49ers Blog and Q&A

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

February 28, 2013
Ear buds: Kaepernick calls Smith "great friend, great mentor"

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The last time Alex Smith was in a starter-backup controversy, he ended up being a groomsman in the wedding party of his competitor, Shaun Hill (and vice versa). So it's probably not surprising that Smith and Colin Kaepernick got along well even after Kaepernick took over the 49ers' starting quarterback gig in November.

"He's been a great friend, a great mentor," Kaepernick said on NFL Network today. "So anywhere he goes -- or if he's still with us -- he's going to be successful."

Kaepernick threw in the "if he's still with us" clause because the trade that sends Smith to Kansas City can't be made until 1 p.m. March 12 at the earliest. The 49ers have not even acknowledged an agreed-to-terms deal, although Smith's own mother spoke to the Kansas City Star about the deal and Kaepernick appeared on the NFL's own television network and was asked about the trade.

Kaepernick was busy today. He was in Chicago along with other athletes and Michelle Obama to promote the First Lady's initiative for more exercise at school. He then appeared on several media outlets to ostensibly to discuss the initiative but also was asked about the pending trade. On NFLN, he was asked what he'll miss about Smith, who became Kaepernick's backup on Nov. 25.

"I think the biggest thing with Alex is he was always in my ear, making sure I was seeing the defense," he said. "Did I see safeties do this? Did I see the rotation? Did I see things like that? Just making sure I have mental clarity when I step on the field."

-- Matt Barrows

February 28, 2013
Pick-by-pick look at the 49ers' draft haul

Here are the 49ers expected selections in the upcoming draft with a couple of caveats. Compensatory picks usually are announced at the end of next month. The 49ers think they'll get three. Also, neither the Chiefs nor the 49ers have divulged any details of the pending trade, which can't be finalized until March 12. There could be some minutia included in the language that alters the 49ers' total picks.

One of the items that still hasn't been divulged is how the Chiefs and 49ers settled on the current compensation, which is higher than most were expecting. It seems as if other teams might have driven up the price. Which other teams? The Cardinals likely were one, and this report says that the Raiders also entered the discussion and ended up raising the price tag for their division rivals.

49ers 2013 picks
1. First round, 31st overall: own pick
2. Second round, 34th overall: from KC, Alex Smith trade
3. Second round, 61st overall: own pick
4. Third round, 74th overall: from CAR from trade in 2012 draft
5. Third round, 94th overall: own pick
6. Third/fourth round: likely compensatory selection for Joshua Morgan.
7. Fourth round: own pick
8. Fifth round: from IND from trade in 2012 draft
9. Fifth round: own pick
10. Sixth round: from MIA in trade during 2012 draft
11. Sixth round: own pick
12. Seventh round: from CIN for 2011 Taylor Mays trade
13. Seventh round: own pick
14. Seventh round: likely compensatory selection
15. Seventh round: likely compensatory selection

-- Matt Barrows

February 27, 2013
With Smith out the door, who's behind Kaepernick?

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For the last month, the 49ers have been saying they have one of the best quarterback situations in the NFL. That situation will get significantly thinner on March 12 when they officially trade No. 2 quarterback Alex Smith to Kansas City.

And that begs the question: Who is the 49ers' backup quarterback going to be?

The answer for the short term is Scott Tolzien, who spent the 2012 season as the No. 3 quarterback. The 49ers for two years have raved about Tolzien's smarts and work ethic, and he certainly will be thrown into the mix for 2013.

Tolzien was active for two games last season - once when punter Andy Lee was dealing with a broken thumb and there were questions whether he could hold on field goals and extra points - and he has yet to throw a pass in a regular-season game. The 49ers' offense certainly would not be as multidimensional under Tolzien as it is with starter Colin Kaepernick. Tolzien is a pocket passer who ran for minus-30 yards his final year at Wisconsin.

Before the season, Tolzien beat out Josh Johnson for the No. 3 position, and it's possible that Johnson could be back in the fold as well. He's now on the Browns roster but is poised to become a free agent on March 12.

It's also possible that the 49ers use one of their 15 draft picks on a quarterback.

After Smith had two of the best seasons of his career and after Kaepernick led the 49ers to the Super Bowl, San Francisco's decision makers have to be very confident in their ability not only to identify quality passers but to develop them. This is generally considered a weak draft for quarterbacks, especially at the top of the draft. However, there is talent, and some passers, like Florida State's E.J. Manuel, seem to have the attributes to make that happen.

- Matt Barrows

February 27, 2013
Reports: Smith off to KC; 49ers to haul in draft picks

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With nearly two weeks to go before it can be official, reports have begun to pour in that an Alex Smith-to-Kansas City trade is complete and that the 49ers will get multiple draft picks in return for the quarterback.

The speculation for the last month has been that the Chiefs would be a strong contender for Smith, and FOX Sports' Jay Glazer reported Wednesday that is where Smith will end up. Meanwhile, Tim Kawakami of The Mercury News reported that the expected compensation for Smith is significant: The 49ers will get Kansas City's second-round pick this year (34th overall) and a conditional pick in 2014. That pick currently is a third-round pick that could improve to a second if the Chiefs' win total in 2013 reached a certain threshold.

That's far more than what most observers were expecting for Smith, who began the 2012 season as the 49ers starting quarterback but lost his job to Colin Kaepernick after suffering a concussion Nov. 11. Smith reportedly drew interest from Chiefs coach Andy Reid last year when he was a free agent and Reid was the coach of the Eagles.

February 27, 2013
Who stays? Where things stand on key 49ers

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There are nearly two weeks until the new league year begins and the free-agent market opens. That means there still is plenty of time for teams to cut deals and to cut players in advance of the March 12 commencement date. Here's where the 49ers stand with some of their players:

K David Akers. Akers stands to earn $3 million in base salary, and the 49ers are likely to part ways with the kicker who began the season tying an NFL record for longest field but who went on to have the worst season of his career. Along with trading Alex Smith and allowing Dashon Goldson the license to sign elsewhere, Akers is part of a cost-cutting effort that will enable the 49ers to sign other players. (Keep reading for those players).

CB Tramaine Brock. Look for the backup cornerback to sign the lowest free-agent tender and to hit the open market as an unrestricted free agent in 2014.

S Dashon Goldson. The 49ers do not plan to use the franchise tag, according to two league sources, which means Goldson, a Pro Bowl and All-Pro safety, will get to test his worth on the open market. You'll recall that "Good Cop" Jim Harbaugh said that Goldson "deserved" a long-term contract. At the combine, "Bad Cop" Trent Baalke said, "You can't pay everybody, and you certainly can't pay everybody if you're overpaying others."

Was he talking about Goldson? That's a very good guess. It could be that the 49ers are taking the same tack with the safety they did before the 2011 season -- allowing him to get to the free-agent market and betting he doesn't get the kind of offers he is seeking. Goldson played very well this past season. Then again, the draft is deep at safety.

February 26, 2013
Report: Cardinals might jump into Alex Smith trade pool

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The Arizona Cardinals might be interested in entering the trade market for 49ers quarterback Alex Smith, writes Kent Somers of The Arizona Republic.

Citing an NFL source, Somers writes that the team's level of interest in Smith, who played his last full game against Arizona, is unknown but that the Cardinals believe Smith's early-career struggles were the result of the carousel of offensive coaches that went through San Francisco since 2005. Smith was 18-19 and threw three touchdowns against the Cardinals in November, one week before he suffered a concussion and was subsequently benched for the rest of the season.

