49ers Blog and Q&A

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

April 30, 2012
Who's No. 1? Josh Johnson, that's who

Who's No. 1 on the 49ers? According to photos from today's on-field work, that number belongs to new quarterback Josh Johnson. He wore No. 11 at the University of San Diego and with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but that jersey already has been taken by another 49ers quarterback.

For the record, both Johnson and coach Jim Harbaugh think that Alex Smith is No. 1 when it comes to the depth chart.

"Alex Smith is our starting quarterback," Harbaugh said Friday. "That's something that he's earned. They'll be competition at the quarterback position throughout the entire depth chart of our quarterbacks. They'll be competing for the second spot. They'll be competing for the third spot. Alex is always competing. That's just his makeup and his nature. Kaep's the same way. He's always competing. He's always trying to climb. I know Josh is that way. That's the way Scott Tolzien is. That's how all those youngsters are wired."

Other names belonging to numbers that I could decipher:

LS Ryan Pontbriand is No. 64
LS Kyle Nelson is No. 47
OT Kenny Wiggins is No. 69
WR John Matthews is No. 83

-- Matt Barrows

April 30, 2012
Randy Moss reports for duty


This just in: Randy Moss has reported for duty. Before he was signed, Moss and Jim Harbaugh agreed that the 13-year veteran would arrive for voluntary workouts on April 30. And sure enough, Moss arrived today. His arrival presumably means he will begin developing a rapport with starting quarterback Alex Smith - yes, starting quarterback; Harbaugh left no doubt about that when asked last week - and meeting the younger wideouts on the team.

Moss and those other receivers caught passes today. "It was eye opening," he told the team's website (there was no outside media access today). "Today was the first day, and we were moving so fast. Today felt like we'd been out here for a week or two."

The 49ers drafted A.J. Jenkins with the 30th overall pick, and while Jenkins doesn't have Moss' height, the 49ers clocked him at 4.31 seconds in the 40-yard dash. Jenkins also noted, in a video on the team's website, that there's a Randy Moss jersey in his closet at home. The additions of Moss and Jenkins, as well as running back LaMichael James, are further evidence that the 49ers felt they needed to add firepower to the offense.

The only 49ers who are not on hand are safety Dashon Goldson, who has yet to sign his franchise tender, and running back Frank Gore, who always has done his offseason routine in his native Miami. (Note: This is the first year I can recall in which attendance for the offseason workouts was a big deal. The sessions are voluntary, after all, and who arrived and who didn't arrive never had been a topic until the first minicamp).

Two numbers are in: Jenkins will wear No. 17 and James announced he will wear No. 23 after donning No. 21 at Oregon. One Twitter follower suggested he be called, "King James" because of his numerical selection.

The 49ers will sign 18 undrafted rookies but won't announce the full list until all 18 contracts are signed and returned. That may not happen until the end of the week. In the meantime, here's the tentative list.

-- Matt Barrows

April 29, 2012
Draft notes: 49ers to get a close look at Jenkins' alternatives


Any 49ers fans who feel their team reached for Illinois wideout A.J. Jenkins (pick No. 30) in the first round likely will get a good look at the alternatives this season. Five wide receivers were taken in the second round, and the 49ers will face the five teams that chose them this year.

Appalachian State's Brian Quick went to the Rams (No. 33), Georgia Tech's Stephen Hill is with the Jets (No. 43), South Carolina's Alshon Jeffrey was taken by the Bears (No. 45), Oklahoma's Ryan Broyles went to the Lions (No. 54) and LSU's Reuben Randle landed with the Giants (No. 63) and will be Mario Manningham's replacement. The Rams also chose Wake Forest's Chris Givens at the top of the fourth round (No. 96).

Before the draft, I wrote that West Virginia's Bruce Irvin was a possibility to the 49ers in the first round. (You collectively scoffed). It turns out that notion only was ludicrous because the Seahawks chose Irvin 15 picks earlier. It also turns out that the 49ers flew an assistant cross country to work out Irvin a mere two days before the draft, according to CBS Sports.com.

April 28, 2012
Final five: a roundup of Day 3 draft picks


Name: Joe Looney
Pick: 117th (4th round)
College: Wake Forest
Position: Guard
6-3, 318 pounds
Comment: Looney is a strong, physical player who uses his hands particularly well. He will be thrown into the mix at right guard and also has experience at center.
Coach Jim Harbaugh: "Really smart, smart person. Not only book smart, but street smart, football smart."

Name: Darius Fleming
Pick: 165th (5th round)
College: Notre Dame
Position: outside linebacker
6-2, 248
Comment: The 49ers had only three players at outside linebacker and Fleming gives them depth. Early on, he projects as a core special teams contributor who also could see action as a pass-rush specialist.
Harbaugh: "We rolled the dice last year with only three outside linebackers. It worked, but that is risky what we did last year."


Name: Trenton Robinson
Pick: 180th (6th round)
College: Michigan State
Position: safety
5-9 ½, 193 pounds
Comment: Robinson entered Michigan State as a cornerback before switching to safety his freshman year. He has good ball skills - eight interceptions the last two years - and could be an heir to Dashon Goldson, who likely will play on a one-year deal in 2012.
General manager Trent Baalke: "He's a young man that plays the game fast and physical. He's an undersized guy that has a chip on his shoulder. He's been a standout special teams player there in his younger days within the program."

April 28, 2012
49ers land WR Owusu; undrafted free-agent haul nearly complete


Jim Harbaugh will not make the same mistake twice. Last year Harbaugh passed on former pupil Doug Baldwin and then watched the undrafted rookie lead the Seahawks in receiving and score two touchdowns against his 49ers. This year, Harbaugh and the 49ers have agreed to a deal with another undrafted Stanford wideout, Chris Owusu. That deal first was reported on twitter by @nfldraftscout.

Owusu likely went undrafted due to the series of concussions he had at Stanford -- three in the last 13 months -- which caused him to miss five games last season. However, he's been medically cleared to play, and in February he dazzled scouts by running a 40-yard dash in 4.36 seconds and leaping 40.5 inches in the vertical jump.

Another Stanford player, defensive tackle/nose tackle Matt Masifilo, already has signed with the 49ers. He made the trip on Highway 101 from the Stanford campus after Harbaugh told him over the phone, "It's a competition to get down here as fast as you can." In doing so, he beat Owusu.

"That's probably the one race and the only race I'll beat him in," joked Masifilo, who said that safety Michael Thomas also plans to sign with the 49ers.

Harbaugh and general manager Trent Baalke would not confirm that Owusu was heading to the 49ers. But neither denied it, either, and both said they were nearly finished reeling in the desired number of undrafted players so that they will have 90 players in camp this offseason. Baalke hinted that observers will be impressed with the names.

Here are some other names, according to Tweets from the athletes, their schools and their agents:

Brian Tymes, WR, FAMU
Nathan Palmer, WR, NIU
Cameron Bell, FB, NIU
Al Netter, OG, Northwestern
Joe Holland, OLB, Purdue
Garrett Celek, TE, Michigan State
Kevin Murphy, OL, Harvard
Michael Thomas, S, Stanford
Chris Owusu, WR, Stanford
Matt Masifilo, DT, Stanford
Jewel Hampton, RB, Southern Illinois
Patrick Butrym, DL, Wisconsin
Georgio Tavecchio, K, Cal
Kourtnei Brown, DE, Clemson
Deante Purvis, DB, UNLV
Tony Jerod-Eddie, DL, Texas A&M
Dajuan Cofield, RB, San Jose State
Anthony Mosley, CB, Kentucky
David Gonzales, OL, Washington State

-- Matt Barrows

April 28, 2012
49ers round out the draft with OLB Cam Johnson

The 49ers completed their 2012 draft with Cam Johnson, a defensive end at the University of Virginia, who projects to outside linebacker with the 49ers. In fact, Johnson lined up at outside linebacker for two years when the Cavaliers were under former coach Al Groh.

Johnson has shown flashes of top-end pass-rush ability at Virginia, but was inconsistent during his college career. His best season came as a junior when he finished with 6 1/2 sacks and 14 1/2 tackles for loss. Last year he dealt with a knee injury and had four sacks and 11 tackles for loss while mostly lining up at right defensive end.

Johnson's best game may have come early in the season against Indiana. After Virginia tied the game late, Johnson crashed into Hoosier quarterback Edward Wright-Baker, causing a fumble, which he also recovered. That led to a game-winning field goal as time expired. Johnson finished that game with three tackles -- two behind the line of scrimmage -- one sack, one knocked down pass, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery and three quarterback pressures

The 49ers likely were intrigued by his size -- 6-3 3/4, 267 pounds -- and his history in a 3-4 defense. San Francisco now has two outside linebackers who were recruited by Groh at Virginia, Ahmad Brooks being the other. "He's definitely a living legend around that area," said Johnson during a conference call from his home in Maryland. "But I never met him personally."

The 49ers used their fifth-round pick on another outside linebacker, Darius Fleming from Notre Dame.

-- Matt Barrows

April 28, 2012
Round 6B: 49ers take center Jason Slowey from Western Oregon

The 49ers added their second interior offensive lineman of the day in Jason Slowey, who played left tackle for Division II Western Oregon but who projects to center with the 49ers.

