurd caught his first pass of camp on a quick out to the left sideline from Nick Mullens.
The second fight came at the tail end of practice, and its cause was evidently from more of that extended blocking by Hurd. He was escorted away from the pile, at the bottom of which defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore was found. It was unclear who instigated the incident or whether Lewis-Moore was actually involved or just a casualty of the pile, but Hurd clearly was.
Head coach Kyle Shanahan was less than enthused about the fights, although he said he was “a little grey” on them, in the sense that he missed both fights and would need to check the practice film to decide how he felt. As for the prospect of in-practice fighting itself, Shanahan was clear that he’s not a fan.
“I don’t like guys fighting at practice, I don’t like punches thrown,” Shanahan said. “I like guys pissing each other off. I like guys competing, but I think real toughness is controlling that because you’re going to get penalties in the game and things like that. So, fighting is something I don’t want at practice. I’d like guys to get as close as possible to fighting, because that is the mentality of football, but that’s got to be a controlled aggression. If you can’t control that, you’re a liability… Guys don’t have to prove that they’re tough by fighting people. If you’re not tough, we’re going to know that and so will the players. You’re not going to be on this team, so that is a very silly way to prove it, especially when you have helmets on.”
Hurd’s involvement is something Shanahan said he’ll have to evaluate on film as to whether it crossed the line from pure physicality to over-the-top, extended blocking (still without pads on, of course).
“If [Hurd’s] just physical and blocking people and physical and people are getting upset with that then shame on them,” Shanahan said. “But, if he’s doing more than he should to his teammates and things like that, then I have a problem with it. That’s something that luckily everything’s on tape so instead of guessing what happened, I’ll go watch it and decide and then address it.”
For what it’s worth, Dante Pettis said that scuffles can be limited, but are in some sense, inevitable with the nature of football. Marquise Goodwin echoed the same sentiment, saying that the tension and heat of summer football practices tend to lead to frustration. He said he’s not worried about fights becoming an issue.
The other clear takeaway from Day 2 was that Garoppolo was far from precise, and got picked off for the first time in camp. It came on a pass to Pettis on what looked to be a shallow cross route from the left side of the formation to the right. Pettis did not attack the ball in the air, something he took the blame for despite the clearly errant pass.
— San Francisco 49ers (@49ers) July 28, 2019
Pettis said the message from Garoppolo after the play left no room for interpretation:
“Don’t let that happen.”
— Jake Hutchinson (@hutchdiesel) July 28, 2019
Aside from the pick, Garoppolo did not have the most clinical of days. His first pass of the day went incomplete, high and behind Deebo Samuel, before he completed his first pass on a nice, deep corner route to Marquise Goodwin on the following play.
The ensuing play was a run blown up in the backfield by Nick Bosa, who again looked slippery getting around the edge on Sunday. But as defensive coordinator Robert Saleh put it on Saturday, “…he’s still just a bobblehead running around until we get pads on.”
Garoppolo wasn’t abysmal, connecting on a comeback to Pettis (who made a fantastic grab) as a third-straight completed pass before the interception took place on his next set.
It was an ugly series of play for the Garoppolo-led offense, starting with the interception, followed by a short reception to Matt Breida, and then an incomplete pass to Richie James with Jaquiski Tartt in coverage. On his next set, Richard Sherman broke up a pass, Tevin Coleman fumbled and turned the ball over. Malcolm Smith recovered it and somehow had the back half of his shorts fall down, resulting in an accidental moon to some (unlucky, or lucky, depending on your interpretation) 49ers fans on that sideline. Then a holding call followed on a play in which Garoppolo threw an incomplete pass to Trent Taylor.
He completed his next pass, a dump to Jordan Matthews who got into space in the middle of the field, before Witherspoon got involved again and broke up another pass to Pettis. His next pass was incomplete, with a near (second) pick by Witherspoon on a target to Samuel, before a completion to Pettis with coverage by Richard Sherman and a completion by Taylor.
The next set saw Marquise Goodwin drop a perfectly thrown ball on a perfect comeback route with Sherman in coverage, followed by a blatant false start from at least a pair of offensive lineman, and a short pass to James, who Fred Warner made a great play on.
Pettis had a very Pettis day in that he made at least two above average catches, and yet was called out by Garoppolo, as mentioned above, and Sherman.
The second-year receiver, who said he worked on his strength – he jokingly flexed a muscle to prove it – and that he’s now at about 195 pounds, something that he hopes will prevent him from ever dropping below 190 pounds (dropping weight was an issue for him last year) said Sherman, like Garoppolo, called him out for not being at his best:
Dante Pettis says Richard Sherman called him out today: “If I don’t bring my best stuff every time, he knows. He called me out today like, ‘Dude, that wasn’t what you normally do.’ I was like, ‘OK, that’s true. I’ve gotta bring something else, I’ve got to get better next time.” pic.twitter.com/Rw1BDK4dNW
— KNBR (@KNBR) July 28, 2019
It was a day that exemplified what a healthy corner group could mean for the 49ers this season. Both Sherman and Witherspoon looked good, or as Kwon Alexander would put it, “legendary” (see below). Goodwin credited both players, saying he talked to Witherspoon:
“He made some great plays today… I told him after practice, ‘Bruh, you did your thing today, keep it up.'”
Jason Verrett got his first chance in those team drills and excelled. He had tight coverage on a short, tight pass to Deebo Samuel that was perfect on the parts of both C.J. Beathard and Samuel, and two plays later displayed fantastic coverage and a tackle on a very short pass in the right flat to Raheem Mostert.
Shanahan came over to Verrett after the first series of team drills, chatting with him for a solid period of time. Verrett had a grin on his face after coming off, and Shanahan said he wanted to ensure Verrett is in good shape.
“I just went up to say congratulations on getting through your first day and I know that was mental hurdle for you and I hope you felt good about it,” Shanahan said. “He was excited… He’s feeling healthy, but I just wanted to go check on him and see what that mental deal was for him because when guys have been hurt that much and they come back and they work at that high intensity for the first time, it’s not like he’s been playing pickup football at the YMCA the last few months. This is his first time playing football so that is a very big head game for him. He survived yesterday and I just wanted to see what he said and he was real happy and encouraged how it was and we’ll keep ramping it up as we go.”
That cornerback group obviously has an exponentially higher ceiling with a healthy Richard Sherman, who has been in the ear of Verrett (both recovered from Achilles injuries, Verrett’s recovery was last season whereas Sherman’s was the year prior), and the whole secondary group.
If you need any validation that Sherman is healthy, take it from Goodwin, who said it’s “one million percent” clear that Sherman is completely different, healthy player than was the case last season. After beating him in camp last season, with more made out of it than Goodwin believed was fair, he was asked if he’ll beat Sherman one-on-one now that he’s healthy:
“I plead the fifth,” Goodwin said.
— Jake Hutchinson (@hutchdiesel) July 28, 2019
- Kwon Alexander feels “legendary”: When asked about his health and the fact that he’s fully recovered from a torn ACL that was repaired surgically last November, playing in his first team drills today, Alexander said he feels “legendary”. There’s a very high chance the term “legendary” or “feeling legendary” continue to pop up as a 49ers or fan favorite saying throughout the year:
Kwon Alexander: “I feel legendary.” pic.twitter.com/TFa0aCFFGy
— KNBR (@KNBR) July 28, 2019
- Guard Joshua Garnett dislocated his finger on Day 1, and it was re-located (popped back into place) that day. Shanahan said he dislocated the finger again, causing him to leave practice. He’s being examined by 49ers doctors and his status will likely be updated tomorrow.