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Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Weston Richburg eager to create bond with Jimmy Garoppolo

Mar 16, 2018 at 8:49 AM--

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"I think there's a special relationship between center and quarterback," San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo said on the Monday following the team's last game of the season. "[Dianiel Kilgore and I] spend so much time together. Me and him got on the same page almost instantly when I first got here. He made my job a lot easier, helping me with the run game and all that stuff. I think we complement each other very well, so hopefully, we'll work something out."

The 49ers and Kilgore did work something out. The center signed a three-year extension in February to remain in San Francisco and help build upon the team's strong finish last season. A month later, Kilgore was traded to the Miami Dolphins.

The 49ers saw an opportunity in free agency to improve the position, and they did not hesitate to take it. The signing of Weston Richburg to a five-year deal left the 49ers with two centers with starting experience. The obvious decision would be to move one of them to another position – like guard – where the 49ers are in dire need of an upgrade. The only problem for the coaching staff was that they had two players who were natural centers.

Head coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch briefly considered ways to utilize both players on the roster. On Thursday, Shanahan told reporters he didn't think it would be fair to move Kilgore to guard.

"Just mainly because we see Dan as a center," Shanahan explained. "I think he does also."

Richburg played guard during his rookie season. However, that was due to injuries along the New York Giants' offensive line. The next year, he moved to center and was graded as the second-best player at the position for that season by Pro Football Focus.

"There was a time that we thought, 'Let's give it some time with Weston at guard, he has played guard, and keep Danny at center,'" Lynch told reporters. "But, ultimately his best position is center. Both those guys' best position is center."

The 49ers made the tough decision, and now Garoppolo will have to create a "special relationship" with a new center. Richburg, who hasn't had an opportunity to meet his new quarterback yet, is looking forward to it.

"I think the bond between a center and a quarterback is crucial, and I'm excited," Richburg said. "I think it's great that we're the same age, and we've met maybe in the senior bowl, I think. I'm looking forward to working with him and getting something going."

Garoppolo led the 49ers on an impressive run to end last season. The team went undefeated in December while winning their final five games of the season. Garoppolo rejuvenated San Francisco once he became the starting quarterback. Richburg is excited to be part of a 49ers team on the rise.

"Watching them from a distance last year, you could see there was excitement," he said. "Even when things weren't going well, there was still excitement. Surrounded by some guys I talked to today, talked about how it didn't feel like they were losing games. And then when Jimmy comes in, and they go on that run, it just looked like there was a lot of great things ahead, and that's how I feel being here today.

"Excited about what's in store for us, what we can do as an offense, and then as a team together."

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