The 49ers had no questions about Ahkello Witherspoon’s size, speed or footwork coming out of college. They just wished they’d seen the cornerback throw his weight around more at Colorado.
“We always felt like if he showed physicality in college he was a first- or second-round talent,” defensive coordinator Robert Saleh said Thursday.
That’s why coaches and teammates were so animated – first on the field and then in the film room on Monday – on a tackle Witherspoon delivered at the end of the second quarter Sunday.
The Cardinals were in 49ers territory when Adrian Peterson was handed the ball and started off to his right. He didn’t get far. Witherspoon, who had begun the play seven yards off the line of scrimmage, crashed the play and cut down the Cardinals running back for no gain.
Witherspoon immediately was congratulated by a couple of the 49ers’ big hitters, safety Eric Reid and linebacker Reuben Foster.
“He was sitting right outside the gap that I had,” Reid said. “I was pretty excited – helped him up, slapped him on his helmet and said, ‘Man, that’s awesome. Way to chop him down.’ ”
Said Saleh: “AP (Peterson) tried to bounce it (outside) and he hit the daylights out of him and flipped AP head first. And so, his ability in the run game, his physicality and the way he’s been playing, he still can go further, but (toughness) is a non-issue.”
The 49ers ended up using a third-round pick on Witherspoon (Christian Brothers High School) in April. Sunday’s game was his second start, and while he allowed a long completion on the game’s first play and a touchdown to tight end Jermaine Gresham, he mostly had a strong outing against the Cardinals.
“The two plays he gave up were great learning lessons for him, from just a football-awareness standpoint, one that he recognized right away,” Saleh said. “That’s the part I’m most pumped about is the physicality he’s been showing.”
Hyde fined – The NFL fined Carlos Hyde $9,115 for his part in Sunday’s dust up with the Cardinals, and the running back said he plans to appeal.
Hyde was ejected after he and Arizona defensive lineman Frostee Rucker had to be separated following a dubious hit on quarterback C.J. Beathard. Rucker and linebacker Haason Reddick also were ejected and likely face fines.
Hyde could have been docked $30,387 for fighting. The lesser fine he received is for unsportsmanlike conduct.
Hyde and quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo are the 49ers’ most prominent offensive players who are due to be free agents in March. Hyde said Thursday he wasn’t ready to discuss money just yet.
“I spoke to my agent about it but I told him I don’t want to talk about contract extensions or anything like that,” he said. “I want to focus on getting our first win and finishing the season off. I told him, ‘Once we get to that point, then we can talk about it.’”
Injuries – Left tackle Joe Staley (eye) and defensive lineman Solomon Thomas (knee) were among the 49ers limited in practice for the second straight day. Foster (ribs) has been full-go so far this week.