49ers training camp: Mitchell is out, but Kinlaw is flourishing and Shanahan is done worrying about Purdy

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — The 49ers’ quest for a relatively inexpensive training camp has mostly yielded positive results.

Brock Purdy is throwing the ball so well that coach Kyle Shanahan isn’t worried about his surgically repaired throwing elbow.

“That’s completely off my mind,” Shanahan said after a brief 49ers practice on Thursday. “He’s recovered. He’s in good health. Guys have to get in throwing shape and play to get used to it, but I’m not thinking about the injury.”

Two players with extensive injury histories returned from the day off with different results. Running back Elijah Mitchell is out for at least a week with a thigh strain, but defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw continued a positive trend by participating in his seventh straight practice with no restrictions.

Mitchell, who missed five games and had 45 carries for 279 yards last year due to two MCL strains, also missed five games as a rookie and set the franchise rookie record for rushing with 963 yards.

Mitchell has 1,242 yards rushing and a 4.9 average in 16 games, which is one game short of a full NFL season, thanks in part to a second-effort style that may or may not set him up for unnecessary blows.

Running backs coach Bobby Turner said he has discussed with Mitchell the importance of protecting himself whenever possible, but that it is not in Mitchell’s nature as a runner. Shanahan stated that the most recent injury is unrelated to punishment, and that his MCL strains last year occurred when he was hit on the knee with his foot planted in the ground.

“You can’t change your style — that’s what makes him great — but I don’t think that’s what gets him hurt, either,” Shanahan explained. “I’m hoping we’ll discover the secret ingredient as we go.”

Mitchell’s injury gives second-year backs Jordan Mason and Ty Davis-Price a few more practices to establish themselves, and both have a much better understanding of the offense than they did a year ago.

“They’ve matured and grown so much,” fullback Kyle Juszczyk said. “Having a year under your belt means a lot in this offense.” You let it sink in and then restart; you’re not starting from scratch. They’re playing faster and more confidently.”

Kinlaw had an ACL knee reconstruction in 2021 and has never been healthy enough to show the talent that landed him as the 14th overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft as the man to replace DeForest Buckner when he was traded to Indianapolis.

Kinlaw has had an entire offseason without missing time for the first time in his career. Defensive line coach Kris Kocurek said Kinlaw’s performance has been one of the most rewarding things she’s seen since he joined the 49ers in 2018.

“Every year, you’re hoping, and every year, it’s just heartbreaking,” Shanahan said. “This is the first time he’s gone without incident since February.” You’re definitely rooting for the kid.”

Injuries kept tackle Jaylon Moore (knee bruise), left guard Aaron Banks (concussion protocol), and guard/center Jon Feliciano (shoulder strain) out of practice.

Moore, according to Shanahan, could be out for a week but was walking without a limp two days after being helped off the field during practice.

Lightweight training camp

Do you think the 49ers will go hard on the practice field after a day off? Guess once more. Christian McCaffrey, Trent Williams, and Dre Greenlaw sat out, while George Kittle went through drills but did not take part in team sessions.

Instead, the 49ers had a light day with fewer practice reps and will return to full force tomorrow.

The days of testing manhood during training camp are long gone, as research shows that gradually increasing contact time keeps more players healthy.

“What I love about it is that it’s driven by analytics,” Juszczyk said. “On the surface, you might think, ‘You had a break yesterday, so let’s get to work today.’ However, they have discovered that this is when the majority of injuries occur. We’re attempting to be astute out here. We’re attempting to properly train our bodies. Our dedication to that has been fantastic.”

Winters takes action

Dee Winters, a 5-foot-11, 227-pound linebacker out of TCU who was known for making big plays in college, intercepted Trey Lance on a pass intended for Tay Martin in the sixth round.

General manager John Lynch said on draft day that linebackers coach Johnny Holland compared Winters’ skill set to that of Greenlaw. Holland did not back down from his statement to reporters on Wednesday.

“He can strike with explosiveness and get off blocks, and that is Dre Greenlaw’s most valuable asset,” Holland said. “I believe he possesses some of those characteristics.” He can close quickly, get on people, wrap them up, and take them down.”

Fast hits

— D’Shawn Jamison, an undrafted rookie cornerback from Texas, has made a strong defensive impression and was also considered for running back kickoffs on Thursday.

“He’s scrappy in coverage,” cornerback Charvrius Smith said. Ward introduced himself as “Mooney.” “His backpedal is patient. That impressed me greatly. He’s doing really well right now.”

— Ambry Thomas was a forgotten man last year after playing in 12 games and starting five as a rookie out of Michigan in 2021, falling far behind Deommodore Lenoir and others.

“I think he was on the outside looking in a little last year,” Shanahan said. “You can see on the field this year that his urgency and preparation are so much better.”

— Terrance Mitchell was placed on injured reserve with an undisclosed injury, and Anthony Averitt was signed to a one-year contract. Averitt appeared in seven games for the Raiders last season, making six starts.

— Right guard Spencer Burford claims to be eight pounds lighter than he was his rookie year and believes he is faster and leaner. Burford, who split time with Daniel Brunskill last season, is also adjusting to a new right tackle in Colton McKivitz, who replaces Mike McGlinchey.

“Me and Colton, we’re flowing like water,” said Burford. “We’re feeding off each other’s tendencies, talking about what he likes to do and what I like to do. Right now, we’re just establishing chemistry. Everything has gone relatively smoothly.”

— After the media left Tuesday’s practice for the interview room, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar paid the 49ers a visit and delivered a brief speech. Dr. Harry Edwards, a consultant, arranged the visit.

“So cool to see him out there,” Shanahan said. “There are some legends around, but Kareem is a legend of legends.” “It was pretty cool, according to the players.”

— Nick Bosa is expected to be the eighth 49er to be named to the NFL Network’s annual list of the top 100 players (as voted on by players). Williams (14), linebacker Fred Warner (15), Kittle (19), McCaffrey (35), Deebo Samuel (61), and Talanoa Hufanga have already been named.

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