Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

49ers notebook: Kyle Shanahan explains Darqueze Dennard release; George Kittle on Trey Lance’s improvement; Nick Bosa praises fellow D-Linemen

Aug 17, 2022 at 12:55 PM--

Day one of joint practices between the San Francisco 49ers and Minnesota Vikings is in the books, and afterwards reporters got the chance to speak with 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan, quarterback Trey Lance, tight end George Kittle, and defensive end Nick Bosa about Wednesday's practice session as well as a number of other topics.

Among the things Shanahan discussed was the team's unexpected decision to release veteran cornerback Darqueze Dennard as well as what he's seen from rookie Samuel Womack, who seems to be zeroing in on the open nickel cornerback spot. Meanwhile, Kittle gave some thoughts on how Trey Lance has improved, and Bosa talked about being impressed with fellow linemen Javon Kinlaw, Kemoko Turay and Kerry Hyder, while also offering an unusual answer when asked what he thinks of Womack.

We have all that and more in this version of 49ers Notebook. Check it out below.

Out with the veteran, in with the rookie?

The 49ers had to cut five players this week in order to get their roster down to 85 by the league deadline of August 16, but it came as a surprise when one of them was Darqueze Dennard.

Dennard had been running with the first team in practice at nickel corner and was coming off a brief stint with the 49ers in 2021 where he impressed the team with his ability to help on short notice after being added to the roster for the season finale against the Los Angeles Rams. But Shanahan told reporters Wednesday that the team felt the eight-year veteran was not going to be able to make the final cut and decided to let him go in favor of younger players.

"We didn't think he was going to earn that spot," Shanahan said of Dennard. "Whether he's out there with the ones or not, no one really is slotted that way except for the depth charts we've got to give you guys for the preseason. So we wanted to give him opportunities being the vet with younger guys coming in, but we got to see enough that we felt the younger guys were going to have a chance, so we want to give them some reps."

The most notable younger player competing for the nickel spot is the fifth-round pick Womack, who had been opening eyes at practice before having an impressive two-interception performance in the preseason opener against the Green Bay Packers. Shanahan didn't seem ready to hand the job to Womack just yet, but there's little doubt the rookie has put himself in a strong position.

"I think everyone saw him during the game," Shanahan said. "He did a real good job. He's done a decent job in practice too. We have some safeties who we can mix there also. So there's still some decent competition, but yeah, we've been happy with how he's been so far."

Letting Dennard go this early in the preseason gives him a better opportunity to catch on with another team before the regular season begins. But if things don't go as expected in Dennard's absence, perhaps the 49ers could give him a call down the road if he's still available.

"Dennard's been awesome for us, when he helped last year stepping in in that game," Shanahan said. "He was a good player for us this offseason. We'll see how these guys do. If it doesn't work out, hopefully someday he can come back."

No fighting in Minnesota

Practice fights were in the headlines across the NFL on Wednesday, in particular one between the Patriots and Panthers that spilled into the crowd and resulted in an injury to a fan. But there weren't any scuffles between the 49ers and Vikings on Wednesday, nor will there be, if players follow the rules set forth by Shanahan and Vikings head coach Kevin O'Connell.

"That's a pretty big emphasis," Shanahan said. "I just had a deal with Kevin -- if anyone throws a punch, we're going to kick him out of practice. We know how important it is to get this practice work right now. That's what we stress because we need to practice, and if you fight, you're going to be out of there. So do everything you can to not."

The 49ers and Vikings hold their second joint practice session on Thursday before facing off in a preseason game Saturday evening (7 p.m. ET).

Nice touch

Lance was a popular topic of conversation Wednesday, with reporters wanting to know how the Minnesota native has improved since being drafted by the 49ers in 2021. Kittle said Lance has gotten better every step of the way, with one noticeable area being his touch on his passes.

"His touch has gotten a lot better since he first got here," Kittle said. "I'm pretty sure one of my first five-yard routes he threw it at my head and tried to take my helmet off. Now he's got some nice touch to it."

