The NFL Scouting Combine began this week on Tuesday. In Year 3 of their rebuild of the San Francisco 49ers, the combine marks a critical point for general manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan as they prepare for the 2019 NFL Draft that kicks off on April 25. Shanahan spoke with the media this week at the start of the combine. Here’s some of his notable talking points:
Jimmy Garoppolo ahead of schedule
The 49ers’ franchise quarterback is apparently well on his way to a successful recovery from a torn ACL suffered in Week 3 of 2018. Shanahan detailed his offseason observations of Garoppolo with enthusiasm on Wednesday.
“We don’t talk about football. But I see him out my (office) window every day. He does drops every day,” Shanahan said via Sacramento Bee’s Chris Biderman. “...He’s been doing a good job, but everyone says they’re ahead of schedule. He is. I mean, he’s been healing great and he hasn’t had knee trouble before.”
Garoppolo signed a five-year, $137.5 million contract with the 49ers during the offseason, and he’s likely eager to return to the field after watching the 49ers go 3-10 without him in 2018. Despite the positive progress report, it was clear that Shanahan and the 49ers’ medical staff wasn’t going to rush their quarterback back into action early.
“(We will) probably make a smart decision to go seven-on-seven so we wouldn’t have to worry about it,” Shanahan said of Garoppolo’s expected participation in June’s OTAs. “I don’t have an exact time line, but that’s how I feel.”
49ers picking up Arik Armstead’s fifth-year option
Shanahan announced on Friday that the 49ers will retain Armstead for the 2019 season. The team picked up his fifth-year option a year ago and have chosen to keep Armstead on the team next season, guaranteeing his 2019 salary of $9.046 million.
“We’re not into losing good players,” Shanahan said, via Biderman. “He has played very well for us. I think he can take it to whole other level. I hope to see him do that this year. If he does that, that’s going to be very good for the Niners and very good for him, because he’s got the ability to do it.”
The No. 17 overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft has only appeared in 14 games over his last two seasons, having been plagued by hand and shoulder injuries. In his first 16-game season, Armstead totaled 48 tackles, six tackles for loss, 12 quarterback hits and three sacks in 2018. He now has another season to show the 49ers that he belongs on the team through 2019.
No pursuit of Antonio Brown yet
“I haven’t. Not that I know of,” Shanahan said when asked if he or the 49ers have contacted the Pittsburgh Steelers in regards to exploring a trade for receiver Antonio Brown.
Brown, who led the NFL with 15 touchdown catches last season, has been granted permission to seek a trade after the relationship between he and the team steadily eroded throughout the season. Steelers ownership has assured Brown that they would assist in finding the polarizing wideout a new home.
“I cannot talk about another player that’s not under contract with us,” Shanahan said, via Biderman.
The 49ers have elected to part ways with veteran receiver Pierre Garçon this offseason, leaving an already depleted position group even more so. All the while, Brown has routinely flirted with the idea of joining the 49ers via social media, replying to players on the team and routinely referencing his relationship with former 49ers great, Jerry Rice.
Shanahan and the 49ers could discuss the possibility of acquiring Brown with Pittsburgh brass this week while both attend the Combine.
Praise for Wes Welker and Miles Austin
The 49ers made the hiring of former NFL receivers Wes Welker and Miles Austin official on Wednesday. Welker will assume the role of receivers coach as Mike LaFleur, who formerly held the position, is promoted to the team’s passing game coordinator. Austin joins the 49ers as an offensive quality control coach.
“Knowing he’s put in the work and put two hard years in at Houston, going the quality control route, and just talking to him and interviewing him you can tell he was serious about becoming a coach and was ready to put in the work, put in the hours,” Shanahan said of Welker. “He’s a talented guy and a good person. I feel fortunate to have him on the staff.”
Welker spent the last two years with the Houston Texans as an offensive quality control coach. He brings with him 11 years in the NFL, six with the New England Patriots. Welker totaled five 1,000-yard seasons and five with over 100 catches. Austin adds another nine years of NFL experience to the 49ers, including two 1,000-yard seasons with the Cowboys.
“You could hear how much he wanted to do it and how good he wanted to be, he has every skillset possible to be as good of a coach as he wants,” Shanahan said of Austin. “I just wanted to see how bad he wanted to do it. He has shown that he really wants to do it. So now, he’s going to put in the work and it’s a matter of time before he’ll be a real good one.”
Matt LaFleur dishes on Shanahan’s rejection
LaFleur, the Green Bay Packers’ newest head coach, also spoke with the media on Wednesday, detailing his failed attempt to pry his brother away from Shanahan’s coaching staff.
“Obviously, it didn’t go very well.” LaFleur joked.
LaFleur wanted his younger brother to join the Packers’ coaching staff as the offensive coordinator and requested an interview from the 49ers. He was denied that request, with the 49ers’ LaFleur currently under contract. Shanahan also spoke on Green Bay’s attempt to sign away one his most coveted members of the 49ers coaching staff.
“I’ve got some guys in that I think will help us prepare for that more in the future,” Shanahan said. “Mike LeFleur is a great coach. He’s going to be a great coach. He’s done great things for me. If he wants to work with his brother, that opportunity will come for him soon.”