SANTA CLARA — Emerging from the bottom of a pile of players, 49ers rookie wide receiver Jalen Hurd had to be restrained by his teammates after sparking a second fight within a two-hour span.
During the second day of training camp, which also saw some uncharacteristically sloppy play from the 49ers offense, the pair of scuffles were the lowlight to Sunday’s open practice.
“Fighting is something I don’t want at practice,” 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan said. “I’d like guys to get as close as possible to fighting, because that is the mentality of football, but that’s got to be a controlled aggression.”
Since arriving in San Francisco in 2017, Shanahan has preached attention to detail.
From route running to ball security, the “little things” are what has turned Shanahan into an offensive mastermind, according to his players like quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. But on Sunday, those things seemed to be missing.
In the second round of 11-on-11 drills, the Garoppolo-led starting unit failed to complete a pass and fumbled twice. The first came after running back Tevin Coleman was stripped while rushing down the right sideline and the second after fellow running back Raheem Mostert coughed up the ball in traffic.
In at least one of the instances, however, the ball was stripped after the play would have been called dead. In San Francisco, defenders are tasked with attacking the ball until the ball carrier completely stops to head back towards the huddle. This sometimes means 25 yards down field.
“It gets very irritating for our runners to be running down the field, the play’s been over for 10 minutes and you have 11 guys still hitting them in the ribs trying to take the ball out,” Shanahan said. “But they get used to it. The first team I was on and who did that all the time was Atlanta and I carried that here and I feel like we’ve been better at not fumbling the ball because of it.”
Along with the fumbling, the 49ers offense struggled to complete passes. Garoppolo finished the day with a 41 percent completion percentage (5/12) and was intercepted by Ahkello Witherspoon during 7-on-7 drills.
Perhaps it was due to these struggles — or even the near-90-degree heat, as wide receiver Marquise Goodwin suggested — that tempers boiled over, leading to the fights.
In both instances, however, Hurd was the focal point of these altercations. First, he mixed it up with defensive back Dontae Johnson, and later got tangled up with DB Antone Exum Jr. As a result, several other defensive and offensive players got involved, resulting in a roar from the fans in attendance.
“If he’s just physical and blocking people and physical and people are getting upset with that then shame on them,” Shanahan said. “But, if he’s doing more than he should to his teammates and things like that, then I have a problem with it.”
While Shanahan voiced his displeasure with fighting and says he urges his team to ride that line cautiously, some players believe that on-field skirmishes are inevitable.
“People are going to get in fights,” wide receiver Dante Pettis said. “However much you want to say ‘No one fight, we hate fighting,’ we can limit it but I feel like we’re all brothers and that’s going to happen eventually.”
According to Shanahan, he’ll be reviewing the footage to see exactly how each incident transpired and the appropriate measures will be taken to ensure things don’t escalate again.
“Obviously you just want to focus on football and not have to worry about stuff like that,” Goodwin said. “We’ll get past it though. I’m not worried about it at all.”
– 49ers linebacker Kwon Alexander was officially cleared for practice Sunday and saw reps in both position and team drills.
The former Kansas City Chief was acquired by San Francisco via trade in March which also landed defensive end Dee Ford.
Alexander, who tore his ACL in October of 2018, underwent surgery to repair the compromised ligament in November making his return the field a surprisingly quick one.
When asked how he feels now that he’s back in uniform, Alexander replied, “I feel legendary.”
– Former first round pick and backup guard Joshua Garnett left Sunday’s practice with a dislocated finger and did not return.
According to Shanahan, Garnett suffered the same injury on Saturday but after “popping” the finger back into place, he was able to come back without hindrance.