49ers Blog and Q&A

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

September 30, 2012
Tebow 2.0? Nah, 49ers Kaepernick wants to be himself

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Colin Kaepernick scored on a 78-yard touchdown run during the 49ers exhibition season opener Aug. 10, and Jets coach Rex Ryan was watching.

That week Ryan revealed to the New York media that the the Jets were interested in Kaepernick for his running ability during the 2011 draft but that the 49ers got him -- with the 36th overall pick -- before the Jets could pounce.

"You're seeing these guys and it's hard to defend some of that stuff," Ryan said at the time. "When you have the ability to throw as well as run, it makes it tough."

Ryan's observation was amplified Sunday after Kaepernick made only a cameo appearance but managed to pick up 50 yards on five carries, including a seven-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. That total includes two knee-downs for minus-4 yards at the end of the game.

Kaepernick would have had two rushing scores on the afternoon, but he wisely slid down at the Jets 3-yard line on a break-away run with less than two minutes to play. "That's one less kickoff we have to cover, one less time we have to go out on defense," Kaepernick said of the slide. "We can end the game with no more collisions or chance of injury."

September 30, 2012
Bad taste from Minnesota fuels 49ers win in New York

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- That's more like it.

That was the refrain in the 49ers locker room Sunday after the team bounced back from a languid loss in Minnesota last week with a reaffirming and stifling 34-0 win over the Jets. As it turns out, the team from the Bay Area needed to spend a week in Youngstown, Ohio to feel more like themselves. 

The 49ers rediscovered their strengths by forcing four turnovers, sacking Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez three times and holding New York to 45 rushing yards. It was San Francisco's first shutout on the road since a 38-0 win in the regular season finale in New Orleans in 2001.

"Maybe we need to go back to Youngstown and then go back and play Buffalo," joked cornerback Carlos Rogers, who had a 51-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown.

Rogers and others cited a weak energy level in their surprise loss to the Vikings, a team that had won only three games the year before. There was no power outage in the Meadowlands. The locker room was alive and abuzz before and after the game, and the defense, a half-step behind Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder last week, smothered Jets Sanchez on Sunday.

September 30, 2012
WildKaep: Versatile 49ers up on the Jets, 10-0 at half

Colin Kaepernick is showing Tim Tebow and the Jets how it's done. The 49ers' backup quarterback has been in for four plays in the half and has run twice for 24 yards. The second was a designed run to the left in which Kaepernick followed blocks by Vernon Davis, Joe Staley, Alex Boone and others and got into the end zone for a seven-yard score.

Kaepernick also had a 17-yard run -- he was tripped up by the ankle -- on a read-option play in the first quarter. Kaepernick also attempted, by far, the longest play of the season, one that went incomplete to Randy Moss in the end zone. That was the only time Moss has been targeted. He's been in on 10 plays. Mario Manningham, Vernon Davis and Michael Crabtree have two catches each for the 49ers.

Kaepernick is just one component of an array of personnel packages used by the 49ers so far which have mostly kept the Jets on their heels. Still, the score is only 10-0 going into the half. Another long drive was marred by two straight sacks of Alex Smith, and David Akers missed a 55-yard field goal, his first mis of the year.

The defense, meanwhile, has flummoxed Mark Sanchez, who has ben sacked three times, two of them by Aldon Smith. Smith forced a fumble on the second sack, giving the 49ers the ball with 1:11 left. Alex Smith drove the 49ers on a six-play drive to set up a 36-yard field goal as the half expired.

In addition to Kaepernick, seldom-seen 49ers, Garrett Celek and Ted Ginn also have gotten into the game for the 49ers. Ginn, who missed the first three games with an ankle injury, is handling punts today while Kyle Williams is returning kickoffs.

-- Matt Barrows

September 30, 2012
Ginn active vs. Jets; Jacobs, James, Jenkins are not

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Receiver Ted Ginn is active for the first time this season, but two other players who were listed as questionable -- Brandon Jacobs and Isaac Sopoaga -- are not. Sopoaga is dealing with knee and ankle injuries. Ricky Jean Francois stands to make his first start of the season at nose tackle. Jacobs returned to practice this week after an Aug. 18 knee injury but is not ready to return to action.

In addition, nose tackle Ian Williams is active for the first time this season and will serve as Jean Francois' backup at nose tackle. Rookie Trenton Robinson is inactive for the first time this season, a signal that the 49ers are more comfortable with Darcel McBath as a backup at safety.

That Ginn is active likely means he will resume return duties despite the solid work Kyle Williams has done in that regard. Williams has been sure-handed on punt returns, and he returned two kickoffs for 144 yards last week in Minneapolis. Still, Jim Harbaugh was characteristically mum about his return-man plans on Friday. "That's something that we'll assess, and we won't reveal that until is actually happens," he said.

The other 49ers inactives: Scott Tolzien, A.J. Jenkins, LaMichael James and Joe Looney. That means that the only rookie who is active today is undrafted tight end Garrett Celek.

Inactives for the Jets: QB Greg McElroy, RB Jonathan Grimes, CB Darrelle Revis, DT Damon Harrison, OL Caleb Schlauderaff, TE Dustin Keller, WR Stephen Hill.

One-time Raiders wideout Chaz Schilens will start for Hill, one of the receivers who visited the 49ers prior to this year's draft. At tight end, Jeff Cumberland will start for Keller. Look for ex-49er Konrad Reuland to see plenty of action, too.

-- Matt Barrows

September 28, 2012
Vernon Davis added to 49ers injury report

Tight end Vernon Davis, who leads the 49ers with four touchdown catches, was a late addition to the team's injury report with a back injury. That injury did not keep Davis from practicing Friday -- he was a full participant -- and he is listed as probable on the team's injury report.

Three 49ers are listed as questionable for Sunday's game against the Jets: running back Brandon Jacobs (knee), receiver Ted Ginn (ankle) and nose tackle Isaac Sopoaga (ankle, knee). Sopoaga did not practice this week, and Ricky Jean Francois is expected to take his place Sunday.

Linebacker Patrick Willis (ankle) and punter Andy Lee (hand) practiced all week, and both are listed as probable.

-- Matt Barrows

September 28, 2012
Anthony Davis taking his mean streak back to Jersey

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BOARDMAN, OHIO -- Following an exhibition game this year in which the 49ers rolled up 260 yards on the ground, right tackle Anthony Davis was asked if he was happy with the offensive line's performance. Yeah, he said, except for the jerk who had a false start on San Francisco's opening drive.

That jerk? Anthony Davis.

During Davis' first two years in the league, there were plenty of critics who questioned why the 49ers would trade up two slots in the 2010 draft to take an immature underclassman with conditioning issues in the first round. After Davis committed 10 penalties -- seven were false starts - and gave up 11 ½ sacks his rookie year, the criticism only gained volume.

After three games this year, however, Davis' only critic is himself. On Wednesday, Jets coach Rex Ryan gushed about the 6-5, 323-pounder, calling Davis one of the "premiere" right tackles in the game. "You got a guy who has all the athleticism that you look for," Ryan said. "(He's) a power player, he finishes, he's good in pass protection, a tremendous athlete. I think he has all the tools."

Davis winced at the compliment and wondered whether the Jets coach was trying to set him up. "I don't take praise well," Davis said. "I feel like they're trying to make you complacent because I'm not near where I want to be. There's a lot of work to be done."

September 27, 2012
Castaways: 49ers say Ohio isolation well-timed for Jets week

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To hear Greg Roman tell it, it wasn't a pretty sight at the Holiday Inn in Boardman, Ohio at 3 a.m. this morning. There were a bunch of grown men, unshaven, sitting around in white t-shirts trying to crack one of their toughest challenges yet, the Jets defense.

"I think it's positive because there are no distractions," Roman, the 49ers offensive coordinator, said about being stuck in a Holiday Inn all week with fellow assistants, including running backs coach Tom Rathman and offensive line coaches Mike Solari and Tim Drevno.

"It gives you the chance to hole up in a hotel room and, rather than play cards, we're studying film," he said. "It gives you chance to be real isolated and to put our collective minds together to come up with the best plan."

Frank Gore admitted that he, too, was getting more study time this week. Instead of going home in the evening, which he'd do if the 49ers were practicing in Santa Clara, he stayed up with backup center Daniel Kilgore last night to look at film of the Jets and to work on protection schemes. 

"Back home, we'd get to go home and do our own thing," Gore said. "Now it's basically all football."

September 26, 2012
Big back back: Jacobs returns to 49ers practice

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Brandon Jacobs was back at practice for the first time since being carted off the field on Aug. 18 in Houston after taking a helmet to the left knee. The big-bodied running back went through warm-ups and individual drills with his teammates and seemed to be moving well.

Linebacker Patrick Willis also appeared to be unhampered after suffering an ankle injury Sunday. Receiver Ted Ginn (ankle) went through individual drills with his teammates. The lone 49er who did not practice was nose tackle Isaac Sopoaga, who suffered a left knee injury in the 4th quarter. If Sopoaga can't play against the Jets, Ricky Jean Francois would step in at the position.

Practicing at a drizzly Youngstown State Wednesday, Jacobs and the running backs went through a rarely-seen ball-security drill, one that used a football tethered to a long cord. The other end of the cord was attached to a fence, and the player with the ball ran in a semicircle with the cord applying tension to the ball. The drill obviously was meant to test ball security on a team that uncharacteristically gave up two fumbles - one by Frank Gore and the other by Alex Smith -- in Sunday's loss to the Vikings.

If Jacobs is healthy, he likely would be worked into games as a short-yardage runner. Through three games, only two runners - Gore and Kendall Hunter - have taken carries for the 49ers. Gore has 45 carries for 264 yards; Hunter has 18 for 64 yards. Running back Anthony Dixon has been a mainstay on special teams; rookie LaMichael James has been inactive for every game so far this season.

-- Matt Barrows

September 26, 2012
Rex Ryan lavishes praise on Aaron Rodgers, er, Alex Smith

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To say that Jets coach Rex Ryan was a little more personable today than 49ers counterpart Jim Harbaugh would be like saying the Atlantic Ocean is more vast than Lake Erie. During a conference call with Bay Area reporters, Ryan shared a funny -- and embarrassing -- story about meeting quarterback Alex Smith at an awards ceremony earlier this year.

The embarrassing part is that he thought Smith was Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers during their 30-second chat. When he realized the error, "I felt so bad," Ryan said. "And the next day I saw Alex at a different function, and I apologized to him, and we laughed about that."

Ryan also joined the chorus of NFL observers who said that Smith was far better than his reputation as a game manager. In fact, he lavished praise on many of the 49ers' offensive weapons, beginning with Vernon Davis, who leads the 49ers with four touchdown catches.

"The No. 1 tight end in football, in my opinion," Ryan said. " You've got that (Rob) Gronkowski kid. But this guy (Davis) is a 4.3 speed guy."

Ryan also said Anthony Davis, who struggled in pass protection his first two seasons with the 49ers, has jumped out this year. "In my opinion, he's one of the premiere right tackles in the game," Ryan said.

On Smith, Ryan said, "It's funny. I guess the national of Alex Smith -- they think, 'Well, he's a game manager. ... But he's much more than that. He's more talented than I think maybe the national perspective that he gets credit for."

-- Matt Barrows

September 25, 2012
Hall yeah: 49ers of every era -- including 2012 -- represented in Canton

There are exactly two things in life that live up to their hype. One is the Grand Canyon. (It's very large). The other is the Pro Football Hall of Fame, which is a little more than an hour's drive from Youngstown, Ohio and which I and some of the other beatwriters visited today.

