Kilgore's strong play prompts 49ers to release Zuttah


SANTA CLARA – Daniel Kilgore did not exactly welcome the competition when he learned 49ers acquired Pro Bowl center Jeremy Zuttah in the offseason.

But now that Zuttah is out of the picture with Kilgore clearly winning the competition for a starting job, it is easy for him to realize the threat brought out the best in him.

“This is my fourth head coach in four years and a new GM,” Kilgore said. “It’s human nature to think the worst in every situation. I bowed my chest a little bit and kind of got upset and mad. But at the same time, you got to respect the competition.

“They brought in a heck of a guy to compete with. For me, it just took my game up to another level. It took my workouts and my whole demeanor in the offseason to another level, just knowing my job was on the line.”

Zuttah underperformed in the team’s first 10 practices while Kilgore quickly established himself as the best fit for the 49ers' new offensive scheme. The 49ers’ biggest weakness might be at the offensive guard positions, and the team determined Zuttah would not help there, either.

“I think it says a lot about how Kilgore has been playing,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. “He’s done a real good job in practice with that center spot. Really kind of grasping that with the ones. Then just going through our whole plan for the preseason, how we’re going to play these guys and the guys we really needed to look at. It just looked to us that we weren’t going to give Zuttah a lot of playing time throughout the preseason.

“He’s a guy I have a lot of respect for. He’s done a lot of good things in this league. I told him this morning, I had a hard time doing that to him. We wanted to give him a chance to go somewhere else instead of keeping him here and making him go through that.”

Kilgore has wrapped up a starting job. Now, the 49ers are sifting through their options. Left guard Zane Beadles and right guard Brandon Fusco are working with the first team. Kilgore is getting some work at guard, as the 49ers try to determine whether their strongest unit could consist of Kilgore at one of those spots with veteran Tim Barnes at center.

“Just trying to go through all possibilities,” Shanahan said.

Guard Joshua Garnett got off to a solid start in training camp before slowing down in Week 2. He is scheduled to undergo a cartilage cleanup procedure on Thursday that is expected to keep him out four to six weeks.

“I know I’m hoping that he has a chance for Week 1, but I know that’s going to be a battle,” Shanahan said.

The 49ers open the regular season Sept. 10 against the Carolina Panthers.

--The 49ers went through their first non-padded practice since Day 2 of training camp. The coaching staff introduced some of Kansas City’s scheme, and the tempo was not as high intensity as Shanahan wanted to see.

“So, that was our first time doing that as a group and I just didn’t like the tempo of it,” Shanahan said. “I kind of expected it,”

--Rookie tight end George Kittle’s hamstring tightened up during practice on Tuesday. He was held out of practice on Wednesday. He is not expected to play Friday at Kansas City when the 49ers open their exhibition season.

--Linebacker Reuben Foster was back working with the first-team defense. But he aggravated a left ankle condition and sat out the remainder of practice.

--Rookie quarterback C.J. Beathard had a strong practice, including a perfectly thrown 50-yard pass to a wide-open Victor Bolden, which he dropped. Beathard is in competition against Matt Barkley for the No. 2 job behind Brian Hoyer. Barkley will be the second quarterback to play against Kansas City.

--Rookie cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon made his best play of camp, as he ran stride-for-stride deep down the field with receiver DeAndre Smelter to intercept Barkley’s pass.

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