Kyle Shanahan is on stage, calmly sitting before an audience of diehard, rowdy fans. Their incumbent coach – the 49ers’ first since Jim Harbaugh — is asked about this season’s goal. One fan after another shouts: “Super Bowl!”
“Without me saying it, and everyone else said it, you know what our goal is every year,” Shanahan responds.
That was two months ago, when the 49ers held a raucous State-of-the-Franchise event at downtown San Jose’s California Theater. A 6-10 season wasn’t cause for glee as much as the 5-0 finish.
Enough optimism abounds that, from last summer to this summer, they’ve gone from 200-to-1 Super Bowl long shots to 20-to-1 candidates.
“We turned a lot (of the roster) over last year, grinded hard, had a lot of ups and downs, but we finished as a better team,” Shanahan said on a stage he harmoniously shared with general manager John Lynch. “We’ve added players in the draft and free agency. We’ve put ourselves in a situation to be a lot better.”
As the 49ers officially report to training camp Wednesday, just know these aren’t your woebegone, give-’em-a-shot 49ers. Basically, half the starting lineup is different from last summer’s camp, and so are the expectations.
A slew of players arrived early this past week to get a jump on workouts, including quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and linebacker Reuben Foster, the offseason’s biggest newsmakers (for contrasting reasons).
Garoppolo, who signed a then-record contract for $137.5 million in February, knows he and the revised offense need these coming weeks to enhance chemistry and nail-down details.
“You learn how to trust one another in practice,” Garoppolo said at last month’s minicamp.
When comparing last summer’s starters to this camp’s, the newcomers are: Garoppolo, running back Jerick McKinnon, left guard Laken Tomlinson, center Weston Richburg, right guard Jonathan Cooper and right tackle Mike McGlinchey, with a nod to tight end George Kittle, who made Vance McDonald expendable via trade last August.
“I don’t know what the numbers will be,” Shanahan said last month. “I think we’ll be a better offense. I feel pretty confident in that.”
Defensively, the starting secondary is most overhauled. Last training camp, it featured cornerbacks Dontae Johnson and Rashard Robinson with safeties Jimmie Ward and Eric Reid. This camp: cornerbacks Richard Sherman and Ahkello Witherspoon with safeties Adrian Colbert and Jaquiski Tartt.
Must-know info on the 49ers’ training camp
Key dates: Practices start Thursday. The first full-pad session: Saturday. The first exhibition: Aug. 9 at Levi’s Stadium against the Dallas Cowboys. The regular-season opener: Sept. 9 against the Minnesota Vikings.
Roster depth: This 90-man version is deeper and more competitive than recent years. It also boasts only two Pro Bowlers from last season: fullback Kyle Juszczyk and left tackle Joe Staley, the latter serving as an alternate. Only 13 players remain from the 2016 team that went 2-14.
Open jobs: The most evident competition is at right guard, between 2016 first-rounder Joshua Garnett and veteran free agents Jonathan Cooper and Mike Person. Others looking to become starters: defensive back Jimmie Ward, wide receiver Dante Pettis, linebacker Fred Warner, pass rusher Jeremiah Attaochu.
Injury watch: Cornerback Richard Sherman (Achilles), wide receiver Trent Taylor (back) will be most closely watched. Ward’s woes the past year were a hamstring (training camp, Week 1), fractured arm (final eight games) and ankle (June minicamp).
Suspensions loom: Foster’s legal issues, which cost him most of the offseason program, have resulted in a two-game suspension, so that opens room for an extra linebacker on the Weeks 1-2 roster. Also out for those two games is wide receiver and return specialist Victor Bolden, for violating the performance-enhancing drug policy by “unknowingly” using a banned substance.
Undrafted rookies: Each year, underdogs rise and steal veterans’ jobs. This camp’s top candidates among the undrafted rookies: safety Terrell Williams, cornerback Tavarus McFadden and offensive lineman Coleman Shelton.
Public viewing: There won’t be an open session at Levi’s Stadium but the 49ers made online tickets available to 10 practices on their training fields, which can accommodate under 1,000 fans.