The scuttlebutt from the scouting combine in Indianapolis has been that the 49ers are so confident that they will be able to trade Smith that they've been telling others that they expect to have 15 picks in the upcoming draft. They currently have 11; three more are expected next month as compensatory picks; the 15th ostensibly would come from moving Smith.

The conventional thinking has been that the Chiefs -- owners of the No. 1 pick in the draft -- are the most likely team to deal for Smith. Having the Cardinals enter the discussion would be interesting. The 49ers conceivably would have multiple teams bidding and thus would get better compensation. On the other hand, they'd also have to consider dealing Smith inside the division.

February 25, 2013
Sources: 49ers still shopping Smith

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The 49ers are talking to teams about a trade for Alex Smith but currently are not locked into a deal, league sources said Sunday and Monday. The 49ers can discuss trading Smith, who had a 104.1 passer rating before suffering a season-altering concussion Nov. 11, but no trade can be finalized until the league year begins March 12.

For the last month, reports have consistently linked Smith to the Chiefs, who have the No. 1 overall pick in the draft and had one of the worst quarterback situations in the league last season. The 49ers undoubtedly have talked about moving Smith to the Chiefs -- and the Chiefs currently may be the top suitor -- but San Francisco will continue to entertain offers until March 12 and perhaps beyond. If the 49ers don't trade or release Smith by April 1, they will owe him $8.5 million.

On Friday, Jim Harbaugh said the top two options were holding onto Smith or trading him. He said it's "unlikely" the 49ers would release the quarterback and insisted the 49ers have plenty of salary-cap space to fit Smith and the other pending free agents, such as safety Dashon Goldson, they are trying to re-sign.

Smith wants to start in 2013, an unlikely scenario as long as he is with the 49ers, who committed to Colin Kaepernick in late November. The 49ers are sensitive to accommodating Smith, who is largely respected and admired in the 49ers locker room, but their top priority is getting a good deal in return for the quarterback they drafted No. 1 overall in 2005.

-- Matt Barrows

February 24, 2013
Former Chiefs GM thinks a second- or third-round pick "possible" for Alex Smith

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Scott Pioli said on the NFL Network tonight that he thought it was "possible" the 49ers could get a second- or third-round draft pick in exchange for Alex Smith. Pioli used the same rationale everyone else has in recent weeks -- Smith's recent success, other recent quarterback trades and the fact that the draft is thin on quarterbacks this year.

What makes Pioli's opinion noteworthy? He was an NFL general manager as recently as a month ago and he worked for the Chiefs, the team most cited in relation to Smith and a possible trade. Former Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum, who was seated next to Pioli, concurred that a Smith trade was plausible. The Jets also could use an upgrade at the position.

Meanwhile, CBS Sports' Jason LaCanfora tweeted today that the 49ers have told other teams that a deal for Smith already is in hand. There were no other details. That's a bit hard to believe given that the 49ers can't formally move Smith until March 12, which is 16 days away.

The 49ers are not likely to lock themselves into a deal with so much time. In fact, they don't have to pay Smith his full salary until April 1, and Pioli speculated that they even could wait until training camp when other teams grow more desperate.

One scenario in which a deal for Smith makes sense on this, Feb. 24, is if Smith has been given a say in where he ends up and the 49ers' trade partner -- let's say, Kansas City -- is to his liking. General manager Trent Baalke said he had dinner with Smith and his wife, Elizabeth, after the Super Bowl. What do you think they talked about? Oscar favorites?

Back to Pioli. He, of course, is a former general manager, and wouldn't be plugged into the Chiefs' thinking. Then again, he of all people knows how bad Kansas City's quarterback situation is right now and is familiar with the caliber of passers available in the draft.

-- Matt Barrows

February 23, 2013
Future 49er? Cal WR has session with SF receiver's coach

INDIANAPOLIS -- The 49ers took an earlier look at Cal receiver Keenan Allen, who is widely considered one of the two best wideouts in the draft but who could slide, because of an injury, at least toward the 49ers at the bottom of the first round.

Throughout the draft process, the 49ers will meet with nearly every player on their draft board, and Allen will be examined by every receiver-needy team in the league. (St. Louis at picks 16 and 22, and Minnesota at pick 23 are possibilities). The 49ers' early interest is worth noting, however, because of their question marks at wide receiver.

Allen could slip a little due to a knee injury he suffered last season and then aggravated during his recent training. He will not run the 40-yard dash on Sunday with the rest of the receivers but will do so during Cal's pro day on March 14. He said he is aiming to run a 4.4-second 40.

Allen said his interview was with receivers coach John Morton, who had him chart plays on a white board. Here are some experts from Allen's media session:

February 23, 2013
49ers' Netter arrested for DUI in San Jose

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Reserve offensive lineman Al Netter was arrested in San Jose early Wednesday morning and charged with driving under the influence, the fourth member of the 49ers to be charged with DUI in the last 2 1/2 years.

Netter lives in Rohnert Park, and news of his arrest first was reported by the Santa Rosa Press Democrat. The 49ers, through a spokesman, issued this statement: "The 49ers are aware of the recent matter involving Al Netter. We take these issues very seriously, but will reserve comment at this time as this is an ongoing legal matter. The organization will continue to gather the facts and monitor the developments closely."

Netter was stopped at 3 a.m. Wednesday at the intersection of Montague Expressway and First Street after an officer witnessed slight weaving and a mechanical issue with his car, according to the California Highway Patrol. Netter, 23, did not have any prior arrests and was released later Wednesday, the CHP said.

Netter went undrafted out of Northwestern last year and spent the season on the 49ers practice. He was one of several practice-squad players who turned down offers to join the 53-man rosters of other teams to remain with San Francisco. Netter re-signed with the 49ers earlier this year.

Defensive end Ray McDonald was cited for DUI in 2010. Two more defenders, defensive end Demarcus Dobbs and outside linebacker Aldon Smith, were arrested for DUI last year.

-- Matt Barrows

February 22, 2013
Combine notes: Harbaugh says he'll respect "the box"

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INDIANAPOLIS -- Jim Harbaugh said Friday he has no problem coaching inside the box. Beginning with the 2013 season, the NFL will emphasize a seldom-enforced rule -- making sure coaches don't stray onto the field to argue play calls.

Guilty coaches first will get a warning, then a penalty and even could draw fines, according to a report by CBS Sports.

Harbaugh quickly has built a reputation as one of the most animated head coaches, and he escaped the coaching box -- a prescribed space on the sideline -- more than once in the playoffs. He shrugged at the renewed emphasis. "That's the way it's been," he said of the rules. " ... If they say, 'Don't step out on the field,' you don't step out on the field."

Harbaugh, however, said there might be an issue when teams are running plays close to the end zone and officials are out of a coach's sight lines and out of earshot. That was the case at the end of the Super Bowl when both he and his brother, John, were stationed outside of the traditional box.

February 22, 2013
Harbaugh on Alex Smith: "He wants to play. And you can totally understand it."

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INDIANAPOLIS -- Jim Harbaugh on Friday had a message for the gaggle of media surrounding him at the scouting combine and for the 31 other teams tuning in from afar.

"We love our quarterbacks," the 49ers head coach said. In fact, Harbaugh said he loved the group so much, he saw no reason why the 49ers couldn't keep the gang together in 2013. Translation: If you're a quarterback-needy team that's eying Alex Smith, you're going to have to make a trade offer.

Trading Smith long has been discussed as a possibility, but no 49ers official had used the word until Harbaugh did so Friday. He said the most likely scenarios were that 49ers would trade Smith, who is due $8.5 million on April 1, or keep him as an expensive backup behind Colin Kaepernick.

The only action they are "unlikely" to take is what Smith and his representatives want most -- release him so that he can hit the open market when free agency begins March 12. That's also the first point the 49ers can trade Smith.

