Things are different when you’re a rookie and expectations are markedly less. Knocks on you coming out of college are that you aren’t the best tackler and that the 49ers could have been reaching when they drafted you in the third round. Then you surprise everyone by playing lights out, and the following offseason, veteran Richard Sherman joins the team and invites you to his first ever cornerback summit because he thinks you can handle it.
Those are big shoes to fill and Ahkello Witherspoon has handled those expectations very well. Prior to the game facing the Lions, however, Witherspoon was limited with an ankle injury but was healthy enough to play. With Sherman on the other side of the field, Witherspoon was targeted much more heavily in the first two games than he was last season, and he knows it.
It’s going to be a steep learning curve for the second year defensive back but he has a critical support system in Sherman, who had a few things to say in regards to the 24 hour rule for Witherspoon:
“Yes. You have 24 hours. Win, lose or draw. Regardless of the outcome or how you play. You have 24 hours, you look at the tape, you correct your mistakes and you move on. That is what you do regardless. If he played and had five picks, I would tell him the same. It doesn’t matter how good you played or how bad you played one week, this is the NFL. The next week is a whole new beast. You are facing a whole new team, whole new scheme. If you caught five picks, they are going to test you again. If you got five balls caught on you they are going to test you again regardless. That is this league and I think that he is going to bounce back.”
Head coach Kyle Shanahan detailed the rotation of Witherspoon coming out of the game late in the fourth quarter:
“No, we took him out to get him out for a play. He was questionable all week with just how he was practicing, having some stuff bothering him going into the game. That’s no excuses or anything. If you’re out there you’ve got to play well and just saw him hobbling a little bit, so got someone else in there....Going into the game we knew we had to watch him with some stuff he was fighting through and I’m not in that all the time. So, I’m not exactly sure what had happened, but I’m not surprised that it did happen during the game. We thought there’d be a chance of that going in.”
The 49ers have a huge challenge ahead facing a Chiefs offense that has put up 80 points in two weeks. Witherspoon would be best served to have both ankles 100 percent, but those types of things can linger. It is likely he will be limited during practice to start the week, but we can all rest assured that there will be intense film study to go over what needs to be adjusted. After the 24 hours pass, they are on to Kansas City.