Slowey, who also starred at shotput and discus, said he wasn't a workout warrior when he arrived at school. He weighed only 260 pounds, and when he was asked to bench press 225 pounds, he was only able to do three repetitions.

He's a wee bit stronger today.

Slowley said he now weighs 305 pounds and he blasted out 38 reps of 225 pounds at Western Oregon's pro day. He said he's done as many as 45 repetitions.

Slowey took part in the Players All-Star Classic in February where he presumably caught the eyes of 49ers scouts. They also attended his pro day. His only pre-draft visit of the season was to Santa Clara -- he met with Mike Solari and Jim Harbaugh -- and he said that the 49ers by far had shown the most interest.

He said there are about 5,000 students at Western Oregon and the school has 12 football scholarships that are divided among the players. (Slowey, for example, had his tuition covered). Slowey also showed a nastiness (see: below) at left tackle that likely impressed the 49ers.

"There's a blue-collar mentality," he said of the school. "Everything you get is through hard work." It sounds like he'll feel comfortable in one of Harbaugh's blue mechanic's shirts.

-- Matt Barrows

April 28, 2012
Round 6A: 49ers find safety depth with Trenton Robinson

In the fifth round, the 49ers found depth at outside linebacker. In the sixth, they filled out their safety position with Michigan State's Trenton Robinson, who likely will be penciled in at free safety behind Dashon Goldson. Goldson, of course, was given the franchise tag in February, which means he probably will be on a one-year deal this year.

Robinson also will be expected to play special teams. He's billed as an undersized safety -- 5-9 1/2, 193 pounds -- who has good coverage skills and who always seemed to be around the ball at Michigan State. He had 80 tackles, two pass break ups and four interceptions last year for the Spartans.

Robinson entered Michigan State as a cornerback. But the Spartans were deep at that position his freshman year and their starting safety was moving on the following year. So the coaching staff moved him to safety. Robinson was one of three team captains this past season, his second straight with four interceptions.

Asked if his size caused him to slip in the draft, Robinson said he wasn't sure. "No one said, 'You're 5-10, we're not thinking about drafting you,'" he said. It's worth noting there are several similarly-sized safeties in the league, including the 49ers' Donte Whitner and the Seahawks' Earl Thomas. Robinson drew comparison to former Colts safety Bob Sanders by ESPN commentators when the choice was made.

It's also worth noting that I had the 49ers picking Robinson -- in the sixth round, no less -- in our beatwriters 1-7 mock draft challenge. I can't wait to see my name emblazoned on the new press box in Santa Clara.

-- Matt Barrows

April 28, 2012
Round 5: 49ers take outside linebacker Darius Fleming

The 49ers, who were reportedly interested in West Virginia pass rusher Bruce Irvin in the first round, tapped that position in the fifth with Darius Fleming, an outside linebacker from Notre Dame in the fifth round. Fleming is a 6-1, 248-pound outside linebacker whose immediate role will be on special teams and who could see action as a pass-rush specialist on passing downs.

Fleming was in his car in the Chicago area when he got a call from Jim Harbaugh, whom he faced twice when Harbaugh was at Stanford. Harbaugh asked Fleming if he knew who he was. "I said, 'Yeah, i think we encountered each other a couple of times.' Coach Harbaugh is a great guy. I've watched his coaching style, and that's what I'm most excited about."

Playing against Harbaugh has become a common theme among the 49ers' draft picks. Two earlier selections, LaMichael James and Joe Looney, also faced the Cardinal in recent years. Fleming is a former roommate of current 49ers nose tackle, Ian Williams, and the two stayed in touch during Williams' rookie season last year.

Fleming has had multiple surgeries on his left shoulder but said he was ok now. He played all 13 games last season, finishing with seven tackles for loss and 3 1/2 sacks. He said he knows that the 49ers prefer big, sturdy defensive players and said he'd dedicate himself to getting stronger.

Appearing on NFL Network, Harbaugh noted the team only has three outside linebackers, Ahmad Brooks, Parys Harlason and Aldon Smith. "Mr. Fleming has an opportunity to compete at that position," he said.

-- Matt Barrows

April 28, 2012
Round 4: 49ers trade UP to take Wake Forest G Joe Looney


The 49ers, who had traded down twice today, reversed directions to take big Wake Forest guard Joe Looney with the 117th overall pick. The 49ers traded their fourth-round pick (125th overall) and one of three sixth-round picks (196th) to the Lions to get Looney, who presumably will be thrown into the mix at right guard.

Looney is a four-year starter at left guard at Wake Forest, who likely is another "gold helmet guy" for a 49ers squad looking for high-character players. He was a second-team All-ACC selection last year. Looney's strength is, well, his strength. He's 6-3, 318 pounds with very strong hands, and he is the type of big-bodied player the 49ers were seeking in the middle of their line.

"I love pulling around, coming up on the linebacker," he said. "I feel like it's an offensive lineman's time to shine."

April 28, 2012
49ers keep accumulating picks for 2013

The 49ers can't stop trading down. After dealing with Miami (see previous post) earlier in the day, they then dealt that pick (no. 103 overall) to the Panthers for the Panthers' sixth-round pick this year and a third-round pick next year.

That means the 49ers have two picks in the third, the fifth, the sixth and the seventh rounds next year. The 49ers still have their original fourth-round pick, No. 125 overall.

The 49ers, of course, have several players on one-year contracts or in the final year of their contracts. That list includes wide receivers Randy Moss and Mario Manningham Ted Ginn, linebacker Larry Grant, safety Dashon Goldson, defensive lineman Isaac Sopoaga and Ricky Jean Francois and tight end Delanie Walker.

-- Matt Barrows

April 28, 2012
Round 4: There's been another trade

The 49ers traded down again to start Day 3. They shipped the 97th overalll pick, which they acquired yesterday from Indianapolis, to the Dolphins, who picked Miami running back LaMar Miller.

In return, the 49ers got Miami's fourth round pick (103 overall), a sixth round pick this year (196 overall) and a sixth round pick in 2013. The 49ers also have an extra fifth rounder next year from the Indianapolis trade and a seventh rounder in 2013 from last year's Taylor Mays trade.

-- Matt Barrows

April 27, 2012
James only a third-down back? Harbaugh begs to differ


At only 5-8, LaMichael James has the small stature and the rabbit-like quickness of a prototypical third-down running back. But new coach Jim Harbaugh on Friday refused to pigeon-hole him in that role.

After all, Harbaugh has watched James, the 49ers' second-round draft choice, excel at every aspect of the running back position, often from a few aggravating feet away. The former Oregon tailback rushed for more than 1,500 yards in each of the last three seasons, and he always seemed to do particularly well against Harbaugh's Stanford squads, rushing for 382 yards and four touchdowns in 2009 and 2010. He and the Ducks handed Harbaugh his last loss in college football, 52-31, in 2010.

"Just the unstoppable nature of him at the goal line," Harbaugh said when asked if he had particular recollections of the Oregon tailback. "You could not stop that team once they got inside the 5 yard line."

Most goal-line runners are boulder-shouldered bruisers who weigh upwards of 245 pounds. James is 195 pounds, but Harbaugh said he could envision James in a red-zone role - a problem area for the 49ers last year -- and much more.

James became Oregon's featured back as a freshman after starter LeGarrette Blount was suspended for punching an opponent after the 2009 opener. The following year he finished third in Heisman Trophy voting and last year he added punt returns, including one for a touchdown, to his repertoire.

"LaMichael came in and carried the team as a freshman. He did that his whole career," Harbaugh said. He even likened James to brother John's featured tailback in Baltimore, Ray Rice, a two-time Pro Bowl selection.

April 27, 2012
There's been a trade: 49ers ship third-round pick to Indy

There's been a trade. The 49ers have shipped their third-round pick, No. 92 overall, to the Colts for their fourth-round pick this year, No. 97 overall, as well as a fifth-round pick in 2013. That means the 49ers will have two picks in the fourth-round tomorrow, Nos. 97 and 125.

The Colts ended up selecting speedy wide receiver T.Y. Hilton from Florida International.

-- Matt Barrows

April 27, 2012
Quick pick: 49ers take RB LaMichael James in Round 2


The 49ers made another surprise pick in the second round, selecting ultra-productive and rabbit-quick running back LaMichael James from Oregon. James, who also can return punts, rushed for more than 1,500 yards in each of the last three seasons. He also played particularly well against Jim Harbaugh-led Stanford teams, rushing 49 times for 382 yards and four touchdowns in 2009 and 2010.

"We played against coach Harbaugh a couple of times," James said. "He's so intense. He seems so about effort, a hardcore coach. Even after we stopped playing him, I was like, 'I would love to play for a coach like that.' How intense he is and how physical he wanted his team to be, because I always want to be physical and go downhill."

The pick might be considered surprising because James is a smaller running back - 5-8, 190 pounds - and the 49ers took a small 'back last year in Oklahoma State's Kendall Hunter. James, who watching the draft at home in Texarcana, Texas said he was familiar with Hunter, the 49ers' fourth-round pick last year, because he, too, is from East Texas. But he didn't want to be typecast as having the same skills as Hunter, who mostly was used as a change-of-pace running back last year.

"I think I can be similar to anybody," he said.

April 27, 2012
Second round begins. Who will be the 49ers' pick?

