Ronnie Bell

49ers rookie Bell making strides, staying ready for next opportunity

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SANTA CLARA — Ronnie Bell is ready for his next opportunity to step up.

The rookie wide receiver only has been on the field for 132 offensive plays through 14 games, but with teammate Jauan Jennings still in the NFL's concussion protocol, Bell could see more playing time when the 49ers host the Baltimore Ravens on Christmas night.

“Everybody in the receiver room, we know we have to step up and try to fill his spot,” Bell told NBC Sports Bay Area. “Everybody is prepared to go make plays.” 

Bell has yet to put up significant numbers this season, but has caught four of his six targets for 51 receiving yards and one touchdown in limited snaps. Head coach Kyle Shanahan believes the rookie is ready for when his name is called, but the pressure will not solely be on his shoulders.

“Yeah, I do,” Shanahan said on Saturday. “It’s not just Ronnie, but we’re going to have the other guys that need to. We’ll get another guy out from practice squad and we’ve got Chris [Conley] out there too. So, we’ll be able to move guys around a lot.”

Jennings is known as a fierce run blocker and Bell is very familiar with that part of the job. Ronnie’s father, Aaron, who is the wide receivers coach at Missouri Western, emphasized the importance of run blocking to his son.

“My dad always did a good job of making sure I had a lot of pride in it,” Bell said. “So it’s really cool to have a whole team that has the same mindset.” 

Maybe more important for a first-year player, Bell has not noticeably hit the “rookie wall.” Getting ready for his 15th NFL game, teammate left tackle Trent Williams has seen the young receiver remain focused.

“He’s improving every opportunity he gets and he really plays the 49er way with his hair on fire,” Williams told NBC Sports Bay Area, “He’s not afraid to get dirty. He’s hard-nosed in the run game and his YAC is what got everybody excited in the preseason but he’s so much more than that. He’s proven that every week.”

While Bell has had limited time on the field with the offense, his play on special teams already has increased. The rookie has taken over punt return duties, recording seven returns for 42 yards, while Ray-Ray McCloud has been sidelined with a rib injury.   

The Michigan product is grateful for his opportunity, adding that learning from team film sessions with his head coach has contributed to his development as a player along with work with his position coaches. 

“The game has definitely slowed down and that comes with the repetition and talking to coach Kyle going over everything,” Bell said. “Seeing it, hearing it, watching it and then being out there feeling it all happen, it’s definitely slowing down and it’s really cool to be a part of.” 

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