49ers Blog and Q&A

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

February 29, 2012
WR Morgan, 49ers talking numbers, but ...


When newly-extended linebacker Ahmad Brooks spoke with reporters Tuesday, he said he had been at team headquarters that day working out. Teammates who were also in the weight room that morning, according to Brooks: defensive end Justin Smith, running back Anthony Dixon, defensive end Ray McDonald and wide receiver Joshua Morgan, who also is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent.

After Morgan broke his leg Oct. 9, head coach Jim Harbaugh said that he wanted the receiver to be part of the organization moving forward. "We've told him that, and we'll make that a priority," Harbaugh said at the time.

Still, no deal was struck during the season. The two sides have begun talking about a contract extension, according to a source with knowledge of the discussions, but nothing is imminent. Morgan is expected to reach free agency on March 13 where he feels he could become a hot commodity.

Morgan's statistics never have been eye-popping since the 49ers drafted him in the sixth round in 2008. But that is due in large part to the underwhelming passing offenses Morgan has been part of. Prospective teams may look at his age - 26 -- his toughness, durability and his potential and conclude that he would be a wiser purchase in free agency than many of the other receivers in the upcoming free-agent class.

February 28, 2012
Brooks: I feel this is where I should be


Ahmad Brooks was working out at 49ers headquarters Tuesday when he got the news that a new contract extension with the team had been finalized. His whereabouts had everything to do with why the 49ers felt comfortable signing Brooks, an outside linebacker whose commitment had been questioned in the past, to a six-year deal worth $44.5 million overall, including $17 million guaranteed.

In previous years, Brooks would head back to Virginia where he grew up and where he became a high-school star, but where his craft wasn't his No. 1 priority. Brooks' conditioning would lapse and he'd report to training camp overweight.

In 2010, however, Brooks went through an awakening. His father, former NFL defensive lineman Perry Brooks, passed away that March, and soon after Brooks re-dedicated himself to football. "I realized that I'm not 23, 24 years old anymore," said Brooks, who turns 28 next month. "You grow up and you start seeing things in a different light. My career is here in California."

February 28, 2012
49ers lock in OLB Brooks for six more seasons


You can cross outside linebacker from the 49ers' list of pressing draft needs. The team today announced it had signed Ahmad Brooks, who started 18 games this past season at left outside linebacker, to a six-year deal that lasts through the 2017 season. The deal is for $44.5 million overall with $17.5 million guaranteed, according to Brooks' agent.

Meanwhile last week, general manager Trent Baalke said that it's safe to assume that 2011 rookie Aldon Smith, who was used primarily as a third-down specialist, will move into a starting position presumably at right outside linebacker. The team also has veteran Parys Haralson under contract through 2013.

While other positions, such as receiver, safety and cornerback, promise to have a lot of names when free agency begins in two weeks, outside linebacker was relatively bare, which worked in Brooks' favor. The team carried only three outside linebackers last season and has three under contract now. They could add more players at the position for depth, but with Brooks and Smith locked in as starters, it no longer is a primary need.

Brooks, 27, entered the league in 2006 through the supplemental draft where he was claimed by the Bengals, who used the 6-3, 259 pounder as an inside linebacker. The 49ers claimed him off of waivers in 2008 and eventually switched him to outside linebacker where he came in as a situational pass rusher in 2009 and 2010.

This past season, incoming defensive coordinator Vic Fangio gave Brooks a starting assignment, and Brooks came through with the best year of his career. He started all 16 games and both postseason contests, setting career-highs in both tackles (59) and sacks (7.0).

Brooks, who ran into trouble at the University of Virginia and while with the Bengals, said he began to change his life around in 2010 after the passing of his father, Perry Brooks, who played defensive tackle in the NFL. Like most of the team's free agents, Brooks has said he felt at home with the 49ers and wanted to return.

-- Matt Barrows

February 28, 2012
Fisher king: Rams hold key to the draft


The biggest winner from the combine wasn't Georgia Tech WR Stephen Hill or West Virginia DE/OLB Bruce Irvin or Memphis NT Dontari Poe. It was Jeff Fisher and the St. Louis Rams, who have the opportunity for a monumental draft, a franchise-altering draft, a draft that allows them to quickly catch up with the other NFC West teams that began to pull away last year.

The mechanism for doing so is Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III, who went into the combine with a healthy amount of buzz but came out of it with even more. Griffin did everything right in Indianapolis, running faster than any quarterback had before (in Indy, at least) and acing the interviews and strategy sessions as well. At the very least, Griffin confirmed to quarterback-needy teams that though they may not have shot at Andrew Luck, the consolation prize should be coveted as well.

Fisher was clear that the Rams would not be parting ways with their current quarterback, Sam Bradford, which means they are open for a trade. The Browns, Redskins and Dolphins are the most obvious trade partners, but other teams are likely to inquire as well. The Rams conceivably could trade the No. 2 selection for multiple picks and players and still end up drafting the player they would have at No. 2, Oklahoma State wideout Justin Blackmon.

"It's a great opportunity, and it will define the immediate and hopefully the long-term future of this franchise," Fisher said. "We have a lot of options and we're going to be prepared to do whatever."

The fact that the rookie contract for the No. 2 draft pick is not as exorbitant and prohibitive as it used to be also promises to drive up the cost of trading for the pick. The 49ers have to be happy that they won't be facing Griffin twice a year (unless the Rams trade with quarterback-needy Seattle, which seems unlikely).

February 27, 2012
Why on earth are the 49ers interviewing Robert Griffin III?

Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III had 15-minute meetings this past weekend with many of the teams picking in the Top 10 ... and one team picking in the bottom three. That team? Your San Francisco 49ers, who have practically no chance of picking the Baylor quarterback, who figures to be taken No. 2 overall.

So why the interest? In an interview on the NFL Network Sunday, Griffin suspected it was more about teammate Kendall Wright, who caught 108 passes for 1,663 yards and 14 touchdowns this past season. Wright also is projected to be taken before the 49ers are on the clock, but the 49ers may be in a more realistic position to move up to snag him.

"I don't know," Griffin said when asked why the 49ers wanted to talk to him. "Maybe they're just trying to get some inside information on my boy, Kendall Wright." The 49ers have traded up in each of the last two drafts, in 2010 to snag offensive tackle Anthony Davis in the first round, then last year to get quarterback Colin Kaepernick in the second. Wright ran his 40-yard dash Sunday in 4.61 seconds, which is slower than expected. He'll likely run again at Baylor's pro day March 21 when he also will catch passes from Griffin.

February 26, 2012
Rapid transit: Wylie, Owusu, Hill in the 4.3-second club


Local products Devon Wylie (Granite Bay, Fresno State) and Chris Owusu (Stanford) were among the receivers who ran sub-4.4-second 40-yard dashes today in Indianapolis. The big winner - and the guy who perhaps made himself the most money - was Georgia Tech receiver Stephen Hill, who at 6-4, 215 pounds, ran his 40 in an official 4.36 seconds.

