Kyle Shanahan made things very clear before the 49ers’ recent bye week. Players need to earn their keep over the final six games, even with no hope of reaching the postseason.
“You’re always playing for something,” the second-year coach said. “This league doesn’t have patience. I don’t have patience. No one in this league has patience. You shouldn’t have to say that to players. And most of the players that have been around, (mostly) veterans, understand that. But a lot of people don’t understand that. And sometimes, you do have to educate people on that.”
A number of players are taking the message to heart, likely because they’ve been humbled during a 2-8 stretch after entering the season with momentum from the five-game winning streak to end the previous campaign. Those who don’t understand the gravity of Shanahan’s message might not be around in 2019 when the 49ers hope to put together their first winning season since 2013.
“I think it’s what needed to be heard,” defensive end Dekoda Watson said, who’s playing on his sixth team since entering the NFL as a seventh-round draft pick in 2010. “Especially for a lot of guys that may not have been here for a long time. They need to understand that this is a game of business – and they keep you until they can replace you.”
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Said defensive tackle DeForest Buckner: “It weeds out who belong and who doesn’t, you know what I mean? His message on the sense of urgency, it really defines the type of player and person you are these last six games. With our record and the way the year’s been going to so far, he wants to see, who are the men?”
The 49ers are gearing up to try to win their first road game of the season after taking an extra week to stew on their embarrassing home loss on “Monday Night Football” to the New York Giants, who came to Levi’s Stadium with a miserable 1-7 record.
Players returned to the club’s Santa Clara headquarters for a rare Monday practice to shake the cobwebs before getting back to the traditional work week starting on Wednesday.
They will fly to Tampa Bay this weekend to take on the struggling Buccaneers (3-7), who will start quarterback Jameis Winston. The first-overall draft pick in 2015 replaced Ryan Fitzpatrick during Sunday’s loss to Giants in the third quarter after throwing three interceptions.
Tampa Bay lost, 38-35, giving the Giants consecutive wins over struggling teams. The Buccaneers have lost seven of eight after their surprise 2-0 start.
Sunday’s tilt shapes up to be another winnable game for the 49ers, who are expecting to feel renewed both mentally and physically coming off the bye following the first 10 taxing weeks of the season. And after starting 0-9 in 2017, players are in familiar territory as they approach the campaign’s final stretch.
“I think you see a lot of resiliency around here. Adversity shows your true character,” fullback Kyle Juszczyk said. “I think you’ve seen a lot of guys with great character, men that are able to stand up against tough times and not be afraid to still be afraid to put themselves out there and not be afraid to fail.”
Foster, Tartt return – The 49ers got some good news on Monday with the return of linebacker Reuben Foster (hamstring) and safety Jaquiski Tartt (shoulder) to the practice field. Both appear ready to play Sunday after missing the past two games with their injuries they both sustained Oct. 28 in Arizona.
Foster has dealt with shoulder issues throughout the season that appeared to hamper his play. Same for Tartt, who first banged up his injured shoulder in the season opener against the Vikings.
Goodwin excused, Garçon still working back – San Francisco was missing its top two receivers in Monday’s practice as Marquise Goodwin was excused for personal reasons while Pierre Garçon was absent while he continues to work himself back from a knee injury.
The reasoning for Goodwin’s absence is unknown. He turned 28 on Monday, the same day rookie linebacker Fred Warner celebrated his 22nd birthday. Warner participated in Monday’s practice and has been one of the 49ers’ few defensive players to start every game.