"Alex wants to be a starter," Harbaugh said. "He's at the height of his career. Is there a possibility there'd be a trade? Yes. Those are the two things that are the most likely as possibilities."

Smith is in a unique position.

February 22, 2013
Future 49er? West Virginia's Austin wants to prove he's a little guy worthy of a big pick

INDIANAPOLIS -- Tavon Austin's mission in Indianapolis: convincing NFL evaluators he's a big-time player wrapped in a tiny body. The West Virginia wide receiver today measured in at 5-8, 174 pounds, making him one of the smallest players at the scouting combine.

He's also one of the most explosive, which is why some see the 49ers -- who at this point do not have a clear-cut No. 2 wide receiver -- taking Austin with the 31st overall pick. Austin had more than 1,200 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns at West Virginia in 2012, was the team's kick and punt returner and also played running back at times.

The 49ers got good production from another diminutive player, LaMichael James, on kick returns in the second half of the season. Their two punt returners, however, are question marks in 2013. Ted Ginn will be an unrestricted free agent while Kyle Williams is coming off an ACL injury.

Teams will be wary of using a high draft pick on a sub 180-pound player, but Austin noted he's played running back most of his life and knows how to take a hit. He said he hasn't been injured in eight years.

Austin said he hoped to prove his toughness by cranking out at least 15 repetitions of 225 pounds in the bench press -- excellent for someone his size -- and show his speed by running a sub 4.4-second 40-yard dash on Sunday. He said his best mark in that drill has been 4.29 seconds.

"I'm a little guy, but I play big," he said before pausing. "I'd like to be two inches taller but I've got to use what I've got."

Austin also didn't shy away from some big comparisons, including Percy Harvin and Wes Welker. Austin's coach at West Virginia, Dana Holgorsen, coached Welker at Texas Tech, and Austin said he was very familiar with the Patriots wideout. "I feel like I'm a little quicker and faster than Wes," he said. "I feel like if he can do it, I know I can do it, too."

-- Matt Barrows

February 21, 2013
Combine Day 1: What lies ahead for 49ers' free agents?

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Here are some notes, observations from Day 1 at the scouting combine. The players available for interviews today were offensive linemen, tight ends, kickers and punters.

Of that group, kicker and tight end stand out as far as possible 49ers draft targets, especially if Delanie Walker decides to test the free-agent market. Walker never would be anything more than a No. 2 tight end in San Francisco but could be seen as a No. 1 by other teams. Meanwhile, this is a good year for tight ends, with two Stanford products, Zack Ertz and Levin Toilolo available. Ertz generally is considered a better prospect than another Stanford product, Coby Fleener, who was taken No. 34 overall by Indianapolis last year.

* GM Trent Baalke was non-committal about every topic Thursday (he declined to stay whether the sky was blue, went off the record when asked if the ocean is deep) including using the franchise tag. Jim Harbaugh said earlier this month that safety Dashon Goldson deserved a long-term deal. Baalke, meanwhile, didn't rule out using the franchise tag.

"Whether we use the tag or not, I really don't know at this point," he said. Later, he said, "You can't pay everybody, and you certainly can't pay everybody if you're overpaying others." The 49ers will meet this week with the representatives of every pending free agent, including Goldson's agent, Ben Dogra.

* Will the 49ers re-sign Randy Moss? The 49ers and Moss' agent also will talk this week in Indianapolis. At the Super Bowl, Moss said he wasn't happy with how he was utilized -- 28 catches in the regular season -- this year. Then again, what other team needs Moss like the 49ers? They have no clear-cut starter opposite Michael Crabtree, and Baalke followed Jim Harbaugh's lead by heaping praise on the veteran wideout.

February 21, 2013
Baalke transcript: GM talks Smith, Moss, Jenkins and the challenge of staying on top

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Trent Baalke formally addressed the media twice a year* -- once during the draft and once at the scouting combine. Here was Baalke's annual 15 minutes in Indianapolis. Special thanks to Matt Barrows for the transcription,

On whether Colin Kaepernick's success means there will be more mobile QBs in the league.
TB: I think teams are paying more attention to it obviously, but I have no idea. I'm not going to try to guess what 31 other teams are doing. But he certainly puts a little bit more pressure on the defense.

On whether the read-option will stick around longer than the "Wildcat"
TB: I think that certainly, once again, it stresses the defense. The more that person can do, the more stress it puts on. Peyton Manning puts a lot of stress on defenses, too. So you've got to meet the skill sets of your quarterback. As long as you do that, I think you've got a chance.

Did Colin seem franchise-caliber when you were scouting him in 2011?
TB: Well, it's a lot easier to sit up here after a young man's had success and say, yes, you pictured that. But there's a lot of unknowns when you draft anybody. And you look at skills sets, you look at the kid as an individual, you look at the intangibles that they bring to the table and you try to see if they fit. If they fit what you're looking for in that particular player, in that particular position. And he's a young man who brought an awful lot to the table as you know. He came from an offense that's not a, quote, pro-style offense. And just a guy who our coaching staff really believed in, that we believed in from a personnel standpoint and it was just letting him develop and giving him an opportunity. But coach Harbaugh has done an outstanding job with him as has (quarterback's coach) Geep Chryst and (offensive coordinator) Greg Roman and he's still learning, still developing.

What do you want to see from receiver A.J. Jenkins?

February 21, 2013
Baalke on Jenkins: 'It's taken a while to grasp the pro system'

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****UPDATE**** A.J. Jenkins' agent, Jon Perzely, said Jenkins will join Colin Kaepernick and other 49ers players at CES Performance in Atlanta on Sunday.

INDIANAPOLIS -- Trent Baalke said the 49ers always are looking to draft self motivated players and he insisted that receiver A.J. Jenkins fits that category.

"We're very confident in his ability as we were when we drafted him," the 49ers general manager said Thursday to local reporters. "And now it's time for him to go back to work, and this offseason's going to be a big offseason. These guys - we've always said - their biggest growth is between Year 1 and Year 2. So we're expecting that to happen this year, and certainly in AJ's case."

The 49ers drafted Jenkins 30th overall last year knowing the then-rookie would have trouble getting on the field with veterans Michael Crabtree, Randy Moss, Mario Manningham, Kyle Williams and Ted Ginn on the roster. But even after two of those players. Manningham and Williams, went down with injuries, Jenkins struggled to see playing time and finished the 2012 season without a catch.

On draft day, Baalke said the lanky wideout - listed at 192 pounds - needed to get stronger in the weight room. On Thursday, however, Baalke indicated Jenkins' biggest problem this past season was picking up the 49ers' offense.

February 21, 2013
Dinner for three: Baalke met with Alex Smith to discuss options

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INDIANAPOLIS -- All options remain on the table regarding Alex Smith and the 49ers, general manager Trent Baalke said from the scouting combine today.

Baalke said he had a dinner with Smith and his wife, Elizabeth, in the Bay Area after the Super Bowl during which both parties talked about their priorities this offseason. Baalke, of course, declined to get into specifics about the conversation, but he said it was a priority for the organization to handle the situation as delicately as possible.

"I had a great conversation with him," Baalke said. "He expressed his feelings, and I expressed our feelings. And that's as far as I'm going to take it."

The 49ers are expected to try to trade Smith, who started the first nine games of the season, when the new league year begins March 12. The 49ers also could release Smith - which is Smith's preference - at any point. The 49ers will owe Smith the entirety of his $8.5 million salary on April 1, and they will have to make a decision by then.

Baalke refused to be pinned down on any one outcome. "Are we going to trade him for sure?" he said. "No, that hasn't been decided."

