49ers camp report: Brandon Aiyuk and Fred Warner fight; Danny Gray impresses – The Athletic

49ers camp report: Brandon Aiyuk and Fred Warner fight; Danny Gray impresses - The Athletic
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SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Fred Warner continues to irritate Brandon Aiyuk, and that reached a boiling point during Tuesday’s practice. The 49ers’ linebacker and receiver tangled twice, and by Round 2, they were ready to throw punches.

After an early reception, Aiyuk took exception to what he apparently deemed excessive contact from Warner and other 49ers’ defenders. He went after Warner. Both players wrestled to the ground as several teammates, including freshly extended receiver Deebo Samuel, pushed and shoved into the scuffle.

They eventually managed to separate Warner and Aiyuk. But a few minutes later, Warner popped receiver Marcus Johnson after a catch on a crossing pattern. Aiyuk, who wasn’t even in for that play, charged in to confront Warner. He squared up with both fists, as did Warner.

Several teammates, most prominently linebackers Azeez Al-Shaair and Dre Greenlaw and defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche, quickly converged on Aiyuk and Warner before they could throw punches. That ignited a brief brawl that again sent Aiyuk and Warner — both of whom still had helmets on — to the turf.

An angry Kyle Shanahan briefly stopped practice after that, calling a huddle that featured a stern message delivered through choice words.

Shanahan wasn’t scheduled to speak Tuesday, but 49ers special teams coordinator Brian Schneider shared the head coach’s thoughts after practice.

“No. 1, he loves the effort,” Schneider said. “But we have to play smart. Some guys were getting in scraps out there. He loves the intensity, and we just have to learn how to play.”

The kerfuffle between Aiyuk and Warner has been brewing since the start of training camp last week. Aiyuk called Warner “annoying” and “irritating” during a news conference, after which the linebacker explained that his bothersome hooting and hollering came with a motivational goal.

“Specifically with Brandon, I chose him out,” Warner explained Saturday. “And I’ll say why: I think he’s ready to make that next step into playing at an elite level. I’ve gotten after him a bit … because I know how much he has in him. And I know if I nag him a little bit, he’s going to get sick and tired of that and start to hold his own. I like what I see out of BA. He works super hard, and he’s started to really gain that mindset of knowing he’s a guy and he’s capable. I’m trying to get the best out of him. That’s it.

“I’m trying to get everybody battle-ready. When you get down to it, there’s a lot of games where it comes down to one or two scores when you’re playing against a top-tier team. You may have some guys on the opposite side of the ball who are even chirpier than I am. And you want to look across and say, ‘Man, this is nothing; I’ve been going against the best all training camp,’ so now you go out there and you got extreme confidence. ‘OK. I’m ready. I’m battle-tested. Let’s go do this.’”

Neither Aiyuk nor Warner was made available to the media following Tuesday’s practice.

Aiyuk did haul in a big catch over the middle shortly after the second dust-up. Warner, after contact from Greenlaw had knocked Kyle Juszczyk to the ground, made it a point to help the fullback back onto his feet.

Later, Aiyuk, Samuel and other 49ers wideouts signed autographs for fans.

That signing spree came after the 49ers had undergone their longest practice of camp to date. Shanahan ended the session with this season’s first move-the-ball period, which is designed to replicate in-game situations with shifting down-and-distance parameters.

Starting quarterback Trey Lance went 2-for-3 in this closing stretch while backup Nate Sudfeld completed both of his passes. Over the whole practice, Lance finished 10-for-19, Sudfeld went 11-for-16 and rookie Brock Purdy went 5-for-7.

Rookie receiver Danny Gray enjoyed an exceptional day. The speedster caught two deep passes from Sudfeld, including one against tight coverage from cornerback Ambry Thomas.

For the first time since the opening practice of camp, the 49ers defense did not log an interception. Top cornerback Charvarius Ward, who had the day off, watched from the sideline. The 49ers’ tally remains at 11 interceptions through six practices, the same amount of picks that they racked up throughout all of 2021 camp.

Other notes from Tuesday’s practice:

• Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo underwent his daily throwing workout on the side field while the 49ers practiced. Reporters were not allowed to film Garoppolo as he threw, but the veteran’s passes appeared crisp. Garoppolo didn’t appear in any way hindered by his shoulder, which was surgically repaired this offseason.

How long will Garoppolo remain with the 49ers? The team continues to wait for a potential trade partner. Garoppolo’s $24.2 million salary for the 2022 season will not become guaranteed unless he makes the 53-man roster. Cutdown day is Aug. 30, so the 49ers still have four weeks to see if an opportunity materializes before they face a financial inflection point.

• Samuel spoke to the media for the first time since signing his three-year contract extension worth up to $73.5 million on Monday.

He addressed the tumultuous process leading to the new deal. Samuel requested that the 49ers trade him in April but said that differences were ultimately resolved when both parties started communicating better.

Samuel was asked about reports that he was upset with heavy usage at running back down the stretch of last season.

“That’s false,” Samuel said. “There was a lot of things that came out that I wanted to speak on, but at the end of the day I wasn’t allowed to. You can turn on the tape. Go back to the Cowboys game. It kind of shows what kind of player I am. And also, you can go turn on the Pro Bowl tape and what I said about being a wide back. I don’t mind doing whatever it takes for this team to win.”

There are no stipulations in Samuel’s new contract limiting potential backfield usage in the future, but there are up to $1.95 million of incentives tied to rushing yards and touchdowns.

Samuel was also asked if he regrets requesting a trade from the 49ers.

“At the end of the day, this is a business and we came to a decision and I’m here,” Samuel responded. “So I’m happy to be here so it is what it is.”

Samuel credited left tackle Trent Williams, referring to him as a “big brother,” for helping bridge the gap between his camp and the 49ers during the low point of the process.

“You’ve just got to be patient,” Samuel said. “Be patient, communicate. Not everything is going to happen like you want it to at first. This was probably one of the most stressful weeks that I’ve ever been part of in my life.”

How did Samuel push through the stress that came with closing the deal?

“Working out, running, trying to keep my mind off things, talking to Trent, here and there talking to Kyle,” Samuel said.

(Photo of Fred Warner: Stan Szeto / USA Today)

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