Judging by the reviews Talanoa Hufanga has received since his first NFL debut, it appears that the rookie protection may be around for a while.
USC fifth-round draft pick Hufanga played all 70 snaps in Sunday’s 49ers’ 33-22 win over the Chicago Bears, with Zaczyski Tart on injured reserve with a turf toe. He was in five tackles, including one for a loss, but more impressed coach Kyle Shanahan with the energy he brought to the field.
Shanahan also named John Lynch, general manager of the Hall of Fame, this year for displaying those same qualities.
“I was excited about Huff,” Shanahan said Monday at her weekly conference with local media. “The man only knows one way . . . I (Lynch) didn’t know much until we got here together, but I always thought I knew who he was, just by watching him on tape. And when you see Huff, the way he plays, the energy he plays, that’s what I feel.
“He’s not being compared to Lynch or anything, but you can see the passion he plays with. I’ll bet you guys noticed. I am sure the fans will have noticed this.”
Fellow 49ers defenders Josh Norman and Fred Warner said they sensed Hufanga’s presence.
“That was great. He was everything we asked for and anything else,” Norman said. “He wasn’t afraid of the moment. He really grabbed the moment by the horns, and he ran with it. He’ll just keep on improving, and that kind of guy, he can only get better.
“I mean, he’s a rookie, for crying out loud. He played like a vet today.”
Warner said: “I thought he did very well. He’s playing behind me, so half the time I don’t know what he’s doing, but it looked like he was around the ball, being disruptive, and doing the right things, in the right place. ”
Hufanga will face a tall order against Esper and quarterback Kyler Murray this week, which presents a dilemma for Safari as to whether to defend a potential run on a play that could be a deep pass.
Complicating matters is that security Jimmy Ward has a quadriceps injury, which Shanahan speculates would keep him out for one to two weeks.
“There’s an outside chance for this week, but I’m not real optimistic about it,” Shanahan said.
If Ward can’t play, Hufanga will be paired with Tavon Wilson, a 10-year veteran of 132 games and 45 starts. He has played only 33 snaps on defense for the 49ers this season, 19 of them in the opener.
Starting Clock on Kittel, Gold, Wilson
Shanahan expected the 49ers to start the clock in practice this week, leaving behind George Kittel (calf), placekickers Robbie Gould (waist) and Jeff Wilson (knee).
The availability of all three against Arizona will be dictated by how they look in practice.
Shanahan was also optimistic that Edge Rasher de Ford (concussion) and linebacker Aziz Al-Shayer (concussion) could practice this week after being inactive against Chicago.
Linebacker Dre Greenlaw could end up on injured reserve for another week.
Lynch talks, 49 people listen
Shanahan asked 49ers general manager Lynch to speak to the team on Saturday night and thought the session helped his team go to the Bears game with four straight losses.
Shanahan said, “I asked him to do it hoping it would be good, and it was even better than I expected.”
Lynch, Shanahan said, brings clout not only as the current GM but as a Hall of Famer who played with great passion and left behind as one of the NFL’s hardest hitters.
Shanahan said, “(He) addressed what he thought of every player, every situation, people, and kept it real with a bunch of people – the good and the bad.” “I think it fired us up and gave people a lot of perspective.”
WIT movie review
The 49ers game movie review Monday included a dozen clips Shanahan called “WIT,” which stands for “What It Takes.”
It also included Elijah Mitchell’s 5-yard touchdown run when he kept running to his feet and was pushed by teammates and pulled into the end zone, Deebo Samuel’s 83 with a pop screen to set up a touchdown. -yard, and another, Mitchell in the 49ers’ early possession by a less specific run.
“I think the fourth game of the game, it was the first and -10 and we ran power and he stopped at the line of scuffle, but (Elijah) and (Kyle Juszyk) kept running their feet and he got seven yards and it Second and made a -3. It’s a little play in the game but for me this game shows everything.”
The NFL’s business deadline is Tuesday, and Shanahan estimates the 49ers are doing some talking, but not expecting much in the way of action.
Shanahan said, “Business isn’t always as easy as it seems.” “So I think a lot of talk happens with all 32 teams, but when you get down to it it really doesn’t happen. We’re open to stuff that might help us right now but we can’t help us in the future. Don’t want to do it at the cost of hurting. I would say never but I would be surprised if anything happens.”