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

March 25, 2008
TamperGate: Where the story began

It might be impossible to get to the bottom of this tampering saga (The Chicago Sun-Times is calling it “Tamper Bay”) because none of the parties involved 1. The 49ers 2. The Bears 3. The League 4. Agent Drew Rosenhaus is saying much. But there is some information trickling out, and it doesn’t add up.

First, the two-phone call theory. Some sources are saying that the only evidence linking the 49ers to Lance Briggs’ agent Rosenhaus were two brief, possibly missed, phone calls around the time of the league’s October trade deadline. That may be the only direct evidence that Roger Goodell had in his hands at the March 17 hearing in New York, but there is a bit more circumstantial evidence out there.

The first time any of us heard that the 49ers might have interest in Briggs was in a Dec. 6 story by Yahoo! Sports’ Jason Cole. In the story, Cole wrote that the 49ers and Bears had all but settled on a trade-deadline deal for Briggs until they learned that Briggs’ franchise-tag designation prevented him from signing a long-term contract with the 49ers. The Bears were going to get a draft pick. Briggs was going to get the multi-year deal he had coveted for so song. But before the deal could be finalized, the story says, it had to be approved by the league. That’s where it hit the franchise-tag snag.

If the Bears and the 49ers indeed were in serious negotiations over Briggs, then the Bears would have had to known that the 49ers were talking to Rosenhaus. After all, who would trade for a player without a long-term deal in place? Maybe the Bears were angry because they sensed that there was a deal in place before the 49ers approached them about a trade? Or did they grow weary of Rosenhaus trying to leverage them with the 49ers’ offer? Or were they trying to fend off a team they suspected had a very good chance of signing Briggs, who after all grew up in Sacramento?

Whatever the case, Rosenhaus is a key player in this drama, and yet he didn’t take part in the March 17 hearing with Goodell. Calls to Rosenhaus have not been returned.

I spoke to a couple of officials on other teams about this issue. One thing I wanted to know was whether the 49ers under McCloughan and Mike Nolan have a reputation for playing loose and fast with the tampering rules. Both men said they did not, at least not any more than any other team in the league. How rampant is tampering? You need merely visit any Indianapolis area restaurant around the time of the scouting combine to get your answer.

Some of you have asked whether the 49ers can appeal Goodell’s decision. They cannot. There is no appeals process in place for this kind of ruling.

The 49ers signed another interior offensive lineman, Jeb Terry, who was originally a fifth rounder for the Bucs in 2004. The 6-5, 311-pound Terry saw action in 30 games with one start in 2006. He was cut prior to the 2007 season.


-- Matt 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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