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The room of busts sends goosies up and down your spine, and there are 49ers from every era. Joe Perry's bust is two away from Hugh McElhenny's, which is three to the left of Y.A. Tittle's. There's Bill Walsh, of course, and Ronnie Lott and Joe Montana and Steve Young. Mike Singletary's is above and to the right of Walsh's. His likeness, in my opinion, is one of the weakest. Samurai Mike needs glasses. Dan Fouts' bust looks more like Poseiden than Dan Fouts. But these are mere quibbles. Most busts are spot on.

Some of the best stuff, however, isn't on display. It's in storage in the basement, which - special thanks to the Hall's Matt Waechter - we were able to visit. On one of the shelves is a folded up piece of green carpet. Oh, that's the section of turf from Three Rivers Stadium on which Franco Harris made the Immaculate Reception.

What's the significance of the dark green tote bag hanging just a few feet away? That? That's the bag that Pat Tillman used on road trips while with the Cardinals. On it is a tag with his name and his address, New Almaden, Ca. If that doesn't squeeze your heart and send a rush of blood to your head, you need to go to the doctor toute suite.

The helmets - the most iconic part of football -- are very cool. There are helmets from every era and from every league - USFL, CFL, etc., etc - and there are stacks of them. There also are two full walls filled with what appear to be shoe boxes but which contain footballs. There are 800 of them being stored at the Hall, including one that was used in the 1958 Championship game, A.K.A. "The Greatest Game Ever Played," and one that was used three weeks ago in a game in Green Bay.

It's the one that bonked off and then over the crossbar that David Akers booted from a record-tying 63 yards away. When we arrived in the morning, it was in its box and was removed by an archivist wearing white gloves. (Everything there is handled with gloves, as the oils from the hand will accelerate deterioration).

By the afternoon, however, the ball was in a display case in the "Pro Football Today" gallery above Sebastian Janikowski's kicking shoe. Janikowski had a 63-year field goal in last year's season opener. Akers eventually will send his shoe to the hall of fame. He's using it right now.

* The program cover above is from the 49ers' first-ever regular-season game in 1946. They lost to the New York Yankees, 21-7.

-- Matt Barrows

September 24, 2012
Lockette (the rocket) to replace Palmer on 49ers p-squad

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San Francisco General Manager Trent Baalke was mum Monday about the player the 49ers were eying to fill Nathan Palmer's spot on the practice squad. Ricardo Lockette may have let the cat of the bag: "I am the newest member of the 49ers," he Tweeted Monday afternoon.

The 49ers typically won't confirm a player has been acquired until the player passes a physical and signs his physical.

Lockette, 26, is a former track star who played football at Fort Valley State and who was picked up as an undrafted free agent by the Seahawks in 2011. He spent the first 13 games that season on Seattle's practice squad but was activated on Dec. 22 and had a 44-yard reception against the 49ers the following game. He also had a 61-yard touchdown catch the next week against the Cardinals, the longest reception of the year for the Seahawks. Lockette was among the Seahawks' final cuts this year.

Lockette (6-2, 211 pounds) won a Division II national championship in the 200 meters at Fort Valley State in 2008. During the 2011 scouting combine, he and Abilene Christian's Edmond Gates had the fastest 40-yard dash times at 4.37 seconds.

September 24, 2012
Injuries to Willis, Sopoaga not severe

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BOARDMAN, OHIO - Jim Harbaugh's phrase of choice when it comes to good news on injuries is, "We dodged a bullet." It looks as if he and the 49ers evaded two more in Sunday's loss to the Vikings. Defensive starters Patrick Willis and Isaac Sopoaga had to be helped off the field in the fourth quarter, but X-rays on both were negative.

"Turned out good for both of those guys," Harbaugh said.

Willis appeared to suffer a sprained ankle in a scrum for a loose football at the end of Sunday's game. Sopoaga's lower left leg, meanwhile, was bent at an awkward angle on a run play. Sopoaga, a nose tackle, played only a few snaps in the 49ers first two games against pass-heavy Green Bay and Detroit. But he and the 49ers base defense were used more heavily against the Vikings and he likely will be needed against the Jets on Sunday.

If Sopoaga can't play, Ricky Jean Francois would step in at nose tackle. Willis' backup at inside linebacker is Larry Grant, who started three games last season after Willis went down with a hamstring strain.

September 24, 2012
Revis respect: Moss has strong words for former adversary

BOARDMAN, OHIO -- There was a cease fire in the war of words between Randy Moss and Darrelle Revis on Monday. Instead Moss bombarded the Jets cornerback with praise. "I know that's a big blow to their organization," Moss said in reaction to the news that Revis, the Jets cornerback, would miss the season with an ACL tear.

"So hopefully he recovers well and comes back strong next year," Moss said. "Like I said, I've always been a big fan of Darrelle Revis. I've always put him in the upper echelon class of cornerbacks, if not the best cornerback in the league. Like I said, that's a big blow."

The matchup between Moss and Revis was a twice-a-year subplot when Moss played for the Patriots from 2007-2010, and the two reliably supplied spicy sound bites. Playing a word association game, Revis once said "slouch" when asked about Moss. After Moss had just four receptions for 24 yards in a Jets win in 2009, Moss shrugged and said Revis relied on help from his safeties to shut him down. In a meeting the following year, Moss had a sensational one-handed catch against Revis in the end zone (see below). Revis injured his hamstring on the play.

September 24, 2012
WR Palmer runs fade route to Indianapolis

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The 49ers currently are in Youngtown, Ohio, but one of their players was re-routed to Indianapolis.

The Colts on Monday claimed Nathan Palmer, an undrafted receiver out of Northern Illinois who made a splash for San Francisco in the offseason, to their active roster. Palmer had been a member of the 49ers' practice squad where his main in-season role was giving the first-string defense a look at what they'll see from the opposition's receivers that week.

The Colts will ask Palmer, who is from Indiana, to fulfill a more immediate role after receiver Austin Collie went down with a knee injury on Sunday. Palmer will join former Jim Harbaugh pupils Andrew Luck and Coby Fleener in Indianapolis.

Palmer caught six passes for 93 yards for the 49ers during the preseason and was one of the team's final cuts. He beat out two other undrafted rookies, Chris Owusu and Brian Tyms, to land a spot on the practice squad. Owusu is now a member of the Buccaneers active roster.

The 49ers will head to New Jersey on Friday after spending the week in Ohio.

-- Matt Barrows

September 23, 2012
Notes: Williams give 49ers spark, but offense squanders returns

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Needing a spark in the second half, the 49ers got one - immediately - when Kyle Williams took the opening kickoff deep in the end zone and returned it 94 yards to the Minnesota 14-yard line.

Williams, who handled punt returns in the game, also returned a kickoff 50 yards in the fourth quarter. Kendall Hunter had been filling in on kickoffs with Ted Ginn out with an ankle injury. Hunter was averaging 23.2 yards a return and had a fumble last week against the Lions.

The 49ers had to settle for a field goal after Williams' first return; Frank Gore fumbled on the play after his second. "Obviously, we needed more because we didn't get the job done," Williams said. "I just followed the blocks and returned the kick for a real nice gain. I wish I could have finished it though."

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Jim Harbaugh challenged two calls late in the game. It turns out, he shouldn't have been able challenge either. That's because Harbaugh burned his final time out just before challenging that Vikings running back Toby Gerhart had fumbled the ball. Still, Harbaugh was granted the challenge and was given an extra time out when the play was reversed.

"That was wrong, and I should not have" allowed the 49ers to challenge the play," referee Ken Roan said afterward. Harbaugh used the timeout he was given after the first reversal to challenge another play on the next Vikings series.

Et cetera - Harbaugh had no information on starting defensive players Isaac Sopoaga and Patrick Willis, both of whom had to be helped off the field in the fourth quarter. Neither player was limping after the game.

* NaVorro Bowman led all tacklers with 18 stops, the most of his three-year career. His previous high was 11 tackles in a 20-10 win over Cleveland last season.

* Newcomer Eric Bakhtiari suited up for the game and filled in for starting outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks after Brooks was shaken up in the first quarter.

-- Matt Barrows

September 23, 2012
High-flying Hollywood 49ers brought back to earth

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MINNEAPOLIS - A 49ers team that had Hollywood A-listers Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson cheering for them last week had the D-list Vikings gunning for them on Sunday.

Minnesota turned in one of its best efforts in years as second-year quarterback Christian Ponder threw two touchdowns and ran for another in their 24-13 win. The 49ers, meanwhile, appeared to be suffering a hangover after high-profile wins against the Packers and Lions.

Jim Harbaugh and his players insisted they didn't overlook the Vikings, who won only three games a year ago. But players admitted their energy output did not match that of the Vikings and their raucous crowd.

"We just came out a little flat and weren't able to get a stop," defensive end Justin Smith said. "Hats off to them. They came out with a good game plan and moved the ball on us. We just need to tighten up."

Said safety Donte Whitner, who dropped an interception that would have given the 49ers life in the fourth quarter: "I don't think our energy level is where it normally is, but I wouldn't say that we weren't ready. We were prepared. Prepared like crazy all week, and we're going to continue to prepare like that."

One of Harbaugh's most impressive feats last season was going 5-0 in games that started at 10 a.m. (PST), typically a rough scenario for west-coast teams. In their first early start this season, the 49ers allowed the Vikings to rack up 344 yards, more than the Packers' and Lions' notable offense were able to gain in Weeks 1 and 2.

September 23, 2012
Smith laments two passes to Moss that got away

Randy Moss was targeted six times Sunday in his return to Minnesota, one more than he had seen the previous two games combined. Still, Moss showed no interest in talking about his playing time, which again lagged behind fellow receivers Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham.

Five of the balls thrown in his direction came in the first half. As the 49ers tried to come from behind in the second half, Moss mostly entered the game as the single receiver in the 49ers' run package.

"Next question," Moss said when asked about his playing time. Moss also was loathe to talk about his relatively low number of snaps after practice last week.

The former Vikings receiver finished with three catches for 27 yards. But two misses were more notable. One pass from Alex Smith in the first quarter glanced off Moss's hands, drawing a large reaction from the Metrodome crowd.

Smith later had Moss open in the near corner of the end zone. But the pass went over Moss's head as the receiver turned around for the ball. "We left too much out there - those two plays early to Randy," Smith said. "He and I have to connect. I have to (throw) better balls there on both those occasions, because those were both key plays."

Said Smith: "When I let both of them go, I felt good. A lot of times you can let a ball go and know if it was good or bad." Smith said he and Moss discussed the pass in the end zone and that Moss "stayed positive the whole game. We didn't have the ball that much in the first half," Smith said. "We've got to hit those. You never know how many times you will have the ball."

Moss was more expansive on the topic of returning to Minneapolis, thanking the fans for "the love that they give." He also said he wasn't surprised the Vikings, who went 3-13 last year, were such a tough opponent.

"Especially when they are the underdog," Moss said. That is one thing that is Minnesota football. We (can't) just keep looking back at it. We have practice this week and the Jets coming up. We're going to go ahead and watch the film and correct our mistakes and go from there."

-- Matt Barrows

September 23, 2012
Halftime: Plenty to Ponder with 49ers down two TDs

When defensive coordinator Vic Fangio spoke Thursday, he warned of Christain Ponder's speed and scrambling ability, and his players parroted that point throughout the week. But talking about it didn't help in the first half in Minnesota.

Ponder, the Vikings' second-year quarterback, scrambled through the gut of the 49ers vaunted run defense for a 23-yard touchdown in the second quarter to put Minnesota up 14-3, and his ability to scramble and elongate plays has killed the 49ers early on. Ponder has 143 passing yards at the half and 34 yards on the ground.

Last year, it took opponents 16 games to get a rushing touchdown against the 49ers. Ponder's came in the second quarter in which he darted up the middle of fought through a Dashon Goldson tackle to get into the end zone. Ponder and the Vikings also engineered a drive in the final 54 seconds that set up a 52-yard field goal as the half expired to put the Vikings up 17-3.