Other impressive times were turned in by Miami's Tommy Streeter (4.40) and Cal's Marvin Jones (4.46), who looked good at the Senior Bowl and who continues to look impressive. Those who had disappointing 40s included Baylor's Kendall Wright (4.61), Arizona's Juron Criner (4.68) and Rutgers' Mohamed Sanu (4.67).

Several prominent receivers like Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon and South Carolina's Alshon Jeffery did not run. Here's the full list of wideouts and their times:

February 26, 2012
WR Hill thrills in the 40-yard dash


Heading into the weekend, there was a bit of pre-combine hype about Stephen Hill, the big Georgia Tech receiver whose statistics in the Yellow Jackers' triple-option offense were merely "eh" but whose measurables were off the chart. Today Hill turned that buzz into full-fledged hype with a blistering 40-yard dash.

Hill on Friday measured 6-4, 215. On Sunday his two unofficial 40 times were a blazing 4.3 and 4.31 seconds. Considering those measurables and Hill's toughness, you have to wonder whether he has run himself into the first round and whether, along with LSU's Rueben Randle, he should be a consideration of the 49ers at pick No. 30.

As we've been discussing for the last month, this draft is full of big-bodied receivers. What will separate them is, well, their ability to separate. That's something that was missing from the 49ers' wideouts at key times last season and something they will be seeking in the draft.

Hill's showing today confirms what was available on the relatively small amount of game film he supplied from Georgia Tech's run-heavy offense. He caught only 28 passes last season for 820 yards. But his yards-per-catch average was a gaudy 29.3.

"I really don't speak to a lot of the guys because I'm out here trying to do my thing," he said when asked if there's a competition among the big-bodied wideouts in Indianapolis. "But other than that it's going to be a lot of competition. All the guys are cool but I'm trying to go out there and run the fastest 40."

So far so good.

Randle and a host of other wideouts, including Granite Bay's and Fresno State's Devon Wylie, will run later today. I'll have a compilation of all the 40 times by day's end.

-- Matt Barrows

February 24, 2012
Goldson parts ways with agent Rosenhaus


The 49ers have not begun negotiating with soon-to-be free agent Dashon Goldson's agent because, well, Goldson currently doesn't have an agent. According to the NFL Players Association, Goldson's contract with agent Drew Rosenhaus expired earlier this month and Goldson has not yet hired a replacement. The association did not know who had replaced Rosenhaus as Goldson's agent, and it's likely that Goldson currently is shopping for one.

Goldson hired Rosenhaus in 2010 in an effort to secure a lucrative, long-term contract. Goldson was impressed with the five-year, $37 million deal Rosenhaus secured for safety Antrel Rolle with the New York Giants.

Goldson, however, failed to get a similar offer when he hit the free-agent market last summer. The 49ers offered him a five-year, $25 million deal, but Goldson and Rosenhaus turned it down in the belief that there were richer offers available. There were not, and Goldson ended up signing a one-year, $2 million contract with the 49ers instead.

Goldson again is seeking a large, multi-year contract this year. He had the best season of his career in 2011, finishing with six interceptions and earning his first pro-bowl nod. The 49ers, meanwhile, have the option of retaining him with the franchise tag, which would cost them $6.2 million.

-- Matt Barrows

February 24, 2012
49ers sign safety Spillman to a three-year deal

The 49ers began their quest to keep their 2011 team together on Thursday by locking up restricted free agent C.J. Spillman to a three-year deal. Spillman's agent, Ron Slavin, said the contract was for $6 million, including $1.8 million in the first year. CSN Bay Area first reported the deal.

Spillman was one of the team's top special teams players the last two seasons, and the 49ers are interested in grooming him as a backup safety behind current starters Dashon Goldson and Donte Whitner. Goldson is an unrestricted free agent who is looking for a multi-year deal. Spillman played more special teams snaps (68.7 percent) than anyone else on the team, and he also was in on 16 defensive snaps during the season.

Slavin also represents cornerback Tramaine Brock, who is expected to sign a $540,000 exclusive-rights deal in March. The team has not yet begun negotiating with another restricted free agent, linebacker Larry Grant.

-- Matt Barrows

February 24, 2012
Coach, GM expect big things from Crabtree in 2012


In the last decade, the 49ers have selected five receivers in the first three rounds of the draft. Four of them - Jason Hill, Brandon Williams, Rashuan Woods and Derrick Hamilton - had little to no impact and were quickly dismissed. The fifth, Michael Crabtree, is reaching a crossroads.

While Crabtree certainly hasn't been a bust, it's still unclear whether he is worthy of someone drafted 10th overall. The 49ers are anticipating more clarity on the subject in 2012 for two reasons.

The first is that Crabtree has the chance to have a full offseason for the first time since joining the 49ers. "I think it's obvious you get better at football by practicing football," Jim Harbaugh said on Thursday. "Much like you don't get to Carnegie Hall without a lot of practice. So for him to have the benefit of an offseason and OTAs and training camp like he's never had.... He's going to have an opportunity this year, which he has not had and not of his own doing."

February 23, 2012
Harbaugh looking for big jump in his second season


Jim Harbaugh was one of several NFL coaches to take to the podium today. Here's the full transcript of his 16-minute press conference, which included questions about his part-time job Wednesday evening as Indiana University's ball boy.

On sitting on the Indiana basketball bench on Wednesday:

JH: "It was great. Great experience. Never sat on the bench with a basketball team. And it was a great honor to be there and to be in the locker room before and after the game and support the Indiana Hoosiers, who are near and dear to our hearts as a family. Our brother, Tom (Crean), who's married to my sister, is the head coach at IU. It's great. Got the extra special benefit of sitting next to my nephew, Riley Crean. So that was great. Twelve-year-old Riley Crean is also a good quarterback. But I was amazed at how much he had to explain to me about the game of basketball. I felt like I knew a lot about basketball. Well-documented outstanding high school player. But the schematics of the game - Riley was teaching me. It was great to be a part of it."

On taking over a storied franchise/program and the similarities with Crean:

JH: "Talked with Tom about team and both of our respective games ever since I met Tom because he's just a star when it comes to coaching. Ever since he and Joanie first met and started dating, and especially when I made the transition from playing to coaching, Tom was a great resource for me."

On Andrew Luck's abilities:

JH: "You ever played spades? Trump games? He's holding a lot of aces in a lot of suits."

On Luck's specific abilities:

JH: "He's got all the qualities, really, mentally, physically. He's as prepared as anybody that you're going to find. He's really good. How about that one? He's got a lot of talent."

