The 49ers offensive line in Week 1 will be different than what everyone was expecting in the spring.
For starters, the team on Wednesday released Jeremy Zuttah, the veteran center it acquired in a trade in March and someone it expected would challenge incumbent Daniel Kilgore for a starting job. Not only has Kilgore taken the lion’s share of the first-team snaps in training camp, another center, Tim Barnes, had surpassed Zuttah in recent practices.
“With Zuttah, it was a tough decision; it was something we were really looking at last night,” coach Kyle Shanahan said. “I think it says a lot about how Kilgore’s been playing.”
The 49ers acquired Zuttah by swapping sixth-round draft picks with the Ravens – giving up No. 186 and getting No. 198 – and taking on his $3.5 million base salary. The Ravens used their pick on Virginia Tech safety Chuck Clark; the 49ers selected nose tackle D.J. Jones at pick No. 198.
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Shanahan also said Joshua Garnett, who began training camp as the first-string left guard, will have a procedure to “clean out” his left knee and that it will be a stretch for him to be back in time for the Sept. 10 opener against the Carolina Panthers.
“I know I’m hoping that he has a chance for Week 1, but I know that’s going to be a battle,” Shanahan said.
Zane Beadles, who started 16 games last season, most of them at left guard, has been filling in for the last few practices.
That means that, barring injuries, the offensive line that starts Friday’s preseason game against the Kansas City Chiefs likely will be the one the begins the regular season as well. The tackles are Joe Staley and Trent Brown; Beadles and Brandon Fusco are the guards; Kilgore is the center.
Fusco is the newcomer to the group.
The six-year veteran signed late in free agency with the thought he would push someone else for one of the starting spots on the interior line. Instead, he quickly gained the trust of the coaching staff in the spring and has been the first-string right guard since the beginning of training camp.
Fusco played in a more smash-mouth offense in Minnesota, and together with tackle Brown, gives the 49ers some pop on the right side of the line.
“It’s been a little different at times,” Fusco said of Shanahan’s zone-blocking scheme. “But we’ve got a bunch of guys on this team that are willing to work, including myself, and I think we’re on the right track.”
Newsom remains in hospital – General manager John Lynch said he visited rookie linebacker Donavin Newsom in the hospital Tuesday and spoke to him on Wednesday.
Newsom was knocked unconscious after colliding with a teammate on Tuesday and was taken to Stanford Hospital in an ambulance. The incident sent a chill through the franchise because it was not known whether he had suffered a neck injury.
Though tests showed he had no fractures, Newsom stayed a second night at the hospital for observation. His agent, Daniel MacNeil, said Newsom was having some issues with balance after suffering the concussion on Tuesday.
Foster’s ankle – For the second time in training camp, rookie linebacker Reuben Foster had to leave practice to have his left ankle taped. Foster initially suffered the injury on Friday when he went to the ground clutching the ankle.
He returned to practice in both instances and Shanahan said he’s hoping it’s something Foster can continue to play through. Either Foster or Ray-Ray Armstrong will start Friday’s game at weak-side linebacker.
With Newsom and Brock Coyle (ribs) unavailable, the team signed inside linebacker Sean Porter on Wednesday.
Et cetera – Cornerback Dontae Johnson, who has been playing with the first-string defense, suffered a concussion in Tuesday’s practice and was held out of Wednesday’s session. If he can’t play against the Chiefs, the starting cornerbacks likely will be Rashard Robinson and Keith Reaser.
▪ Shanahan said he hoped his starters play no more than a quarter in Kansas City. He said Matt Barkley would be the second quarterback to enter the game. He and third-round pick C.J. Beathard have been splitting snaps with the second-team offense.
▪ Rookie George Kittle aggravated a hamstring injury that bothered him early in training camp. He did not practice Wednesday.