The 49ers, meanwhile, had two long drives in the opening half. But they couldn't get inside the 20-yard line on either, and David Akers' field goal attempt from 43 yards was blocked as the Vikings surged through the middle of the 49ers line.

Alex Smith is 13-19 for 90 yards. Randy Moss, meanwhile, was targeted five times in the first half, equaling the total number of targets for the first two games. He caught two passes for 15 yards and had a drop that got a big reaction from the crowd.

The 49ers' 17-3 deficit is their biggest since trailing Week 4 in Philadelphia last year, a game the 49ers eventually won.

-- Matt Barrows

September 23, 2012
Ginn, Jacobs inactive again for 49ers; Bakhtiari in uniform

Receivers Ted Ginn and A.J. Jenkins, and running backs Brandon Jacobs and LaMichael James are among the inactive #49ers for today's game against the Vikings. The others are: quarterback Scott Tolzien, guard Joe Looney and nose tackle Ian Williams.

Ginn, who sprained his ankle in the 49ers' third preseason game, returned to practice on a limited basis this past week. However, he still is not 100 percent. Kyle Williams will handle punt returns for the fourth straight game.

The inactives means that newly signed outside linebacker Eric Bakhtiari is active as is rookie tight end Garrett Celek. Celek and safety Trenton Robinson are the only rookies active for the 49ers. Bakhtiari could see work on a the 49ers' coverage units, which have been shaky over the first two weeks.

For the Vikings, Marvin Mitchell will start at inside linebacker for Erin Henderson, who is out with a concussion. The other Vikings inactives are QB McLeod Bethel-Thompson (Sacramento State), WR Jarius Wright, CB Brandon Burton, S Robert Blanton, G Mark Asper, DE D'Aundre Reed.

-- Matt Barrows

September 21, 2012
Lions safety fined for Alex Smith's bloody nose

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The Detroit Lions are still feeling jolts from their Sunday loss to the 49ers. Safety John Wendling was fined $7,875 for his forearm shiver on sliding quarterback Alex Smith, a shot that left Smith with a gash on the bridge of his nose and blood streaming down his face. Wendling was not penalized on the play. Instead there was a penalty on Delanie Walker for holding.

Said Smith after the game: "I looked up, saw the flag and thought for sure it was a personal foul call, but all of a sudden we were backed up and it was a holding call. I was pretty stunned we didn't get that call."

Detroit defensive end Cliff Avril was not fined for poking tight end Vernon Davis in the eye. Davis missed several plays after the incident but returned to the game and caught the 49ers' final touchdown pass.

Wendling's fine is just a little more than half of the $15,000 Smith was fined last season for wearing a San Francisco Giants baseball cap that wasn't sanctioned by the NFL. In response, Giants manager Bruce Bochy on Thursday wore a 49ers cap for his pre-game chat with the media while Giants players also wore 49ers gear after their win over the Rockies.

When he was asked about Bochy's gesture today, Jim Harbaugh said, "I thought it was tremendous. Tremendous, tremendous."

Harbaugh said he's a big Giants fan and often catches the radio replay of Giants games on his way home from the 49ers facility. "I know that, myself included, and a lot of the guys on the team here have gotten a lot of inspiration from them," Harbaugh said. "The come-from-behind wins, the close games - they're a team that just never gives up. They're a never-say-die type of team. I love watching them."

Injuries - The 49ers continue to list receiver Ted Ginn (ankle) as questionable despite the fact that Ginn returned to practice this week on a limited basis.
Running back Brandon Jacobs, who hasn't practiced since an Aug. 18 knee injury, also is listed as questionable. Punter Andy Lee (hand) is probable.

For the Vikings, inside linebacker Erin Henderson, who had 22 tackles over the first two weeks, is out with a concussion.

-- Matt Barrows

September 21, 2012
Back to Youngstown: Blue-collar 49ers to spend week in Ohio

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Lots of Twitter questions about whether the 49ers will be spending next week in Youngstown, Ohio. The answer: Yes, yes, a million times, yes. Jim Harbaugh announced the decision in June (What, you don't follow this space in June?!) after polling his players about the plan. The 49ers visit the Vikings Sunday and the Jets on Sept. 30.

There's been no griping this week from the 49ers. Rather, they cited last year's week-long stay in Youngstown between Weeks 3 and 4 games in Cincinnati and Philadelphia as a turning point in the 2011 season. They won both contents, and didn't lose again until Nov. 24.

There's something to be said for the camaraderie that builds when a team stays at the same hotel, eats at the same restaurant, has beers at the same bar over a week, players said. There's also a circadian advantage to this approach in that the longer the players stay in the central (Minnesota) and then eastern (Ohio and New York) time zones, the more adjusted they'll be to the kickoff against the Jets.

The stay in Youngstown also carves a significant amount of mileage from their air travel and, theoretically, a significant amount of jet lag from their bodies. The total mileage of round-trip flights from San Jose to Minneapolis and San Jose to New York is 8,244 miles. By staying in Youngstown, the two-week travel total is 5,158 miles.

September 20, 2012
Bakhtiari: I'll keep going until it absolutely ends

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Erik Bakhtiari has been the picture of resolve for the last four years. But after getting cut for the ninth time -- and the third time by the 49ers -- three weeks ago, he began to waver.

"You try to have the best outlook on it," Bakhtiari, 27, said Thursday. "You try to sit there and have confidence in yourself. But I think there also comes a time when you take what you do well and take it to a different field."

That self doubt lasted two days. After that, it was back to the weight room and back to waiting for a phone call from an NFL team in need of a linebacker. The call came Tuesday after the 49ers learned that newly signed outside linebacker Clark Haggans would be suspended for the next three games in relation to DUI convictions in 2004 and 2011.

The 49ers didn't tell Bakhtiari how long he'd be around or what his role would be while Haggans serves the suspension. "They said, 'Come in and compete,'" he said. "And that's what I do best."

September 20, 2012
Giants have Alex Smith's back ... and cap

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The San Francisco Giants are giving a tip of the hat to Alex Smith.

One day after Smith revealed that he had been fined $15,000 by the NFL earlier this year for wearing a Giants cap after a playoffs game, Bochy donned a red 49ers cap while talking to reporters before today's game against the Rockies.

"Alex supported us, so I'm going to support him," Bochy said, according to the San Jose Mercury News. "They're a great club, and I'm honored to wear it."

According to NFL rules, players must wear league-sponsored apparel 90 minutes before and after games. The league later reconsidered Smith's fine - along with a similar one on New England's Wes Welker - and he was given a warning instead.

Smith today said he had seen the photo of Bochy wearing a 49ers cap in the dugout and gave it a thumb's up. "The magic number's five, right?" he said.

-- Matt Barrows

September 20, 2012
Report: Bakhtiari beat Merriman for spot on 49ers' roster

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It looks as if journeyman Eric Bakhtiari beat out one of the most prominent names at his position to land a spot on the 49ers 53-man roster. According to Scout.com, former Pro Bowl outside linebacker Shawne Merriman visited the 49ers on Wednesday, the day they signed Bakhtiari to fill in for Clark Haggans during Haggans' three-game suspension.

Bakhtiari was the team's most productive defensive player during the offseason, leading the 49ers in sacks and finishing second in tackles during the exhibition season. Merriman, meanwhile, was one of the most dangerous pass rusher his first three seasons with the Chargers but has been plagued by injuries in recent years. He was suspended for four games in 2006 for violating the league's policy on steroids and related substances.

It's also worth noting that Bakhtiari was a member of the 49ers' coverage teams during the preseason while Merriman never has had a big role on special teams. The 49ers' coverage units, perhaps the league's best in 2011, have been shoddy early on this season.

Merriman was released by the Bills in training camp.

-- Matt Barrows

September 19, 2012
Quiet, please: Moss hoping to "hush" any boos in Minnesota

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Randy speaks.

The taciturn wide receiver didn't want to talk about the number of snaps he's been getting with the 49ers. "No, I'm not," he said when asked if he was concerned about playing time. "Next question."

But he spent nearly 10 minutes on other topics, mostly returning to the Metrodome, where he built the foundation for his likely hall-of-fame career. It also should be noted that -- and this is the second time this has happened -- his teammates got the biggest kick out of standing behind reporters and making faces at Moss while he spoke. "Oh my God, it's Randy Moss!," one said in a mocking, falsetto voice as he walked past. All of which is an indication of how well-liked Moss is in the locker room.

On returning to Minnesota:

RM: I'm just very fortunate I guess to go back where it all started. We had some great times in Minnesota. I look forward to just hearing the Metrodome rock, you know? Now I'm with the away team, and I look forward to a good game.

Does it make a difference what kind of reaction you get?

RM: No, not really. I mean I'm a 49er. I think my Minnesota Viking days are over. So just going in as a 49er. Like I said, just going in and have some success and have a good game. That's all I plan to do.

September 19, 2012
Ginn returns to practice; Jacobs seems close

Ted Ginn, who has not played a meaningful game for the 49ers since the team's divisional playoff win over the Saints, was back for the beginning of practice today. Ginn injured his ankle Aug. 26 in Denver and hasn't practiced in full since.

Meanwhile, running back Brandon Jacobs (knee) appears close to returning to practice. He still was rehabilitating on a side a side field -- along with rookies Darius Fleming and Jewel Hampton -- but he was dressed in his uniform, perhaps an indication he could be taking part in some drills during the closed portion of practice.

Ginn likely would resume his kick- and punt-return duties if healthy. Kyle Williams has filled in as the punt returner the last two games and has done a fine job. Kick returner Kendall Hunter, however, fumbled in the first quarter Sunday.

-- Matt Barrows

September 19, 2012
LB legacy: Willis said Singletary taught him to go downhill

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Patrick Willis had a great story about his first practice with the 49ers in 2007. The young inside linebacker was going against guard Larry Allen, one of the biggest and strongest men who has ever played the game, when he heard Mike Singletary's voice bark out behind him.

"He said, 'Heeeyyyyy, what are you doing, son?' And I looked around and said, 'What do you think I'm doing? I'm trying to get around this big dude.'"

No, Singletary, who was then the 49ers linebackers coach, told the rookie. I want you to go straight at him. "And I'm thinking to myself, I don't know physics but ...." Willis said. "But from that point on, I got to the mindset where it was like, ok, if that's what he wants, that's what I'm going to do."

Willis went on to lead the league in tackles that season, and he said he's held onto that go-right-at-'em mindset ever since. It's what gives him confidence when facing someone 100 pounds heavier and it's one of Singletary's legacies in San Francisco. "He taught me how to be a little bit more of a down-hill guy," Willis said.

-- Matt Barrows

September 19, 2012
Bakhtiari back in 49ers lineup; Alex Smith's expensive headwear

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The 49ers filled their opening on the 53-man roster with their most productive outside linebacker during the preseason - Eric Baktiari, who led the 49ers with 2 ½ sacks in three and a half games during the exhibition season. The 49ers have an opening due to Clark Haggans' three-game suspension.

"Obviously we liked Eric a lot when he was here and the effort he gave and what he did in the preseason," Jim Harbaugh said. "Excited to get him on the field today."

Haggans, meanwhile, struck a philosophical tone on his three-game suspension, which stemmed from two DUI incidents, one of them in 2004 and the other last year in Arizona when he was with the Cardinals.

"I look at it from the perspective of getting into my playbook, getting more comfortable with the team, the coaches and players," Haggans said. "Work out, stay in shape and then just try to hit the ground running when I can." Haggans can return to the active roster Oct. 8.

