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SANTA CLARA — Thursday afternoon, the 49ers held a press conference to introduce the recent players they signed in free agency — center Weston Richburg and running back Jerick McKinnon. Cornerback Richard Sherman did not show, but was a major topic of discussion.

Richburg and McKinnon sat on the stage in the 49ers auditorium along with head coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch.

Here’s what Shanahan said about McKinnon: “He’s an extremely good runner. I’ve loved him since college. It was harder to evaluate him in college, because he was a quarterback. But he was a very good running quarterback. I always knew he had running skills.

“And then, to be able to study him on NFL film when he’s actually at the running back position, to be able to see that he can make people miss, he can create arm tackles and he has the strength and power to break those arm tackles.

“And the huge bonus is when you talk about the pass game. When it comes to separating and beating linebackers and safeties in man-to-man coverage, I definitely think he’s an issue for teams. I think this league, when it comes to third downs, you move the chains based off matchups, which allows you to get points in the long run. Jerick is very versatile. He can do a lot of things.”

McKinnon fits Shanahan’s offense, but has started only 10 games in his career. Is unproven. Has never carried the load for an NFL offense. Does he feel he can now?

“One hundred percent,” McKinnon said. “This is the opportunity I’ve been waiting for, not just since I’ve been in the league, but since I’ve been playing football, period.”

After breaking down McKinnon’s skillset, Shanahan introduced Richburg.

“There are a lot of good players, but when you have a difference-maker at (center), what I have found and in my experience through my career is it has been a lot easier to run an offense.”

While Shanahan considers Richburg a “difference-maker,” Richburg never has gone to a Pro Bowl. And in 2017, he missed 12 games with a concussion.

“This is the first concussion I’ve ever had, honestly,” Richburg said. “I was feeling good near the end of the season last year. I’m excited to be here and move forward. It’s a new start.”

During the press conference, Lynch emphasized how excited he is to have Richburg and McKinnon.

“These were the top two guys on our priority list. So, to land them, that’s pretty special for us.”

Teams often say the players they signed were their top targets. But according to Art Stapleton of NorthJersey.com, the 49ers tried to sign guard Andrew Norwell before they went after Richburg. Norwell turned down the 49ers and signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Four hours later, the 49ers signed Richburg.

The 49ers also tried to sign running back Dion Lewis, according to NBC’s Pro Football Talk. Lynch even pressed the “like” button on a tweet that said, “Yo @DionLewisRB! You know the team to rock with! @49ers @JohnLynch49ers.”

But Lewis signed with the Tennessee Titans on Tuesday night. The next morning, the 49ers signed McKinnon.

Something similar happened with Sherman. Before the 49ers signed him, they had agreed to trade a fourth-round pick in 2019 to the Denver Broncos for cornerback Aqib Talib. But Talib refused to play for the 49ers, and the trade fell through. So the 49ers signed Sherman two days later.

Sherman, who may be a Hall of Famer one day, tore his Achilles tendon in November, and will turn 30 on March 30.

“I tend to think that the best athletes tend to heal at a different level than everybody else,” Lynch said.

That may or may not be true.

According to Dr. Gary Furness, who works for the California Athletic Commission, 30 percent of pro football players who tear their Achilles never play again. Two-thirds of pro football players who do return from an Achilles tear do so at a diminished level. And the recovery time, on average, is a year.

So Sherman has roughly a 23 percent chance of returning to his previous level. And he may not be ready to play when the season starts in September.

Are the 49ers counting on him to make a full recovery and play 16 games next season?

“Absolutely,” Lynch said.

Shanahan sat forward in his chair. “No one can tell the future,” he said, softening Lynch’s statement. “When you come off injuries like that, no one knows for sure. But, getting to know the guy, going out to dinner with him, spending about four hours with him and his fiancée — what I can tell you is I believe in people who believe in themselves. And that is very true of that guy.”

The 49ers will hold a press conference Tuesday in Santa Clara for Sherman.

“There are still a couple things in the works,” Lynch said. “The first wave (of free agency) is gone, and there are still guys out there. We’re still in contact with a few players. But (Richburg, McKinnon and Sherman) were the priorities.”


A half-hour after the press conference, the 49ers signed outside linebacker Jeremiah Attaochu to a one-year deal. The deal is worth up to $5.125 million, and includes $2.5 million guaranteed, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.

“Jeremiah has been quite disruptive during his career despite his limited opportunities playing behind some top-tier defensive ends,” Lynch wrote in a statement. “He is a wonderful fit for our scheme and our locker room. We expect Jeremiah to be productive on defense, while also providing us an exceptional player on special teams. He’s another guy who fits the mold of a 49er.”

Attaochu, 26, is a former second-round pick by the Los Angeles Chargers. He recorded 10 sacks in four years with the Chargers and missed 20 games the past two seasons due to injuries.

The 49ers also traded center Daniel Kilgore to the Miami Dolphins on Thursday morning. The teams swapped 2018 seventh-round draft picks in the deal.

“I’ve got the utmost respect for Dan,” Shanahan said Thursday. “I think he’s a good player and he’s an ever better person. That’s why this was so tough. But, when we had the opportunity to add a center of Weston’s caliber and improve our interior, that’s an obligation that we have to this organization. By no means was it easy to let go of Dan, but our team has gotten a lot better today.”

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