On the pressure Luck faces being compared to Manning, Elway, etc.:

JH: "Well, fair or unfair, it's the nature of the business. But he's very equipped to deal with it. He's very mature."

What stood out about Luck, his growth, etc?

JH: "Many things"


JH: "I know you're looking for bullet points but ... a lot of things. What specifically? ... All great. Like I said, he's one of the finest football players I've ever been around. Is that good enough? And an even better person. One of the top 5 guys I've been around. So he's just a joy to coach. Not going to like playing against him. Not looking forward to that."

February 23, 2012
Harbaugh on Fleener: I love this guy


Outside of perhaps Tampa Bay's Greg Schiano, it's hard to think there's an NFL coach more well-versed on the current draft class than Jim Harbaugh. After all, Harbaugh recruited as many as four players expected to be taken in the first round alone in April, including the 1A prospect, Stanford's Andrew Luck, and 1B, Baylor's Robert Griffin III, whom Harbaugh recruited to play at Stanford.

But that doesn't always make the evaluations easy.

"In some ways it does and in some ways it may not," Harbaugh said today from the scouting combine. "And sometimes I don't know the difference and I've got to really ask somebody to check me to make sure. Especially with my own guys - the Stanford youngsters. I have so much history with them, from recruiting them to practice to games every day for four years with those guys. Sometimes I don't know if I'm undervaluing them or over evaluating them."

One former Harbaugh pupil who figures to be taken right around the end of the first round - where the 49ers are picking - is Stanford tight end Coby Fleener. "Coby played in and won us games," Harbaugh said. "I tend to be - man, I love this guy. Maybe I over-evaluate. That's why it probably takes checks and balances with those guys that I know so well."

Would Fleener fit with the 49ers, who already have two excellent targets in Vernon Davis and Delanie Walker? Harbaugh acknowledged that he was able to use three tight ends in all areas of the field effectively in his Stanford offenses. But, of course, he didn't show his hand as to whether that's something he would pursue with the 49ers. "You can either speculate or you could say we're going to divulge strategy, and I don't see where any of those two are going to be beneficial to us," Harbaugh said.

-- Matt Barrows

February 23, 2012
Baalke on QB situation: It's not something we're stressed out about


Trent Baalke will tell you with a straight face that the 49ers always are trying to improve their roster and that they could add players at any position this offseason. But he did admit today there's one spot - quarterback - that's probably far down the to-do list.

"Is it a focus of need right now?" Baalke said. "No, we're very comfortable with the younger guys. And it remains to be seen what we're going to be able to get done with Alex (Smith), but feel very comfortable there as well. It's not something that Jim or I or anyone else in the organization are real stressed out about."

The younger guys are a pair of 2011 rookies, second-round pick Colin Kaepernick and undrafted free agent Scott Tolzien. Smith, meanwhile, is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent, and contracts talks have begun in earnest this week. The team can negotiate exclusively with Smith and the other unrestricted free agents until free agency begins March 13.

"That process, just like many of the others, is underway," Baalke said of negotiations with Smith. "Where we're at with it - that's going to remain between the club and the players themselves. We feel confident that we're going to be able to get some things done with our unrestricted free agents. But you never know."

February 23, 2012
Baalke: NFC Championship game still too painful to watch


General manager Trent Baalke has this in common with legions of 49ers fans still smarting over their team's overtime loss to the Giants in the NFC Championship: He hasn't watched a replay of the game, and he has no plans to. "To be honest with you, I have not looked at the tape of the last game, and I quite honestly may never look at that tape and watch that game for personal reasons," Baalke said Thursday at the scouting combine.

In fact, Baalke admitted he didn't even watch the Super Bowl. (Spoiler: the Giants won). He called a scouting meeting the day of the game. And though he allowed his staff to go home when the game started at about 3:30 p.m., Baalke continued working in the office. The timing of the meeting was no coincidence. "There might be some stuff I could get" from watching the game film of those games, Baalke said. "I choose to move on. ... There might be a time this summer when I pop it on and take a look at it. And there might not be. It may sit in the archives forever, as far as I'm concerned."

Baalke was asked about Michael Crabtree's performance in the playoffs and whether he was satisfied that the team's No. 1 draft pick was indeed a No. 1 receiver. Baalke said it was hard to tell because Crabtree's foot injury caused the receiver to get off to a staggered start this season. Still, he said he liked Crabtree's work ethic, he liked the chemistry he had with Alex Smith and expects big things from Crabtree with a full offseason this year.

February 22, 2012
Newest Niner? Names to follow at the scouting combine


The scouting combine officially begins today but the real work doesn't start until Thursday when the offensive linemen and tight ends step on the scales, the coaches and GMs take the podiums and every player starts going through the mother of all medical evaluations. (I'm on my way there now; stuck in Dallas; Thanks, American, you've now sunk below United).

The 49ers will have a lot of interest in the wide receivers, a deep group that will weigh in on Friday and that will run the 40-yard dash on Sunday. Here are some players that might interest the 49ers at pick No. 30.

Mohamed Sanu
WR, Rutgers. Sanu is a big, physical receiver who seems ideally suited for a West Coast offense that emphasizes yards after the catch. The question is whether he's fast enough for the first round. All eyes will be on his 40-yard dash.

Alshon Jeffery
WR, South Carolina. Jeffery's most anticipated test will come Friday when the big receiver steps on the scale. Jeffery's weight has been a concern and scouts want to see him in the 220-pound range. Like Sanu and every other big-bodied receiver, Jeffery's 40 time will be critical.

Rueben Randle
WR, LSU. Randle has nice size and toughness, and he's battle tested after playing in a conference with a lot of excellent cornerbacks. The question is whether he can stretch defenses and prevent them from crowding the line of scrimmage.

February 21, 2012
Whitner backs Alex Smith, says it was tough to console Kyle Williams


Safety Donte Whitner was a guest on NFL's Total Access today where he said he thought Alex Smith could deliver a Super Bowl title to the 49ers. "I believe he can," Whitner said. "I believe he proved it with the fourth-quarter comeback against New Orleans. No longer can he be called a game manager.

"When you trust a tight end and throw that ball in tight coverage like that and you complete it and you throw for 300-plus yards*, three or four touchdowns in the playoffs against the New Orleans Saints, then you're no longer a game manager. He won 14 games this year, lost four. He threw five interceptions. I think he tied for an NFL record. And that's with no OTAs and limited training-camp reps. When we get him back, give him OTAs, training-camp reps, get him out there, I believe he can duplicate it and even be mentioned with some of the greats."

Smith is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agents in three weeks but is expected to sign a long-term deal with the team, perhaps before free agency begins.

February 21, 2012
Should the 49ers go after WR Mike Wallace?


