There was a nice story in yesterday's Bee by my pal, Dorsey Griffith, about the healing power of gratitude. In that vein, I searched (albeit pretty darn hard) for five things for which 49ers fans can be thankful for and hopeful for this holiday weekend. Hope this makes you feel better.
1. Vernon Davis. Sure, the gaudy numbers that every 49ers fan dreamed about when Davis was drafted No. 6 overall have yet to materialize. But guess who was the only 49er who stayed after practice on Thanksgiving to work on his game? Yup, it was Davis out there with one of the equipment managers and the JUGGS machine working on his pass-catching skills. Davis' work ethic is impressive, and more importantly, it hasn't diminished as the 49ers' offense has circled the drain. To me, that's a sign of a potentially great player.
2. Parys Haralson. He's no Lawrence Taylor by any stretch, but the second-year linebacker is developing into a nice pass rusher. He had the 49ers' only sack in the horrible Monday night loss against Seattle and did a nice job harassing (haralsing?) Marc Bulger this past Sunday. At worst, Harlason looks like he'll add nice depth to the all-important outside linebacker spot in coming years. At best, he could start opposite Manny Lawson.
3. Joe Staley. This is a guy we'll be talking about a lot in April since the 49ers traded their first-round pick - to New England of all teams - in order to acquire Staley last year. In order to justify that trade, Staley has to have an exemplary season and so far he is doing just that. He has left-tackle-of-the-future written all over him.
4. Indy. All of a sudden, the Colts don't seem like the second-best team in the league anymore. Why do you care? Because the 49ers have Indy's first-round pick in April. Sure, a mild swoon by the Colts might only improve the 49ers' draft position by a pick or two. But sometimes one pick is the difference between Logan Mankins and the next-best guard.
5. Free agency. The cure for every ailing team (seemingly). Who knows who will be available in March, but the 49ers desperately need a high-end receiver and the Cardinals Bryant Johnson is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent. You might want to check him out on Sunday.
Other odds and ends ...
Mike Nolan backed off comments from a day earlier that Alex Smith could be available against the Cardinals. Smith is listed as questionable on the injury report but it seems doubtful he will be used in anything but an emergency capacity.
Gerry Austin's back. The referee who botched the Vernon Davis call in Pittsburgh (and then bungled the explanation) will be calling Sunday's game in Glendale.
Nolan spoke for a long time about how he is handling the 49ers' miserable season. Dealing with his father's funeral last week, Nolan seemed run down and understandably so. He's been feistier this week and the thing he said that struck me most is that he believes he is custom built for this type of challenge. I'm writing more about Nolan and his many misfortunes in Sunday's Bee.
-- Matt Barrows