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Golden Nuggets: Will the Seahawks health be the reason they close the gap on the 49ers?

Your daily San Francisco 49ers links for Thursday, August 20, 2020

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Seattle Seahawks v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Rob Leiter/Getty Images

The 49ers return to the practice field today and will practice through Sunday. I’ll be at each practice and will have follow-ups with what I saw afterwards. I can’t wait.

Clayton: Seahawks closing gap with 49ers with Adams, speed and health

The addition of Adams closes the gap between the talent of the Seahawks and the defending NFC champion San Francisco 49ers. What could be the difference maker is the injury situation. The Seahawks are in decent shape injury-wise. The 49ers are not. Injuries have been so bad the 49ers are struggling to get through training camp.

Center Weston Richburg is expected to start the season on the PUP list. He’s coming off ACL surgery. Defensive ends Ronald Blair and Jullian Taylor are also coming off ACL surgeries and haven’t been on the practice field. Slot cornerback K’Waun Williams is sidelined with a calf injury.

Cornerback is a big issue for the 49ers. Richard Sherman is set at the position but everything else is uncertain. The 49ers didn’t add much at cornerback this offseason and that could be a problem. Another setback for the 49ers was the pectoral injury of defensive back D.J. Reed. The 49ers waived him injured earlier this month and the Seahawks immediately claimed him off waivers. In the future, Reed could be a cornerback option along as a candidate as a kick returner for Seattle.

The biggest problem the 49ers have with injuries are at wide receiver. They have three injured receivers – four if you include the opt out of Travis Benjamin. Deebo Samuel has a Jones fracture and might not be ready for the season opener. Richie James has a broken wrist and is out. Jalen Hurd blew out an ACL and is done for the season.

NFL’s top nine defenses in 2020: Chargers, Bills, 49ers all loaded, but who’s No. 1?

Behind this stacked D-line, Fred Warner is emerging as one of the best three-down linebackers in the game today, possessing the kind of coverage skills every team is looking for at the position. The biggest question area is the secondary. Richard Sherman somehow still played at a Hall of Fame level last year, but he’s entering his age-32 season at a position that’s not kind to the aging process. Safety Jimmie Ward’s fresh off a breakout campaign, though. And defensive coordinator Robert Saleh is a master motivator who’ll be a head coach soon.

‘No one really cares about the year before’: 49ers TE George Kittle preparing for his best season yet

“Honestly, there’s not really any need to find the hunger,” Kittle said on The Morning Show. “I have said a hundred times, I get paid to play football, which is my dream job. My hunger is that I always want to be the best version of me I can be.”

Kittle recently signed a five-year, $75 million contract extension that will keep him with San Francisco, the team that made him a fifth-round draft pick out of Iowa in 2017, for the foreseeable future. He hauled in 85 passes for 1,053 yards with five touchdowns last season, helping his team to 13 regular-season wins, a division championship, and a trip to the Super Bowl.

That isn’t enough for Kittle, though.

“I think I had a good year last year, but you can always improve upon it,” Kittle continued. “I mean, No. 7 (in the Top 100), you can always get better, right? It is what it is.

WWE legend Ric Flair surprises 49ers TE George Kittle to congratulate him on contract extension

95.7 The Game welcomed Kittle to its airwaves on Wednesday, and at one point, the host asked a caller — who turned out to be Flair — to introduce themselves and give their message to the All-Pro tight end.

“Yes, it’s ‘The Nature Boy’ Ric Flair! Congratulations George Kittle! You’re limousine ridin’ and jet flyin’,” Flair said.

Kittle was at a loss for words amid the surprise appearance, saying, “Wow, that’s incredible, you guys.”

The larger-than-life Flair also had some life advice for Kittle during the call, saying, “Stay married, George. Stay married and you can limousine ride and jet fly forever.” Kittle married Claire Till, whom he met at the University of Iowa in 2019.

The NFL’s best defensive playcallers heading into the 2020 season

“However, Saleh has overcome a decent amount since taking over the 49ers defense — not the least of which is having to contend with MVP candidate Russell Wilson twice a year and going toe-to-toe with the offensive mind that is Sean McVay multiple times, as well.

The 49ers improved from 12th in net adjusted yards per pass attempt allowed in 2018 to first in 2019, with Richard Sherman putting together another career-year-level campaign. The 49ers will likely regress as a defense in 2020, but Saleh might be enough to curb that regression enough for them to repeat as division champions for the first time since 2011-12.”