Many of you have been asking whether the 49ers would go after restricted free agent Mike Wallace whose Steelers squad is dealing with a cramped salary cap - they're currently $10 million over, according to reports -- and might not be able to match another team's offer to the wide receiver. My response: It makes more sense for the Ravens and Patriots.

The argument for making such a move is that Wallace is only 25, he's a proven commodity and he's what the 49ers need - a wideout who can stretch the field and put downfield pressure on defenses. Any team that makes him an offer would have to part with first-round pick. Wallace is certainly a safer player and perhaps a better receiver than anyone the 49ers can get at No. 30.

But the 49ers also would have to pay Wallace. Any offer made to Wallace once free agency begins March 13 would have to be too much for the Steelers, who could match it since Wallace is restricted. There's also the potential for a bidding situation with other receiver-needy teams picking at the end of the first round like the Ravens or the Patriots.

In the end, the 49ers would not only give up the first-round pick but also some of the cap space earmarked for free agents. Wallace is good. But is he better than two players -- say Pierre Garcon and Mohamed Sanu, or perhaps Janoris Jenkins and Vincent Jackson or Rueben Randle and Marques Colston -- the 49ers could add this offseason?

Wallace was a third-round pick in 2009. This year's draft, meanwhile, is deep with wide receivers. GM Trent Baalke is bursting with confidence after his 2011 draft, and my guess is that the 49ers would rather keep all of their picks and select the next Mike Wallace. Going after Wallace makes more sense for the Patriots or Ravens or even the Bengals because they'd also be maligning a dangerous conference and/or division opponent. The 49ers don't have that extra incentive.

-- Matt Barrows

February 20, 2012
Game of tag begins. Who's 'it' for the 49ers?


The game of tag has begun. NFL teams can begin applying the franchise tag to pending free agents today through March 5. For the 49ers, the most likely candidate is safety Dashon Goldson for several reasons.

First, the 49ers very much want to retain him. At age 27, Goldson is young and just now reaching the prime of his career. He's coming off his best season, one in which he finished with six interceptions and made his first pro bowl. Most important, he is an excellent fit on a 49ers defense that is physical and that thrives on forcing turnovers.

And one more reason - the franchise number for safeties, $6.2 million, is lower than any other non-kicker position aside from tight end ($5.4 million). The 49ers also have few safeties signed beyond this season. Backups Reggie Smith and Madieu Williams are scheduled to be unrestricted free agents, although one or both gladly would re-sign with the team if Goldson did not return.

During last year's free-agency period, the 49ers offered Goldson a five-year, $25 million deal but Goldson and his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, wanted more. They didn't get it, and Goldson instead returned to the 49ers on a one-year, $2 million deal. A number of 2011 free agents had the same experience and also signed one-year contracts. That has created a glut of free agents this year at certain positions, including safety, and may again prevent Goldson from getting the type of contract offer he feels he deserves.

February 17, 2012
Obama to Vernon Davis: You'd make a great Chicago Bear


Vernon Davis on Thursday introduced, chatted with and was recruited by the President of the United States.

Ho hum.

It was just another day in the life of the 49ers' tight end, who paints, who dabbles in interior design, who toured Africa last year, who's buddies with Serena Williams and who served as a honorary captain of the U.S. Curling team during the last Winter Olympics.

His latest adventure came about last week when he got a call from his publicist: Would you like to meet Barack Obama? His role grew from there. On Thursday Davis, who grew up 20 or so blocks from the White House, found himself on a podium at the Nob Hill Masonic Center in San Francisco introducing Obama, who was in town raising campaign funds.

"Never, ever," Davis said when asked Friday if, as a child growing up in a rough section if Washington, D.C., he ever thought he'd meet the President. "I thought the closest I'd get to the President was a dollar bill."

February 17, 2012
How the 49ers will approach free-agent WRs


Wondering how the receiver-needy 49ers will handle a free-agent market that promises to be thick with good receivers? For the answer, it's probably best to pop the hatch on the old Delorean and go way back to July and the NFL's most recent free-agency period. At that time, cornerback was the hot position on the market, and the 49ers needed one after parting ways with Nate Clements.

The 49ers took a measured approach. They threw their hat into the ring when it came to the top name, Nnamdi Asomugha, and when Asomugha's price tag grew too extravagant, they withdrew and went to the next-biggest name, Johnathan Joseph. They also looked at Chris Carr before ultimately settling on Carlos Rogers, who signed a modest one-year contract and who went to the Pro Bowl. (Joseph also went, but Asomugha and Carr did not).

The experience likely has emboldened the 49ers that their approach is a very sound one. They evaluate would-be free agents, put a value on each one and pursue them until the demand outstrips the value. Last year, the 49ers knew that if they were patient, they ultimately would land a good free-agent cornerback.

February 16, 2012
Shawntae Spencer switches agents


Cornerback Shawntae Spencer, who said last month he expected to part ways with the 49ers, has switched agents. Spencer's agent had been David Dunn, who represents coach Jim Harbaugh and is someone who also has represented general manager Trent Baalke. Spencer has switched to Peter Schaffer, according to NFLPA records.

Spencer, 29, started 72 games over his career, including all 16 games at right cornerback in 2009 and 2010. However, he suffered a hamstring injury early in training camp this past season, fell behind others on the depth chart and never was able to regain his former position. In fact, Spencer only was active for nine games this past season and was inactive during the playoffs.

Spencer speculated that his lack of use, coupled with the $3.2 million in base salary he is scheduled to earn in 2012, would prompt the 49ers to release him. "It's like dating the same girl all through junior high and high school and then come senior year, she's dating another guy. I've played right corner since I got here," he said last month. He said the best advice was from his brother, who picked up on the lady-with-another-man theme. "There's plenty of women out there," Spencer said.

-- Matt Barrows

February 16, 2012
Q: Should the 49ers consider tight end Fleener? A: ...

@BigShot_Mike, a.k.a Michael Darmofalski, asks something a lot of you have been curious about: "Will 49ers consider Coby Fleener with 2 good TE's on roster? Probably have more needs."

I agree that the team has greater needs at the moment, particularly at wide receiver and perhaps at cornerback and/or outside linebacker depending on what happens in free agency. But there also is a solid case for drafting a tight end like Stanford's Fleener should he be there at pick No. 30.

The biggest reason is that the 49ers emphasize the tight end like no other team west of Foxboro, Ma. In fact, you could argue that tight ends are more important than wide receivers to the 49ers. San Francisco currently has two excellent tight ends in Vernon Davis, who played 96.1 percent of the team's regular season offensive snaps in 2011, and Delanie Walker, who played 52.1 percent of the snaps. (Walker missed a game and a half with a broken jaw).

While Davis is locked in through the 2015 season, Walker is up for free agency next year. He's played in Davis' shadow since entering the league - both were drafted in 2006 - and he'll be seeking a lucrative offer. The 49ers also have Nate Byham under contract, but he's not the pass-catching threat Walker is and probably is best suited as the blocking tight end who enters in short-yardage or goal-line situations.

