Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Shanahan was surprised officials ejected 49ers LB Kwon Alexander vs. Buccaneers

Sep 13, 2019 at 2:30 PM--

It's an old cliche that sometimes adversity teaches you more about yourself, or your football team, than good luck does. So when 49ers prized free-agent acquisition and starting LB Kwon Alexander was ejected in the first quarter of the 49ers' game in Tampa Bay last Sunday, it was a turning point in that game.

Kyle Shanahan jumped on KNBR on Thursday and was asked on the "Tolbert, Krueger and Brooks" show about Alexander's ejection and how he handled it.

"We're very big into people's intentions, and by no means was Kwon trying to cheap-shot that guy. [...] But it's pretty hard when you have a 235-pound quarterback who can run you over at any second and runs people over all the time, and he's doing a pump fake on third-and-five or whatever it was right at the chains, and you're trying to stop him, so he doesn't get a first down. And then at the last second, he decides to slide at the last second, and you end up contacting his head.

"That's not something he's trying to do, we all know that that's a penalty. That's just how the league is. But it's also physics, and when you're running full speed, it's very hard to avoid that."

Added Shanahan: "I know the guy wasn't taking a cheap shot. He was just trying to play football, and that's kind of a part of it. That's why I was expecting a penalty but was very surprised when he got ejected."

Sunday was Alexander's first regular-season action since suffering an ACL injury in October of last year as a member of the Buccaneers. The 49ers signed him to a four-year deal in March.

"He handled [the ejection] like a man, though," Shanahan continued. "He went off, but I know it was extremely tough on the guy. And I wasn't giving him the game ball for getting kicked out; I was going to give him the game ball regardless if we won that game."

Alexander, known in Tampa Bay—where he played his first four seasons before joining San Francisco—as an emotional team leader, also received rave reviews this offseason for bringing his energy and leadership to the 49ers, from everyone from GM John Lynch and Head Coach Kyle Shanahan, to teammates like Richard Sherman and Fred Warner.

Clearly, returning to Tampa Bay with his new team meant a lot to Alexander, and his 49ers teammates knew it too.

"They really wanted this win for the Niners," Shanahan said. "They also knew how special it was for Kwon, so when he got kicked out so early in the game, it was a little emotional for our team, because they knew how much it meant to him, and they wanted to play with him."

The rest of the 49ers, as we saw, pulled together and won that game last Sunday in Tampa, thanks largely to the effort of the defense, playing without one of its leaders and best players. That response bodes well for the team's chemistry, and ability to respond to adversity, moving forward.

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