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Earlier today on KNBR radio, Alex Smith revealed that he had been fined by the NFL. The infraction? Wearing a San Francisco Giants cap not sponsored by the league. Smith elaborated today, saying the fine amount was a whopping $15,000. He said players must wear league-sponsored apparel 90 minutes before and after games.

"So it's weird. Like, I can wear a Polo shirt after the game and they're not going to fine me for the Polo (logo)," he said.

He said the league later reviewed that fine - and one given to Patriots receiver Wes Welker - and decided to give the two warnings instead. Smith said that if he continues to wear the hat, perhaps the Giants can foot the bill.

"Yeah, can you call Larry Baer for me?" Smith said, referring to the Giants' chief executive.

-- Matt Barrows

September 19, 2012
Vikings Peterson could get more carries against 49ers defense

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Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said he's seen significant progress in the last week from running back Adrian Peterson, who is coming back from an ACL tear suffered Dec. 24. Frazier said he's been checking in regularly with Peterson to gauge his soreness and overall condition after recent games.

"He felt so much better this week in comparison to after the first game of the season on a Tuesday," Frazier said. "So we feel like he's really making progress from a physical standpoint."

Said Peterson: "Oh man, it's night and day. ... The biggest difference is the soreness. I really didn't wake up with a lot of soreness. I woke up Monday with a smile on my face."

Frazier said that could result in more carries for Peterson Sunday against San Francisco. So far this season, Peterson has been rotating carries with Toby Gerhart. Peterson had 17 carries for 84 yards and two touchdowns in Week 1. He went 16 for 60 yards - with three receptions for 20 yards - last week. Peterson averaged 4.4 yards a carry in those games, which is only slightly below his career average.

"We think he's getting to that point where we can think about a few more carries," Frazier said. "He's getting close to that point, so we'll see how he does this week in practice. ... We've been rotating him and Toby every other series, but we're going to see how he does this week in practice."

The Vikings have played Jacksonville and Indianapolis so far this season. The 49ers and their stout run defense would be Peterson's stiffest test. San Francisco finished first against the run last season and didn't allow a rushing touchdown until Week 16 when they were without star inside linebacker Patrick Willis. The 49ers rank sixth in that category (63.5 yards a game) heading into Week 3.

Peterson, who entered the NFL with Willis in 2007, said he vividly remembers a hit Willis made on him when the Vikings visited Candlestick Park that year. "He got me on that one," Peterson said. "But when I look at that play, I know that he didn't just beat me mano-mano."

Instead, he said Willis had the advantage because he hit Peterson while Peterson was cutting to his left. "You can't cut and lower your shoulder and think you're going to run him over," Peterson said. "Some guys you can get away with it. But he's a different person, a different player. That's not happening."

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Frazier also was asked about what he sees on tape from 49ers receiver Randy Moss. "He looks like he's pretty excited about being there in San Francisco," he said. "He's moving well. He seems very engaged. Seems like he's enjoying the game."

-- Matt Barrows

September 18, 2012
OLB Haggans suspended for the next three games

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Newly signed OLB Clark Haggans will miss the 49ers' next three games after being suspended for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy. Haggans was convicted of DUI in 2011 as a member of the Cardinals. His agent, Jeff Sperbeck, tried to have that suspension reduced during a hearing two weeks ago. The league could have suspended Haggans as much as six games.

"Earlier today the team was made aware of the NFL's decision to suspend Clark Haggans for three games," 49ers general manager Trent Baalke said in a statement. "We were certainly aware that this decision was a possibility as we evaluated Clark prior to adding him to our roster. Therefore, we are prepared to move forward accordingly."

The 49ers signed Haggans, 35, on Sept. 3 after shelving the top backup at the position, Parys Haralson, for the season with a torn triceps. Haggans suited up for the first two games but did not play a snap. He can return to the active roster on Oct. 8, one day after the 49ers host the Bills.

Haggans' 2011 DUI occurred after Haggans, who was at a concert with his wife, received a frantic call from their babysitter who said that their daughter, five years old at the time, was having trouble breathing. Haggans was cited for speeding and running a red light and was charged with DUI. He pled guilty to "extreme DUI" -- a DUI in which the blood-alcohol level is more than .150 -- and served jail time in June. He also was convicted of DUI in Colorado in 2004.

It's unknown how the 49ers will proceed without him for the next three weeks. Defensive end Demarcus Dobbs could serve as an emergency third outside linebacker if anything happened to starters Ahmad Brooks and Aldon Smith. The 49ers also could bring rookie Cam Johnson up from the practice squad. Ikaika Alama-Francis and Eric Bakhtiari, both of whom were with the 49ers in the preseason, also are options.

Haggans' suspension means that the 49ers have an opening on their 53-man roster.

-- Matt Barrows

September 18, 2012
Aldon Smith: "Everybody's good" after car crash

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Aldon Smith said he suffered no ill effects from a Friday night car accident and that he and the person driving walked away from the crumpled BMW. "Everybody's good," the 49ers linebacker said in front of his locker today. "We all walked away from it. The only thing messed up was the car."

The unidentified driver of the vehicle was transported to San Jose Regional Medical Center, the region's trauma center, with what the CHP reported was a "broken back" after he swerved to avoid a deer and struck a tree on a winding road in the foothills east of San Jose at 11:45 p.m. Friday night. Smith, who was in the passenger seat, suffered a cut below his right eyebrow, which was apparent Tuesday. Smith said he was wearing his seat belt when the accident occurred.

Smith, 22, played every snap in Sunday's win over the Lions, and he said the game was therapeutic for him. "Being in something like that - being in an accident - and then being able to go out and have fun and do something that I love doing - it was a relief to be able to get away from everything," he said. "So it was good that I was able to get out there and make plays and get the win. So I was fine. I was fine."

The 49ers' second-year linebacker has had an eventful year. He was cited for DUI in Miami Beach in January and he was stabbed at a house party in June. He received minor wounds. Asked if that pattern was cause for alarm, Smith said, "I'm just focused on moving forward. If I saw a pattern with a person on my team, and he was able to make plays and play a good game, that's what I'm worried about. I'm worried about how he plays the game. I'm worried about how he's helping out this team. I'm worried about the wins we're getting."

Smith noted that his incidents have not disrupted his on-field performance.

"It's life," he said. "You can sit here and make it want you want. But really it's life. I'm in a good spot right now. I was able to go out and get seven tackles and two sacks, and now I'm ready for Minnesota and ready for the rest of the season."

Those two sacks are not quite official. Smith was credited for one sack in Sunday's game while Ray McDonald got the other. The 49ers, however, have asked the league to review McDonald's sack and it's possible that it could be split between Smith and McDonald.

The league is expected to make a ruling on Wednesday. In Smith's mind, however, having two sacks already is official. "I think it is. Yeah. I say so," he said.

-- Matt Barrows

September 18, 2012
Aldon Smith involved in serious car crash Friday night

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Aldon Smith was involved in a serious car accident two days before Sunday's game against the Lions. According to the California Highway Patrol, Smith was the passenger in a car that swerved to avoid a deer on a road in unincorporated Santa Clara County Friday night and ended up on its side on a dirt embankment.

The unidentified driver of the BMW was transported to San Jose Regional Medical Center with what the CHP described as a "broken back." Smith suffered a cut above his eye that required stitches. He was driven to Stanford Hospital, the 49ers' team facility, where he was treated. Smith, 22, played every defensive snap of Sunday's game and finished with seven tackles, a sack, a tackle for loss and a quarterback hit.

The accident occurred at 11:45 p.m. Friday near Smith's home in the hills east of San Jose. Alcohol was not a factor in the crash, the CHP said. Smith notified the 49ers, and presumably team officials transported him to Stanford Hospital.

Smith's home was the site of raucous party June 30 in which two people were shot and Smith suffered minor stab wounds. He also was charged with DUI in Miami Beach in January.

According to Miami-Dade County officials, Smith qualified for a program to reduce the charges to reckless driving. Among the parameters of the program are completion of a DUI school, 60 hours of community service, completion of a session of the victim-impact panel and paying $500 to a victim services or DUI enforcement fund.

-- Matt Barrows

September 17, 2012
Extraordinary People: Harbaugh wants Mays, Ali to visit 49ers

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Jim Harbaugh has invited colonels and generals and Navy SEALs to talk in front of his team. He had actors Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn on the sideline during Sunday's game and in the locker room afterward. But two of the figures he'd really like to have on the premises are Willie Mays and Muhammad Ali.

"I don't want anything from him," Harbaugh said of Mays. "I just want to go up to him and shake his hand and tell him that me and my dad think that he's the greatest baseball player in the history of the game. That's all I want."

As far as Wilson and Vaughn, who were decked out on 49ers gear for the Lions game, Harbaugh said that Wilson called him recently asking if they could attend the game. The two are shooting a movie locally about a couple of 40-somethings who try to tackle Google's internship program.

He said that was the kind of culture he wanted at the 49ers complex - one in which the players are regularly exposed to special people. "We like being around these kind of extraordinary kind of guys," he said.

Meanwhile, Jim's dad, Jack, met Ali last week at a Ravens practice outside of Baltimore, and Jack came away with two great stories about Ali, a man whom the Harbaughs consider "the greatest sports competitor this world has ever known," Jim said.

September 17, 2012
Film review: Staley, Vernon Davis shine; Lions can't break nickel

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During his post-game press conference Sunday night, Jim Harbaugh cited Michael Crabtree as one of the players of the game. The 49ers' toughness throughout the evening was symbolized by Crabtree, Harbaugh said, especially on the clock-chewing touchdown drive at the end of the fourth quarter.

It's hard to argue. Three times the 49ers needed first downs on third and long, and three times Alex Smith fired to Crabtree. The result: three first downs. In fact, Smith threw in Crabtree's direction on third down on five different occasions, and Crabtree came through four times. Crabtree is bulkier and stronger this year than he was in his first three. And that extra heft seemed to help him in breaking tackles and pulling defenders to get across that first-down marker.

Of course, there were a number of other players who stood out. How often did you hear Kyle Vanden Bosch's name? Answ: Not often. That's because Joe Staley and the 49ers outside blockers suffocated him and fellow defensive end Cliff Avril all night.

Staley had a down game against Clay Matthews in Week 1. (Though if you saw Matthews in Week 2 against Chicago, you might say that Staley shined by comparison). The 49ers left tackle bounced back with a vengeance against the Lions. Staley got into the second level of the Lions defense all game long and he was one of several linemen with big blocks on Frank Gore's standing up one-yard touchdown run.

Vernon Davis, of course, caught two touchdown passes. But he also excelled as a blocker. He took on Vanden Bosch by himself on a few plays and either held his own or dominated the defensive end. If you're making the argument that Davis is the best tight end in the game today, this is the game film you'd use to make your case. An exemplary all-around effort, and did it despite being poked in the eye.

September 17, 2012
Actors Vaughn, Wilson crash 49ers locker room

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Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson are playing Google interns in their next movie. But on Sunday, they could have passed as 49ers assistant coaches.

The two famous faces were decked out in 49ers gear and seemed to be part of the team's sideline contingent. When someone told me that Owen Wilson was here, I thought they were making a joke about the forearm that Alex Smith took to the bridge of his nose.

Vaughn and Wilson not only were on hand, they walked into the locker room with the team and bore witness to Jim Harbaugh's "Who's Got it Better than Us?" post-game ritual. Wilson ran around the field after the game catching - but mostly missing - passes from a buddy. The two took pictures with half-dressed 49ers in the locker room afterward.

Apparently, the link is Harbaugh. The actors reached out to him during the week, asked if they could attend the game and Harbaugh acquiesced. I don't know if there's any back story here but I'll try to find out at Harbaugh's noon presser.