February 15, 2012
Mayock: WRs Jeffery, Sanu too slow, not first rounders


The 49ers love big-bodied receivers, and the upcoming draft is loaded with them. The question for most of those players, however, is how well they can move that size, and it's something they will attempt to answer in Indianapolis starting late next week when they run the 40-yard dash. NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock today talked about three receivers - South Carolina's Alshon Jeffery, Rutgers' Mohamed Sanu and LSU's Rueben Randle - who have been linked to the 49ers at pick No. 30.

Mayock ranks them like this:

Rueben Randle, 6-4, 208. Said Mayock: "I think he's going to run just fine. I've got a first-round grade on him. I have (Justin) Blackmon, Kendall Wright , Michael Floyd and Rueben Randle with first-round grades. I think those are the four wideouts that should go in the first round. From my perspective, Randle should go in the second half of the first round, in that 20-30 range. If he comes into the combine and runs a 4.38 at 208 pounds, that might change some things. He might go higher. But he's a guy who's extremely well thought of and a guy who could fit for the 49ers depending on how the process plays out."

February 14, 2012
Analysis: Pending 49er free agents logged big minutes in 2011


The 49ers' iron man for the 2011 regular season? It's a tie between two offensive linemen. Center Jonathan Goodwin and left guard Mike Iupati played all but four of the 49ers' 1,026 offensive snaps during the season, according to information obtained through the NFL. Both men also played 90 snaps on special teams.

On the defensive side, cornerback Tarell Brown was a regular starter for the first time in his career and ended up playing 1,007 of the team's 1,014 defensive snaps. He was followed by fellow cornerback Carlos Rogers and linebacker NaVorro Bowman, who also played 99 snaps on special teams coverage units. The special teams iron man was C.J. Spillman, who will become a restricted free agent next month unless he and the 49ers agree on a long-term deal.

Offense, 1026 snaps

The team's five starting offensive linemen all finished in the Top 7 for playing time, which speaks to the health of the group. Chilo Rachal started the first three games of the season at right guard before Adam Snyder took over the position. Both are pending free agents.

February 13, 2012
Former 49ers WR Freddie Solomon passes away at age 59


Freddie Solomon, one of the most beloved members of the 49ers' early Super Bowl teams, died today in Tampa from complications from colon and liver cancer. He was 59.

Solomon's health had deteriorated rapidly since his diagnosis last year, and friends and former teammates had visited him in recent weeks. Former 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo, who also lives in Tampa and who was perhaps closer to Solomon than any of his former players, was constantly by his friend's side over the last month. Solomon's weight -- about 190 pounds when he played -- had dipped to 130 as he went through treatment to fight his cancer.

"Freddie and I have been friends for 35 years, and he was one of the most gentle and best men I have ever met in my life," DeBartolo said. "Scores of generations will remember Freddie through their children and the youth he's helped over all these decades. I have never met a man who cared so much about the human race, and there will never be another Freddie."

Solomon played quarterback at the University of Tampa but was drafted by the Dolphins in the second round in 1975 as a wide receiver. He was traded to the 49ers in 1978 and was a starter opposite Dwight Clark until another receiver, named Jerry Rice, came onto the scene in 1985.

February 13, 2012
The "L" word: 49ers could host 50th Super Bowl


The next three Super Bowls will be played in New Orleans, New Jersey and Glendale, Az respectively. It's the fourth, however, that's looming large. That will be the NFL's 50th Super Bowl - Super Bowl L for you Latin majors - and the league will look for a bang wherever it's played.

Earlier today The Sports Business Daily's Daniel Kaplan played odds maker and speculated that the 49ers and their new stadium stand the best chance of hosting Super Bowl L with Jerry Jones and the Cowboys perhaps the biggest competition. To read Kaplan's piece, click here.

The 49ers, meanwhile, say they plan to throw their hat into the ring for a future Super Bowl but have not yet decided whether to shoot for Super Bowl L, which will be played in February 2016, or one of the ensuing games. The team aims to open its new billion-dollar stadium in 2014, and teams are required to play two full seasons in their new venues before hosting a Super Bowl. Despite an earlier-than-planned start to construction, there is still some question as to whether the stadium will be ready for the 2014 or 2015 season, which would dictate whether the 49ers can host Super Bowl L.

February 13, 2012
OLB: The 49ers' cupboard is bare without Brooks


When it comes to their own soon-to-be free agents, the 49ers mostly have leverage. At cornerback, for example, they'd like to bring back Carlos Rogers. But the free-agent market will have plenty of cornerbacks if they can't, and the 49ers are bullish about youngster Chris Culliver. There also promise to be quite a few free-agent safeties if Dashon Goldson proves difficult to sign, and the 49ers have the option of using the franchise tag on him as well.

At outside linebacker, however, the cupboard is far more bare. The 49ers somehow made it through an 18-game season with just three on the active roster, and one of them, rookie Aldon Smith, mostly played defensive end on third downs. The 49ers don't even have a young developmental prospect. Rookie Monte Simmons, who spent the year on the practice squad, was the only practice squadder not signed to a future contract in recent weeks.

All of which leads to the question - what kind of priority is free agent Ahmad Brooks? Incoming defensive coordinator Vic Fangio took a leap of faith with Brooks this year. Brooks never had started more than five games since entering the NFL in 2006. Fangio, however, not only made Brooks his starter, he didn't have anyone playing behind him. Brooks started 18 games and played nearly every snap.

Brooks is an interesting case. He's been plagued with work ethic and character issues since college. Front office officials worried that Brooks would be the absolutely wrong person to reward with a lucrative, long-term contract. The concern was that his work ethic would go to pot if that occurred.

February 11, 2012
Report: 49ers deny Bucs' advances on Donatell

The 49ers are serious about keeping the gang together. According to a report on NFL.com, the team denied the Buccaneers permission to talk to talk to defensive backs coach Ed Donatell about Tampa Bay's vacant defensive coordinator position. Donatell's name was raised in relations to the Raiders' defensive coordinator job, too, but Donatell never was contacted.

Donatell has twice been an NFL defensive coordinator - in Green Bay from 2000-03 and in Atlanta from 2004-06. He also ran the defense at the University of Washington in 2008. He received praise this year from head coach Jim Harbaugh for his work with the 49ers' secondary, which saw two players - Carlos Rogers and Dashon Goldson - reach the Pro Bowl. Cornerback Tarell Brown also had the best season of his career and rookie Chris Culliver had a big role as the nickel cornerback.

Denying assistants permission to interview for bigger roles on other teams is considered rare. Doing so is generally thought to discourage talented coaches from joining your staff because of a fear they will have a tough time advancing.