Ok, time to put your prognostication powers on the line. In the comments section below, write whom you think the 49ers will pick in this round. I'm picking Montana's Trumaine Johnson, although he probably will be off the board by then. The winner gets a Bee t-shirt. (for reals this time) In case of ties, the first person who wrote a name wins.... Good luck.

-- Matt Barrows

April 27, 2012
A.J. phone home: Jenkins' hand size grabs you

Last year at this time, Jim Harbaugh and Trent Baalke ooohed and ahhhed about Aldon Smith's long arms. This year, the duo can't get over A.J. Jenkins' mitts. "He's got big hands - 9 ½ (inch) hands," Harbaugh said Thursday. "Strong, tough player." (Jenkins' hands actually measured 9 7/8 inches from finger to thumb).


I can attest that Jenkins' hands stick out. He had his introductory press conference today, at which he posed with his new jersey - No. 17 - and chatted with reporters. It's not exactly the size of his hands that jumps out but the length of his fingers. He looks like he's holding sausages. He's been able to palm a basketball since he was 12.

"They used to call me E.T. back in high school," Jenkins said. "I got picked on a lot for my hands. But they came to good use."

Jenkins elaborated on the bathroom story he told yesterday. To catch you up: During an early part of the draft, a cousin, who was viewing the draft with him, pranked called him by pretending to be from an NFL team. As the first round wound down, Jenkins retired to the bathroom. At that point his phone started ringing again.

April 27, 2012
Falling stars: Can 49ers find another gem in the third?


Earlier this week I wrote about the 49ers' ability to unearth some real gems in the boom-or-bust third round in recent years. To me the third round is the most interesting round. It still has players with first-round ability. But they have asterisks next to their names, whether because of injury (Frank Gore, Ray McDonald), character (NaVorro Bowman) or perhaps because they have made a recent position switch (Chris Culliver).

It seems like a round in which a great talent evaluator can really distinguish himself from the pack. Here are a few prospects this year who could fall, perhaps to the third, because of issues listed above. Thanks to CBS Sports' Rob Rang for helping me compile this list.

CB Omar Bolden, Arizona State. Bolden was considered one of the top cover men in the country before suffering a torn left ACL last year. He also can return kicks. He could be available as late as the fourth round.

WR Ryan Broyles, Oklahoma. He tore his ACL in November and is not yet back to full speed. But he was a prolific receiver for the Sooners, going over 1,000 yards the last three seasons, including 1,622 yards in 2010. He's scored a whopping 45 touchdowns at Oklahoma.

NT Josh Chapman, Alabama. Chapman played the season despite an ACL tear and a torn meniscus in his left knee. He is still recovering from those injuries and his immediate availability is in doubt. The 49ers could be looking for an interior defensive lineman considering Isaac Sopoaga is in his contract year. (Alameda Ta'amu might be another name to watch today).

April 26, 2012
Did 49ers jump the gun on Jenkins? Baalke doesn't think so


The questions thousands of 49ers fans are wondering right now: Why did the team take A.J. Jenkins so early, and would he have been available later?

Trent Baalke doesn't think so. He fielded a trade request by the Minnesota Vikings that presumably would have given the 49ers Minnesota's second-round pick (35th overall) as well as at least one other pick, probably a fourth rounder. The 49ers knew the Vikings wanted Harrison Smith, the Notre Dame safety they ended up taking at pick No. 29, so they only would have had to sweat out four more picks.

With Stephen Hill, Rueben Randle, Coby Fleener and others still on the board, wouldn't Jenkins still have been available at pick No. 35? Baalke didn't want to risk it. "When I used to work for coach (Bill) Parcells and Dick Hailey, Dick's mentality and coach's mentality was, if you like a player, take them," Baalke said. "If you like them at 30, what's the difference if you take him at 30 or 33 or 34? If you like the player, take them because if you don't take them and you trade back, you may not like the outcome."

Baalke pointed to last year's first-round pick, Aldon Smith, who also was a surprise. The 49ers picked Smith at No. 7, and Baalke said if the team had traded down just two spots, Smith wouldn't have been there. The Titans and Cowboys were picking after the 49ers that year.

"That sticks in your mind when you're sitting in the chair that I sit in," Baalke. "If you like the player, take him."

Which other teams were interested in Jenkins? He also visited the Ravens, Jaguars, Chiefs, Lions and Rams. The Rams will be on the clock when the second round starts at 4 p.m. and they also have the seventh pick today. They badly need a wideout and were taking a hard look at Jenkins in the run up to the draft. Not only did the Rams host Jenkins, they worked him out at Illinois and graded him similarly to Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon, according to the St. Louis Post Dispatch.

-- Matt Barrows

April 26, 2012
The newest 49er: wide receiver A.J. Jenkins

The 49ers made one of the surprise picks of the first round by taking Illinois receiver A.J. Jenkins with the 30th overall selection. Jenkins, who caught 90 passes for 1,096 yards for Illinois last year, was one of several college wideouts who visited the 49ers in the last two months. Jenkins measures six feet and weighs 192 pounds and is viewed as a down-field threat for the 49ers.

Among the most surprised -- Jenkins himself. "Right now I'm speechless," he said during a conference call during which he had to compose himself several times. Jenkins said he was returning from the bathroom when one of his sisters told him his phone was ringing. A cousin had pranked him earlier in the night, and Jenkins thought this was another joke.

It wasn't. It was 49ers general manager Trent Baalke on the other end. "When (the phone) said 'San Jose,' I said, 'Oh my God!'" Jenkins said.

Both Baalke and Jim Harbaugh described Jenkins as a "gold-helmet guy," which meant that he has the high character they desire in a draft pick. Baalke cited Jenkins' speed -- he was clocked at 4.31 second at the combine by the 49ers -- his versatility and his fluidity in and out of breaks as traits that caught his eye.

Baalke was so confident in Jenkins that last night he put Jenkins' name in an envelope, sealed it and told the coaches and scouts around him, "This is the guy we're going to take."

Jenkins will join an offense that added two other receivers, Randy Moss and Mario Manningham, in the offseason. Jenkins certainly is a surprise considering that most prognosticators had him being taken in the second round at the earliest. Baalke said the Minnesota Vikings called the 49ers to see if they were interested in trading. That would have given the 49ers the third pick in the second round.

But Baalke said he worried that another team would have come in and taken Jenkins before the 49ers. "He would have gone a lot sooner tomorrow than a lot of people think," Baalke said.

-- Matt Barrows

April 26, 2012
Chat live with Matt: NFL Draft first round

April 26, 2012
And with the 30th pick in the 2012 NFL draft ...

Draftmas finally has arrived. Before you go to bed tonight, the 49ers will have a shiny new toy under the tree. (Unless they trade down). So who are the likeliest to land in San Francisco today? I used a very complicated computer model - you probably wouldn't understand if I told you how it worked -- to come up with the following percentages. Margin of error, +/- 100 percent.

1. OLB Bruce Irvin, West Virginia. Why he fits: I'll give you five words why Irvin makes sense: Brady, Brees, Manning, Rodgers, Stafford. The 49ers play the five most prolific passers from 2011 this season. The NFL is increasingly a passing league and the 49ers were merely ok against the pass last year, finishing 16th in yards allowed through the air. The 49ers could be eying Irvin as a pass-rush specialist, a position that in today's NFL could be on the field almost 50 percent of the time. On NFL Network Wednesday, Mike Lombardi said there was one team in the first round that was in love with Irvin. Lombardi is good friends with Jim Harbaugh and was the first (only?) prognosticator last year to link the 49ers with Aldon Smith. Why he doesn't fit: Irvin played in the low 240-pound range and Baalke usually likes bigger-bodied guys on defense. Irvin, who got into a lot of trouble as a younger man, will not have many "gold helmets" next to his name. 19 percent.

2. TE Coby Fleener, Stanford. Why he fits: Jim Harbaugh loves tight ends, and Fleener was the best one he had at Stanford. He could be a possible replacement for soon-to-be free agent Delanie Walker, and he already knows the offense. He also gives the 49ers a red-zone threat they don't have right now. Why he doesn't fit: He's not an aggressive blocker, he has some injury history and there's a real possibility he gets picked before No. 30, perhaps by Houston. 16 percent.

3. WR Stephen Hill, Georgia Tech. Why he fits: Hill is a physical, big-bodied wide receiver who averaged nearly 30 yards (not a typo) a catch last year for the Yellow Jackets. He'd get to learn his craft from Randy Moss, perhaps the best downfield receiver of the last quarter century. Why he doesn't fit: Evaluators love to reassure themselves about a prospect with game film, and Hill (he just turned 21 this week) doesn't have a lot of film. He'd be a bit of a gamble and it's quite possible he wouldn't play a lot in Year 1. Hill might be gone before the 49ers pick. 17 percent.

April 24, 2012
Magnificent 7: Predicting the 49ers' draft picks

Here's my Rounds 1-7 prediction for a friendly intra-beatwriters competition we're doing this year. If I even get just one of these correct, I will parade this around town like a new-born son. If I fail to get any right, this post mysteriously disappears from the internet ...

1. G Amini Silatolu, Midwestern State. He's a 315-pound guy who can dunk a basketball. Silatolu has tremendous upside and pairing him opposite Mike Iupati is enough to make defensive coordinators tremble. His biggest downside is his level of competition. But the 49ers are confident he can be coached up to speed quickly. Mike Solari last week had Silatolu diagram and digest plays on a whiteboard just as he did with Iupati before the 2010 draft.

