Kerry Hyder making the 53-man roster might be a surprise to those outside of 49ers headquarters, but not to coaches and players on the inside.
Hyder has been quietly and steadily working since signing with the club in March following a season with the Seattle Seahawks. The veteran defensive lineman told NBC Sports Bay Area that coming back to California to play with defensive line coach Kris Kocurek felt natural.
“It’s kind of like being back at home,” Hyder said during training camp. “I spent the majority of my career with him so there’s a level of comfortability. Having a coach that believes in you goes a long way. I’m thankful for my time in Seattle, but it feels good to back somewhere where I fit in, and I feel like I can be successful.”
Hyder came into his own under Kocurek when the Detroit Lions signed The Texas Tech product as an undrafted free agent in 2015. Hyder’s best seasons in the NFL have both been under Kocurek. In 2016 Hyder recorded 19 quarterback hits, eight sacks, and 11 tackles for a loss with the Lions.
In 2020 with the 49ers, Hyder flourished again with similar statistics. The defensive lineman registered 18 quarterback hits, 8.5 sacks and 10 tackles for a loss. The 31-year-old is ready to return to that level of productivity after tallying 1.5 sacks as a Seahawk along with 11 quarterback hits and only three tackles for a loss.
Hyder will be sharing the field with what is arguably the strongest position group on the team that includes All-Pro Nick Bosa, Arik Armstead and Javon Kinlaw. Hyder sees the talented group as an opportunity for each player to have the best brought out of them through competition.
“We have a deep room and I feel like we are really gelling as a group,” Hyder said. “We compete and push each other. It’s no different from other years but you can definitely tell that there is something special with this group.”
Even in his seventh season, Hyder hasn’t stopped putting the work in on the field. The self-proclaimed journeyman was one of the top recipients of the daily S.W.A.R.M. (Special Work Ethic and Relentless Mindset) award from defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans during training camp which is given for effort during practice. Hyder, along with Fred Warner and Bosa, were the most oft-recognized players.
“He can play in, he can play tackle,” Ryans said during training camp. “He can move up and down the defensive line at any position. And he’s smart enough to where he won’t bust. And he’s the guy who never makes mistakes inside, no matter where you put him. He’s always on it.”
Hyder’s humble beginnings are a reason why his work ethic remains consistently at a high level but the defensive lineman also credits Kocurek for helping give him an opportunity. The combination is what has kept him in the league for seven seasons.
“Being a guy that doesn’t necessarily have the “measurables” in the league, you need someone to believe in your abilities,” Hyder said. “Kris is always someone that has been that guy to stand on the table for me. I might not be the 6’5 guy, but he believes I can be on the edge and make plays out there.”
Hyder was seen predominantly on the interior of the defensive line during his first stint in the Bay Area. Now that both Javon Kinlaw and Arik Armstead are healthy and with the addition of Hassan Ridgeway, Hyder has been seen on the outside as a pass rusher.
Where the coaching staff decides to play Hyder doesn’t matter to the veteran, which exemplifies his team-centric and humble attitude.
“I just want to help the team any way I can,” Hyder said. “Last year they were a game away and I want to come help any way I can. Inside, outside, scout team, whatever. I just want the team to get better and that has been my approach my whole career.”
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