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I spoke to Vince briefly (yes, I just referred to him by his first name), and he said he and Wilson have been filming "The Internship" in the area. The two play 40-somethings who lose their jobs and then try to navigate their way through Google's intern program.

That premise is so money.

-- Matt Barrows

September 16, 2012
He hate me: Vernon Davis hopes Avril's eye gouge was unintentional

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SAN FRANCISCO - Vernon Davis said he hopes Cliff Avril didn't do it intentionally.

Davis, who played all but two snaps against the Packers in Week 1, missed chunks of two first-half drives after getting poked in the eye by defensive end Cliff Avril. One play before his eye injury, Davis and fellow tight end Delanie Walker tangled with Avril near the 49ers sideline, with all three of them going down in a heap.

Davis said he hoped that Avril wasn't retaliating for that play. "No hard feelings," Davis said. "You take it. You come out with wounds and bruises but you bounce back. You go in the next day, you get treatment for those things and mentally, you get prepared for the next game."

Avril was involved in scrapes throughout the evening, most of them with 49ers right tackle Anthony Davis, who feuded with Avril both during and after - via twitter - last year's game in Detroit. Avril also attempted to rip off Anthony Davis' helmet during today's game.

"He tried to do it a lot," Anthony Davis said. "He hates me. It's so funny. We don't even know each other. You can just tell it burns him up."

Vernon Davis returned later in the half and seemed to show no ill effects. He caught the 49ers' first touchdown of the game and also their last, 23-yarder with 3:04 left in the game.

September 16, 2012
Bell-ringer: Harbaugh cites Crabtree, toughness in win over Lions

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SAN FRANCISCO -- Jim Harbaugh and Jim Schwartz cordially shook hands, smiled and offered each other sweet-natured "good games" before Sunday's contest. After that, their teams gouged eyes, bloodied noses, twisted face masks and went after each other with as much venom and ferocity as they did in their 2011 matchup.

Like last year, the 49ers showed they were made of tougher stuff. This time they also proved they have more weapons than the Lions as Frank Gore rushed for 89 yards and a touchdown and Alex Smith hit seven different receivers in the 27-19 win.

The 49ers defense, meanwhile, didn't allow the Lions inside their 20-yard line until 1:45 remained. "We knew it would be a tough, close, aggressive, bell-ringing game, and it was," coach Jim Harbaugh said afterward.

While last week's win in Green Bay was marked by methodical marches downfield, Smith and the offense on Sunday wasted no time attacking a Detroit defense that was missing three members of its starting secondary.

September 16, 2012
Halftime: 49ers-Lions pick up where they left off last year

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Jim Harbaugh and Jim Schwartz shook hands, smiled and offered each other sweet-natured "good games" before this one started. But it's been a knock-down, drag-out, dogfight - complete with eye gouging -- ever since.

So far the 49ers are winning the battle, 14-6.

Long, methodical marches marked their Week 1 win in Green Bay. In this one, the 49ers didn't waste much time. On their opening drive, they gained 29 yards on a misdirection run by Mario Manningham, which fooled Lions left defensive end Cliff Avril.

On the next play, Alex Smith connected with Michael Crabtree for 17 yards and on the play after that, he saw Vernon Davis on a mismatch with safety John Wendling, who was filling in for injured starter Louis Delmas. Smith connected with Davis for 21 yards, and the 49ers were in the end zone in 72 seconds.

On the ensuing drive, the Lions were aided by a 33-yard pass interference penalty against cornerback Chris Culliver that gave them the ball at the San Francisco 26-yard line. Four plays after that Jason Hanson knocked in a 38-yard field goal, the first of his two field goals of the half.

The 49ers' second touchdown drive began when Matthew Stafford's third-down pass sailed well over his intended receiver's head and was intercepted by a diving Dashon Goldson. The 49ers settled for a 35-yard David Akers field goal on the drive, but the Lions crashed into the kicker on the attempt, giving the 49ers a first down.

September 16, 2012
James, Jenkins inactive; Scott Tolzien is not

A pair of high draft picks, A.J. Jenkins and LaMichael James, are inactive for today's game. Interestingly, quarterback Scott Tolzien, who was inactive for every game last season as the 49ers' third quarterback, is active for this one.

As the guy sitting next to me, Matt Maiocco, points out, Tolzien likely is active because of Andy Lee's hand injury. Lee hurt his right hand trying to tackle Packers punt returner Randall Cobb in Week 1. Tolzien may fill in for Lee as the team's holder today.

The other inactives are: Ted Ginn (ankle), Brandon Jacobs (knee), Garrett Celek, Joe Looney and Ian Williams

Inactives for the Lions:

QB Kellen Moore
CB Chris Houston
S Louis Delmas
CB Bill Bentley
LB Travis Lewis
T Jason Fox
T Corey Hilliard

Lineup changes:

* Drayton Florence will start in place of Houston at CB
* Jacob Lacey will start in place of Bentley at the other CB spot
* John Wendling will start at safety for Delmas

Notes:

Both Andy Lee and David Akers received golden-boot trophies today as the winners of the 2011 Golden Toe Award given by Pro Football Weekly.

* Jacobs warmed up with his teammates today, doing so with a metal brace on his left knee.

-- Matt Barrows

September 14, 2012
Security report: No sign of Frederick P. Soft

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Any chance the 49ers go into Sunday's game overconfident? Impossible, right guard Alex Boone said today. If Jim Harbaugh got even a whiff of overconfidence, Boone said, "I think he'd smack you down a little bit."

Boone said that one of the areas in which Harbaugh stands out is that he is an excellent gauge of the vibe in the locker room. "I think it's more of meeting settings," Boone said when asked where Harbaugh will make his attitude adjustments.

"It's more, 'Hey, guys, I don't think we're being as dialed in as we can be. I think we need to concentrate more, I think we need to focus more.' You guys have met Harbaugh. He doesn't have to go any (further). If you continued to goof around ... I don't know what the next thing would be, but I don't want to know."

You'll recall that last year Harbaugh said he was forever on the lookout for Frederick P. Soft, the four-inch fellow who sits on players' shoulder and whispers praise into the collective ears of winning teams.

He said Soft would be dealt with "quickly and decisively"

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Boone said he's gone against his Sunday adversary, Ndamukong Suh, before - at a Nike football camp in Oregon during the lockout. Boone coached the offensive line; Suh handled the defensive line.

What did Boone learn about Suh? "He's big," Boone said. Earlier, Boone also noted that the Lions linemen has plenty of power. He took down Rams running back Steven Jackson, who is one of the bigger tailbacks in the league, with one arm last week.

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It was no surprise that Ted Ginn (ankle) and Brandon Jacobs (knee) are listed as questionable on the injury report. That was their designation last week, too, and it's Harbaugh's way of keeping opponent's guessing.

"Getting close," he said of their availability. "Getting darn close. Might have a shot this week."

(If you believe Harbaugh, you haven't been paying attention).

-- Matt Barrows

September 14, 2012
Ginn, Jacobs unlikely to play against Lions

Ted Ginn and Brandon Jacobs were not on hand for the start of 49ers practice, making them very unlikely to play Sunday against the Lions. Ginn (ankle) went through warmups with his teammates, and he appears close to returning to the lineup. When practice began, however, he went off to a side field to work with trainers.

Jacobs (knee) also was seen working out on a side field on Wednesday. He has not been on hand - for the start of practice, at least - the last two days.

Ginn's absence means Kyle Williams would make his 2012 Candlestick Park debut as the 49ers punt returner. Williams had a solid game against the Packers, returning one punt 20 yards, fair catching three others and letting two bounce.

Ginn and Jacobs were two of the 49ers' inactive players against Green Bay. The others were quarterback Scott Tolzien, running back LaMichael James, tight end Garrett Celek, guard Joe Looney and defensive end Ian Williams.

Aldon Smith was not fined by the NFL for removing his helmet, something for which he received a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Sunday. Smith on Thursday insisted the helmet already was coming off after it flipped up by Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers' heel as the two were going to the ground.

Neither C.J. Spillman nor Packers linebacker Clay Matthews were fined for illegal hits they were penalized for in the game.

Lions injury report:

CB Bill Bentley*, Concussion, Out
S Louis Delmas*, Knee, Doubtful
CB Chris Houston*, Ankle, Doubtful
LB Travis Lewis, Quad, Doubtful
DE Lawrence Jackson, Calf, Questionable
DT Corey Williams*, Knee, Questionable
WR Calvin Johnson*, Foot, Probable

* starter

-- Matt Barrows

September 14, 2012
Aldon Smith's debut at OLB? Look for it in Week 3

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One of the 49ers' offseason storylines was how Aldon Smith, who was used primarily as a situational pass rusher a year ago, would adjust to an every-down role as an outside linebacker this year.

After one regular-season contest and a slate of exhibition season games, we're still waiting for the answer.

Smith missed all but a few snaps of the preseason after suffering a hip pointer in the first game. And he was in his familiar role as a pass-rushing defensive end Sunday against the Packers. Green Bay used three and four receivers so often that the 49ers were in their nickel and dime defenses virtually the entire game.

Still, it was Smith's first-ever NFL start, and he ended up playing 60 snaps. "My cardio's good, I'm in shape," Smith said this week. "I didn't have any problem playing the whole game."

On Sunday, Smith will face a familiar foe. When the 49ers and Lions met in Week 6 last season, San Francisco's starter at right outside linebacker, Parys Haralson, injured his hamstring and didn't play the second half. That gave Smith the most snaps - about 40 - he played during his rookie season, and he made the most of the opportunity. He finished the game with two sacks, forced a Matthew Stafford fumble and was credited with a safety.

September 13, 2012
Good job, Alex Boone. Now go take on Ndamukong Suh

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Alex Boone already hangs on Leonard Davis' every word. After all, Davis also is a tall, long-armed lineman who transitioned from offensive tackle to guard. And he's been in the league 11 years and has played against just about every defensive tackle and nose guard Boone will face this season.

This week, however, Boone is paying extra attention. His main opponent will be Ndamukong Suh, someone Davis faced daily last year when he was a member of the Detroit Lions.

"I ask him things like, 'What would you do against a guy like so and so?'" Boone said. "He's played against a lot of those guys, and I listen to what he thinks of them. I hold his perspective very highly."

Davis today said that Suh, the most prominent member of the Detroit defense, certainly deserves the accolades he receives. "He's an exceptional athlete, and you've got to bring your A game when you're playing against a guy like that," Davis said. But he also warned that the rest of the defensive line, including Suh's fellow defensive tackle Corey Williams and ends Cliff Avril and Kyle Vanden Bosch, probably don't get enough attention.

September 12, 2012
Bowman, Lee on 49ers injury report

Add All Pros NaVorro Bowman and Andy Lee to the 49ers injury report. Bowman was a limited participant in today's practice with a shoulder injury, but he's not expected to have any limitations Sunday against Detroit. Lee, meanwhile, hurt his hand trying to tackle Randall Cobb Sunday on Cobb's 75-yard touchdown return. He fully took part in practice, however.

The only 49ers who did not practice were receiver Ted Ginn (ankle) and running back Brandon Jacobs (knee).

For the Lions, wide receiver Calvin Johnson (foot) was one of five players who didn't practice today. The others were CB Dwight Bentley (concussion), S Louis Delmas (knee), DE Lawrence Jackson (calf) and LB Travis Lewis (quadricep).

CB Chris Houston (ankle) and DT Corey Williams (knee) were limited in practice.

-- Matt Barrows

September 12, 2012
Calvin Johnson misses practice for Lions

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Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson, the focal point of the 49ers' secondary this week, did not practice today with a foot injury. Johnson played throughout Detroit's Week 1 game against the Rams - he had six catches for 111 yards - and reports out of Detroit today said he did not appear to be seriously injured.