2. CB Trumaine Johnson, Montana. He's just the kind of cornerback the 49ers love - tall (6-2) with long arms to jam defenders. Johnson has first-round ability but character concerns will knock him down teams' draft boards. Will he last to the end of the second round?

3. RB Chris Polk, Washington. He has durability concerns (shoulders) and wasn't impressive at the Senior Bowl. However, he's a big-bodied runner, who was consistently productive at Washington and who is best between the tackles. Polk is just the kind of runner position coach Tom Rathman covets - one cut and he hits the hole. He was particularly good at the goal line (12 TDs) last year and added four more scores as a receiver.

April 24, 2012
Chat replay: 49ers options at 30 include trading down

April 24, 2012
Ceiling vs. Floor decisions for 49ers at pick No. 30


What's more valuable to the 49ers, a player's potential or his readiness? Do they draft a guy who can step in immediately or one who may have to sit for a while but has a better chance of being great? In scouting parlance, do they take a guy with a high floor or a high ceiling?

It's a debate NFL evaluators have every year and it's something the 49ers likely have been discussing when it comes to the 30th overall pick. The team's biggest needs, arguably, at are guard and wide receiver, and there's a nice convergence of need and availability at the end of the first round. Those two positions also raise classic ceiling-vs.-floor conundrums. To wit:


High floor: Many prognosticators see the 49ers taking Wisconsin guard Kevin Zeitler at this spot. And why not? He started for three years in a physical, pro-style, run-oriented offense in one of the nation's top conferences. He's big, he's smart and he's steady. He's a guy who could step into the 49ers' vacant right guard spot from Day 1.

April 23, 2012
Arkansas to hire coach with 49ers ties (but it isn't Greg Roman)

It appears the man that Arkansas is hiring to be its interim head coach has ties to the 49ers. But the school isn't zeroing in on offensive coordinator Greg Roman. Instead, the Associated Press reports that Arkansas is hiring former Michigan State and Louisville coach John L. Smith, who is quarterback Alex Smith's uncle.

Roman interviewed for openings at Tulane and Penn State this year, and the New Jersey native also was eyeing the opening at Rutgers. If Roman were to move on, it's likely that quarterbacks coach Geep Chryst would take over the 49ers' play-calling duties.

Earlier this month, Arkansas fired coach Bobby Petrino, who hired a woman with whom he was having an affair. That relationship began to leak after the two were involved in an April 1 motorcycle accident.

-- Matt Barrows

April 22, 2012
Mock mock. Who's there? A wideout at pick no. 30

1. QB Andrew Luck, Stanford
Figures that a team with a horseshoe emblem would draft a guy named Luck.

2. QB Robert Griffin III, Baylor
A franchise that knows what it's doing should make a mega star out of Robert Griffin. Too bad he's being drafted by the Redskins.

3. OT Matt Kalil, USC
A lot of talk lately about how the Vikings don't really like Kalil. Maybe they opt for Claiborne in a division with Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford and Jay Cutler. But moving Claiborne here also would ruin my mock, so ...

4. RB Trent Richardson, Alabama
A solid running game should take pressure off of Colt McCoy ... or the guy who eventually replaces Colt McCoy.

5. CB Morris Claiborne, LSU
Happy birthday, Ronde Barber. He turned 57 earlier this month.

6. DT Fletcher Cox, Mississippi State
Defensive-minded coach gets a player who should make everyone around him - Chris Long, Robert Quinn, James Hall - better.

7. OLB-DE Melvin Ingram.
Yes, he has the arm length of a velociraptor, but Ingram's tenacity and versatility should be alluring to the Jaguars.

8. QB Ryan Tannehill, Texas A&M.
Signing David Garrard instead of Peyton Manning is like getting a sweater vest for Christmas when you really wanted an iPad 3.

April 21, 2012
Silatolu in the mix for 49ers at No. 30


I spent about an hour in Tracy today with Amini Silatolu, the guard from Midwestern State, for a story I'm working on for next week. Silatolu's made 11 official visits with teams, and he met with 49ers offensive line coaches Mike Solari and Tim Drevno earlier this week in Tracy.

The 49ers, who have the 30th pick in the first round, have brought in several players most observers see being taken at the end of the first round or beginning of the second. That includes receivers Stephen Hill of Georgia Tech, Rueben Randle of LSU, Kendall Wright of Baylor, running back David Wilson of Virginia Tech and Stanford tight end Coby Fleener. (Fleener did not take an "official visit" but was on hand for the 49ers' local pro day this week.)

Silatolu stands out from that group in that he projects to the only starting position, right guard, currently open for the 49ers. The list above are players we know have visited. Every team is allowed 30 visits, and the 49ers have used that allotment. The team met with others, including a linebacker and another offensive linemen I saw recently but did not recognize.

I'll have more next week on Silatolu, whose roundabout path to the NFL included two years at Division II Midwestern State in Wichita Falls, Texas. NFL teams like both his mean streak and his ability to get down field and hit moving targets. Most of the teams he visited love to pull their guards.

One thing struck me is what a small world the NFL is. Silatolu played against Miles Burris' and Devon Wylie's Granite Bay squad in high school, and he has been training alongside those players in Southern California. Silatolu, who went to West High in Tracy, also regularly played Boise State running back Doug Martin, who played at Stockton's St. Mary's High and who you have to believe also is on the 49ers' radar at pick No. 30.

"Every year we played St. Mary's we whupped them," Silatolu said. "I know Doug Martin hated playing us." Silatolu has visited Carolina, Detroit, Dallas, Minnesota, Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, Houston, Atlanta, St. Louis, Kansas City and Baltimore.

-- Matt Barrows

April 19, 2012
Red, gold and ... green? 49ers break ground on enviro concious stadium


One of the problems Jack Hill, the project executive for the 49ers' new $1.2 billion stadium, currently is facing is how to transport 2,000 tons of dirt and top soil 150 feet in the air. "The soil's wet, it's heavy and we have to get it fairly high off the field," he said this week.

It's a unique challenge for Hill, who most recently worked on the Cowboys' new stadium, and that's the point. The dirt is intended for what the 49ers are hoping will be the signature feature of the venue, a 27,000 square-foot green roof that will support a garden of native plants, which in turn will soak up rainwater and provide insulation for the tower of luxury suites it sits atop.

The roof will be the first of its kind in the NFL, and CEO Jed York wants it to be the 49ers' version of the Green Monster at Boston's Fenway Park or the B&O Warehouse at Baltimore's Camden Yards.

"There aren't that many iconic ideas in football stadiums," York said. "It symbolizes what we're doing in that it combines energy efficiency and technology and the fan experience. And it's elegant and classy. That's the overall vision of the stadium."

York and the 49ers broke ground on the project Thursday. On hand for the ceremony was one former coach, George Seifert, who as a teenager worked as an usher at old Kezar Stadium, and the current one, Jim Harbaugh, who, in typically impassioned Jim Harbaugh fashion, told the assembled crowd the 49ers and the City of Santa Clara had "a shovel in one hand and a sword in the other" and were off to build build a "great football cathedral."

April 19, 2012
Baalke's mystery prospect: A look at Bruce Irvin

Oh, that Trent Baalke is so sly. The 49ers' general manager now has everyone trying to guess the player the team is eying with the 30th pick. Baalke on Wednesday said the 49ers have one particular guy in mind and that they are fairly confident he'll be sitting there to be plucked when the 49ers are on the clock.

My own Spidey sense tells me that Baalke was having a little fun with the media. But the run up to the draft is nothing if not fun, so let's play with the concept. One of several players who are visiting this week is West Virginia's Bruce Irvin, who has been popular on the pre-draft visitation circuit and who can safely be placed in the category of "draft risers."

Irvin's best characteristic: He can rush the quarterback. That's become even more paramount in recent years as offenses have become increasingly pass oriented. Look at the 49ers' 2012 schedule and you'll see that they face the five most prolific passers from 2011 - Drew Brees, Matthew Stafford, Eli Manning, Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers. A full stable of pass-rushing outside linebackers is the mark of a fearsome 3-4 defense. And while the 49ers currently have talent at the position, it certainly isn't full.

Irvin was perhaps miscast as a defensive end in the Mountaineers defense. He's a bit undersized for that position at 6-2, 245 pounds. Still he managed 22 ½ sacks the last two seasons in West Virginia. His marks in the vertical jump (33 ½ inches), the broad jump (10 feet three inches) and the three-cone drill (6.70 seconds) reinforce the notion that he is one of the most explosive pass rushers in the draft.

April 18, 2012
Harbaugh says Randy Moss will arrive April 30


Randy Moss, one of the few 49ers who are not taking part in the team's voluntary workouts, is due to arrive on April 30. Coach Jim Harbaugh said today that he and Moss settled on that date when Moss worked out with Harbaugh last month.

In fact, Harbaugh said he suggested that Moss, an 13-year veteran, not show up for the start of offseason workouts. He said that Moss has a family in West Virginia and that the receiver was better served being around them than showing up for voluntary workouts. "He's got them to take care of and I understand that," Harbaugh said. "He can work out there just as easy as he can work out here over these two weeks."

