As the San Francisco 49ers wrapped up their first day of training camp, the 49ers media had the opportunity to interview five veterans on the team including ILB Patrick Willis, QB Colin Kaepernick, RB Frank Gore, WR Stevie Johnson, and DE Justin Smith. And while TE Vernon Davis was not a participant, we nonetheless had the great opportunity to get some great insight from the other players. From Kaepernick’s rapport with Johnson to talking about promising rookie ILB Chris Borland, it seemed like a good first day to training camp as things were officially underway.
The biggest questions heading into training camp was whether Davis and G Alex Boone would show up. Two players that missed voluntary OTAs and minicamp in an effort to gain leverage for a new contract, it was Davis who felt it was necessary to be in camp. And the players were delighted as Kaepernick said, “Always great to have Vernon on the field. Looks good, excited to have him back out here. Kaepernick then on to say that he won’t miss a beat due to his knowledge of the playbook as he said, “Vernon’s a Pro Bowl tight-end, he’s one of the best in the league so there’s not going to be too much of a fall off from him.”
With Davis back in the fold it was nice to see all the 49ers’ offensive weapons in full blown attack mode. And with newly acquired WR Stevie Johnson continuing to build rapport with his franchise quarterback, the duo is looking to big things in 2014. Asked if the Kap-Johnson connection is materializing Kaepernick said, “It was pretty easy. He’s another guy that’s pretty easy to throw to because he creates so much separation. Very quick, very deceptive, and I’m happy he’s on our side of the ball.”
So what does Johnson have to say about his new quarterback and offense he will be playing in? He was asked by CSN Bay Area’s Matt Maiocco if he built rapport with Kap as Kaepernick alluded to earlier and Johnson said, “On the field not as much, I ended up having a little setback but we talk a lot.” So which is it? Only time will tell as this connection could become one of the best.
Johnson went on to say he had something to prove in 2014, since he failed to reach 1,000 receiving yards last season as he said, “When you come off three straight a 1,000 and then you don’t get it the year after that…You feel like you got to be better than last year.”
With the aerial attack in place, the media quickly circled their media attention toward RB Frank Gore. The 10-year veteran who is looking for his first Super Bowl win spoke about the young guys behind him mainly RB Carlos Hyde and RB Marcus Lattimore. A crowded backfield, Gore said he welcomes the competition and is not afraid to compete as he said, “I’m from Miami man! I’ve been competing ever since I left high school, I’ve been with some top guys since I’ve been in the league, so it’s to get each other better. I’m all for it! One day there going to get this role but when I’m here, I’m going to make it a challenge.”
While the offense seems to be written in stone, it was the defense that was under the microscope as Perennial Pro Bowl ILB Patrick Willis and DE Justin Smith were both available to the media. Many questions surrounding that side of the ball especially with the camp battle at the other “Jack” inside linebacker position, Willis touched on which young rookies stood out. And while Skov garnered some praise it was Borland who continues to shine in Willis’ eyes.
Willis spoke on Borland when asked about his development as he said, “Chris has been amazing! Shayne has too…Chris is just a fast learner and a heck of an athlete and you know just watching him and even taking reps with him and you never know, maybe playing with him.” Borland to start? I wouldn’t put it passed him as he certainly has the football smarts and ability to do so.
With Borland and Skov battling for the “Jack” position along with current front-runner ILB Michael Wilhoite, it was the DE Justin Smith who was next up. The player known as “Cowboy” said he’s healthier and stronger than last season due to getting his shoulder “cleaned” up this season. An injury that occurred in last season’s training camp, Smith says he’s better this time around.
Smith then touched on his backup DE Tank Carradine. The second-year player who red-shirted his rookie season due to injury, Smith says he’s quite impressed with the former Florida State Seminole as he said, “I’m excited for him, he’s an explosive dude, strong, really strong hands and upper body so hopefully he can come in and do his things and I think he will.”
With the 49ers preparing for Day two we will keep you updated on the latest 49ers news, updates, and insights straight from Levi’s Stadium.
ILB NaVorro Bowman and TE Garrett Celek were both placed on the Active/PUP list.