The 49er who will be responsible for emulating Johnson in practice this week will be first-round draft choice A.J. Jenkins. The team's defensive backs said that the 6-5 Johnson is particularly good at jump-ball situations, and Jenkins said that's one of the areas on which he's focusing. "When the ball's in the air, just going up and getting it," he said.

Jenkins and the rest of the scout team got high marks from the 49ers defense after the Packers game. Jenkins played the role of Jordy Nelson while practice squadder Nathan Palmer emulated Greg Jennings. LaMichael James and even safety Michael Thomas stepped in to play Packers receivers, with Thomas playing Randall Cobb.

This week, Palmer is playing the role of Titus Young while Thomas will take some snaps as Stefan Logan. Meanwhile, at 6-0, 192 pounds, Jenkins certainly doesn't have Johnson's size of strength. But it's worth noting that last year Johnson was played by Joe Hastings in the run up to the Lions game and that the 49ers mostly kept the receiver under control. (7-113, no TDs)

In other Lions injury report news, safety Louis Delmas (knee), cornerback Bill Bentley (concussion), linebacker Travis Lewis (quad) and defensive end Lawrence Jackson (calf) did not practice. Defensive tackle Corey Williams (knee) and cornerback Chris Houston (ankle) - who had some interesting things to say about Randy Moss -- were limited in today's practice.

The 49ers will release their practice report later this afternoon. ***UPDATE*** Receiver Ted Ginn (ankle) and running back Brandon Jacobs (knee) continue to rehabilitate on a side field. Both are likely to be on the did-not-participate list later today.

-- Matt Barrows

September 12, 2012
Smart Alex: Schwartz lauds 49ers QB's intelligence

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Just a "game manager"? For the second straight week, an upcoming 49ers opponent has praised Alex Smith for the very thing for which he was derided last year - his care of the football. Asked about the fact that the 49ers haven't committed a turnover in six straight regular season games, Detroit head coach Jim Schwartz cited Smith's smarts.

"Gotta have a really smart quarterback to do it, and Alex Smith is a smart quarterback," Schwartz said.

Added Schwartz: "Turnovers are a big, big part of the NFL. Last week, we were minus-three in turnovers and we came out with a win. That's incredibly hard to do. You can't make a living being minus in the turnover category. I don't think it's any coincidence that the 49ers went 13-3 last year and also led the NFL in turnover margin. I mean, those two go hand in hand." (Schwartz's quarterback, Matthew Stafford, threw three interceptions in Detroit's win over the Rams Sunday).

A week ago, Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers cited Smith's five interceptions from last year, and he said that the term "game manager" was "condescending" toward Smith.

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For the record, Schwartz was just as resistant to "handshake" questions as Jim Harbaugh has been. "We've moved on," he said. "It was last year, and I think I've commented enough."

-- Matt Barrows

September 12, 2012
Perrish the thought: Outlook for the 49ers' dime defense

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Surprised Perrish Cox played so many snaps against the Packers? So was Cox, who thought he would get into the game for a handful of plays but ended up playing more than half of San Francisco's 61 defensive snaps.

The reason? Cox comes in for the 49ers' dime defense, which uses six defensive backs and which usually counters an offense that uses four wide receivers. The Packers went with four wide receivers a few times when Randall Cobb entered the game. But the reason the 49ers were in their dime package so much Sunday was that they wanted Cox, and not an inside linebacker, matched against Green Bay tight end Jermichael Finley, whom they considered the de facto fourth wide receiver.

"Some of those plays, we were treating Finley like a split-out receiver," Cox said. "So we were treating him like another receiver."

Whether the 49ers will be in their dime package as much this coming Sunday will depend on how often the Lions use four wide receivers (probably not very much) and how the 49ers view Lions tight end Brandon Pettigrew, who had 83 catches last season.

September 11, 2012
Davis' dunk gets an F ... but his TD deserves an A

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David Akers wasn't the only 49er to hit the crossbar on Sunday. After his third-quarter touchdown catch, tight end Vernon Davis went to dunk the ball over the crossbar but ended up being Mutombo'ed and falling back to the Lambeau earth.

As you might imagine, the replay of the missed dunk got a strong reaction when it was aired during the team's jubilant charter flight home. "I heard the whole team just, 'HAHAHAHAHAH!'" Davis said. According to Davis, Randy Moss and Michael Crabtree - both of whom fancy themselves excellent basketball players - were his chief tormentors.

The spoiled celebration, however, shouldn't overshadow the touchdown catch itself. Davis had to go to his knees for the catch in front of two defenders, and it was thrown so low and fast by Alex Smith that either Davis was going to scoop it off the ground or it was going to skip incomplete.

He acknowledged that it wasn't the type of catch he would have made early in his career. But Davis has tirelessly worked on improving his hands and, in fact, was catching passes from the JUGs machine today, which traditionally has been a day off for players, as reporters were leaving the locker room.

"That's something I've been working on," David said. "It's something you have to go out a train your eyes and hands to be able to grab that ball. But it's just been working over the years and having it on my mind that, 'Gotta go get it (the ball). Gotta go get it.' It's just training your mind and your body."

September 10, 2012
Film review: 49ers coaches deserve game ball

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Bob Olson ‏@Utbusa
is bowman better in coverage than willis, Making him the preferred lb against the packers?

No, it's the other way around. When the 49ers are in their nickel packages, Patrick Willis is the one assigned to coverage - whether it be a tight end, running back even a wide receiver. When they go to the dime, Perrish Cox takes over that role. That's why Fangio has called the nickel cornerback role a quasi-linebacker assignment - because he's taking the place of a linebacker.

Willis and Bowman were alternating on the series on which they would leave the game when Cox entered. It just so happened that Packers had longer series when Bowman was in the game and Willis on the sideline. By my count Cox substituted for Willis 20 times on Sunday and substituted for Bowman 11 times.

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This may have been the most well-coached game I've ever covered. From a preparation standpoint, the 49ers coaches were on fire. The question is not whether they outcoached the Packers (they did). But rather it's, who was more masterful, the offensive or defensive coaches?

The offensive game plan was to bury the Packers under a mountain of different personnel groups and formations. Let's just take the 49ers' third offensive series, the one that ended with a 14-yard touchdown pass from Alex Smith to Randy Moss. Here are the skill players on each of the 11 plays (I'm including two penalties).

September 9, 2012
Brain & brawn: Harbaugh praises 49ers' "mind game" after Lambeau win

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GREEN BAY, WIS. -- The 49ers had been diagramming plays, brainstorming ideas and otherwise scheming for the Packers as soon as the schedule came out in April.

On Sunday it showed.

Quarterback Alex Smith calmly and efficiently ran an offense that incorporated a dizzying array of personnel groups while the defense, using a "dime" formation seldom seen a year ago, pestered Aaron Rodgers and held the dangerous Green Bay offense in check. As a result, the 49ers accomplished in Week 1 what no team was able to do last regular season - hand the Packers a loss at Lambeau Field.

"The fight to 60 minutes was there, but I thought we played our best game with our minds than we've ever played," Jim Harbaugh said of his team's 30-22 victory. "I'm very proud of our guys."

At the top of his list was Smith, who went through the draft process with Rodgers in 2005 and then watched as Rodgers went onto NFL stardom while he floundered on bad and sometimes dysfunctional 49ers squads. The quarterbacks had faced off once before in 2009 with Rodgers and the Packers winning the contest, 30-24.

September 9, 2012
Akers has hall-of-fame encounter after big kick

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GREEN BAY, WISC. -- What's better than landing in the record book with a 63-yard field goal? If you're David Akers, it's setting that mark with a dramatic, end-of-half-shot that caromed off the crossbar and then getting a pat on the back from the only living place kicker in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Akers said he ran into Jan Stenerud, who was enshrined in 1991, as Akers came out of the locker room and began preparing for the second half. "Congratulations, great, great kick," Stenerud told Akers, according to Akers. "That's pretty incredible to come from a hall of famer, the lone hall of fame kicker."

To be precise, George Blanda and Lou Groza also are in the hall of fame. Both men, however, played other positions - Blanda also was a quarterback and Groza doubled as an offensive lineman. Stenerud is the only pure kicker to be inducted.

Akers now joins Tom Dempsey, Jason Elam and Sebastian Janikowski as the only players who have made a field goal from 63 yards. Akers said he was good from 61 yards before the game, and knew if the situation arose he'd have a chance.

That situation came about just before the half. The 49ers defense forced the Packers to punt with 32 seconds remaining and Kyle Williams returned it 20 yards to the San Francisco 38. Then, on his only play of the game, quarterback Colin Kaepernick gained 17 yards on a run.

September 9, 2012
Halftime: No Willis? 49ers throwing defensive wrinkle at Packers

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The 49ers have played most of the first half without arguably their best player, linebacker Patrick Willis. In an effort to thwart Green Bay's pass-prolific offense, Vic Fangio and the San Francisco defense have leaned on their dime formation in which a sixth defensive back, Perrish Cox, enters the game and essentially plays inside linebacker.

When Cox comes in, one of the team's two inside linebackers, Willis or NaVorro Bowman comes out. The 49ers apparently are alternating series on which Willis and Bowman leave the game. Willis substituted with Cox and the first and third defensive series; Bowman on the second.

So far Willis has missed 13 defensive snaps while Bowman has missed three. The 49ers rarely were in their base defense in the first half.

Meanwhile on offense, the 49ers continued to use a dizzying array of personnel packages, ranging from formations in which there are no wide receivers (used twice in the formation) with others that have no running backs (also used twice).

Michael Crabtree and Kyle Williams officially were the starting receivers. Crabtree has played more snaps, 21, than the other wide receivers. Randy Moss has been in on 11 plays and caught his ninth touchdown at Lambeau Field, a 14 yarder in the second quarter. He is now second - behind Jerry Rice - on the NFL's all-time touchdown receptions list with 154.

Crabtree leads the 49ers in receiving with five catches for 53 yards. Moss is second with three for 45 yards, followed by Mario Manningham with three for 24 yards. That is, despite the ever-changing personnel packages, the 49ers are getting their Big Three involved.

Another 49ers in the record book? David Akers, who tied an NFL long for field goals with a 63 yarder at the end of the half that hit the crossbar before bouncing in. Tom Dempsey, Jason Elam and Sebastian Janikowski also have hit from 63.

The 49ers lead the game, 16-7.

-- Matt Barrows

September 9, 2012
RBs Jacobs, James among 49ers inactives

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Two running backs, Brandon Jacobs and LaMichael James, are among the 49ers' inactives today. That leaves the 49ers with Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter and Anthony Dixon at the position. Here's the full list:

TE Garrett Celek
WR Ted Ginn (ankle)
RB Brandon Jacobs (knee)
RB LaMichael James
G Joe Looney
QB Scott Tolzien (3rd QB)
NT Ian Williams

What's also notable is that first-round pick A.J. Jenkins is active, one of five wide receivers available today. The others are Michael Crabtree, Randy Moss, Mario Manningham and Kyle Williams.

Ginn's absence means that Williams will handle punt returns. Hunter is likely to take over on kick returns. Who would handle the punt-return duties if Williams got hurt? Probably Perrish Cox.

Jacobs will be replaced by Anthony Dixon and, probably, Frank Gore on short-yardage carries. With no Celek, Demarcus Dobbs will function as the No. 3 tight end, although Leonard Davis is likely to enter the game at the position in short-yardage situations.

The designations also mean that all five safeties - Dashon Goldson, Donte Whitner, C.J. Spillman, Darcel McBath and Trenton Robinson - are active for the game against the pass-happy Packers.

Packers inactives:

WR Jarrett Boykin
S Sean Richardson
CB Davon House
CB Brandon Ross
RB James Starks
LB Jamari Lattimore
DE Mike Daniels

-- Matt Barrows

September 7, 2012
Injury report: 49ers-Packers

Here's the injury report for Sunday's game in Green Bay.