Is it a priority that Smith go somewhere outside the division? "No, that was not discussed," Baalke said. "Once again, the conversation that we had was a private conversation. We went out, had a nice dinner, had a great conversation, and we're going to leave it at that."

***************************
As for another Smith ... Baalke said Justin Smith had successful surgery to repair his torn triceps at Stanford Hospital. "It went as expected," he said. "It went really well. It should be a short rehab for him, and he should be back to normal. "

Baalke said Smith would be on hand for the start of training camp in late July.

- Matt Barrows

February 18, 2013
Game of tag begins today -- which 49ers could get franchised?

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Teams can start using the franchise tag today, and the 49ers seem to have two candidates for the designation. The first is safety Dashon Goldson, who was one of 21 players around the league to get the tag a year ago. Twelve of those players later received multi-year deals. Goldson did not.

According to Yahoo Sports' Brian McIntyre - he lists the tag amounts here - safety is one of the more affordable positions, with a $6.8 million "non-exclusive" franchise tag. Because Goldson was tagged last year, however, his amount is 120 percent of the 2012 tag number for safeties or $7.45 million.

Goldson has said he'd rather get a long-term deal elsewhere than play under the franchise tag again. Jim Harbaugh, meanwhile, said the team's starting free safety deserved a multi-year contract. Said Harbaugh: "He's somebody that I think you reward. Plays every game, can find the ball. You know that he's out there. The opposing offense knows that he's out there. ... He just does everything you want a safety to do. And you reward those types of people."

The two sides, however, have been negotiating a long-term contract for two years and have not been close on a deal.

At $5.97 million, another relatively cheap franchise tag belongs to tight ends. Only punters and kickers - $2.92 million - have a cheaper amount. Would the 49ers use the tag on a No. 2 tight end in Delanie Walker? Walker is an integral part of their offense, is one of the best blocking tight ends in the league and played very well in the Super Bowl. He'll always be second fiddle to Vernon Davis in San Francisco but could be viewed as a No. 1 on the free-agent market.

The 49ers have until March 4 to apply the tag, and negotiations involving soon-to-be free agents like Goldson, Walker, Randy Moss, Isaac Sopoaga and Ricky Jean Francois will take on a bit more urgency as teams and agents meet in Indianapolis this week.

As for Jean Francois, he sent out this text late last night: "Man.. Just looking back over the 4 years here in The #BayArea it has been fun. Hope it can be for my career. Hint Hint Hint... Lol ✈ "

-- Matt Barrows

February 17, 2013
Five myths about the 49ers, Alex Smith and the future

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Gentlemen, start your fibbing.

There are only two sentences you need to keep in mind as the Alex Smith Affair cranks up over the next four weeks: 1.) The 49ers want to trade Smith. 2.) Smith would rather be released and become a free agent. The rest is fluff designed to influence one of those outcomes.

To wit:

1.) The 49ers would be perfectly happy and perfectly capable of having both Colin Kaepernick and Smith on the roster this year.
That's been the party line for the last month or so. However, as The Merc's Tim Kawakami pointed out this weekend, the risk of locker-room turmoil outweighs the insurance of having two starter-quality quarterbacks on the roster. Smith played nice when he lost his job this past season, but it's difficult to see even Smith, the ultimate good soldier, biting his tongue under this scenario. It's also hard to see Smith allies like Joe Staley, Frank Gore and Vernon Davis not speaking out in favor of their buddy. Teams usually aren't willing to trade for a player who will be released anyway, which is why the 49ers must create the illusion that they will keep Smith. (See: any trade negotiation ever).

2.) There's a weak trade market for Smith.
This ultimately may be how this situation concludes, but it's far too early to report this now. There can be no trades until the start of the new league year on March 12. As of now, the consensus seems to be there are no sure-fire, top-flight quarterbacks in the draft. If that is reinforced at the combine, which begins this week, it will increase trade possibilities. The Chiefs have the first pick in the draft. In today's Kansas City Star, general manager Mike Dorsey said there's no consensus on whether there are any first-round quarterbacks much less No. 1 overall quarterbacks. The Chiefs could trade for the Eagles Nick Foles. Like the 49ers with Smith, the Eagles are saying they'd prefer to hold onto Foles to drive up his trade value.

February 16, 2013
Opportunity knocks: Wideouts Lockette, Hall working with Kaepernick in Atlanta

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The two smartest 49ers? They might just be receivers Ricardo Lockette and Chad Hall, who have decided to spend their offseason alongside Colin Kaepernick, thereby guaranteeing themselves the most rigorous - and perhaps rewarding - few months of their lives.

Kaepernick, you see, is a bit of a train-a-holic.

The 49ers quarterback is experiencing meteoric (too soon?) popularity right now. He could have gone to the Grammy's and has an invitation to the Oscars. Jay Leno wants him on the set. Multiple authors are pitching book deals.

Partly to escape that onslaught of attention, Kaepernick instead has gone to Atlanta and the Competitive Edge Sports training facility. That's where he prepared for the 2011 draft (Connection: His Bay Area throwing coach, Roger Theder, used to work with quarterbacks there) and he currently spends his days training with NFL hopefuls.

February 15, 2013
Block & Tackle: Staley goes bass fishing on Outdoor Channel

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Fishing is known as a quiet and tranquil pursuit. This week's episode of Gridiron Outdoors with Mike Pawlawski promises to be a bit more talkative and competitive and funny. There might even be some singing.

That's because the guest is Joe Staley, one of the more gregarious players in the 49ers locker room. Staley said his fishing background basically amounted to digging up worms in his backyard as a boy and tossing them into a pond in his native Michigan.

But he quickly got the hang of largemouth bass fishing at Clear Lake in Kelseyville, Ca. and quickly got into a makeshift tournament with the host, Pawlawski, a former quarterback at Cal. Staley says he's seen the episode, which premieres Saturday at 4 p.m. on Outdoor Channel.

"It's a fun show," he said. "It puts me in an element that I'm not comfortable with and it gets a bit competitive."

Staley wouldn't reveal who won the competition, but still shots from the show indicate he didn't come away empty handed. (His guide looks amused, too).

One item that didn't make the final cut: The show was shot last July before training camp. Staley said he got confused, arrived a day too early and had to drive 2 1/2 hours back to San Francisco before returning again the next day.

False start, No. 74.

-- Matt Barrows

February 15, 2013
Who's No. 2? 49ers must find a pair for Crabtree

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Michael Crabtree needs a buddy.

The 49ers wideout finally was healthy in 2012 and finally emerged as a No. 1 receiver. What the 49ers need now is a true No. 2 so that defenses - indeed, everyone in the stadium - doesn't know where Colin Kaepernick is throwing in critical moments. (See: Super Bowl, final drive). Free agent Randy Moss was decent in that role late in the year because teams respected his speed and the 49ers used it to manipulate defenses. But he was not very productive, and three of Kaepernick's five interceptions were on passes to Moss. (The others were passes to Kyle Williams (Nov. 25) and Vernon Davis (Jan. 12)).

Would the 49ers tap a wide receiver in the first round in successive drafts? If so, these are the players they would consider. Thanks to CBS Sports' Rob Rang for helping to compile the list. He has an extensive database on all the receivers here.

Keenan Allen*
Cal, 6-3, 210
Allen won't be around when the 49ers are on the board, right? Two things at least could push the physical Cal receiver in their direction. One, he is coming off a knee injury, and teams are eager to see how Allen checks out medically in Indianapolis. Two, he is not expected to be very fast in the 40-yard dash. If that landed Allen in, say, the mid 20s as far as draft, the 49ers conceivably could jump up and grab him. That would give them two starting-caliber receivers without elite deep speed. How would that work? It seemed to be perfectly fine when Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin both played for the Cardinals.