-- Matt Barrows

February 10, 2012
GM Baalke rewarded for a season of home runs


Jed York and the 49ers announced today that they have signed Trent Baalke to a three-year extension that makes him the team's general manager through the 2016 season.

"Without question Trent has distinguished himself as the man to direct our football operations for years to come," York said in a statement. "Since taking over as general Manager last January, we have made great strides on the football field under Trent's leadership. It gives me great pleasure to watch Trent and Jim (Harbaugh) work arm-in-arm with the common goal of leading the 49ers to championships."

Indeed, Baalke not only worked well with Harbaugh this past season, he was integral in landing him. Harbaugh is not a man who values flash, and Baalke is certainly not flashy. Instead, he's a very no-nonsense type of personality who has kept out of the limelight and who has built a reputation as a very good evaluator of talent.

Harbaugh and Baalke hit it off in their first formal meeting in January of 2011, which was held in the pool house of a mutual friend. The two talked Xs and Os for hours. Harbaugh felt so at ease that he eventually removed his tie, took out a can of chewing tobacco and asked Baalke and York, "You guys mind if I dip?"

February 10, 2012
Injury updates: Byham eager to get back in the fold


If you're going to suffer a season-ending injury, it's best to suffer it early in training camp. That's what happened to three young 49ers - Dontavia Bogan, Nate Byham and Curtis Holcomb - who are now ahead of schedule and should be at full strength for the next 49ers training camp.

That's in contrast to three 49ers from the 2010 season - Phillip Adams, Scott McKillop and Dominique Zeigler - who were still recovering from injuries during the 2011 training camp and who were eventually released. Zeigler and Adams suffered injuries during the season (Adams in the penultimate game of 2010) while McKillop suffered mulitiple knee ligament tears during the 2010 training camp.

Here's an update of each of the injured 49ers and where they might fit in 2012:

Receiver Dontavia Bogan: The 6-foot, 192-pound Bogan was the biggest name of all the undrafted free-agent receivers the team signed in July. Bogan was a second-team All-Big East player who led South Florida in receiving in 2010. Bogan tore his ACL early in training camp but did not do his rehab work in Santa Clara. Bogan is under contract through 2013 and is currently rehabbing in Arizona. He has resumed running.

Tight end Nate Byham: Byham suffered an ACL tear on July 31. The sixth-round pick from 2010 had just caught a pass in practice - in fact, he had caught several and looked good - when he went down in a heap along the sideline. If Byham hadn't gotten hurt, he would have had a significant role this season as the 49ers' third tight end, and he would have been very important once Delanie Walker went down with his jaw injury.

February 9, 2012
Big changes at 4949 Centennial Boulevard

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Hard hats are becoming mandatory at 49ers headquarters, which has undergone a sea change in the last month. I and several other writers stopped by today to clean out our cubicles from the media trailer, which is in the path of construction and which will be moved -- where, I don't know -- in coming days.

It's all a part of the make-ready work for the new stadium, which will be built in a parking lot across the street from the team's practice facility and headquarters. Actually, "across the street" isn't exactly correct. The new venue will stretch from the parking lot, over the street -- Centennial Boulevard -- and will be connected by a short passageway to the headquarters building. That is, the street will soon cease to exist.

Right now the work has been knocking down walls, ripping up parking lots and chopping down trees in an effort to make that area level. In the back of the building where the practice fields are located, there also have been changes. The hill -- dubbed Mt. Pain -- that Mike Singletary built in 2009 has been removed. It went unused in Jim Harbaugh's first season as head coach and was in the way of the new road to the facility. (More photos at the end of this blog).

Every soon-to-be 49ers free agent I've spoken to in recent weeks says he wants to return to the 49ers. I bumped into one of them, right guard Adam Snyder, at the 49ers facility today as he was leaving after a workout. Snyder, who is close to Joe Staley and Alex Smith among others, said talks have not yet begun on a new contract.

February 8, 2012
49ers' McDonald arrested in Sunnyvale


It hasn't been a great couple of weeks for 49ers defensive lineman and the law. According to the San Jose Mercury News, starting left defensive end Ray McDonald was arrested early this morning in Sunnyvale for an outstanding warrant related to a suspicion-of-DUI arrest in 2010. McDonald was pulled over after being recorded going 94 mph in a 65 mph zone of Interstate 280 in June 2010.

The 49ers issued a release Wednesday saying they "are aware of the recent matter involving Ray McDonald. We are gathering the relevant facts and monitoring the developments closely."

McDonald was released at 7 a.m., according to The Merc's report. According to the San Mateo County District Attorney's office, McDonald pled no contest to driving drunk in December 2010 and was put on probation and required to take a first offender's class that everyone convicted of DUI must take. He either failed to complete that class or failed to supply proof he had completed the class, and on Aug. 9 a warrant was issued for his arrest in the amount of $7,500.

That incident follows one involving rookie Aldon Smith, who was pulled over and charged with DUI in Miami Beach last month. Smith, according to police, was swerving in and out of lanes and registered .194 and .175 on two breathalyzer tests. He was released after posting a $1,000 bond.

Both Smith and McDonald were key pieces in the 49ers' relentless defense this season. McDonald signed a five-year, $20 million contract before the season and was made a starter opposite Justin Smith. McDonald finished with 39 tackles, 5 ½ sacks and two forced fumbles.

-- Matt Barrows

February 7, 2012
Best buds: Harbaugh, Smith bonding at Pebble Beach


PEBBLE BEACH - Anyone still questioning Jim Harbaugh's commitment to Alex Smith for the upcoming season ought to consider this: Smith will serve as Harbaugh's caddie Thursday during the AT&T Pro-Am at Pebble Beach.

Talks have not yet begun on a new contract for Smith, who is one of the 49ers' six starters from 2011 scheduled to become unrestricted free agents next month. But both men left no doubt that Smith would be back for the 2012 season. "Obviously Alex is as high a priority as anyone on our team," Harbaugh said after stepping off the 18th green at Pebble Beach.

Their recent actions may speak even louder than Harbaugh's words. He and Smith almost have become a father-son duo, first carpooling from the South Bay to Pebble Beach on Tuesday and then pairing during a five-hole shootout with members of the San Francisco Giants organization. The 49ers' duo of Dwight Clark and Brent Jones won the tournament - as well as $30,000 to various charities - when Clark hit a three-foot putt on the 18th hole.

"It's like The Catch," someone shouted from the crowd as Clark lined up for the shot.

"I knew what I was doing then," Clark quipped before sinking the putt dead center.

Smith, meanwhile, plays golf like he handles quarterback - with few turnovers. He and Giants pitcher Matt Cain were the biggest drivers of the group, the difference being that Smith's tee shots usually ended up safely between the fringes.