Packers
Out - RB James Starks (toe), LB Jamari Lattimore (ankle), CB Davon House (shoulder).

Probable - DT B.J. Raji (ankle), TE Tom Crabtree (shoulder), LB Robert Francois (hamstring), S Sean Richardson (hamstring), RB Alex Green (knee).

49ers
Questionable -- WR Ted Ginn Jr. (ankle), RB Brandon Jacobs (knee).

As you might recall from last year, Harbaugh will list a player as questionable -- which means there's a 50 percent chance a player will play -- even if he's missing a leg. Neither Ginn nor Jacobs practiced this week, and both are doubtful to play against Green Bay. Kyle Williams will handle punt returns.

Harbaugh was asked who'll replace Ginn on kickoffs. His answer explains why he always lists his injured players as questionable. "Well, if you don't know that (answer), I won't reveal that one either," he said with a laugh. "Put bamboo shoots under my nails and say. Yeah, that one may not be as easy to figure out. So, we'll let Green Bay figure that one out."

-- Matt Barrows

September 7, 2012
Harbaugh shuts down questions on Kyle Williams

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Jim Harbaugh will not be taking any more questions about Kyle Williams.

Williams is in the spotlight heading into Sunday's game because the team's primary punt returner, Ted Ginn, is unlikely to play with an ankle sprain suffered Aug. 26. Williams, of course, had two memorable miscues on punt returns while substituting for Ginn in the 49ers' last meaningful game.

Early in his Friday press conference, Harbaugh said, "We've always been extremely confident in Kyle as a returner, both as punt returner and a kickoff returner."

That was as far as he was willing to go on the subject. When a reporter revisited the topic toward the end of the session, Harbaugh shut him down. "We don't, we don't ... why'd you bring that up?" he asked. "Why would we be taking about that? When is enough enough?"

The reporter followed up by asking Harbaugh if he felt compelled to give Williams encouragement -- an "attaboy" -- going into the game. "I should ask you, why did you bring that up?" Harbaugh persisted while staring down the reporter. "Why do you continue to ask that question? What is the reasoning?"

September 6, 2012
Forecast: Kyle Williams will handle punts Sunday

The weather forecast for Green Bay on Sunday: 73 degrees, mostly sunny with a wind out of the north at 7 mph.

The mild conditions are good news for Kyle Williams, who looks like he'll be the 49ers' punt returner in the opener. For the second straight day, Ted Ginn (ankle) worked out on a side field with trainers while the 49ers began practice.

Joining Ginn was running back Brandon Jacobs (knee), whose once-pronounced limp is hardly noticeable but who also seems unlikely to play. If that's the case, rookie LaMichael James would be active for the game and would be Williams' backup on punt returns. Kendall Hunter is likely to handle kick returns.

Jacobs' absence also would mean that short-yardage duties likely would be handled by Anthony Dixon or Frank Gore.

Thursday injury report:

49ers
Did not participate in practice
WR Ted Ginn (ankle), RB Brandon Jacobs (knee)

Packers
Out (Definitely Will Not Play)
RB James Starks (toe)

Did Not Participate In Practice
LB Jamari Lattimore (ankle)

Limited Participation in Practice
TE Tom Crabtree (shoulder), LB Rob Francois (hamstring), CB Davon House (shoulder), S Sean Richardson (hamstring)

Full Participation in Practice
DT B.J. Raji (ankle)

-- Matt Barrows

September 6, 2012
Fastballs: 49ers defenders tap Kaepernick in preparing for Rodgers

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The 49ers defense is using a secret weapon this week to prepare for Aaron Rodgers' arm strength.

Rodgers threw only six interceptions last season, but as safety Donte Whitner noted today, he was plenty aggressive when it came to attacking defensive backs. Whitner said that those defensive backs often had opportunities to intercept Rodgers, but that they just weren't accustomed to the velocity of his passes and that would-be interceptions fell harmlessly incomplete.

To prepare this week, Whitner said the defensive backs have been spending extra time with the JUGGs machine and also with a real, live football cannon - backup quarterback Colin Kaepernick. The second-year quarterback had the strongest arm in the 2011 draft, and his passes come out so quickly that they're often difficult to catch.

"You catch one of his passes and your hands will be burning," Whitner said.

Kaepernick has learned to take some speed off of his passes, and his receivers are catching them more easily now than they did at the beginning of the offseason. But Whitner and his mates have been ordering up passes with extra mustard as they prepare for Rodgers.

"I've never caught a football as hard as Kaepernick throws," Whitner said. "He really throws a fastball."

September 5, 2012
Moss: Lambeau's a nice place to start a comeback

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Randy Moss began an impromptu session with reporters by saying he didn't want to talk about his history at Lambeau Field. But that's exactly where he ended the 4:15 interview.

"I think I played in Lambeau maybe 14, 15 times," he said. "I've played there a lot of times. It's in the teens, double digit. I've had success on that field, won and lost. I just don't like people bringing up the old stuff."

"I try to have fun with the fans, try to have fun. But at the same time, I want to go out and compete. So I think it's a good thing that my comeback -- or whatever you want to consider it - Lambeau's a nice place to start it."

For the record, Moss has caught 15 touchdowns against the Packers, eight of them at Lambeau Field. He's visited Lambeau eight times. Here's the Q&A with Moss as he was coming off the practice field:

RM: Y'all got two questions. What are they? I don't want to hear nothing about Lambeau Field. Make it fast.

Q: Is preparing for a game like riding a bike for you?
RM: No, not at all. You've got to prepare yourself, because if you're not prepared, how are you going to have success. I prepare myself every day, from minincamp, training camp to now. Today is the first day of Week One. I feel pretty good and I'm excited. It feels good to be back in the league. It feels good I made the team. I'm very excited. I look forward to a good game Sunday.

Q: Has the film study changed?
RM: As far as the knowledge I have for the game, it hasn't really changed. Now that I'm back in the game, it makes me a little bit more eager to get in there and study and really know what I see. I've been in the league long enough to know what type of coverages I see and what type of coverages are going to be thrown my way. I just try to study hard and make sure I'm on top of my game when called.

September 5, 2012
Rodgers calls Smith's game-manager label "condescending"

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Aaron Rodgers played a little defense for the opponent on Wednesday. Asked to comment on Alex Smith's label as a "game manager," the Packers quarterback said he felt that was a "condescending term" for a quarterback.

"I don't think he's a game manager," Rodgers said. "He's a guy that takes care of the football and makes a lot of plays. To throw that many times and only throw five interceptions, I don't think he gets the respect he deserves."

Smith attempted 445 passes last season and threw five interceptions. Rodgers, meanwhile, had 502 attempts and threw six interceptions. Rodgers also had 48 touchdowns - 45 of them passing, three on the ground -- compared to 18 for Smith.

Rodgers' support of Smith underscores the fraternity among NFL quarterbacks. Drew Brees also heaped praise on Smith this offseason, saying, among other things, "I have a lot of respect for Alex. I can appreciate the road he's travelled to get to where he is."

Smith and Rodgers have been friendly since they both went through the pre-draft process together in 2005. The two hung out in Smith's home town of San Diego during the offseason and they were two of several NFL quarterbacks at the American Century Celebrity Golf Championship at Lake Tahoe. (Rodgers finished with the better score).

September 5, 2012
Moss a question mark for reporters ... and for Packers

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Randy Moss will be wearing No. 84 when he steps onto the field in Green Bay. But he might as well be wearing a giant question mark.

How much he'll play, whether he can still get deep, whether he's the Randy Moss of old or just an old Randy Moss are major questions hovering around Sunday's game. And Jim Harbaugh certainly was not eager to answer any of them today.

Harbaugh, who welcomed a baby boy Tuesday at 1:27 p.m., began his press conference as Mr. Vivacious but turned into Mr. Vague on three separate questions about Moss. Asked whether Moss showed his previous form during the 49ers' offseason, Harbaugh said. "Can I give that summation? How accurate would I be? I, uh, I wasn't on the same team as Randy at any time before this year. It's been good, and I've been very pleased to have Randy on our team, and look forward to a great week of preparation with Randy and all of the guys. I think that's the most relevant thing."

Of course, it's in Harbaugh's best interest to reveal as little as possible about the Mysterious Moss because it creates all sort of questions for his upcoming opponents.

Carlos Rogers played against Moss in 2007 when he was with the Redskins and Moss was a Patriot. Rogers said that Moss was the focus of the Redskins' defensive meeting room that week, and he expects that the same thing is happening in Green Bay. "Don't let him get deep," Rogers said. "I'm pretty sure that's what Green Bay is saying right now, 'Don't let Randy Moss get deep.'"

September 5, 2012
Harbaugh adds one more to the 49ers roster

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Jim Harbaugh seemed a bit preoccupied yesterday. At around noon, he briskly walked into the 49ers locker room. "Are you taking off now?" linebacker Tavares Gooden asked him? "Huh?" I thought. "That has to be a joke."

It wasn't. Harbaugh made a lap around the locker room, shaking hands and slapping five with the two dozen or so players there before running - literally - out of the locker room. The team photo was taken without its head coach. Today we found out (were allowed to report) why.

As CSN anchor/longtime Harbaugh friend Dave Feldman reported, Sarah and Jim Harbaugh welcomed their third child, Jack Harbaugh, on Tuesday. The boy has all the makings of a linebacker or fullback or -- knowing Harbaugh -- both, weighing in at 8 pounds, 8 ounces, and measuring 21 inches long. No word yet on his 40 time or vertical.

Jack, of course, is the name of the boy's paternal grandfather, and his paternal grandmother's name is Jackie. Feldman also points out that Harbaugh's son was born on the fourth day of the ninth month.

That has to be a bad omen for the Packers.

-- Matt Barrows

September 4, 2012
Deciphering the 49ers depth chart

OFFENSE

WR: 15 Michael Crabtree ,10 Kyle Williams. 17 A.J. Jenkins
LT: 74 Joe Staley
LG: 77 Mike Iupati, 66 Joe Looney
C: 59 Jonathan Goodwin, 67 Daniel Kilgore
RG: 75 Alex Boone, 68 Leonard Davis
RT: 76 Anthony Davis
TE: 85 Vernon Davis, 46 Delanie Walker, 83 Demarcus Dobbs, 81 Garrett Celek
WR: 84 Randy Moss, 82 Mario Manningham, 19 Ted Ginn Jr.
FB: 49 Bruce Miller, 24 Anthony Dixon
RB: 21 Frank Gore, 32 Kendall Hunter, 45 Brandon Jacobs, 23 LaMichael James
QB: 11 Alex Smith, 7 Colin Kaepernick, 3 Scott Tolzien

DEFENSE

LDT: 91 Ray McDonald, 95 Ricky Jean Francois
NT: 90 Isaac Sopoaga, 92 Will Tukuafu, 93 Ian Williams
RDT: 94 Justin Smith, 83 Demarcus Dobbs
OLB: 55 Ahmad Brooks, 51 Clark Haggans
ILB: 53 NaVorro Bowman, 54 Larry Grant
ILB: 52 Patrick Willis, 56 Tavares Gooden
OLB: 99 Aldon Smith 51, Clark Haggans
LCB: 22 Carlos Rogers, 20 Perrish Cox, 26 Tramaine Brock
RCB: 25 Tarell Brown, 29 Chris Culliver
FS: 38 Dashon Goldson, 27 C.J. Spillman
SS: 31 Donte Whitner, 30 Trenton Robinson, 28 Darcel McBath

SPECIAL TEAMS

PR: 19 Ted Ginn Jr., 10 Kyle Williams, 23 LaMichael James
KOR: 19 Ted Ginn Jr., 32 Kendall Hunter, 23 LaMichael James
P: 4 Andy Lee
K: 2 David Akers
H: 4 Andy Lee
LS: 86 Brian Jennings

Some observations:

• Crabtree and Moss are listed as the starters. What will be interesting is how much the others - Manningham, Ginn and Williams - are worked into games. Manningham was back in the locker room after missing last week to attend to his grandfather's funeral.

