Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

49ers cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon says he’ll start vs. Vikings

Jan 8, 2020 at 4:01 PM--

There was some debate and a whole lot of speculation on who should start opposite cornerback Richard Sherman when the San Francisco 49ers host the Minnesota Vikings on Saturday. Head coach Kyle Shanahan said he had a good idea who that would be but didn't want to tip his hand too early while speaking to reporters on Tuesday.

A day later, Ahkello Witherspoon ended that speculation.

The third-year cornerback informed reporters after Wednesday's practice that he, not Emmanuel Moseley, will start at cornerback opposites Sherman when the 49ers take the field this weekend.

Witherspoon started during the 49ers' Week 17 contest against the Seattle Seahawks but was replaced by Moseley late in the game. Moseley helped the defense preserve the 26-21 victory Seattle and earn San Francisco the NFC West title.

Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh was asked on Wednesday about the benching of Witherspoon in favor of Moseley during that Week 17 game.

"I'll keep that one in-house, if you don't mind," Saleh responded. "I'm sorry about that one, but I'll just leave that one alone."

While Saleh didn't want to explain the reasoning behind sitting Witherspoon, he doesn't believe the cornerback played poorly against the Seahawks.

"I'll be honest," Saleh told reporters. "When you look at it on the surface level, it's very easy to see — there's Ahkello; there's a guy catching the football. But people don't really understand what happened for that to happen. They don't understand whether or not somebody busted, and he may have been making up for somebody, and shouldn't have been there in the first place.

"Ahkello, actually, when you go back and look at the tape, played a pretty good football game. There's a couple of situations where he got caught in a bad situation. Either way, his ability to just put those to bed, and compete his tail off will always define whether or not he can finish and play games at his best.

"To say he played a poor game against Seattle — I'll be honest with all of you — would be inaccurate."

His coach may have defended him, but Witherspoon wasn't too pleased with his performance against the Seahawks.

"I think I played average, and I'm not an average player," Witherspoon told reporters on Wednesday. "So that's a poor game for me. (It was) just little things that just don't need to happen."

Saleh didn't want to expand on why he was replaced in the game, but Witherspoon explained that it was because Seattle was targeting his side of the field and staying away from Sherman.

"That's what I signed up for," Witherspoon added.

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