How Ahkello Witherspoon exemplifies 49ers' tight-knit bond this season

Jennifer Lee Chan
NBC Sports BayArea

SANTA CLARA -- After playing 13 defensive snaps and giving up the Vikings' biggest offensive play of the game in Saturday's NFC Divisional Playoff, 49ers cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon was replaced by Emmanuel Moseley.

What Witherspoon did following his benching is an example of how special the 49ers' locker room is. 

It wouldn't be surprising if a player were to sulk after being pulled from the biggest game of the season, a 27-10 49ers win, but Witherspoon did the opposite. He still wanted to help his team any way he could, so he found a way. 

The day after the game, coach Kyle Shanahan was told by special teams coordinator Richard Hightower that Witherspoon had come up to him with a request. 

"For Ahkello to be replaced by Emmanuel early in the game, he handled it great," Shanahan said to reporters at his press conference Monday. "He went right up to Hightower right after that, which Hightower told me yesterday. 

"Went up to him and was like, 'Hey, coach pulled me. They're going with E-man. But hey, I'm good. Make sure you give me all E-man's reps, everything he has on special teams. I want to do whatever I can to help. He needs his energy, you put me in on special teams.' "

Witherspoon went on to play seven special-teams snaps while Moseley played 35 defensive snaps and 10 on special teams. 

That same mentality was also evident with the running backs. While Matt Breida got the first carry, the group worked as a unit. Raheem Mostert had been the hot hand in the second half of the season, but in this game, Tevin Coleman got the nod. 

"Raheem's calf cramped up a little bit so he missed a series and Tevin did real good on that series. Really good," Shanahan said. "So we kept him in for another series and he did real well and when the time the third one came, there was no point to put Raheem back in with his calf cramping.

"Tevin ended up banging up his elbow a little bit so we put Breida in. It just worked out that way. That's what's really neat about our backs. All of them have, at different times been the best player on the field throughout this year."

Shanahan added that Mostert's cramping wasn't because of dehydration or conditioning, but rather his contributions on special teams. 

[RELATED: How Juszczyk was key to 49ers' running game against Vikings]

"Raheem's calf was cramping probably because he went in and made an unbelievable play as gunner on special teams, got that turnover," Shanahan said. "So that's just part of it. Guys are helping out every way they can. 

"It's just that type of attitude where you haven't had to call many people in to say that. Our guys are just ... our guys have a lot of love for each other all across the board. You have everyone out there doing whatever they can to get this one in Sunday and hopefully the one after that."  

How Ahkello Witherspoon exemplifies 49ers' tight-knit bond this season originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

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