Harbaugh also said he would take a straw vote among his players about the possibility of spending a week in Youngstown, Ohio between road trips to Minnesota and New York in weeks 3 and 4. The team did that last year between games in Cincinnati and Philadelphia and won both.

Harbaugh said the advantage is that the 49ers, who typically travel more than any other team outside of the Seattle Seahawks, take 2,000 to 3,000 miles off their itinerary. The downside is that players are away from their families for 10 days.

Asked if the team might stay somewhere else, Harbaugh said, no. "If we do it, Youngstown makes a lot of sense," he said. Youngstown is the hometown of the DeBartolo family, and the Harbaugh noted that the 49ers were treated very well last year.

Stanford's Coby Fleener and Chris Owusu and Cal's Sean Cattouse and Bryan Anger both attended today's "local" pro day but did not participate in drills. Fleener, who is a possibility to the 49ers at No. 30, said he had a break in his school schedule and his pre-draft visit schedule to visit the 49ers coaches, many of whom he played for at Stanford.

Fleener said he's taken a number of visits around the league but declined to say which teams he's met. He said the number was "less than 10."

-- Matt Barrows

April 18, 2012
The list for the 49ers' local combine

Here's the list of players attending the local pro day. I'm not sure yet whether everyone on the list will be attending. For example, I was told that wideout Marvin Jones was elsewhere today. Tight end Coby Fleener, wideout Chris Owusu and punter Bryan Anger are here but will not take part in the drills.

WO EVANS, TROY, Marshall
WO GREEN, DEANDRE, New Mexico Highlands
WO HENDERSHOTT, JOHN, Sacramento State
FS DAVIS, BRANDON, San Diego State
SS LARCHE', JOSEPH, Sacramento State
C REED, ROBERT, San Jose State
G FAKALATA, SIOELI, New Mexico State
OT MADSEN, PAUL, Colorado State
WO IKHARO, TAULIB, Louisiana Tech
WO LEWIS, ARMAHD, Central Washington
WO REED, BRANDYN, Sacramento State
DE GARCIA, PABLO, San Jose State
DE PRYOR, OLIVER, Missouri Western St.

-- Matt Barrows

April 18, 2012
Josh Johnson says the 49ers' starting QB is obvious

The 49ers have not talked to their four quarterbacks about the pecking order at the position. But newcomer Josh Johnson today said the player at the top of the depth chart is apparent. "Obviously Alex (Smith) is the starter. He deserves it," Johnson said.

Johnson said that he and the others have begun meeting this week with coaches, including Jim Harbaugh, offensive coordinator Greg Roman and quarterbacks coach Geep Chryst. He's also thrown to some of his new receivers, including tight ends Vernon Davis and Delanie Walker.

Said Johnson to the duo: "You all run like receivers. That's something new for me. You've got to treat them like receivers."

As for Smith's role as the starter, Johnson said it's just "common sense. It's how the industry works. Why wouldn't he be? He went to the NFC Championship last year."

-- Matt Barrows

April 18, 2012
Blink: Baalke says draft snap judgments usually correct


By the time the draft begins next week, the 49ers will have poured thousands of hours into assessing, dissecting and discussing hundreds of college players. But general manager Trent Baalke said today that it usually take only a few minutes of watching game film to determine whether a player is a keeper.

"Generally speaking, you were right in the first five minutes," said Baalke. The 49ers general manager cited the book "Blink" by Malcolm Gladwell, which posits that spontaneous decisions are often more valuable than long, drawn out ones.

Baalke cited last year's film study of defender Aldon Smith, whom the 49ers ended up drafting seventh overall. "Five minutes into the film last year my gut was sold that this guy was going to be a good football player," Baalke said.

Baalke said that about 60 players have arrived this week for the start of voluntary offseason workouts. That group includes new signees Mario Manningham and Brandon Jacobs as well as receiver Michael Crabtree.

The 60 does not include receiver Randy Moss, safety Dashon Goldson or running back Frank Gore. Goldson has yet to sign his franchise tender (he likely is working out in Los Angeles) while Gore traditionally has worked out in his native Miami.

April 18, 2012
Baalke: No animosity toward Gregg Williams


General manager Trent Baalke said there were no hard feelings between him and ex Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams despite the audio of Williams targeting specific 49ers players a day before the teams met in a divisional playoff game in January. The 49ers won the game 36-32. The Saints weren't called for a single penalty.

Baalke said he reached out to Williams after the bounty allegations against him and the Saints surfaced. Williams, who had been hired by the Rams in the offseason, has been suspended indefinitely by the NFL. "I worked with Gregg," Baalke said. "And Gregg's a friend, always been a friend."

Baalke was part of the Redskins' scouting staff when Williams was the defensive coordinator in Washington. Carlos Rogers, a cornerback on some of those Redskins squads, also has come to Williams' defense.

In the audio, which was released earlier this month, Williams discusses hitting specific 49ers such as quarterback Alex Smith, running back Frank Gore, receiver Michael Crabtree and tight end Vernon Davis. He also targets specific body parts, such as Gore's head, Crabtree's ACL and Davis' ankles. Said Baalke of Williams: "I don't view him any differently today than I did 20 days ago."

-- Matt Barrows

April 18, 2012
Rachal agrees to a one-year deal with Bears

Add Chilo Rachal to the list of ex players the 49ers might run into in 2012. The former second-round pick agreed to a one-year deal with the Bears, according to NFL.com's Ian Rappaport. Rachal, an unrestricted free agent, also visited the Rams.

Rachal is part of the 49ers' woebegone 2008 draft class. The only member of that class who is still on the team is seventh rounder Larry Grant, who signed a restricted free-agent tender earlier this week. Another member, third rounder Reggie Smith, signed with the Panthers last month. Rachal started the 2011 season at right guard but was replaced by Adam Snyder, who is now with the Cardinals.

The 49ers host the Bears on Monday Night Football on Nov. 19. Special teamer Blake Costanzo also is with Chicago this year.

-- Matt Barrows

April 18, 2012
Cal's Marvin Jones, others won't be at 49ers' "local" combine


The 49ers will hold their annual "local" pro day today at which players from Bay Area colleges and universities as well as those who are from the Bay Area will work out for Jim Harbaugh and his staff. A list of attendees is forthcoming, but the biggest names from the San Francisco Bay, such Stanford's Andrew Luck, David DeCastro and Coby Fleener, are not expected to work out.

Cal wideout Marvin Jones and Cal inside linebacker Mychal Kendricks will not attend, either. This week is the final week for players to visit with teams, and both Jones and Kendricks have visits lined up today, their agent said. Stanford wideout Chris Owusu, however, is expected to take part, the San Francisco Chronicle reported last week.

Sacramento's Armond Armstead has two more visits this week - to Miami and Cleveland. The 6-5, 295-pound defensive lineman, who played at USC, also has worked out for the Raiders and Patriots.

Last spring, Armstead was briefly hospitalized after experiencing chest pains. He was cleared by doctors to resume football action, but USC would not allow Armstead to play this past season, and he decided to declare for the draft. Read more about Armstead here.

Armstead was a two-year starter at USC, totaling 59 tackles and two sacks in 17 career starts. Earlier this month, he worked out for scouts at Sacramento State. He had a 30-inch vertical leap, broad jumped nearly ten-feet and ran a 5.05-second 40-yard dash

Pheee-eeew! Patrick Willis will not feel the wrath of the Madden curse after all. Willis fell to Carolina quarterback Cam Newton in voting to determine the video game's newest cover boy. But it was close. Newton got 53 percent of the 465,000 votes; Willis took the remaining 47 percent.

No word on how many of Newton's votes were from Northern California.

-- Matt Barrows

April 17, 2012
The 49ers' 2012 schedule: five games in prime time

The 49ers schedule is out, and as expected the team will have plenty of games at prime time. In fact, they will have the maximum number possible -- five games. Two will be on Monday night, against the Cardinals and Bears, while another two will be on Sunday night (Detroit and New England) and one on Thursday night (Seattle).

The schedule also holds the possibility of another week in Youngstown, Ohio. Last year the 49ers practiced there between a Week 3 game in Cincinnati and a Week 4 game in Philadelphia. They won both. This year Week 3 is in Minneapolis while the team will visit the New York Jets in Week 4.

For a more detailed version of the schedule, click here.

Week 1: at GB
Week 2: DET (NBC)
Week 3: at MIN
Week 4: at NYJ
Week 5: BUF
Week 6: NYG
Week 7: SEA (NFLN)
Week 8 at AZ (ESPN)
Week 9: bye
Week 10: STL
Week 11: CHI (ESPN)
Week 12: at NO
Week 13: at STL
Week 14: MIA
Week 15: at NE (NBC)
Week 16: at SEA
Week 17: AZ

-- Matt Barrows

April 17, 2012
Mark your calendar: Week-by-week look at 49ers schedule


Sept. 9 at Green Bay (1:15 p.m. Fox) 2011 record: 15-1
Prepare yourself for an onslaught of Aaron Rodgers vs. Alex Smith and Randy Moss vs. Green Bay fans stories. The 49ers will take on a team that won 15 regular-season games in 2011, finished third in total offense but fell flat in the playoffs against the Giants. The 49ers haven't beaten Green Bay since the 1998 Wild Card game. They've lost all eight games since by an average score of 26-16.