Tavon Austin
West Virginia, 5-9, 175
You almost dismiss Austin off hand because of how small he is. He looks positively elfin amid even college players and you wonder how long he could last in the NFL game. But then you watch him against teams like Clemson and LSU and Oklahoma and you see his explosion and you start to change your mind. Austin also played extensively at running back, which speaks to his toughness and which makes you wonder what a creative offensive coordinator could do with him and the other talents on the 49ers roster. Austin also is an accomplished kick and punt returner, and at the very least his addition would be a big upgrade - at multiple positions - over Ted Ginn. Remember, Williams can return punts but his status at the start of the season as of now is unknown because he is coming off an ACL tear. The big question for Austin is whether he could hold up as the No. 2 receiver opposite Crabtree. His weigh-in and 40-time in Indianapolis will be critical.

February 14, 2013
Get defensive: Draft has answers for 49ers' flagging front four

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The NFL scouting combine sort of snuck up on you, didn't it? Ok, ok, don't panic. Take deep breaths. Throw some cold water on your face. We can get through this together. After all, there's still a week to cram for the occasion. I've been doing the same with the help of annual friend-of-the-blog Rob Rang from CBS Sports.com. Rang and colleagues have an extensive database on every draft-able player in the country, which can be found here.

Today's lesson: defensive linemen. Not only have the 49ers largely ignored this position in recent years, the upcoming draft is teeming with both edge pass rushers and bigger, bulkier linemen. Here are six front-four players that may be within striking distance of the 49ers, who pick 31st but who are expecting 14 draft picks.

Dion Jordan, DE-OLB
6-6, 243, Oregon
There's a belief that when it came to last year's draft, West Virginia OLB Bruce Irvin -- and not Illinois WR A.J. Jenkins -- was the player GM Trent Baalke coveted. Jordan is more versatile than Irvin and could add extra punch to a pass rush that began to flag at the end of the season. Aldon Smith had zero sacks in the last six games. Was that due to A.) Justin Smith's injured arm, B.) Aldon Smith's own injured shoulder C.) The fact that Smith played only 48 percent of the snaps in 2011, more than double that in 2012 and he simply hit a wall? The answer likely is D.) a combination of A, B and C. Jordan, a former tight end, still is learning the position. But he could provide depth and pass-rushing ability his rookie season. Similar to former 49ers first-round pick Manny Lawson.

Alex Okafor, DE-OLB
6-5, 261, Texas
Okafor might not be as good an athlete as Jordan, but he is bigger and stronger and seems closer to the type of edge rusher the 49ers have gone after in the past. He finished with 12 1/2 sacks this past season and, according to Rang, looked impressive at the Senior Bowl.

February 13, 2013
Tom Gamble flies home to Philadelphia

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Tom Gamble is heading home.

The 49ers' director of player personnel is the new vice president of player personnel for the Eagles, the team with which he got his start as an NFL scout in 1988. Gamble's father, Harry, was he Eagles' president from 1986-95, and Tom Gamble grew up in nearby Haddonfield, N.J.

The Eagles had been looking for someone to fill the spot left by Ryan Grigson, who left to become the Colts general manager last year. It appears as if Gamble's job in Philadelphia will be similar to the one he had in San Francisco in that he will work both in the college and pro personnel departments and report to general manager Howie Roseman.

"Since Ryan Grigson left to become the General Manager of the Colts, we've been looking for the right person to fill his spot and we are excited about what Tom can bring to the team," Roseman said. "He's not only a talented evaluator, but also a good man and the type of person you want as a part of your team. Tom and I have had a great relationship over the years and I know he's excited to come home. He had a great run in San Francisco and they have been very successful over the last few years. He will jump right in with our group and get working on free agency and the draft."

In the last two months Gamble, 49, has interviewed for general manager openings, including with the Jaguars and Jets. It's not yet known how the 49ers will fill the spot left by Gamble's departure, although there are a number of internal candidates, including director of college scouting Joel Patten and national scout Matt Malaspina.

Gamble spent the last eight seasons with the 49ers, the last two as director of player personnel where he reported to general manager Trent Baalke. Said Baalke in a statement:

"I would like to thank Tom for his hard work, dedication and loyalty over the past eight seasons. He has played an instrumental role within our personnel department, and is a true professional in every sense of the word. As a friend, I will always appreciate the relationship we have, and wish him and his family all the best."

-- Matt Barrows

February 12, 2013
Examining the 49ers' biggest draft needs

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The truth is that, aside from kicker, the 49ers don't have any glaring needs this offseason. It's the reason they went to the Super Bowl. The best teams, however, address future problems before they become problems, and that's what the 49ers -- who are expecting 14 picks -- have an opportunity to do this offseason. I'll provide some names to follow at the combine (it starts next week!) later.

Defensive line: Justin Smith's injury provided a glimpse into the future, and it was not a pleasant one. As soon as Smith left a Dec. 16 game with a torn triceps, the 49ers defense began to hemorrhage yards and points, and the bleeding didn't stop during the playoffs. Smith is expected to make a full recovery from surgery to repair the triceps and should be on hand for training camp. But he also turns 34 this year and is entering the final year of his contract.

The 49ers haven't used a high draft pick at this position since Kentwan Balmer, a true draft bust, was taken 29th overall in 2008. Instead, they've bulked up on undrafted free agents in the hope that one or two would become keepers. Demarcus Dobbs, Ian Williams, Will Tukuafu and Tony Jerod-Eddie all are interesting players but none has stood out to this point as someone who could one day replace Smith or even be an impactful every-down starter. Meanwhile, both Isaac Sopoaga and Ricky Jean Francois are set to become unrestricted free agents.

Finally, this year's draft appears very deep along the defensive line, and seven potential prospects (names to come later) may be available or within striking distance when the 49ers pick at No. 31. That is, supply and demand seem to be converging in 2013 for the 49ers.

Wide receiver: Quick -- who will be lined up as the team's No. 2 wideout when the season begins Sept. 9? Randy Moss, who ended the 2012 campaign in that position, is not under contract. Mario Manningham, who is the most experienced of the candidates, is coming off an ACL tear, one that occurred late in the season. At this point, the safest answer is A.J. Jenkins, who -- say it with me -- dropped the only pass that went his way during his rookie year.

February 11, 2013
Percy Harvin would fill a 49ers need, but ...

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Viking wideout Percy Harvin may or may not be on the trade block. Despite that vague status, he's worth discussing as it pertains to the 49ers because 1.) San Francisco still is in need of a wideout despite loading up on them last year. 2.) Harvin is a gifted athlete and a true talent who was being talked about as a league MVP before going down with an injury this past season.

Pros
1. Harvin and Michael Crabtree came into the league together in 2009 and seem to complement each other nicely. Crabtree put all diva- and prima donna- talk far, far in the rearview mirror this season with his gritty and clutch play, and he emerged -- obviously, if you watched the 49ers final three offensive snaps -- as Colin Kaepernick's favorite target. What the team needs is someone with deep speed, which Harvin possesses.

2. Harvin isn't just a sprinter. He's extremely versatile having played both receiver and running back at Florida. The Vikings used him in a variety of ways as well, and a creative offensive coordinator like Greg Roman seems perfect for pulling the strings on how Harvin is utilized in the offense. Can you imagine a system that has Crabtree, Harvin, LaMichael James, Vernon Davis and Kaepernick at the same time?

