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From babysitting to college, Shanahan, Reid dig deep to find ways to stop McCaffrey

SANTA CLARA–49ers’ head coach Kyle Shanahan will have a front row seat when Panthers’ running back Christian McCaffrey makes his NFL debut on Sunday, but according to McCaffrey, it won’t be the first time Shanahan has watched him closely.

“We go way back to when I was little,” McCaffrey said on a conference call on Wednesday morning. “I think he babysat me some times.”

Yes, Shanahan has watched plenty of film on the rookie running back, but as McCaffrey indicated, their relationship stretches across a few decades.

“If I did (babysit), I probably left my sister to do it very quickly and moved on,” Shanahan said. “His dad was my hero growing up. I was close with [former NFL WR] Ed [McCaffrey] and his wife Lisa. That’s really why I wore 87 in college. Ed was the man. I knew all his sons. They were a lot younger when I knew them, but they’ve all turned out to be pretty good athletes and real good people.”

Shanahan’s father Mike was Christian’s father Ed’s coach with the Denver Broncos, as the pair spent nine seasons together between 1995-2003. McCaffrey was a prolific offensive weapon during his time playing for the elder Shanahan, as he recorded three separate 1,000-yard seasons. His son Christian has all the tools to be an even better pro player, and on Sunday, he’ll have his first test just miles down the road from Stanford University, where he took the nation by storm.

Kyle Shanahan said Wednesday that McCaffrey poses unique challenges for opposing defenses because he can line up in the backfield and run the ball between the tackles, or spread outside as a receiver and stress defenders in space.

“He (McCaffrey) can do everything, so it’s just, how do you treat him?” Shanahan said. “He’s a good running back, he can run outside, he can run inside, he’s good at screens, he’s good at routes out of the backfield, he can motion out wide and we can use him as a wide receiver. He’s developing those routes too. He causes a lot of issues in man-to-man situations and you just don’t know what you’re going to get. It limits what a defense can do, some of the situations that he can put you in.”

49ers’ safety Eric Reid said Wednesday that he spoke with a source who knows McCaffrey’s skillset as well as the 49ers’ head coach does. That’s Reid’s brother, Justin, who plays safety for the Stanford Cardinal.

“He (Justin) said he’s great in space, beware in the return game,” Reid said. “I think he’s their punt returner, so we can’t let him do that to us. Not in this first game. I know he’s going to be back in California, his hometown, I know he’s going to be excited, but we’ve got to shut that down.”

Reid said McCaffrey has the potential to be particularly dangerous because he’s paired up with quarterback Cam Newton, who also challenges defenses because of his multi-dimensional skill set. Newton is explosive as a runner, and now, with McCaffrey and fellow rookie Curtis Samuel in the backfield, Carolina’s offense will present a variety of issues for San Francisco.

“I think I expect the same from Cam, he’s an explosive player who wants to make a big play, but they also have a new wrinkle,” Reid said. “We watched some film on him (McCaffrey) today, and he’s got the stuff. He gets in space and he’s dangerous so we just got to make sure we bottle both of those guys up.”


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