Sept. 16 vs. Detroit (5:20 p.m. NBC) 10-6
Jim Harbaugh got more than a few "handshake" questions during his media session at the scouting combine. They're not going to go away with Jim Schwartz coming to town. Right tackle Anthony Davis and Lions defensive end Cliff Avril also traded some choice words on Twitter after last year's game. This one should be, ahem, caliente.

Sept. 23 at Minnesota (10 a.m. Fox) 3-13
Most 49ers have a hard time forgetting what happened the last time their team was in Minnesota. Brett Favre threw a last-second touchdown pass to Greg Lewis to win the game 27-24. "I don't want to see you looking at the floor!," Mike Singletary bellowed to his players minutes after the loss. "You didn't steal nothing! You didn't do anything wrong! We will see them again! In the playoffs!" Actually, this is the first time the Vikings and 49ers have faced each other since. The good news for the 49ers: Singletary is with the Vikings now but Favre is not.

Sept. 30 at New York Jets (10 a.m. Fox) 8-8
The most dysfunctional locker room in the league late last season played it cool this offseason .... by trading for Tim Tebow. Story lines promise to abound. Will the 49ers stay in Youngstown, Ohio between the game in Minneapolis and this one?

April 17, 2012
Live chat replay with Matt: 49ers schedule, draft options

April 17, 2012
Green Bay bound? 49ers schedule coming today

The NFL will release the 2012 schedule just after 4 p.m. today amid rumors that the 49ers will kick off the season against the Green Bay Packers. Among those fanning the flames is Fox sideline reporter Chris Myers, who suggested on Twitter that the 49ers-Packers could be a Week 1 matchup. Myers would know - he's part of the crew that would cover Fox's marquee game in the opening week.

As you'll recall, this was the playoff matchup everyone was relishing until the New York Giants unexpectedly beat the Packers in the divisional round. The game - it will be played at some point, even if the Week 1 rumors are false - will pit Green Bay's offense against the 49ers' defense. And it will be another rematch between 2005 draft picks Aaron Rodgers and Alex Smith.

The 49ers' 2012 opponents are known. What we'll find out later today is when the games will be played and how many will be on national television.

Home: Arizona, St. Louis, Seattle, Chicago, Detroit, Buffalo, Miami, Giants

Road: Arizona, St. Louis, Seattle, Green Bay, Minnesota, New England, Jets, New Orleans

Meanwhile, the 49ers released the times and dates for their first two exhibition games. The team will begin the preseason on Aug. 10, which means training camp can begin as early as July 26th. Rookies and quarterbacks can report a few days earlier than that.

Friday, Aug 10: vs. Minnesota, 6 p.m. (CBS 5)
Saturday, Aug. 18: at Houston, 5 p.m. (CBS 5)
Sunday, Aug. 26: at Denver, 1 p.m. (FOX)
Thursday, Aug. 30: vs. San Diego, 7:05 p.m. (CBS 5)

Want to chat about the schedule, the upcoming draft, the new stadium, who should win American Idol? I'm all ears (and typing fingers). Join me for an 11 a.m. chat. If you're worried about chatting at work, just squint at the computer screen, grimace and mutter a few times. Your boss will think you're working on a particularly thorny issue. Log onto www.sacbee.com/live for the chat.

-- Matt Barrows

April 16, 2012
LB Grant to sign one-year contract today


Linebacker Larry Grant indeed will sign his restricted free-agent tender today, Grant's agent confirmed this morning. The 49ers gave Grant an original-round tender last month, meaning they would have been compensated with a seventh-round pick - the round in which Grant was drafted in 2008 - if he had signed a deal elsewhere. Grant will become an unrestricted free agent next season.

The market for restricted free agents, however, has been non-existent, including for Grant who did not visit any other teams in free agency. Grant started three games in place of injured starter Patrick Willis at the end of the season, and he played well. Grant (Foothill High) finished with 30 tackles, two sacks and he forced a fumble by Seattle quarterback Tarvaris Jackson at the end of the game in Seattle to snuff out a Seahawks' comeback attempt.

Grant ended up playing 226 snaps on defense (22.3 percent) and also was a major contributor on special teams. He was in on 238 special teams plays last year, more than 50 percent of the total. Grant was the top backup for both Willis and NaVorro Bowman last year, and that presumably will be his role this year as well.

Grant also is the last remaining player from the 49ers' 2008 draft class, although he did not make the squad that year. Instead he went to St. Louis, played three seasons there and was signed as a free agent by the 49ers last year. Another player from that draft class, guard Chilo Rachal, is a free agent who is not expected back.

-- Matt Barrows

April 16, 2012
Voluntary workouts begin today; LB Grant to attend


One of the (only) concessions NFL players won during last year's collective bargaining negotiations was a delayed start to the offseason workout program. In past years, that program would have begun in mid March. This year, the voluntary program begins today for the 49ers.

But don't expect to see a big change in the number of players who show up to lift weights and run sprints at 4949 Centennial Drive. The 49ers have had very good attendance for the past few months, something that coach Jim Harbaugh commented about last month. (The link also has a list of the regular attendees at 49ers headquarters). When long-time veteran and defensive MVP candidate Justin Smith arrives regularly, other players tend to follow.

One player who will join the mix is linebacker Larry Grant, who is expected to sign his restricted free-agent tender this week. Grant played very well when he filled in for injured Patrick Willis last year, but inside linebackers have not received much attention in free agency while restricted free agents have received even less. Grant tweeted this morning that he planned to see teammates at the 49ers' facility today. Grant has until Friday to sign the tender.

Safety Dashon Goldson, however, is not expected to participate. The 49ers made Goldson their franchise player back in February but he has not signed the tender while the two sides presumably work on a long-term deal. Goldson has until June to sign the franchise tender.

-- Matt Barrows

April 14, 2012
Good hosts? 49ers plan to bid on Super Bowl L


The 49ers will break ground on their new stadium on Thursday, and the team hopes that in four years the $1.02 billion facility will be the site of Super Bowl L (50). A team source said Friday that the 49ers plan to bid for that Super Bowl. If that is awarded to another city, they also will shoot for the following year's game.

The next three Super Bowls will be played in New Orleans, New Jersey and Glendale, Ariz. respectively. The next one to be awarded, Super Bowl L, will be played in February 2016. Teams are required to play two full seasons in their new venues before hosting a Super Bowl. The 49ers are increasingly confident that the yet-to-be-named stadium in Santa Clara will be ready for the start of the 2014 season.

According to the NFL, the process will begin this summer when interested cities apply to the Super Bowl Advisory Committee for an invitation to bid. The committee then decides on finalists at the owners meeting in October. A vote is expected to take place in May.

There is good reason to believe Santa Clara will get the bid. The NFL likes to place Super Bowls in new venues (see: Arlington, Texas in 2011) and the 49ers will have the shiniest and newest digs when Super Bowl L rolls around. There also would be a nice bit of symmetry. The first Super Bowl was played in California - in Los Angeles in 1967 - and one hasn't been held in the Golden State since the Raiders and Buccaneers squared off in San Diego in 2003.

The new Santa Clara stadium will hold 68,500 seats but can expand to 75,000 seats for special events. The NFL requires at least 70,000 seats for a Super Bowl. A ground-breaking ceremony is scheduled for Thursday.

-- Matt Barrows

April 12, 2012
Meeting Mr. Wright: Baylor WR visits 49ers

One of the most explosive wide receivers in college football last year, Baylor's Kendall Wright, is in the Bay Area tonight to meet with the 49ers, according to a source with knowledge of Wright's visit. 

Wright was Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III's favorite target last season, catching 108 passes for 1,663 yards (15.4-yard average) and 14 touchdowns. The 49ers met with Griffin at the scouting combine in February, a session the quarterback suspected was designed to learn more about Wright.

Wright's visit means the 49ers have met or will meet with three of the wide receivers expected to be selected at the end of the first round or beginning of the second. They've already hosted LSU's Rueben Randle and are scheduled to meet with Georgia Tech's Stephen Hill early next week. A visit with Notre Dame's Michael Floyd was cancelled.

April 12, 2012
Georgia Tech WR Hill due to visit 49ers

stephen Hill.jpg

Georgia Tech wideout Stephen Hill, who had perhaps the most impressive scouting combine of any wide receiver in February, will visit with the 49ers this weekend, The Bee has learned. Hill ran one of the fastest 40-yard dashes in Indianapolis - 4.37 seconds. That he did so at 6-4 and 215 pounds would seem to make him intriguing to a team like the 49ers that prefers big, physical receivers and also needs a down-field threat.

The showing in Indianapolis prompted a big crowd at Georgia Tech's pro day on March 6. Interestingly, the 49ers were the only team that didn't attend. Instead, the team will get an up-close look at Hill on Sunday and Monday. Teams are especially curious about Hill because he had so few opportunities in the Yellow Jackets' run-first offense. He caught only 28 passes last season for 820 yards. But his yards-per-catch average was a gaudy 29.3.

Hill has had a number of other visits as well as workouts with other teams. He's one of 26 players who accepted invitations to attend the draft in New York City. Three other wideouts also will attend: Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon, Notre Dame's Michael Floyd, Baylor's Kendall Wright and LSU's Rueben Randle. Randle already has visited the 49ers. Floyd had a visit scheduled, but it was cancelled.