3.) If the Vikings are looking for draft picks, the 49ers are the team to approach. They are expecting to have 14 in the upcoming draft once compensatory picks are announced, and that number could rise if they can move Alex Smith. That is, the 49ers could acquire Harvin and still be able to move up in the April draft.

February 7, 2013
Culliver, Whitner don't agree on what went wrong on 56-yard touchdown

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Two days later, the 49ers secondary still wasn't on the same page.

The biggest play in the first half of the Super Bowl came on third and 10 at the Baltimore 44. Quarterback Joe Flacco stepped back, felt the 49ers pass rush, then stepped forward in the pocket. At that point, he saw that receiver Jacoby Jones had 10 yards on cornerback Chris Culliver. Their 56-yard touchdown connection put the Ravens ahead by 18 points with 1:45 left in the first half.

Culliver on Tuesday said he thought he had help from safety Donte Whitner. Culliver was on the outside matched against Jones. Whitner was to his inside, and when Flacco dropped back, he stepped up to help cover the inside receiver, Anquan Boldin. Should Whitner have gone deep with Jones instead up stepping up on Boldin, Culliver was asked?

"Yeah," he said. "Like I said, I don't want to throw nobody under the bus. But I had him and we wasn't on the same page, so it ends up as a touchdown."

Whitner, however, had an entirely different take. Should he have gone deep with Jones?

February 6, 2013
Walker's aunt, uncle killed by suspected drunk driver after Super Bowl

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Delanie Walker's aunt and uncle were killed in a car crash by a suspected drunk driver outside of New Orleans just hours after the Super Bowl ended. Walker, the team's tight end, today posted pictures of Alice and Bryan Young posing with him and wearing 49ers gear and Mardi Gras beads in New Orleans.

Wrote Walker: "Alice and bryan young my aunt and uncle was killed on Monday at 5 am after the super bowl by a drunk driver... We lost some good people they will be missed i love y'all so much.."

The New Orleans Times-Picayune reported that the Youngs were in their car on the shoulder of Interstate 10 around 5:30 a.m. when a vehicle driven by Nechole Thomas, 26, struck the back of the Young's 2012 Nissan Altima. Thomas escaped her car before both vehicles burst into flames and later was arrested on two counts of vehicular homicide, driving while intoxicated and reckless operation of a vehicle, the newspaper reported.

Walker's agent, Vincent Taylor, said the Youngs were driving back to their hotel in Baton Rouge. Walker, who is from Pomona, Calif. played well in the Super Bowl, finishing with three catches for 48 yards and opening holes for the 49ers running game. Walker is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent next month.

Teammates and team president Jed York offered condolences via Twitter: "Thoughts & prayers go out to @Dwalk46 We are praying for you and your family," York wrote.

********************************
For the second straight year, the 49ers have blocked secondary coach Ed Donatell from interviewing for a defensive coordinator position. According to NFL.com, the Saints asked, but were denied, permission to talk to Donatell. The Buccaneers inquired last year. Donatell has served as a defensive coordinator for the falcons, Packers and the University of Washington.

- Matt Barrows

February 6, 2013
Ax Men? A look at which 49ers may not be back for 2013

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Which 49ers might not be around next season? The list below mostly shows the team's pending unrestricted free agents*. But there also are a few players - including Alex Smith - whose 2013 contracts at least make them susceptible to the cutting ax. Keep in mind that the 49ers expect to have 14 -- FOURTEEN! -- draft picks in April with perhaps more coming if they can trade Smith.

David Akers: Akers made all three field goals in the Super Bowl, but he needed a gift running-into-the-kicker penalty to erase a miss from 39 yards. Akers missed more kicks than any other kicker last year, and he's set to make more than $3 million. Those two sentences don't mesh very well. At the very least, the 49ers will bring in a young kicker, perhaps through the draft. Justin Medlock, who worked out for the 49ers in January, is a local guy.

Leonard Davis*: The big veteran was relegated to the team's jumbo packages and played only 128 snaps this season. He would have been the first guard off the bench, but Alex Boone and Mike Iupati enjoyed near-perfect health this season. With two young linemen, Daniel Kilgore and Joe Looney, waiting in the wings, and with the team having so much draft capital, it's hard to see Davis coming back. Then again, the 49ers don't have much depth at tackle, and Davis could have played there in a pinch.

Ted Ginn*: Ginn saw his work load decrease this season after LaMichael James took over kick-return duties. Ginn hardly contributed at all as a receiver, and his most notable offensive play involved a botched pitch in St. Louis and Ginn's dainty attempt to recover the ball. Still, it's possible that Ginn comes back. He's unlikely to get a lot of attention on the free-agent market (he certainly didn't last year) and he won't be expensive to resign. The 49ers also have all sorts of question marks at receiver, including injuries (K. Williams, M. Manningham), free agents (R. Moss, T. Ginn) and rookies who showed nothing in 2012 (A. Jenkins). Thirdly, the 49ers don't have a proven punt returner beyond Ginn, although James likely will be asked to work on that role this offseason.

Dashon Goldson*. I'm not sure what to make of Jim Harbaugh's comment from Tuesday that Goldson is the type of player you "reward" with a multi-year deal. The 49ers head coach hasn't been exactly spot-on when it comes to promising to take care of pending free-agents in the offseason. (See: Morgan, Joshua; Smith, Alexander D.). Furthermore, the 49ers have balked at Goldson's asking price in the past. He wanted to be one of the highest-paid safeties in the league after the 2010 season. He is in that category now - All-Pro, Pro Bowl in 2012 - but can the 49ers afford to meet that mark after doling out big deals to Willis and Bowman and with Colin Kaepernick's contract looming after next season?

February 5, 2013
A.J. Jenkins to train with Kaepernick; wants to return 'a totally different player'

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Receiver A.J. Jenkins today said that wants to return next season as "a totally different player" and that he planned to work out with buddy Colin Kaepernick in Atlanta where he trained before the draft.

"Obviously, I want to contribute a lot more than I have been," Jenkins said. "So I'm going to make that happen and come back bigger, faster, stronger. "

As every 49ers fan knows all too well, Jenkins went through the season without a catch and was lightly utilized even after the team lost Kyle Williams and Mario Manningham to season-ending knee injuries. Jenkins only was active for three games in the regular season. He was in uniform during the playoffs but had no passes thrown his way. He played three snaps in the Super Bowl.

The 49ers may have to lean on Jenkins next season, especially early on.

February 5, 2013
Harbaugh vague about Alex Smith's future, and there's a reason for that

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Jim Harbaugh today said that players who want out of their contracts don't have those wishes granted. Then again, he said that every scenario is unique.

The current situation with Alex Smith certainly isn't run of the mill. The quarterback lost his starting role to Colin Kaepernick after suffering a concussion and has stated that he wants to start next season, a scenario that seems impossible in San Francisco as long as Kaepernick is on the roster.

Harbaugh said he has "great respect" for Smith, who finished with a 104.1 passer rating this season, as well as a "great personal friendship, togetherness with Alex." But he stopped well short of saying Smith will be released from his current contract to seek a job elsewhere.

"We feel good, great about our quarterback situation," he said. "You can't have enough good quarterbacks."

If the 49ers retain Smith beyond April 1, they will owe him all of his 2013 contract, which amounts to $8.5 million. That's a lot for a backup but not for a starter, which raises the possibility that the team can get something for Smith in a trade.

February 5, 2013
Goldson states his case, does not want franchise tag in 2013

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Dashon Goldson made it clear that he wants a long-term contract and not the franchise tag for the second straight year.

"I felt that they wanted me to prove myself, and I think I did just that," the 49ers safety said Tuesday as he was cleaning out his locker. "So if I was in the position again with the franchise tag, I'd be very surprised."