• There are no backups listed behind starting tackles Staley and Anthony Davis. Boone, obviously, would step in in an emergency, but the depth chart shows clearly that the team's reserves are all guards.

• Perrish Cox is listed ahead of Tramaine Brock at cornerback. Look for Cox to see a substantial number of snaps against Green Bay.

• Demarcus Dobbs is listed as the No. 3 tight end ahead of rookie Garrett Celek while Trenton Robinson is listed ahead of Darcel McBath. If I had to guess - barring injuries - which 49ers will be inactive on game days, I'd say: Tolzien, Celek, Jenkins, Ian Williams, McBath, Looney and ... ?

-- Matt Barrows

September 4, 2012
Then there were two? 49ers no longer list multiple starting WRs

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Michael Crabtree was asked today how he benefits from having Randy Moss on the field at the same time. "I don't really know," Crabtree said. "We haven't even played a game yet. So I'd be crazy to tell you how it's changed."

Crabtree - and everyone else - are likely to finally find out the answer to that offseason question Sunday in Green Bay. Both he and Moss are listed as the starters for that game. What's more, the "ors" have been removed from the team's depth chart. Whereas in the preseason, the depth chart listed "Ted Ginn or Mario Manningham or Randy Moss" as the starter opposite Crabtree, now it's just Moss.

Crabtree spoke about playing in a "legendary" stadium like Lambeau Field, about visiting with college quarterback Graham Harrell and about the firepower the 49ers bring to Green Bay this year. "Like I said, the sky's the limit," he said. "We've got everything we need."

Still, he noted that the 49ers' offensive philosophy hasn't changed from 2011 and that the 49ers will be playing a decidedly different game than their Packers counterparts. "I just feel like we've got our own style," Crabtree said. "Those guys have a spread offense - that's all they do is throw the ball. They've got some run game. But that's their offense. We're really not like that. It's just focusing on being us and going out there and making plays."

September 4, 2012
Haralson tore a muscle in his arm

Parys Haralson suffered a torn left triceps Aug. 26 in Denver and had surgery last week to repair the tear, a league source said. The 49ers placed Haralson on injured reserve Monday, ending his season. Jim Harbaugh confirmed the surgery this morning on KNBR radio.

In reviewing the Denver game, Haralson appears to get hurt on an innocuous-looking running play in the second quarter. He is engaged with tight end Joe Dreesen, suddenly lets up, looks at his arm and runs off the field.

To replace Haralson, who is only one of three outside linebackers on the team, the 49ers signed 12-year veteran Clark Haggans. He is scheduled to have a hearing Wednesday with league officials that will determine whether he'll be suspended this season over a DUI conviction from 2011.

-- Matt Barrows

September 3, 2012
49ers place Haralson on IR; sign Haggans to 1-year deal

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The reason for the 49ers' pursuit of Clark Haggans became clear today with the news that outside linebacker Parys Haralson has been placed on injured reserve after suffering an injury to his left arm in an Aug. 26 game against Denver.

Haralson, who started all 16 games last season at right outside linebacker, was going to be part of a rotation this season with starters Ahmad Brooks and Aldon Smith. That means that even with the addition of Haggans, 35, who officially signed a one-year deal today, the 49ers will head into the season with only three outside linebackers and may not be finished bulking up the position.

Because Haralson was placed on injured reserve today - and not after 1 p.m. Tuesday - he is not eligible to return to the field later this season under the NFL's new injured reserve rule. Reading between the lines, Haralson's injury appears to be severe enough that he would not have been able to participate this season.

It's unclear when Haralson was hurt against the Broncos. But he left the game early in the second quarter after examining his left arm and did not return. The 49ers have not disclosed the exact injury.

September 2, 2012
49ers add Haggans, who will have a disciplinary hearing this week

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The 49ers today finalized a deal with veteran Clark Haggans and will add him to an outside linebacking crew that suffered a rash of injuries this offseason. Haggans becomes the fourth member of that group, although the status of top backup Parys Haralson - who apparently was injured a week ago in Denver - is not known. Asked Saturday if Haralson would be ready for the 49ers' Week 1 game in Green Bay, Jim Harbaugh said, "We'll see."

Every outside linebacker on the roster missed at least one exhibition game this year, and starter Aldon Smith still is recovering from a hip pointer suffered in the preseason opener. Both he and fellow starter Ahmad Brooks were on the field for the start of practice Saturday.

Haggans, meanwhile, could face a three-game suspension by the NFL this season after a DUI conviction in 2011 in Arizona. He also was convicted of DUI in Colorado in 2004.

A hearing on the matter will be held on Wednesday at which point Haggans' agent, Jeff Sperbeck, will try to have the suspension reduced. Haggans' most recent DUI occurred after Haggans, who was at a concert with his wife, received a frantic call from their babysitter who said that their daughter, five years old at the time, was having trouble breathing.

September 1, 2012
OLB-needy 49ers poised to acquire ex-Cardinal Haggans

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The 49ers plan to address their shortage at outside linebacker by signing former Cardinals and Steelers defender Clark Haggans, according to a league source. The 12-year veteran, who was released on Friday, will sign with the team Sunday pending a physical.

The 49ers have acknowledged they gambled last season by having only three outside linebackers on the active roster. They addressed those numbers by taking two outside linebackers in the April draft. However, both of them, Darius Fleming and Cam Johnson, were injured during the offseason. Fleming is on the PUP list with an ACL tear; Johnson is on the practice squad.

Haggans, 35, started 16 games at left outside linebacker for the Cardinals last season, finishing with 30 tackles and three sacks. This year, O'Brien Schofield took over that role, and Haggans was one of 18 Cardinals released as the team got down to the 53-player limit.

Both of the 49ers starters at the position, Ahmad Brooks and Aldon Smith, were at practice Saturday. The top - and only -- backup, Parys Haralson, missed the session with an undisclosed injury. Asked today if Haralson would be ready for the 49ers' Week 1 game in Green Bay, Jim Harbaugh said, "We'll see."

The 49ers would have to release a player from the 53-man roster in order to make room for Haggans.

Haggans may face league discipline stemming from a DUI arrest in Arizona in 2011. According to a statement from Haggans' agent, Jeff Sperbeck, Haggans was rushing home from a concert to attend to his five-year-old daughter, who was having trouble breathing when he was stopped by police. Haggans pled guilty to "extreme DUI" and served jail time in June.

-- Matt Barrows

September 1, 2012
Captain Smith: 49ers elect team captains

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According to the official 49ers Constitution, the team's captaincy comes with a two-year term. So when players today voted for a pair of Smiths - Justin and Alex - as team captains, those two joined the team captains from last season, Frank Gore and Patrick Willis.

So, does that mean Willis and Gore can't be captains next year? "It's like the President of the United State," Jim Harbaugh said. "They'd have to be reelected."

The election of Alex Smith is significant in that this is the first time teammates have voted for him for that role. Yes, he was a team captain in 2010. But Mike Singletary assigned the captains that year. It was not a democratic election.

"I didn't name him a captain because he was the quarterback," said Singletary at the time. "I named him a captain because he exemplified this offseason the things that I want our captains to do." Later that year, of course, Singletary was seen shouting at Smith on the sideline during a nationally televised game against the Eagles and nearly pulled Smith from the contest.

***********************************
Harbaugh would not go into why Scott Tolzien beat out Josh Johnson for the No. 3 quarterback job, only that it was not an easy decision. "There was a lot of thought that went into it," Harbaugh said. "I think about the quarterback position in some form or fashion every day. I'm not going to get into comparing the two of them. It seems like somebody always gets diminished when you do that."

September 1, 2012
49ers short two WRs as Green Bay week begins

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The 49ers began practicing for Week 1 opponent Green Bay today without two of their wide receivers. Ted Ginn still is recovering from an ankle injury suffered Sunday in Denver while Mario Manningham is mourning the death of his grandfather in Ohio. The funeral service was held Thursday.

Also missing were Parys Haralson and Brandon Jacobs (knee). Haralson's injury is unknown, and his absence meant that the only two healthy outside linebackers on the 53-man roster are Ahmad Brooks and Aldon Smith. According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, the 49ers put a waiver claim for former Dolphins outside linebacker Jamaal Westerman, but he was awarded to Cardinals instead. The 49ers also have inquired about free agent Chavis Williams.

One bit of good news was that Demarcus Dobbs (leg bruise) was back at practice, albeit in a black "no-contact" jersey. If the 49ers were short on outside linebackers, Dobbs at least could fill in as a third-down pass rusher.

Along with Aldon Smith, linebacker NaVorro Bowman also was back at practice.

-- Matt Barrows

September 1, 2012
Palmer, Thomas, Wiggins among those on 49ers practice squad

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The 49ers began building their eight-man practice squad this morning. Receiver Nathan Palmer and safety Michael Thomas were among the players who signed. So was offensive tackle Kenny Wiggins, who starred at Elk Grove High before playing at Fresno State.

The 49ers hoped to sign offensive lineman Mike Person to the practice squad. Instead, Person was claimed off of waivers by the Colts, his agent said. Person, a seventh-round pick in 2011, had been the subject of trade talks last season, but the Colts were not one of the teams that showed interest at that point.

In addition, tight end Konrad Reuland was claimed off of waivers and placed on the Jets' 53-man squad, his agent said. Receiver Chris Owusu was signed to the Chargers practice squad. Former 49ers center Chase Beeler signed with the Eagles practice squad.

With only eight offensive linemen on the 53-man roster, the 49ers added two to their practice squad -- Al Netter, who played at Northwestern, and Wiggins. Both can play tackle. The team also signed outside linebacker Cam Johnson, a seventh-round pick who battled a knee injury this offseason, to the practice squad. The 49ers have only three outside linebackers on the active roster.

Including practice squadders Tony Jerod-Eddie and Matthew Masifilo, the 49ers have nine defensive linemen.

Practice squad:
DL Tony Jerod-Eddie
OLB Cam Johnson
DL Matt Masifilo
OL Al Netter
WR Nathan Palmer
S Michael Thomas
OT Kenny Wiggins
LB Michael Wilhoite

-- Matt Barrows

September 1, 2012
Question: Does it matter who the third QB is?

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@BigCandy83
thank god the season is here so I don't have to read about Tolzien anymore. Does it really matter who the third QB is?

Got a chuckle out of this Twitter message this morning. Big Candy is right (I mean, when is he ever not?) There's been an inordinate amount of cyber ink spilled on the 49ers' No. 3 quarterback race this year. But that's only because the 49ers were so loaded up and down the roster that there were no truly compelling roster battles this summer.

The only alternatives to write about were the battle for third tight end, which was won by Garrett Celek, and the competition to be the backup safety. Two weeks ago, defensive coordinator Vic Fangio lamented that, after starters Dashon Goldson and Donte Whitner, no one had really stepped forward.

It appears that remains the case. The 49ers plan to keep three backup safeties - C.J. Spillman, Darcel McBath and Trenton Robinson - on the active roster, and they have designs to hold onto Michael Thomas via the practice squad. That suggests lingering uncertainty from Fangio, et al.

One interesting scenario involves Reggie Smith, who was in the starting unit opposite Whitner before the 49ers re-signed Goldson last summer. Smith signed a free-agent deal with Carolina this year, but the Panthers released him Friday after trading for another 49er safety, Colin Jones.



MATTHEW 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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