-- Matt Barrows

April 12, 2012
Mr. Popular: 49ers one of many teams interested in G Silatolu

The most in-demand player heading into the draft? It might be guard Amini Silatolu, a Tracy product who by the end of next week either will have visited or worked out for more than two thirds of the teams in the league. The 49ers are one of the teams who have shown interest.

The reason for the intrigue is twofold. One, Silatolu didn't get an awful lot of exposure at Midwestern State College in Wichita Falls, Texas where he played left tackle. His scouting report is not nearly as complete as someone who played at, say, Wisconsin or LSU.

Two, Silatolu, who stands 6-3 and weighs 311 pounds, dominated opponents in college (see below at 1:26, 1:34, 1:56 and , ouch, 4:44, etc.) and the latest buzz is that he could be taken at the end of the first round. If the 49ers (30th overall) took him, they would be unique to the league in drafting their two starting guards in the first round of the draft. NFL Draft Scout rates Silatolu as the third-best guard in the draft.

With two weeks to go until the draft begins, right guard is the only missing piece on the 49ers' starting roster. The team has checked out a handful of veteran guards, including still-available Leonard Davis and Jason Brown, but it appears they will wait until after the draft to bring in a veteran if they do so at all.

Last year the 49ers moved up 11 spots in the fifth round to select Daniel Kilgore out of Appalachian State. The assumption is that no matter who else the team brings in, Kilgore will get a chance to compete for the vacant right guard spot this offseason.

Another option might be Mike Person, a seventh-round pick from Montana State. When Person was drafted, general manager Trent Baalke said the intention was to move him inside to guard. Person spent most of his rookie year at tackle, but he still could be moved inside to guard depending on the moves the team makes this offseason.

-- Matt Barrows

April 11, 2012
Lights, camera ... Santa Clara? HBO eyeing 49ers for 'Hard Knocks'

HBO is hoping for a Jets sequel when it comes to its 'Hard Knocks' show, but according to Fox's Adam Schein, the network is eying Jim Harbaugh and the 49ers if the Jets say no. Schein writes the idea is to put cameras in both the 49ers' and Ravens' training camps and make it a Harbaugh brothers theme.

No one has formally approached the 49ers about a 'Hard Knocks' based in Santa Clara, and frankly, it seems unlikely. Trent Baalke is one of the most tight-lipped general managers in the league and Jim Harbaugh won't even divulge an ankle injury to a fourth-string cornerback. Having a camera crew on hand 24-7 does not seem like their cup of tea.

Furthermore, there are the logistical issues that come with a 68,500-seat stadium being built mere yards from the 49ers' practice fields. Unless HBO wants the beep, beep, beep of reversing trucks in the background of its audio, it might want to find another team ...

-- Matt Barrows

April 11, 2012
Davis a better fit at guard than Boone

It's unlikely to happen, but I think LeCharles Bentley is right when he says that the 49ers would have more success moving Anthony Davis from tackle to guard than they would moving Alex Boone from tackle to guard. Bentley, who works with Boone in the offseason, said as much to CSN Bay Area in a story about how Boone could compete at right guard during the offseason.


Davis is tall at 6-5, but Boone is three inches taller. Furthermore, he's long-legged and has a narrow base. When he was coming out in the 2009 draft, there were questions about whether he was too top heavy to play tackle, which, along with his well-documented off-field issues, caused him to go undrafted. While Boone has answered questions about whether he has the bend and balance to play tackle, guard, a position in which players must root out opponents and be square to the ground, does not seem to be a good fit.

"Alex can play guard if it's the best thing for the team, but physically it's not the ideal position for him," Bentley told CSN.

Davis, on the other hand, appears to have the ideal body for a guard. In fact, he's similar in physique to the top guard in the league, Carl Nicks, who played offensive tackle in college. Nicks is listed as 6-5, 343. Davis is listed at 6-5, 323.

The 49ers traded up two slots to nab Davis in the 2010 draft, and he improved last year after an up and down rookie season. The 49ers love Davis' potential at right tackle, he's about to have his first full offseason under Jim Harbaugh's coaching staff, and he is unlikely to be moved. Still, it would seem that an offensive line in which Boone plays right tackle and Davis plays right guard is better than one where they are switched.

One more point: It used to be that offensive tackle was a much more glamorous - and more lucrative -- position than guard. That's still the case, but the gap is getting smaller. Guards and interior linemen - from Mike Iupati to the Pounceys to David DeCastro - are increasingly being taken earlier in drafts. Furthermore, two free-agent guards signed big-money contracts this year. Ben Grubbs signed a five-year deal for $36 million. Nicks signed a five-year deal for $47.5 million. That is, a top-flight guard can make more money than a decent tackle.

-- Matt Barrows

April 11, 2012
Willis flirting with Madden curse

black cat.jpg

Patrick Willis is one of four players still in the running to land on the cover of Madden NFL 13, an "honor" apparently tantamount to walking under a ladder, breaking a mirror, spilling salt and having a black cat cross your path - a dozen times - all in the same day. Land on the Madden cover? You might as well inherit a monkey's paw.

Just ask Peyton Hillis. After being on top of the world in 2010, the Browns running back graced the Madden cover and then fell off the map in 2011. After rushing for 1,177 yards in 2010, oft-injured Hillis had only 587 yards post cover. Garrison Hearst, Barry Sanders, Eddie George -- the list goes on and on -- are others who have been affected. As ESPN's Adam Schefter noted, the 2011 curse was so powerful it affected two other Peytons - Manning and Saints coach Sean Payton.

Willis salsa-danced past Giants wideout Victor Cruz in the last round of fan voting. He'll face Carolina quarterback Cam Newton in this round. In the other bracket, it's Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers vs. Detroit wideout Calvin Johnson.

-- Matt Barrows

April 10, 2012
Williams to Washington; 49ers no longer brimming with safeties

Madieu Williams, who started three games for the 49ers last year at safety, will sign a deal with the Washington Redskins, according to his agent. Williams visited both Washington and the Atlanta Falcons recently. The 49ers never showed much interest in re-signing the eight-year veteran.

When training camp began a year ago, the 49ers had an abundance of safeties. But Taylor Mays was traded for a 2013 seventh-round pick and Williams and Reggie Smith have left via free agency. Behind starters Dashon Goldson and Donte Whitner is special teams ace C.J. Spillman, who re-signed with the team in February.

The 49ers also have Colin Jones, but it's unclear whether the special teamer will be used at safety or wide receiver when training camp begins. Another safety, Mark LeGree, spent some time on the practice squad and is under contract for 2012.

The 49ers used the franchise tag on Goldson, but he has yet to sign it as the team and his agent, theoretically at least, continue to work on a long-term contract. If Goldson signs the franchise offer, he will be a free agent in 2013.

-- Matt Barrows

April 10, 2012
And the winner is .... 2012 draft crush revealed

I went into the Maine woods last week in search of peace, solitude and a draft crush. I emerged with poison ivy in the webbing of my fingers (it itches like the dickens) and a Stanford tight end clawing at my heart. Coby Fleener, please accept this metaphorical rose, for you are the 2012 Draft Crush (Wait several minutes for applause to end).


Before I get into Fleener's merits, let's address a reason why the 49ers should not draft him should he be available at pick No. 30: They don't need him.

The 49ers have perhaps the best tight end in the NFL in Vernon Davis and another very, very good one in Delanie Walker. Walker is the tight that moves around the formation -- in the backfield, on the line of scrimmage, as a wideout -- on various plays the same way Fleener did at Stanford. This, of course, is how Fleener would project for the 49ers, who run the same offense Stanford runs. That is, the 49ers already have two tight ends that are better than the best tight end on most other teams. In addition, they have Nate Byham, a third-year blocking tight end who has just about recovered from last year's ACL tear. The 49ers need a tight end as badly as they need a punter or a longnsnapper.

The answer to that dilemma is threefold. One, when Jim Harbaugh was at Stanford, the team effectively used three pass-catching tight ends, often on the same play. Two, the 49ers want competition everywhere. Heck, having one of the best longsnappers in the league, Brian Jennings, didn't stop the team from adding two -- count 'em, TWO! -- more longsnappers in the offseason. Three, Walker will be an unrestricted free agent next year. The 49ers always are cap-smart and should be able to re-sign Walker if they want. But crazy things happen in free agency. Just ask Alex Smith. Or Brian Jennings. (Allow laughter to subside before continuing)

April 9, 2012
Wideout watch: Randle visited 49ers; Floyd on his way

The 49ers added two new faces to their wide receiving corps last month, Randy Moss and Mario Manningham, but they're likely not finished bulking up what was a thin group last season.

LSU wideout Rueben Randle visited the team this month, a league source said Monday, while Notre Dame's Michael Floyd told Sirius radio on Sunday that he will visit the 49ers -- and a host of other teams -- next week.

Of the two, Randle is the more likely to be on the board when the 49ers pick at No. 30. At 6-3, 208 pounds, he is the type of big-bodied receiver the 49ers prefer, and he stood out in the ultra-competitive SEC. Randle caught 50 passes for 908 yards with eight touchdowns last season, and perhaps most impressive, he averaged more than 18 yards per catch.

Last month at LSU's pro day, Randle imprved his 40-yard dash time at the combine -- 4.55 seconds -- to 4.42 seconds. NFL Draft Scout rates Randle as the fourth-best wideout in this year's draft.