February 7, 2012
Tea leaves: The 49ers' offseason options at safety


Before the most recent free-agency period began, everyone thought that David Baas and Takeo Spikes would be back with the 49ers and that they'd probably lose safety Dashon Goldson to a big free-agent deal elsewhere. It didn't happen that way, which goes to show that no one - not even the teams themselves - knows exactly what's going to happen beginning on March 13 at 1 p.m.

Instead the following reading of the tea leaves is meant to give a sense of what is most likely to occur during the offseason. We'll start with the safeties.


The 49ers have three safeties -- Dashon Goldson, Reggie Smith and Madieu Williams - who will be unrestricted free agents, and a fourth, C.J. Spillman, who is a restricted free agent. Goldson is the priority here and is perhaps second only to quarterback Alex Smith in terms of free agents the team most wants to re-sign. He emerged this year as one of the top safeties in the league, came away with six interceptions, made the Pro Bowl and is only 27 years old.

The 49ers have leverage in this case. Goldson either can sign a five-year deal similar to the one that was offered, but rejected, by Goldson and agent Drew Rosenhaus last year or they can make him their franchise player, which the 49ers could do as early as Feb. 20. That would cost San Francisco roughly $6 million. The other bit of leverage is that there will be a ton of free-agent safeties on the market (see below) which, like last year, will dilute their individual worth. That is, there's a good chance Goldson will be back.

February 6, 2012
Rams to interview 49ers' Gamble for GM job

The Rams plan to interview Tom Gamble, the No. 2 man in the 49ers' scouting department behind GM Trent Baalke, for their opening at general manager, according to Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Gamble has spent seven seasons with the 49ers. A year ago he was promoted from Director of Pro Personnel to Director of Player Personnel, which allowed him to oversee both the college and pro personnel departments. Director of college scouting Joel Patten currently is third in line behind Baalke and Gamble.

Gamble worked alongside new Rams coach Jeff Fisher when they were in Philadelphia - Fisher as defensive coordinator and Gamble as a college scouting administrator, area scout, contract negotiator and ultimately the director of pro scouting.

The Rams are considering a number of candidates for the job, including: Vikings Director of Player Personnel George Paton, Jets Vice President of College Scouting Joey Clinkscales, Dolphins Director of Player Personnel Brian Gaine and Cardinals Director of Player Personnel Steve Keim.

The 49ers are giving Brad Seely an assistant. According to Fox Sports, the 49ers plan to hire Tracy Smith, who was Seeley's assistant special teams coach in Cleveland in 2010. Smith last year was an assistant for the Seahawks. Offensive quality control coach Ejiro Evero filled as Seely's assistant last season.

-- Matt Barrows

February 6, 2012
49ers' Super Bowl lesson? Keep the gang together


Lessons from the Super Bowl? The most important one is something the 49ers already knew going into the game - they were oh-so-close to winning a championship this year and that their biggest priority for the offseason should be keeping the current squad together.

That starts with the coach staff. Remarkably, the 49ers have had no major defections since the season ended on Jan. 22, and the coaches I've spoken with have said there's been a concentrated effort to keep everyone together. That, of course, can change quickly. If an assistant gets a high-ranking job on another team, he often will leave with several other coaches. So far, however, the only coach to leave is offensive quality control coach Bobby Engram, who was hired by Pitt to coach its wide receivers. (Side note: The Raiders' defensive coordinator position was filled with former 49ers linebackers coach Jason Tarver. Last year Tarver was Stanford's defensive coordinator).

The tougher task will be retaining the team's unrestricted free agents, six of whom were starters in 2011. The 49ers can begin going about that at on Feb. 20, which is the first date to assign the franchise tag (see calendar below).

On a related note, it must have been painful for the 49ers players - especially the defensive players - to watch the Giants win the Super Bowl. Eli Manning now has two titles, and he's not only attracting the word "elite" but the moniker, "Hall-of-Fame quarterback." The 49ers, of course, squandered two, perhaps three, chances at interceptions of Manning in the NFC Championship game. Had they taken advantage of those opportunities, the Manning rhetoric would be subdued.

The Super Bowl also was interesting because, like the 49ers, the Patriots needed at least one more dependable pass catcher. Tight end Rob Gronkowski was obviously limited throughout the game, which left Tom Brady and the offense with fewer options than he had in the regular seasons. Like the 49ers, New England could stand to add a young receiver or two in the draft. They'll have the 31st pick in the draft - one selection behind the 49ers.

NFL calendar:

Feb 20-Mar 5: Teams may designate franchise or transition player
Feb 22-28: Scouting combine
March 13, 1 p.m.: Start of league year (beginning of free agency)
April 26-28: NFL draft

-- Matt Barrows

February 4, 2012
Aaron Rodgers tweaks 49ers at awards show


Aaron Rodgers grew up in Chico idolizing Joe Montana and the 49ers, and he wore a Joe Montana T-shirt under his Cal uniform when he played for the Bears. But it wasn't until today at the NFL Honors ceremony in Indianapolis that Rodgers had a chance to meet Montana.

Rodgers was named the league's MVP at the ceremony, and it was clear that having a chance to chat with Montana and Steve Young - whom Rodgers called "a good friend" - were still on his mind as he accepted the award.

"I was a big Niners fan as a kid - thanks for drafting me," said Rodgers to laughter from the crowd, which included the player the 49ers did draft No. 1 overall in 2005, Alex Smith. Smith, meanwhile, finished third in the "Comeback Player" category, but he had his own turn on stage in accepting the Coach of the Year award for Jim Harbaugh.

Judging from shots of the crowd, at least two other coach-of-the-year candidates, New Orleans' Sean Payton and Detroit's Jim Schwartz, were on hand. Harbaugh and brother John were not.

"He probably would say that he doesn't deserve this," Smith told the crowd. "That's the type of guy he is. He'd give all the credit to the players, to the assistant coaches. From someone who's had one or two coaches in my career, I'd just like to tell you this is well-deserved. Congratulations, coach."

-- Matt Barrows

February 4, 2012
And the winners are: Harbaugh named coach of the year


Jim Harbaugh is making good on his desire to follow in the footsteps of Bill Walsh. Harbaugh on Saturday became the first 49ers coach since Walsh in 1981 to win the "Coach of the Year" award given by the Associated Press. Like Walsh three decades ago, Harbaugh took a team that finished 6-10 the previous year to a 13-3 record and the NFC Championship game.

Upon being hired last year, Harbaugh said he long-admired Walsh, who like Harbaugh coached at Stanford before being hired by the 49ers. Harbaugh spent six months learning from Walsh before Walsh's passing in 2007. "Everything that came out of his mind, his heart, his mouth -- I hung on every single word," Harbaugh said upon being hired.

