49ers’ most notable moves of the offseason
Jimmy Garoppolo is throwing, taking drops, cutting, jumping and lifting weights with his 49ers teammates as the offseason conditioning program began this week.
The franchise quarterback remains optimistic about his recovery from a torn left ACL suffered in Kansas City last September. But San Francisco is still circling the start of training camp in pencil for his potential return to full-team action.
“We’ll see,” Garoppolo said Wednesday. “A lot of time between now and then. But yeah, that’s the goal.”
Garoppolo has benefited from having a partner in rehab. Jerick McKinnon has been with him at team headquarters for the bulk of the offseason. The two have been in the weight room and on the field, where Garoppolo has been seen throwing passes to the versatile running back.
McKinnon suffered his ACL tear a week before the season opener. Garoppolo’s happened in Week 3 against the Chiefs.
“He always had some tips for me and, ‘I did this, try doing this type of thing,’ ” Garoppolo said. “It’s just encouraging being with someone, especially Jet. That guy’s so positive every day, how could you not be in a good mood with him?”
What’s Garoppolo looking forward to most, aside from getting back into games where he can make good on his five-year, $137.5 million contract?
“I think just going through a full practice,” he said. “I was out there at practices last year and on the sidelines for the games, but it’s different when you’re not in there in the huddle, talking to the guys. You still interact with guys, but there’s just a different feel to it. So I think the interaction between me and the linemen or skill guys, whatever it is, talking trash to the defense. ... I’m exciting to get back to it.”
Buckner not worried about contract talks
The 49ers and DeForest Buckner have had preliminary conversations about a long-term contract extension, Buckner confirmed Wednesday, but there doesn’t appear to be an agreement anytime soon.
That’s not necessarily bad news for the negotiations. It’s a good sign that Buckner is participating in the voluntary portion of the offseason program.
“Honestly, it’s very early,” Buckner said. “Just because I’m eligible for a new contract going into my fourth year, it’s still very early in the process. I’m really just looking forward to being here with the team long term. And I know Jed (York) and John (Lynch) and Paraag (Marathe) and all them, Kyle (Shanahan), they all know that. They know what I can bring to the table and what I bring to the team. There’s no rush to it.”
There’s a strong chance Buckner plays in 2019 on his rookie contract and the sides get back to the negotiating table next offseason, before his fifth-year option kicks in.
In the meantime, the 49ers might draft a player at Buckner’s position with the No. 2 overall pick April 25. Alabama defensive tackle Quinnen Williams is widely expected to be a top-five selection, and San Francisco has visited with Williams at the combine, following his pro day and for an official visit at team headquarters.
Buckner didn’t sound concerned with the idea the 49ers might be interested in drafting a fourth interior defensive lineman in Round 1 since 2014.
“If we add Quinnen, it’ll be another big guy, a dominant guy. I think the group is just loaded with great football players,” Buckner said.
On how the playing time would be divvied out between Williams, Buckner, Solomon Thomas and Arik Armstead, Buckner said: “That’s the coaches job, that’s not my job.”
Kittle getting used to spotlight, played much of 2018 hurt
No 49er had a more promising rise in 2018 than George Kittle, who broke an NFL record for receiving yards by a tight end with 1,377. The breakout campaign led to his first Pro Bowl appearance, and numerous other obligations that have taken up time as he enters his third season.
“A lot more stuff on the schedule, whether it was Pro Bowl or some appearances in Atlanta (during the Super Bowl),” Kittle said. “It was just fun stuff. When you play well, you get opportunities to do other things. People want to see you. I had fun doing that, enjoyed that, met a lot of cool people.”
Kittle also revealed his record-setting season came amid injury. He dealt with broken cartilage in his ribs suffered early in the Nov. 1 blowout victory over the Raiders. Yet the pain didn’t prevent him from one of his biggest plays of the season, a one-handed, 71-yard catch and run through the middle of Oakland’s secondary.
“I was fully expecting it to hurt worse than it did,” Kittle said. “I thought the safety was going to smoke me. But luckily, he didn’t.”
Kittle said he wore a pair of hefty pads along his ribs for the remainder of the season following the injury. He said he got hit and felt noticeable pain against the Giants and Buccaneers. But the ailment didn’t prevent Kittle from starting all 16 games.