Floyd, meanwhile, is widely considered the second-best wideout in the draft. He's already met with, or will meet with, 11 teams, including several that draft in the Top 10. The 49ers are likely to take a close look at other wideouts who might be available at No. 30, including Baylor's Kendall Wright and Georgia Tech's Stephen Hill.

Wideout is one of the deepest positions in the draft, especially in the middle rounds. The 49ers also have a meeting with Illinois speedster A.J. Jenkins (6-0, 190) whom NFL Draft Scout has as the 10th-best wideout in this month's draft.

-- Matt Barrows

April 7, 2012
Swain added to growing receiving corps

The 49ers continue to add bodies to their wide-receiving corps. Brett Swain, who won a five-man competition and joined the 49ers in October, signed with the team, his agent announced Friday. Swain was added after Joshua Morgan broke his leg and was lost for the season. He beat out T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Chris Chambers, Brian Finneran, and Joe Hastings for the job but only had two receptions for 15 yards during the regular season.

Swain, who also appeared on special teams, was a restricted free agent. The 49ers, however, did not tender him and he became unrestricted. In addition to Swain, the 49ers have receivers Michael Crabtree, Ted Ginn, Hastings, Mario Manningham, John Matthews, Randy Moss and Kyle Williams under contract for the 2012 season. They also are likely to add at least one wideout in the draft later this month.

-- Matt Barrows

April 6, 2012
Williams the perfect villain in NFL's quest to change culture

The audio of Gregg Williams' profanity-laced speech to his defensive players on Jan. 13 has been called the smoking gun in the bounty case against Williams and the Saints.

The former New Orleans defensive coordinator talks about making Frank Gore's head go sideways the following day in the divisional playoff game against the 49ers. He talks about going after Vernon Davis' ankles, Michael Crabtree's ACL and testing the resolve of "little receiver" Kyle Williams, who suffered a concussion weeks earlier.

Perhaps most damning of all, Williams makes a hand gesture -- rubbing his thumb and forefinger together -- implying there is money on the table for the player who delivers a big blow to quarterback Alex Smith. "We hit [expletive] Smith right there," Williams said while allegedly pointing to his chin. "I got the first one. I got the first one. Go get it. Go lay that [expletive] out."

But a true smoking gun would have been visual evidence that the Saints players in the room on that Friday night in January carried out those actions on the field the following Saturday afternoon. They didn't. 

April 5, 2012
AUDIO: Alex Smith on Saints: Woofing was about trash talk not cheap shots

Quarterback Alex Smith, one of the 49ers players singled out by Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams before their divisional playoff game in January, said last month that his uncharacteristic woofing at Saints players at game's end had nothing to do with cheap shots or perceived bounties.

"No, no absolutely not," Smith said. "I think you have to go along with ... when a team's talking trash to you, you know. It was the last touchdown. I knew they couldn't do anything about it, and there were a lot of emotions on my chest, and I felt like getting them off."

Williams targeted several 49ers during a fiery, profanity-laced speech before the teams met, according to a recording from a documentary film maker that was revealed today by Yahoo! Sports. At one point, the report says, Williams made a hand signal -- rubbing his fingers togther -- that indicated he would pay money for a big hit on Smith.

Williams mentions specific body parts -- head, ankles, ACLs -- that he feels will test the resolve of the 49ers. He also mentions the opening preseason game against the 49ers when the Saints "avalanched" Smith and when, according to Williams, the quarterback's eyes turned big. The audio can be found here. Warning: Williams drops more than a couple f bombs.

Williams, who has been suspended by the league indefinitely, said he wanted running back Frank Gore's "head sideways" and said he wanted to test whether "little" receiver Kyle Williams had truly recovered from an earlier concussion. Kendall Hunter, Vernon Davis and "fake-ass prima donna" Michael Crabtree also were mentioned by Williams. The following week, the Giants also made mention of Kyle Williams' concussion history.

April 4, 2012
Preseason schedule: Hello, Peyton Manning, g'bye, Raiders

The 49ers' all-important third preseason game will come against the four-time league MVP who almost became a 49er, Peyton Manning. The 49ers will travel to Denver to face Manning and the Broncos in their third exhibition game. That game will be nationally televised on Fox at 1 p.m. on August 26.

The team's preseason schedule also is significant for who is not on it. After violence -- including a shooting -- marred last year's game at Candlestick Park against the Raiders, the teams decided to suspend what had become an annual preseason meeting.

The other preseason opponents are: Week 1 vs. Vikings, Week 2 at Texans and Week 4 vs. Chargers on Aug. 30. The times and dates on the Week 1 and 2 games will be announced at a later date.

-- Matt Barrows

April 4, 2012
Reggie Smith signs with Panthers; 2008 draft class dwindles

Reggie Smith, who for a short period last year figured to be the 49ers' starter at free safety, signed with the Panthers, the team announced today. Smith was a third-round pick out of Oklahoma in 2008.

When training camp began last year Smith lined up with the first-string defense, and he appeared to be the heir to then-free agent Dashon Goldson's position. Goldson, however, unexpectedly returned to the team on a one-year contract. His return coincided with a knee injury to Smith. Goldson stepped into his former starting role, and Smith again was limited to a backup role during the season.

According to a source, Smith, an unrestricted free agent, told the 49ers in his exit interview in January that he was not interested in returning to the team, presumably because he knew his chances of starting were slim with Goldson on the roster. The 49ers made Goldson their franchise player, although he has yet to sign the tender. The top three safeties for 2012 appear to be Goldson, strong safety Donte Whitner and C.J. Spillman. Madieu Williams, who also is a free agent, could return.

Smith's departure means there is one fewer member of the 49ers' dubious 2008 draft class. The most productive member of that clas, receiver Joshua Morgan, signed with the Redskins last month. Two others, guard Chilo Rachal and linebacker Larry Grant, are free agents. Grant, a restricted free agent, probably will be back.

2008 draft class
Rd 1 DE Kentwan Balmer
Rd 2 G Chilo Rachal
Rd 3 S Reggie Smith
Rd 4 C Cody Wallace
Rd 5 pick forfeited for tampering
Rd 6 WR Joshua Morgan
Rd 7 LB Larry Grant

-- Matt Barrows

April 3, 2012
Taco loco: Ex-49er Bogan arrested in Arizona

Two days after he was released by the 49ers, wide receiver Dontavia Bogan was arrested in Arizona after punching a security guard, according to a report in the Arizona Republic. Judging from Bogan's mugshut, it appears the security guard punched back.

The incident took place Sunday around 10 p.m. at El Hefe Tacos in Scottsdale, Ariz. Afterward police there arrested Bogan, 23, for assault, disorderly conduct and threats. Bogan played at South Florida but lives in Scottsdale.

The 49ers signed him as an undrafted free agent in July, but he suffered an ACL tear after one week of raining camp and was placed on injured reserve for the 2011 season. Bogan was cleared medically on Thursday and cut on Friday.

-- Matt Barrows

April 3, 2012
Report: 49ers to host another free-agent guard

Add former Ram and Raven Jason Brown to the list of veteran guards the 49ers will look at for their vacancy on the right side of the offensive line. Adam Caplan reports that Brown will visit the 49ers this weekend.

If the 49ers' overall free-agent approach is to slow-play the market, that has been doubly true for right guard. At least three guards, including Leonard Davis, Geoff Schwartz and Deuce Lutui already have visited. Schwartz, the youngest of that group, signed with the Vikings. The 49ers' intent is to have a veteran compete with second-year player Daniel Kilgore for the starting job this summer.

Unlike the other veterans, Brown also has extensive experience at center. Last year's starter at right guard, Adam Snyder, was the 49ers' backup center, and it's not clear who will fill that role in 2012.

Last year Brown, 28, started eight games for the Rams at center, four at left guard and two at right guard. But he was benched for two games, and St. Louis released him on March 12.

Meet the new uniforms, same as the old uniforms? The new 49ers duds by Nike look an awful lot like last year's unis to me, but some of you guys and gals pay closer attention to that stuff than me. (See: Alex Smith's facemask, Aug. 2011). The guys at 49ers Webzone have assembled some pictures, including a few of Smith in his No. 11.

If it seems as if I'm being lazy this week, I am. I'm taking a workation on the coast of Maine. My sister bought a house, and I'm helping her set it up. If you need an Ikea bed (Malm) assembled, I'm your man. Also I'm in possession of several dozen Allen wrenches.

-- Matt Barrows.

April 2, 2012
Pay dirt: Stadium ground breaking to occur this month

Groundbreaking on the 49ers' new $1.2 billion stadium is set to begin April 19, which means the first NFL game to be played there is on schedule for 2014. The team on Monday issued a news release announcing a ground-breaking ceremony from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. in the Santa Clara parking lot adjacent to the 49ers' headquarters. 

The 1.85 million square-foot facility will seat approximately 68,500 fans with more seats optional for events such as the Super Bowl and World Cup soccer games. The stadium originally was set to open for the 2014 season, but the NFL lockout -- and with it a major part of the funding -- delayed that date until 2015. When the lockout ended, however, a number of funding mechanisms fell into place. The make-ready work around the stadium also has proceeded quickly, and the team again is aiming for 2014.

The ground-breaking event is not open to the public.

-- 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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