Walsh's squad ended up winning the 1981 championship game as well as the next one, Super Bowl XVI, Harbaugh's 49ers fell short, losing to the Giants in overtime. Still, the turnaround in San Francisco was enough to convince voters he deserved the top honor among coaches. He received 45 of 50 possible votes. Green Bay's Mike McCarthy, whose team went 15-1 in 2011, finished with three votes; Denver's John Fox had two.

February 4, 2012
DeBartolo, Haley don't make hall-of-fame cut


Eddie DeBartolo, Jr. may have five Super Bowl rings, but he is still looking for one hall-of-fame nod.

The former 49ers owner last month ventured as close as he's been to the Pro Football Hall of Fame when he was named one of 15 modern-day finalists. On Saturday, however, DeBartolo didn't make the first cut as 44 NFL writers ultimately pared the list to six names.

Defensive end/linebacker Charles Haley, who won five Super Bowls with the 49ers and Cowboys, made the cut from 15 to 10 players but will not be part of the 2012 class either. That class contains one former 49er, defensive end Chris Dolemen, who played in San Francisco in 1996-98 but who spent most of his career with the Vikings.

Former Raiders receiver Tim Brown also was a finalist but was not voted in this year. DeBartolo, who was in Tampa, Fla. Saturday, said through a spokeswoman that he was "truly humbled to have made it to the top 15 and that he's proud of his and his teams' accomplishments over the years."

In addition to Doleman, the other members of the 2012 class are:

• Steelers C Dermontti Dawson
• Seahawks NT Cortez Kennedy
• Jets RB Curtis Martin
• Saints OT Willie Roaf
• Steelers CB Jack Butler

February 3, 2012
Canton or bust: DeBartolo battling Parcells for hall-of-fame votes


The battle between the 49ers and Giants rages on. In a meeting room of the Indianapolis JW Marriott on Saturday, 44 NFL writers from around the country will debate which of 15 modern-day Pro Football Hall of Fame finalists deserve a bust in the hall. Two of the most recognizable names: former 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo, Jr. and Bill Parcells, the former Giants coach.

The problem is that neither man played in the NFL, and getting a single non-player - much less two - into a hall-of-fame class is difficult. One voter predicted Friday that either Parcells or DeBartolo would have to be eliminated in the first round of voting or they would end up cancelling each other out in the final vote. Another said that DeBartolo's chances are "probably better than 50-50." Others are more skeptical.

Adding to the debate is a provincial split that pits West Coast voters who favor DeBartolo against East Coast voters who will side with Parcells.

Parcells, who compiled a 183-138-1 record as head coach, was the first coach to take four separate teams to the playoffs, and he won two Super Bowls with the Giants. Parcells also was a finalist in 2001 and 2002 but was not selected because voters suspected - correctly - that his retirement at the time would not last.

This is the first time that DeBartolo, the 49ers' owner from 1977-2000, is a finalist, and thus the first time that voters will debate his candidacy. The argument against him is threefold, according to voters.

February 3, 2012
And the winner is .... 49ers in running for NFL Awards


The NFL is trading in shoulder pads and chin straps for tuxedos and cummerbunds Saturday. It used to be that the league's biggest awards were announced with a series of press releases.

This year, however, the NFL has gone Hollywood with an Oscars-like award show. Alec Baldwin - in an episode of "30 Rock," his character was disappointed to learn he owned the Buffalo Bills -- will host. The show will be taped Saturday night in Indianapolis and will run from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. simultaneously on NBC and NFL Network.

Several 49ers, including quarterback Alex Smith, linebackers NaVorro Bowman, Aldon Smith and Patrick Willis, and tight end Vernon Davis are expected to attend. Here are the main awards, which are chosen by The Associated Press.

Most Valuable Player
Top candidates: Drew Brees, New Orleans; Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay; Tom Brady, New England.
Lowdown: The awards are for the regular season, so Rodgers' flameout in the divisional round of the playoffs should not count. That Brees broke Dan Marino's single-season yardage record is likely to ring loudly in voters' minds. But the fact that Rodgers followed up a Super Bowl title with a one-loss season is the bigger feat. The last player other than a quarterback or running back to win this award - Lawrence Taylor in 1986.
Who should win: Rodgers
Who will win: Brees

February 2, 2012
49ers stadium gets $200 million from NFL


Walls are coming down and funds are coming in in preparation for the 49ers' billion-dollar stadium in Santa Clara. Team President Jed York announced, via Twitter, that the NFL had given the green light for $200 million to be spent toward the 49ers' 68,000-seat venue, which will be ready before the 2015 season and perhaps a year earlier.

"With the NFL's muscle now behind the new stadium, we are moving forward," York said in a statement. "I expect an official ground-breaking ceremony very soon. Get your hard hats ready; we are embarking on the path to the next generation of 49ers football."

The 49ers' facility is the first to be funded under a new loan program that came about as part of the new collective bargaining agreement last year. Under the old program, teams received $150 million in loans.

In early December, the team secured $850 million in loans from Goldman Sachs, U.S. Bank and Bank of America. That money is expected to be repaid from revenue generated by ticket sales, suite sales, sponsorships and naming-rights deals. In addition, the city of Santa Clara's redevelopment agency will contribute about $40 million. A hotel tax will add another $35 million.

Work already has begun on the project as surveyors have been busy measuring distances on the parking lot on which the stadium will be built. Earlier this week, a wall at the 49ers' current practice facility, which will be built into the new stadium, was demolished. Groundbreaking on the stadium is expected to begin later this year.

-- Matt Barrows

February 1, 2012
Corner market: 49ers could part ways with Spencer


Shawntae Spencer is a good example of how two coaches can look at the same player and see something entirely different. In 2009, Spencer was the dark-horse winner of a three-way competition to be the 49ers' starting cornerback opposite Nate Clements. Observers figured the job either would go to Tarell Brown or Dre Bly. However, the defensive coordinator at the time, Greg Manusky, picked Spencer, who was returning from an ACL injury that year, based largely on his form, technique and knowledge of the defense.

Spencer started the next 32 games and was penciled in as the starter this past season until he suffered a hamstring injury early in training camp. He aggravated the injury after trying to come back too soon, then never was able to convince defensive coordinator Vic Fangio that he deserved to start. Spencer, who turns 30 this month, only was active for nine games this season and was inactive for both playoff games. He finished the season behind Carlos Rogers, Brown, Chris Culliver and Tramaine Brock on the depth chart.

The day after the season ended, Spencer sounded like a guy who believed he has played his last game in San Francisco. He is due to make $3.2 million in base salary alone in 2012 and is likely to be released and become a free agent just as Nate Clements was last season.

"I've been on that right corner since I've been here," Spencer said. "It's like seeing my lady with another guy." He said the best advice was from his brother, who picked up on the lady-with-another-man theme. "There's plenty of women out there," Spencer said.


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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