49ers Blog and Q&A

News, notes and reader questions about the San Francisco 49ers

April 16, 2014
Source: 49ers shopping running back LaMichael James

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If the 49ers want to maneuver higher in next month's draft, they could offer another team multiple draft picks in return or they could offer a team picks and a player. That player? According to a league source, the 49ers have been shopping running back LaMichael James, a second-round pick in the 2012 draft.

James ran for 5,082 yards and scored 53 rushing touchdowns while at Oregon. However, he has had only scant work as a runner with the 49ers and finds himself behind Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter and perhaps Marcus Lattimore on the depth chart at running back this season.

James served as the team's primary returner last year and played well in that role, averaging nearly 11 yards a punt return. But the source said he has made it clear to the team he wants a bigger role as running back as well. He carried the ball only 12 times in the 2013 regular season and just once in the playoffs. He missed the first three games with a knee injury.

It's also worth noting that the 49ers spent a long time looking at possible return men in free agency. The team considered a number of then-free agents - including Julian Edelman, Dexter McCluster, Golden Tate and DeSean Jackson, for example - who have experience as punt returners.

Asked in February if he was shopping James, 49ers general manager Trent Baalke said, "No discussions. LaMichael is a 49er. He'll continue to be a 49er."

"It's tough," Baalke said at the time of James' role on offense. "There are certain game plans where LaMichael was meant to play a little bit bigger role than he ended up playing, but that's the game. Every game you go in with a plan and sometimes that plan changes based on what you're seeing and what the other team is doing. So you've got to be flexible. It's up to LaMichael and it's up to every player. We tell every one of our players this: 'It's up to you to earn time on the field.' So it's not as much about what he hasn't been doing, it's as much about what Frank has been doing."

Meanwhile, the 49ers are bringing in at least two running backs for pre-draft visits. Towson's Terrance West is one of the busiest players in the run-up to the draft, and his itinerary will take him to Santa Clara on Monday.

West was the CAA offensive player of the year, and he led the FCS in rushing with 2,519 yards and 41 touchdowns. At 5-9, 225 pounds, he also is the second workhorse-style running back the 49ers will have brought in for a pre-draft visit. They also met with Central Florida running back Storm Johnson on Monday and Tuesday. West has a total of 11 visits this month, including the Seahawks today.

As for possible trade partners for James, the Eagles at one point seemed like a realistic destination considering head coach Chip Kelly was James' coach at Oregon and that the man who scouted James for the 49ers, Tom Gamble, is now with the Eagles organization. Philadelphia, however, traded for another running back, Darren Sproles, last month.

-- Matt Barrows

April 16, 2014
No Bowman? No Aldon? Is 3-4 still best defense for 49ers?

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The 49ers are a 3-4 defensive team whose top two defensive players, NaVorro Bowman and Aldon Smith, may not be around when the season starts. Both are linebackers. Which raises the question: Is a three-lineman, four-linebacker defense still the best scheme for San Francisco?

One could argue that with Bowman's injury and Smith's troubles, the strength of the defense has switched from the linebacking corps to the defensive line. There, you have stalwarts Justin Smith and Ray McDonald. But there is also Glenn Dorsey and Ian Williams at nose tackle, as well as Tank Carradine, Quinton Dial, Demarcus Dobbs and everyone's favorite experiment, Lawrence Okoye.

Considering that the nose tackle currently comes off the field when the 49ers are in their nickel defense - more than 50 percent of the time - it's hard to imagine some of these players, especially Dorsey and Williams, getting significant playing time in the 49ers' current scheme.

If they switched to a 4-3 or otherwise tinkered with the scheme, the trick would be finding the right combination of linebackers. Patrick Willis, of course, played middle linebacker in a 4-3 scheme at Ole Miss and would be the natural "Mike" linebacker. Ahmad Brooks could line up at outside linebacker in a spot similar to the one Bruce Irvin plays in Seattle's 4-3 scheme. The 49ers would have to find a third linebacker from the remaining group of players.