***Update*** When Jim Harbaugh later was asked about Goldson and his desire for a long-term contract, he said: "He's somebody that I think you reward. Plays every game, can find the ball. You know that he's out there. The opposing offense knows that he's out there. ... He just does everything you want a safety to do. And you reward those types of people."

Goldson is perhaps the most prominent of the 49ers who aren't signed beyond this season. He had arguably his best season in 2012, serving as a quasi fifth linebacker against the running game and playing in a secondary that, until the playoffs, snuffed out big pass plays. Goldson was hit with a number of personal-foul penalties but also established himself as one of the biggest hitters in the league. He has been named to the Pro Bowl the last two seasons.

The 49ers made Goldson their franchise player for the 2012 season, a designation that paid him $6.2 million. If they were to franchise him again in 2013, his salary would be 120 percent of his 2012 earnings, or about $7.45 million.

While Patrick Willis, Ahmad Brooks and NaVorro Bowman have struck lucrative, long-term deals in recent years, Goldson still is looking for his. He made it to the free-agent market two years ago but did not find any takers. Goldson wanted to be among the top-paid safeties in the league at that point, and he instead was forced to accept a very modest one-year deal with the 49ers in 2011.

"I was in this position before and it didn't work out the way I wanted it to," he said. "And that happens."

Goldson said the 49ers gave him the courtesy of a "heads up" before they announced the long-term deals for his fellow defenders. But he said he felt he was deserving of his own long-term contract and the security it brings.

"I think that guys that got deals done were deserving," Goldson said. "It was a little, like, 'Wow. Ok.' But I had to stay focused on what was more important, and that was the team and getting to the Super Bowl."

49ers pending free agents

CB Tramaine Brock (RFA)
OT Leonard Davis
S Dashon Goldson
LB Tavares Gooden
WR Ted Ginn
LB Larry Grant
OLB Clark Haggans
NT Ricky Jean Francois
WR Randy Moss
NT Isaac Sopoaga
TE Delanie Walker

-- Matt Barrows

February 4, 2013
Romanowski, Dwight Clark rip Moss' "alligator arms"

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Two former 49ers, Bill Romanowski and Dwight Clark, ripped receiver Randy Moss following the Super Bowl for an 'alligator-arm' effort on a second quarter pass that was intercepted by Ravens safety Ed Reed. The pass from Colin Kaepernick was high, and Moss made no effort on the ball.

Both men were on the set of Comcast's post-game show, and Romanowski was livid.

"Randy Moss -- he alligator armed it," Romanowski said, his voice rising and veins on his forehead popping. "He didn't go up for the ball! He said he was the best receiver in the damn world -- ok, you hear me? Oh God! That's what pisses me off! You're playing in the Super Bowl, guys! The Super Bowl!"

Moss, of course, drew a swarm of media attention five days before the game when he asserted that he was the greatest receiver to play the game. "He didn't alligator-arm it," Clark said. "He didn't even reach up for it! He watched it sail over his head. Yes, it was high. Kaepernick was a little nervous. ... But make some kind of movement for the ball."

Added Romanowski: "There's one thing you cannot have in the Super Bowl is lack of effort."

February 4, 2013
John Harbaugh: Jim will have 49ers 'roaring back very soon'

NEW ORLEANS -- Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said this morning that he hadn't talked with his brother Jim since their brief handshake on the field following the Ravens' 34-31 win over the 49ers in the Super Bowl. But knowing the 49ers' head coach, he had a pretty good idea of what Jim Harbaugh is going through right now.

"Jim is a great competitor, and Jim will go do what he's always done," John said. "He will come out swinging. He'll go back to work.

"Everybody in this room that's ever competed understands what we all go through when you lose a tough game or a big game. It's tough because you put so much into it, your heart, your soul. You feel for everybody. But no one will handle it better than Jim Harbaugh. Like I said, he's the best coach in football. And he'll have that team roaring back very soon."

February 3, 2013
Gore: 'You can't second-guess' final series

NEW ORLEANS -- Frank Gore hit a hole and rumbled 33 yards to set up the 49ers with first-and-goal from the Baltimore 7-yard-line, trailing by five points with 2:39 remaining. It would be his final touch of the season.

Needing seven yards for a go-ahead touchdown, the 49ers handed off on first down to LaMichael James, who gained two yards, then ran three consecutive passing plays, on which quarterback Colin Kaepernick targeted receiver Michael Crabtree. Gore was on the field for the final three plays, but said he wasn't second-guessing the play selection.

"That's why we've got coaches," Gore said. "Every player wants the ball at that time. But our coaches made the decision and we tried our best to make it happen."

Gore carried 19 times for 110 yards, with the 33-yarder his longest of the game. He was not targeted on any passing plays. Asked why Gore didn't touch the ball on the 49ers' final four snaps, head coach Jim Harbaugh said: "We had other plays called."

"You can't second-guess," Gore said. "Our coach did a great job calling plays all game. Those were the plays he called, and it just didn't happen.

"Crab is ... a big receiver, one of the top guys in this league. Anybody one-on-one, I'll take a chance with him too."

-- Matt Kawahara

February 3, 2013
Rough week: Culliver defiant following Super Bowl gaffes

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NEW ORLEANS - Chris Culliver's lousy Super Bowl week only got worse on Sunday.

Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco won the game's MVP award largely by targeting Culliver, the 49ers nickel cornerback, whose two gaffes on one play in the second quarter resulted in the longest pass play allowed by the 49ers all season.

On the play, Culliver gave a sizable cushion to Ravens wideout Jacoby Jones, who dashed past Culliver deep down field, then held up for the wobbly pass from Flacco. Jones fell to the turf after the reception, but Culliver ran past without touching the receiver. Jones sprang up and outran the rest of the 49ers defense that was just catching up to the play.

"I know that he feels bad," said linebacker Patrick Willis. "Cully is competitive, and he wants to win on every play. Today he had a tough one, and I stand behind him, and I know what kind of player he is. This is only going to fuel him and make him better."

The run-up to Sunday's game took a bad turn for Culliver on Tuesday when, during Media Day, he told shock jock Artie Lange that gays wouldn't be welcome in the 49ers locker room. Culliver quickly apologized and vowed to repair his image in the gay and lesbian community, but he became the focal point of the Super Bowl media from that point forth.

February 3, 2013
Harbaugh cries foul as 49ers comeback ends five yards short

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NEW ORLEANS - The biggest deficit overcome by a Super Bowl champion is 10 points.

The 49ers came within five yards of obliterating that mark on Sunday in the most wrenching, roller-coaster and oddball championship game in recent memory but in the end couldn't quite topple the Ravens or the pile of mistakes that kept stacking up in the first half.

Three straight passes from Colin Kaepernick to favorite target Michael Crabtree in the last two minutes - including a final, fourth-down attempt with a Ravens defender clinging to Crabtree - fell incomplete, turning the ball over to Baltimore, which held on for a 34-31 win.

Afterward Jim Harbaugh said he wanted to handle the loss and his brother John's victory with "class and grace" but also said the Ravens should have been flagged for a pass-interference penalty against Crabtree on second down and for holding on the fourth-down play.

"Our guys battled back to get back in it," Harbaugh said. "We competed and battled to win. Yes, there's no question in my mind that there was a pass interference and then a hold on Crabtree on the last one."

Kaepernick finished with 302 yards passing, both Vernon Davis and Crabtree had more than 100 yards receiving and Frank Gore rushed for 110 yards. It was the first time in Super Bowl history a team had that combination. But it also was the second straight year the 49ers' finale ended with a barrage of errors.