Lance told reporters that the game isn't moving as fast for him as it was during his rookie year and is in a better place as he approaches his second season.

"Things have slowed down a lot mentally and physically. I feel I'm in a much better spot on both ends," Lance said.

Building chemistry

One key for Lance in the days ahead will be continuing to get work with wide receiver Deebo Samuel, who missed time during the offseason due to his contract-related dispute with the 49ers. But Samuel returned to practice after signing an extension on July 31, and now he and Lance have been catching up on the field. With Lance heading into his first season as the starting quarterback, any reps he can get with Samuel over the next few weeks will be helpful in establishing rapport.

"I feel like we were always hot," Lance said of his connection with Samuel. "But he's done a great job these last few days. The more reps we get together, the more we get to watch together, the better we're going to be."

Bosa weighs in on Kinlaw, Turay, Hyder

As mentioned, Nick Bosa talked about a number of teammates on Wednesday, starting with Javon Kinlaw, who recently returned to practice after spending the first part of the year rehabbing a knee injury that cost him most of the 2021 season. Kinlaw and Bosa haven't seen much playing time together, even though the two of them are in their third year as teammates. Bosa missed most of Kinlaw's rookie season in 2020 after tearing his ACL in Week 2, while Kinlaw was on the field for just four games after Bosa returned in 2021.

Bosa spoke about what it was like to have Kinlaw back in the lineup, and what he thinks Kinlaw is capable of if he stays healthy.

"I think he brings an intimidation factor for sure," Bosa said. "I actually saw a really good rep from him today that I was happy to see, but most of the time I can't see because I'm in there, but I'm excited to watch the film. He's got everything you could possibly need to be super dominant in this league. He just needs some reps to get used to it. I'm just excited he's feeling good."

The subject of Kemoko Turay came up when Bosa talked about who impressed him from the 49ers' preseason opener against the Packers. Bosa didn't play in the game, but he did get the chance to watch it on television and liked what he saw from Turay.

"I think Kemoko jumped off the tape, undoubtedly," Bosa said. "I think anybody who watched the game -- I actually was flipping through the channels in my hotel room and our game was on, and he popped off on the TV copy, definitely. So I think he's shown that he plays our style of football and that he's a game-player. Not that he doesn't show up in practice, but when the lights come on, he shows up even more, which is something that you can't really teach. And he's got that."

Turay is in his first year with the 49ers after spending four seasons with the Colts, who selected him in Round 2 of the 2018 NFL Draft. The Colts decided not to re-sign Turay over the offseason after an up-and-down four seasons that saw him deal with multiple injuries, and now their loss could become the 49ers' gain.

"I remember watching him with the Colts and being impressed, so the fact he got out of there somehow and we got him is definitely a good addition," Bosa said.

Kerry Hyder is another teammate Bosa hasn't seen many game reps with due to the fact Hyder's only season with the 49ers came during Bosa's lost year in 2020. Hyder shined that season in Bosa's absence, racking up a career-high 8.5 sacks before signing with the Seattle Seahawks in 2021. Hyder was brought back to the 49ers earlier this year and seems set to be an important leader and depth piece on the defensive line.

"Kerry's the ultimate pro," Bosa said. "A lot of guys kind of start fast and then wither down throughout camp. He's the guy who keeps climbing and getting better. He's another guy who's a gamer, who shows up on game days and knows how to beat starting tackles in the league. So he'll be on the team and he'll be a really good veteran piece for us."

Still getting to know the rookie

Bosa was asked about Womack towards the end of his media session Wednesday and gave an interesting answer. He said he hasn't had the chance to get to know Womack very well due in part to Womack always being preoccupied.

"He's always on the phone, so I don't really get a read on him," Bosa said. "I don't know if it's his girlfriend or what, but the guy never gets off his phone. But no, he's nice. I had a couple chats with him. I told him to get off his phone. But he can play for sure. We need guys who can play."

It's only a matter of time before Bosa learns more about Womack, especially if the rookie winds up being on the field as much as he's now being expected to this season.

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