Would the 49ers consider this? Probably not. For one, Bowman is making good progress from his ACL. And while he won't be on hand at the beginning of the season, the expectation is that he's back at the midpoint. And while Aldon Smith could miss all of the 2014 season, as The Merc's Tim Kawakami detailed Tuesday, the 49ers have interesting backups in Dan Skuta, Corey Lemonier and perhaps a draft pick. They are bringing in Boise State's Demarcus Lawrence, a possibility in the first round or early in the second round, next week.

Furthermore, defensive coordinator Vic Fangio prefers 3-4 defenses and has used that scheme for the bulk of his career. Fangio has said he likes the versatility of having an extra linebacker on the field and that the pass-rush angles are more favorable.

Still, in a scenario in which both Bowman and Smith are not available, you have to wonder if a 3-4 defense puts the 49ers' best defenders on the field.

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One additional note. Skuta was the top backup at outside linebacker last season. He battled a foot injury for most of the year, and there was a possibility he could have surgery this offseason. It looks as if he will avoid that. Skuta saw the league's top foot and ankle specialist, Dr. Robert Anderson, earlier this year who diagnosed and treated him for plantar fasciitis in the foot.

-- Matt Barrows

April 15, 2014
49ers sign WR Brandon Lloyd to one-year deal

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Veteran receiver Brandon Lloyd, who spent his first three seasons with the 49ers, is back after signing a one-year deal with the team today. Lloyd, 32, had 74 catches for 911 yards with New England in 2012 but sat out last season.

The 49ers took Lloyd with a fourth-round pick in the 2003 draft. He led the 49ers in receiving yards in 2005, but during the following offseason the new personnel chief, Scot McCloughan, eagerly traded Lloyd to the Redskins for a third-round pick in 2006 (the 49ers used it on WR Brandon Williams) and a fourth-round pick in 2007 (OLB Jay Moore).

Lloyd was brash as a young player, wanted to be a rap star and clashed with some of the veterans on the team. One of the players who disliked Lloyd was fullback Fred Beasley who famously complained that, following a grueling road loss, he had to listen to Lloyd talk about the length of his braids on the otherwise quiet plane ride back to San Jose.

The Redskins also grew weary of Lloyd, and he only spent two seasons there. He's been on six different teams over his career.

Still, he has proven to be a very smart and savvy player on the field, and he led the league in receiving yards while with the Broncos in 2010. While with the Patriots in 2012, he had a career-high 190 yards in a loss to the 49ers. In another loss to San Francisco -- this one in London when he was with Denver -- Lloyd caught seven passes for 169 yards.

The 11-year veteran, however, does not play special teams like another longtime veteran at the position, Kassim Osgood. And the 49ers are expected to draft a receiver - or perhaps two - next month.

That, plus the fact that Lloyd signed a one-year deal, suggests that a spot on the roster is not assured in 2014. The 49ers top three receivers currently are Anquan Boldin, Michael Crabtree and Quinton Patton. Lloyd joins a group that includes Jon Baldwin, Osgood, Chuck Jacobs, Devon Wylie, DeMarco Sampson and David Reed.

-- Matt Barrows

April 15, 2014
Charges dismissed in case against 49ers center Daniel Kilgore

The public intoxication case in Tennessee against 49ers center Daniel Kilgore has been dismissed, according to the Kingsport General Session clerk's office. Kilgore and a friend were stopped by an officer who saw them walking home from a Kingsport, Tenn. bar Jan. 25. They were arrested "for their safety and the welfare of the public," according to the police report.

Those charges were dismissed on Friday. The court clerk said Kilgore can file to have the charges expunged from his record.

A month after the incident, the 49ers extended Kilgore's contract by three years. He is the leading candidate to take over the starting center spot that Jonathan Goodwin manned the last three seasons. Adam Snyder, Joe Looney and Ryan Seymour also will compete at the spot.

