SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — Brian Hoyer has bounced between seven teams during nine seasons in the NFL handling a variety of different roles.
From clipboard holder in New England for Tom Brady to start his career to being a late-season fill-in for Arizona to a stint as a starter in Cleveland that was derailed by injuries to opportunities to share time as starter in Houston and Chicago.
His situation this year in San Francisco is somewhat unique for him. He was signed as a free agent in March and immediately named the starter and the team hasn’t wavered since in the commitment to Hoyer for 2017.
“This has been the most fun I’ve ever had playing football,” Hoyer said Wednesday. “It’s the most comfortable I’ve ever been. Being able to come in day one and kind of be handed the reins and to having the control and implement the offense and do those things and get all the reps, I think it’s been huge. For me, I feel really good about where we are heading into Week 1 and we’ve just got to keep improving.”
Hoyer gets his first opportunity with the Niners in Sunday’s season opener at home against Carolina.
Both he and the 49ers believe he is better equipped to handle the starting role now than he was in 2014 and ’15 when he won training camp battles in Cleveland and Houston to become the starter before giving the job up during those seasons.
“I just think he’s been through more. He’s more battle-tested,” said San Francisco coach Kyle Shanahan, who was Hoyer’s offensive coordinator in 2014 in Cleveland. “His ability is the same. I just think Brian’s in a good place. He’s had his ups and downs. I think he’s got to the point where he realizes he can’t control everything and he just works as hard as he can and doesn’t get too high or too low. I think he believes in himself and I think it’s real because he’s developed a confidence through adversity, through overcoming it. I just see a more confident guy who is up for anything.”
Reuniting with Shanahan has helped the cause for Hoyer. He made his most career starts with Shanahan when he had 13 for Cleveland in 2014 and led the NFL with 13.7 yards per completion.
Hoyer did have some struggles that season despite helping the Browns win seven of his 13 starts. He completed only 55.3 percent of his passes and had more interceptions (13) than TD passes (12). But he also gained a trust in Shanahan that made for an easy decision of where he wanted to go this offseason.
“That was a big reason why I came here. I knew, having played for Kyle before, how great he was piecing things together,” Hoyer said. “Then, you watch him go to Atlanta and do the same thing, even to a bigger stage really, taking them all the way to the Super Bowl. For me it was probably the deciding factor coming out here was just to play for Kyle and knowing that his scheme and the way he game plans games and defenses, that was what I wanted to be a part of.”
Shanahan’s offense with the Falcons thrived against Carolina’s defense a year ago. Matt Ryan threw for 503 yards and four TDs in the first meeting and then completed 82 percent of his passes the next meeting as Atlanta swept the season series.
While Shanahan won’t have the luxury of having Ryan, Julio Jones, Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman in this year’s matchup, the Panthers aren’t overlooking Hoyer.
“He’s a consistent football player,” coach Ron Rivera said. “That’s the biggest thing you look for is a guy who can manage a game and if he has to, win a game for you. … He’s one of those guys who has played very consistent throughout his career. This is a guy who has the ability to come in and help the team.”
NOTES: TE George Kittle (hamstring), S Jimmie Ward (hamstring) ad DE Aaron Lynch (back) were all limited in practice and their status for this week is unknown. Undrafted rookie Lorenzo Jerome and Jaquiski Tartt are competing to start at safety if Ward can’t play. … Shanahan said he will rotate captains each week early in the season before naming permanent ones later in the year.
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