By: C.J. Peterson
Special to S.F. Examiner
SANTA CLARA, Calif. — The San Francisco 49ers have managed to avoiding big hits and violent collisions thus far in training camp, and that’s largely kept them healthy, as noted by head coach Kyle Shanahan last week.
Rookie linebacker Fred Warner must have missed the memo, though, as the BYU product laid one of the more vicious hits seen in camp against fullback Kyle Juszczyk Thursday afternoon to shake up an otherwise uneventful day of football.
“It was a bang-bang play,” 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh recalled. “I know [Warner’s] intent and where his heart is at. That was an accident.”
Warner, who was drafted by San Francisco in the third round of this year’s draft, was for only cleared for non-contact drills Thursday — as indicated by his bright blue practice jersey. Clearly. the designation had no bearing.
Late in practice, Warner stepped into 11-on-11 drills to take reps at inside linebacker — a role that many expect him to fill during Reuben Foster’s two-game suspension at the start of the season.
On the first snap, Warner took 49ers running back Matt Breida head on in the middle of the field. The thudding hit drew “oohs” and “aahs” from fans lining the side of the field and sitting in the bleachers.
Warner had gotten a taste of contact.
The very next play, Jimmy Garoppolo threw a pass to Juszczyk over the middle of the field and Warner was there again. This time, instead of going head-up, Warner put a shoulder into Juszczyk’s chest.
“It’s one of those [plays] that happen so quick,” said Saleh. “Fred actually did avoid contact where he was supposed to. But, that one was just so quick and so fast that it was almost like he was bracing for contact”
Juszczyk spent the next few minutes on the ground as he was attended to by the 49ers medical staff. Fortunately, “Juice,” as his teammates call him, was able to get up under his own power despite the jarring hit.
“What was good is that they didn’t get into a fight,” said San Francisco tight end Garrett Celek. “They didn’t start throwing fists everywhere and guys got them pulled apart right away.”
After the play, Warner attempted to apologize to Juszczyk, who at that point, was regaining himself on the sideline. Juszczyk looked to not be interested in an apology.
According to Saleh, however, the pair did reconcile after practice to squash the mid-camp beef.
“Sometimes I feel like practice is kinda slow,” said Celek. “Sometimes you need something like that to get things going, which is good. But it didn’t carry over from there, which is good.”
Juszczyk was able to return to practice after taking a few plays off and even gave a brief update on his status in the aftermath of the practice-defining play..
“I just got the wind knocked out of me,” said Juszczyk, with a smile on his face. “I’ll be fine.”
— Offensive lineman Joshua Garnett, who was one of several players competing for the right guard spot, was out again Thursday as he missed his third consecutive practice. Shanahan said Wednesday that it would be “hard to make the roster” if Garnett continued to miss time. Garnett missed most of the 2017 season after having undergoing a knee procedure last September. The knee problems may have returned, after Garnett banged knees with a defensive lineman on Saturday.
— The deep ball continues to fly between Garoppolo and Marquise Goodwin. The pair hooked up for another lengthy touchdown as Goodwin burned cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon along the left sideline. Goodwin did, however drop a perfect toss from Garoppolo earlier in practice. Looking back to locate the pass, Goodwin bobbled, and eventually dropped a would-be touchdown. Maybe it was the bright Santa Clara sun that led to the drop but Goodwin was not happy with himself after the play.
— Free safety Adrian Colbert snagged another interception today off of Garoppolo. Garoppolo threw a ball to wide receiver Kendrick Bourne but the pass was dropped subsequently falling into the arms of Colbert. After having a strong showing on Tuesday with an interception returned for a touchdown, Colbert is turning heads so far at camp. The interception marks Colbert’s second takeaway in three days off of Garoppolo.