-- Matt Barrows

April 15, 2014
Need for speed: 49ers meet with Colorado WR Paul Richardson

Speedy receivers definitely appear to be on the draft menu for the 49ers who are meeting with one of the fastest, Colorado's Paul Richardson, today. Richardson is one of 15 or so draft prospects in town to meet with coaches and take physicals this week. As far as receivers go, the list also includes Clemson's Martavis Bryant and Georgia State's Albert Wilson, both of whom stand out for their down-field ability.

Richardson seems to be similar in some ways to Redskins receiver DeSean Jackson, in whom the 49ers reportedly showed some interest earlier this offseason. The Colorado receiver is 6-0, 175 pounds with 32 5/8-inch arms. His 4.4-second time in the 40-yard dash in February was the third-fastest for a receiver this year. (Bryant was clocked at 4.42 seconds, Wilson at 4.43 seconds).

In 2013, Richardson stood out on a bad Colorado squad. He led the team with 83 catches, 1,343 receiving yards and 10 touchdown catches. He averaged 16.2 yards a catch one year after sitting out the 2012 season with a torn ACL. Significantly - in light of the 49ers' recent off-the-field troubles - he also was a team captain last season.

Richardson is considered a second- to early third-round pick. He has five other visits in addition to the 49ers.

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The 49ers have not brought in Indiana wideout Cody Latimer for a visit, but a league source says they are looking closely at the receiver. Latimer, too, has good speed. Unlike the other receivers listed above, he also has excellent size at 6-2, 215 pounds. Some prognosticators think Latimer could go as high as the end of the first round.

-- Matt Barrows

April 14, 2014
Police report: Lockette called police to have woman removed from suite

Ricardo Lockette twice called 911 in Miami early in the morning of April 2 to report that a naked woman was on his friend's bed and refused to leave, according to incident reports, one of which was obtained today by radio station 940 A.M. That bed presumably was Colin Kaepernick's -- after all, it was his hotel suite -- who along with fellow NFL players Lockette and Quinton Patton was named in a "suspicious incident" investigation earlier this month. The first call was made at 12:03 a.m. from Lockette's cell phone. He called 911 again 17 minutes later.

In addition, a source familiar with the case said that Kaepernick was not at the suite during the disturbance or when police arrived. A police spokesman could not verify who was at the suite when police arrived.

That report fits what The Bee learned Friday - that it was one of the players who called authorities, who in turn called Miami Fire Rescue at 12:32 a.m. Paramedics transported the unidentified woman to Jackson Memorial Hospital in that city shortly thereafter.

Until now, the only document that had been released was the incident report the woman filed on April 3 that said she blacked out after drinking with Lockette, a former 49ers receiver who now plays for the Seaahwks, Kaepernick and Patton and woke up in the hospital.

The incident report obtained today says that a Crisis Intervention Team was summoned to the players' suite at the Viceroy Hotel. The unit's web site says that the Crisis Intervention Team "is an effective police response program designed for first responders who handle crisis calls involving people with mental illness including those with co-occurring substance use disorders."

On Friday, Kaepernick maintained his innocence via Twitter, slamming the initial report that claimed he was being investigated for sexual assault.

"The charges made in the TMZ story and other stories I've seen are completely wrong," Kaepernick wrote "They make things up about me that never happened. I take great pride in who I am and what I do, but I guess sometimes you have to deal with someone who makes things up .... I assure you that your faith is not misplaced."

No charges have been filed in the case and the players have not been interviewed. Kaepernick, in fact, is believed to be back in Santa Clara in advance of the 49ers' strength and conditioning program, which begins next week.

-- Matt Barrows

April 14, 2014
First-round pass-rush prospect Demarcus Lawrence to visit 49ers

One day after Aldon Smith was arrested at Los Angeles International Airport comes news that the team will host one of the more talented pass rushers in the upcoming draft. Boise State defensive end Demarcus Lawrence, who had 10 ½ sacks last season and is considered a late first-round pick, will visit next week.

