3 early concerns from opening week of 49ers OTA practices

There definitely aren't alarm bells going of outside Levi's Stadium, but the Niners should be modestly worried about these items at the start of OTAs.
San Francisco 49ers center Jake Brendel
San Francisco 49ers center Jake Brendel / Michael Zagaris/GettyImages

OTAs don't mean much, but the 49ers have to be slightly troubled at these three developments from the first week.

Organized team activities aren't the offseason sessions that should garner any sort of overreaction.

Aside from a serious injury to a key player, these soft practices matter little when it comes to formulating the 53-man roster the following season. Training camp and preseason games will mean much more than padless practices in spring.

OTAs are voluntary, too, meaning players don't physically have to attend, and it's common to see established veterans skip out on the workouts while preparing for the rigors that'll eventually take place later on during summer.

All that said, though, the San Francisco 49ers have a few things to worry about that have already sifted to the surface during their opening week of OTAs.

No. 1: Jake Brendel is dealing with knee tendonitis

Veteran center Jake Brendel is one of the many players who isn't partaking in OTAs, but it doesn't sound as if it's a voluntary choice.

According to head coach Kyle Shanahan, the 31-year-old Brendel is dealing with knee tendonitis and isn't expected to participate in the practices whatsoever.

In his place, the Niners put the versatile Jon Feliciano in at center with the first team, which opens the door at right guard for either Spencer Burford or the rookie, Dominick Puni, to potentially start if Brendel misses additional time.

Considering his age, Brendel dealing with a potential long-term knee issue could be problematic and may likely strain San Francisco's depth chart.

No. 2: 49ers' crop of backup tight ends is iffy

The 49ers can feel confident at tight end, provided All-Pro George Kittle stays healthy.

Behind him, though, it's a mixed bag and one that shouldn't inspire a ton of confidence.

Like Brendel, second-year pro Cameron Latu is absent from the opening of OTAs because of an injury. And while it's unclear whether or not it's related to the same knee injury he suffered at the end of the preseason last year that shelved him on injured reserve for all of 2023, it's more than evident that Latu needs a strong offseason to reboost his stock and to prove he's not a third-round NFL Draft bust.

Meanwhile, according to Sports Illustrated's Grant Cohn, veteran Eric Saubert hasn't looked like a viable pass-catcher and may only be utilized as a blocking option after the Niners lost Charlie Woerner to free agency earlier this offseason.

That leaves second-year pro Brayden Willis as the only serious hopeful to back up Kittle.

No. 3: Plenty of veterans aren't reporting to OTAs

Again, a reminder, OTAs are voluntary. For many a veteran who has undergone his share of offseason grinds, these practices can be more than just a little mundane.

Yet San Francisco has a pretty long list of players who haven't shown up yet:

  • WR Brandon Aiyuk
  • WR Jauan Jennings
  • RB Christian McCaffrey
  • DT Maliek Collins
  • RB Christian McCaffrey
  • OT Trent Williams

Aiyuk and Jennings make sense, somewhat. The former isn't likely to step foot on a field until he gets a contract extension, while Jennings has yet to sign his restricted free-agent tender.

But McCaffrey, who was an active participant last year and praised for his work ethic, is a puzzling no-show. Collins and Williams not attending isn't too big a deal, but one might see the overwhelming number of high-profile veterans being absent as a slight cause for concern.

Even Shanahan admitted he'd rather have those players in the facility.

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