Bryant Young is retiring. Larry Allen’s future with the team is iffy at best. Derek Smith – set to make a ton of money in 2008 – might not be back next season, either. Even Trent Dilfer has a question mark next to his name given his recent concussion and the fact that Shaun Hill has been playing lights out.
Yes, the 30-somethings on the 49ers' roster are dropping like flies. That is, except for Walt Harris, who said today that he fully expects to return in 2008. The 33-year-old still has a couple more years on his contract and while he didn’t have as spectacular a season as he did in 2006, he was very solid. And perhaps more importantly, he has been relatively healthy all year. Mike Nolan cuts his most senior players – Young, Allen and Harris – plenty of slack as far as rest, and Harris said that’s very much appreciated at this time of year. “That helps,” he said. “At this point, it’s all about taking care of your body.”
Cheers to Frank Gore! The 49ers running back won the Garry Niver Award, which is voted on by the team’s beatwriters and given to the player who is most approachable and professional toward the media. Gore certainly got my first-place vote for the way he handled his mother’s death and later the death of friend Sean Taylor. This has been been a terrible season for Gore in many ways, and yet he has always handled himself with dignity. Gore’s name will go up on a plaque along with past Niver winners. Niver was a long-time beat writer for the San Mateo Times.
Think having two Michael Lewises is confusing? There was a chance the 49ers could have had two Alex Smiths. Mike Nolan recalled today that the 49ers thought highly of the Stanford tight end in 2005, so much so they listed him as a first-day pick. Tight end Alex Smith and the team that ended up drafting him, the Buccaneers, come to San Francisco Sunday.
-- Matt Barrows