A league source said the travel arrangements were made a week ago, before Smith was arrested at LAX for allegedly telling security personnel he had a bomb. Smith posted $20,000 bond and was released Sunday. Still, Smith's third arrest since 2012 must elevate pass rusher on the 49ers' list of draft needs. It's not known whether the NFL or the 49ers will suspend Smith and it's certainly possible that the team could release him.

Smith, who holds the franchise's single-season sack record, is entering the final year of his contract. The 49ers must decide by May 3 to pick up a fifth-year option on that deal. If they did, Smith would be in line to earn nearly $10 million in 2015 if he is still on the roster at the start of the new league year in early March.

In the last several years, the 49ers have felt that the strength of their locker room - led by hard-working players like Justin Smith and Patrick Willis - could accommodate younger players with so-called character concerns. However, that notion has been damaged by seven separate arrests since January 2012 when Aldon Smith was pulled over for DUI in Miami Beach. There have been additional police-blotter incidents involving three other players that have not led to arrests.

Lawrence then becomes an interesting prospect. The underclassman is 6-3, 251 pounds, and has the long arms (33 ¾ inches) and big hands (11 inches) that general manager Trent Baalke loves. He is a two-time first-team All-Mountain West selection who, in addition to his sack total last season, also had 20 ½ tackles behind the line of scrimmage.

However, he also was suspended on three different occasions for violation of team rules. That's likely a big reason why the 49ers want to meet him in person prior to the draft.

-- Matt Barrows

April 14, 2014
Linebacker Preston Brown among those visiting 49ers today

The 49ers and every other NFL are allowed to host up to 30 college players in the run-up to the draft. A big chunk of those visits are taking place today and Tuesday at the team's facility.

One of the visitors is Louisville inside linebacker Preston Brown, who led the Cardinals in tackles last season. At 6-1, 251 pounds, Brown is slightly bigger than the 49ers' starting inside linebackers, Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman, were coming out of college, but he's been highly productive and has the long arms - 33 ½ inches - and aggressive style general manager Trent Baalke likes to see in prospects.

Brown had 14 tackles for loss last season and five sacks. He also returned a fumble 48 yards for a touchdown against Memphis.

Bowman, of course, is not expected to be on the field for the first half of the season due to his Jan. 19 ACL injury. The 49ers are seeking a replacement. They could turn to veteran Michael Wilhoite, who started two games for Willis in 2013. They could tap Nick Moody, a sixth-round pick in 2013. Or they could find an understudy in the draft in which the 49ers have 11 picks. Brown is considered a third-day option.

The 49ers had wanted Oklahoma cornerback Aaron Colvin to visit today and tomorrow but he had a previous visit scheduled and will make the trip later this week.

Visiting today:
ILB Preston Brown
WR Martavis Bryant, Clemson
RB Storm Johnson, Central Florida
OLB Demarcus Lawrence, Boise State (next week)
OL Matt Patchan, Boston College
WR Albert Wilson, Georgia State

-- Matt Barrows

April 14, 2014
All ACL team: 49ers will host injured cornerback Aaron Colvin

The 49ers this week will host Aaron Colvin, an Oklahoma cornerback who tore his ACL in January and who spent the first part of the year in Florida rehabilitating alongside a slightly more famous ACL patient, NaVorro Bowman. Colvin tore his ACL Jan. 21 during a practice at the Senior Bowl. Bowman suffered his injury Jan. 19. The surgeries were performed by famed orthopedic surgeon James Andrews and both players rehabilitated at Andrews' clinic in Pensacola, Fla.

The 49ers, of course, drafted two players with ACL injuries last year, defensive end Tank Carradine and running back Marcus Lattimore. Neither played in 2013. Because Lattimore never appeared on the 53-man roster, his contract tolled. That is, he still has four years on his initial contract.

In that way, adding injured players to a loaded roster has become a draft strategy for the 49ers. They are able to obtain a player in a lower round because he is injured and perhaps allow him to "redshirt" his initial year with the team.

