Christian McCaffrey’s New Plan Opens RB Door – NBC Sports Bay Area and California

SANTA CLARA — Coach Kyle Shanahan has proposed a goal of limiting star Christian McCaffrey’s workload.

Completing the 49ers’ offseason program showed common sightings of backup running backs Elijah Mitchell and Jordan Mason and their running and pass-catching routes out of the backfield.

McCaffrey did not practice during the offseason program, including two days of the team’s mandatory minicamp, after he signed a two-year contract extension through the 2027 season.

Mitchell caught just six passes for 14 yards last season, while Mason contributed three receptions for 31 yards. If the offseason is any indication, Shanahan should have more confidence in the pass-catching skills of both players.

“Midfielders can score six goals in a game and not get called into play just once because they do so many checks,” Shanahan said.

Mitchell led the way in previous practices this spring. On Wednesday, Mason caught three passes from quarterback Brock Purdy in an offense versus defense drill.

The 49ers have been reluctant to take McCaffrey out of games, largely due to his skills as a third-down passer.

As Mitchell and Mason develop more of these skills, the 49ers may find more snaps for these players to limit McCaffrey’s wear and tear throughout the season.

Here are some other notes from the 49ers’ mandatory minicamp:

-Offensive tackle Trent Williams returned to the 49ers facility after attending his daughter’s graduation. He did not participate in any field exercises.

– Defensive tackle Malik Collins, who sat out the offseason program to stay with family, was at Santa Clara and worked the sideline. Many of the team’s veteran players did not participate in practices during minicamp.

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“When guys aren’t here during Phase 1, Phase 2, Phase 3, just to get rid of them in those things, we’re not going to risk that,” Shanahan said.

– Newly signed veteran Logan Thomas has joined training after signing for the club on Tuesday. He took a pass from Brandon Allen early during 7-on-7 action.

– Second-year tight end Brayden Willis looked noticeably more comfortable as part of the team’s passing game this offseason while George Kittle continued physical therapy following offseason core muscle surgery. Willis’ best reception came when he took an arrow from Purdy in traffic on a seam route. Willis made another catch against good coverage from linebacker Dee Winters.

– Cameron Latu, a third-round pick last season, looked like he was running full speed down a side field. Lato spent his rookie season on injured reserve after undergoing knee surgery. Shanahan said he has not faced any setbacks and is on track to be ready for the start of training camp in late July.

– Deebo Samuel was on the receiving end of back-to-back throws from Purdy early in the 11-on-11 session, including a 35-yard gain against cornerback Samuel Womack.

– Ronnie Bell faces a challenge to win a roster spot. On Wednesday, he caught a pass from Brandon Allen sliding through his territory on a deep seam route.

— On the third play of Tuesday’s practice, Purdy hit wide receiver Ricky Pearsall on a 30-yard corner route. Pearsall was consistent in terms of targets and receptions during the offseason program.

“He’s doing a good job,” Shanahan said of Pearsall. “He’s got really good hands, so he rarely goes down. We’re getting him a lot of reps. He’s taking a lot of different routes, trying all the positions, and we’ve been really impressed with the way he’s getting going.”

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– The 49ers are hoping to get more production from defensive end opposite Nick Bosa than they have gotten in the past. Veteran Leonard Floyd showed something with a quick move around the corner to beat right tackle Colton McKevitz, forcing Purdy out of the pocket. Floyd recorded 39.5 sacks over the past four seasons before signing with the 49ers this offseason as a free agent.

– Defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos wasn’t fooled at all on the foul play, catching Purdy as he rolled left. Gross-Matos forced an incomplete Purdy pass to linebacker Kyle Goscheck.

– The 49ers worked for one period on a new kickoff format. Mitchell, Bell, Pearsall, Trent Taylor, Tyreek Owens and Cody Schrader all got reps as good guys.

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