Colvin's injury, however, is not nearly as severe as Lattimore's, which involved several ligament tears and a dislocated kneecap. Colvin's agent said Sunday that the rehabilitation has gone very well and that the 6-0, 186-pound, two-time All-Big 12 cornerback will start running later this month. Colvin's injured occurred in Mobile, Ala. The next morning, he was in Dr. Andrews' office - a short drive away - in Pensacola. The surgery occurred the following week.

Team ACL: Other draft prospects with ACL injuries

DL Dominique Easley, Fla.: Easley was a first-round talent before tearing his ACL in September. He also suffered an ACL injury as a sophomore. Easley will have a private workout on Thursday. The 49ers are expected to attend.

G Brandon Thomas, Clemson. He was considered one of the better interior linemen in the draft before tearing an ACL during a workout with the Saints earlier this month.

CB Antone Exum, Virginia Tech. Exum tore his ACL in January 2013 and missed seven games that season. He missed another three with an ankle injury. He is fully healed but the injuries could cause him to slip in the draft. At 6-0, 213 pounds, he has very good size and also experience at safety.

G Spencer Long, Nebraska. Big interior lineman suffered an ACL injury in October.

QB Zach Mettenberger, LSU. He suffered an ACL tear Nov. 29 but was able to throw at LSU's pro day last week. At 6-5, Mettenberger has good size but not the athleticism Jim Harbaugh typically likes in quarterbacks.

QB Aaron Murray, Georgia. He suffered an ACL tear Nov. 25. He is expected to throw at Georgia's pro day this week.

FB Trey Millard, Oklahoma. He suffered an ACL tear on Oct. 26. The 49ers just signed Bruce Miller to a contract extension, and fullback is not a priority. Still, Millard has excellent size (6-2, 247) and runs with power and could entice with a late-round pick.

S Vinnie Sunseri, Alabama. The strong safety prospect suffered an ACL tear on Oct. 19. He went through all of the drills at school's pro day earlier this month.

-- Matt Barrows

April 13, 2014
Police: Aldon Smith taken into custody after claiming to have bomb at LAX

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This story was updated from an earlier version to show the charges on which Aldon Smith has been booked.

Troubled 49ers linebacker Aldon Smith was taken into custody Sunday at Los Angeles International Airport and booked on charges of making a false bomb threat. According to airport police, the incident occurred at 2 p.m. when Smith, 24, was going through security screening and said he had a bomb.

A statement from airport police reads: "At approximately 1400 hrs, a 24 year-old Aldon Jacarus Ramon Smith, a resident of San Jose, California, was going through Terminal 1 screening where he made a comment indicating that he was in possession of a bomb. Los Angeles Airport Police made contact with him in the gate area where he became uncooperative. After conducting their investigation, LA Airport Police took suspect into custody and transported him to LAPD-Pacific division where he was booked for California Penal Code 148.1(a) - False report of a bomb threat."

According to airport police Sgt. Karla Ortiz, it appeared that Smith had been drinking earlier in the day. Police, however, did not check Smith's blood-alcohol content, Ortiz said, because "it was not an issue that would affect the detention or the arrest." Still, whether Smith had been drinking is likely to be a major question for the 49ers. Smith is facing a DUI charge stemming from an incident in September. He had a hearing on Friday, and his next court date is April 29.

A witness told The Bee that trouble began brewing earlier at the Southwest Airlines ticket counter. Following an argument there, a ticket agent said that Smith would not be allowed on the plane. After going through security, the witness said Smith was approached by TSA personnel. He advanced toward his gate where he was taken into custody by five officers. A video of the incident shows an officer bringing a police dog into the vicinity of the gate as Smith is being led away in handcuffs.

The 49ers issued a statement from general manager Trent Baalke: "We are disappointed to learn of the incident today involving Aldon Smith. As this is a pending legal matter and we are still gathering the pertinent facts, we will have no further comment."





MATTHEW BARROWS

Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.

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