February 3, 2013
Rare err: Culliver, 49ers dig themselves deep first-half hole

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Chris Culliver's lousy Super Bowl week is only getting worse.

In a half filled with 49ers mistakes, Culliver made two huge ones on the same play that allowed the Ravens to score late in the half and push their lead to 21-3. Culliver, the team's nickel cornerback, not only allowed receiver Jacoby Jones to sprint past him, but he failed to touch Jones after he had fallen to the turf. Jones got up and outran the pursuing 49ers defense into the end zone.

The 56-yard touchdown - the longest the 49ers have allowed this season - was the iconic play of an opening half in which the 49ers made errors as soon as they got the ball.

The 49ers' first play of the game was a good one - a 20-yard completion down the left side to Vernon Davis. But it was wiped out by an illegal formation penalty and the 49ers, discombobulated early, had to punt from deep in their own territory.

The Ravens took over at midfield, got a big, 20-yard catch from Torrey Smith and then got bailed out on third-and-nine by Ahmad Brooks, who jumped off sides. Joe Flacco, who is 13-20 for 192 yards and three touchdowns, took that gift and completed a 13-yard touchdown pass over the middle to Anquan Boldin, who had beaten Donte Whitner.

February 3, 2013
Super Bowl pregame: Akers solid in warm-ups

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David Akers never has had an issue in practice or in warm-ups, and he didn't today.

With special teams coach Brad Seely - and later, Jim Harbaugh - looking on, Akers missed only three of 28 attempts. The misses came from 60 yards (twice) and from 55. Akers also made two 55-yard attempts and one from 53. Akers warmed up from both side of the field.

As every 49ers will attest, Akers is perhaps the biggest wild card of the game. He had a career-low 69 percent field goal percentage this season and missed a league-high 13 kicks during the regular season, two of them potential overtime winners. Akers also missed a 38-yard attempt, his only one of the game, last week in Atlanta.

He was 1-3 with a blocked attempt the last time the 49ers were in New Orleans on Nov. 25.

- Matt Barrows

February 3, 2013
Super Bowl lineup: Chad Hall active again for 49ers

The 49ers will go into the Super bowl with the same personnel with which they won the NFC Championship game two weeks ago. Wide receiver Chad Hall is active for the game, giving the 49ers five wideouts: Hall, Michael Crabtree, Randy Moss, Ted Ginn and A.J. Jenkins. Hall was targeted once against the Falcons.

Along with Alex Smith, Jenkins was the only 49er in uniform in Atlanta who did not set foot in the game. Jenkins, who was the 30th pick in the draft, still is looking for his first catch of the season.

One of the story lines today will be kicker David Akers, who only had a 69 percent field-goal percentage and missed more attempts than any other kicker in the league. He hit the left upright on a 38-yard try in Atlanta.

The 49ers inactives QB Tolzien, S Robinson, G Looney, OLB C Johnson, RB Hampton, DL I Williams, DL T. Jerod-Eddie.

The Ravens inactives: CB Asa Jackson, S Omar Brown, CB Chris Johnson, LB Adrian Hamilton, OL Ramon Harewood, WR Deonte Thompson, DT Bryan Hall

- Matt Barrows

February 3, 2013
Super Bowl live chat: Talk about the game, ads, halftime - your call, 3 p.m.

Join Joe Davidson before kickoff today and share your comments and observations throughout Super Bowl XLVII between the 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens.

There will be plenty to discuss: a potentially electrifying match-up, plenty of televised ads to laud or tear apart and - as always - a halftime show that could be great or embarrassing. Maybe both.

The chat begins at 3 p.m. and will last throughout the game.

February 2, 2013
No DeBartolo or Haley in 2013 Hall-of-Fame class

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It was a good day for an ex-Raven, not so for former 49ers.

Neither longtime owner Eddie DeBartolo, Jr. nor defensive end Charles Haley was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. In fact, the only ex 49er to make the 2013 class was guard Larry Allen, who was on two terrible 49ers squads at the end of his career in 2006-2007. Perhaps Allen's most prominent play in San Francisco was allowing then-Seattle defensive tackle Rocky Bernard to break in untouched and sack Alex Smith, giving the quarterback a Grade 3 shoulder separation.

Allen, a huge man who played at tiny Sonoma State, spent his first 12 seasons with the Cowboys.

Recalling his introduction to the league, Allen said, "I just didn't want to mess up. When I got drafted (the Cowboys had) just won the Super Bowl. We had the best players at every position. Erik Williams got hurt, they threw me in, and I just didn't want to be the one to mess up."

The other members of the class are receiver Cris Carter, defensive tackle Warren Sapp -- who played four seasons with the Raiders -- offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden, Bill Parcells and senior members Dave Robinson and Curly Culp. Ogden, the first draft pick ever by the Ravens, is the first Raven to make the hall of fame.

Ogden admitted stressing out while he awaited the vote. "It's like going to the hospital with your wife when she's having a baby," he said.

The writers who voted on this year's class spent a record eight hours deliberating. One full hour was spent debating Parcells, whose Giants had a long rivalry with DeBartolo's 49ers. The voting for those men is believed to have taken on an east coast-vs.-west coast aspect.

February 2, 2013
Pool report: 49ers hold light workout in front of family, friends at Superdome

Here's Matt Maiocco's pool report for today's 49ers practice, the last one before Super Bowl XLVII. Both the 49ers and Ravens allowed family members of the team to watch their practices.

By Matt Maiocco
Pro Football Writers of America

NEW ORLEANS -- The lights of the Super Bowl appeared a little brighter for 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh, as the team went through 15 minutes of stretching and playing catch at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

The 49ers held their final get-together, a light workout on the eve of Super Bowl XLVII against the Baltimore Ravens, in front of 11 bus loads of family and friends. As the coaches and players walked onto the playing field, one person in the crowd prompted the group to perform the 49ers' traditional victory cheer. The man shouted, "Who's got it better than us?" And hundreds of 49ers supporters replied in unison, "Nobody!"

That brought a smile to Harbaugh's face and he applauded the fans' efforts. Afterward, the large contingent was invited onto the field to pose for pictures and get autographs. The brief walk-through practice had a football purpose, too.

"We wanted to come over," Harbaugh said. "And the football part of it is getting used to the lights. They looked a little brighter than the last time we were down here."

The 49ers played Nov. 25 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, a game in which quarterback Colin Kaepernick made his first career road start in a 31-21 victory over the New Orleans Saints.

Harbaugh said he wanted the players to visit the locker room and put on their game cleats to check out the playing surface with "pat-and-go" drills. Harbaugh joined the three quarterbacks in throwing passes to players at all positions.

"Also, wanted to get a stretch, get the blood moving a little bit," Harbaugh said. "And get some new blood going. Then, afterward, enjoy it with your family. Get some pictures and make it possible for everybody to come down to the Super Bowl field."

The most popular player on the field was Kaepernick. He was surrounded by a large circle of people seeking photos. Harbaugh said Kaepernick appears to remain unfazed by his new fame.

"I don't see any change, one way or the other," Harbaugh said. "He is who he is. He has been pretty steady with his demeanor."

The 49ers are scheduled for their normal night-before-game routine of meetings at the team hotel, Harbaugh said.

"I feel good," Harbaugh said. "The preparation has been outstanding, very focused. The players care about winning. They care about this team, and that's complimentary to the players and the way their focus has been. And that's not something that's been just this week. That wasn't just created this week. That's been all season and the offseason. It speaks very highly of the players."

-- Matt Kawahara

February 2, 2013
Culliver acquaintance filmed iconic gay-rights film

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Andrew Brown is a San Francisco resident who in 1976 helped direct a documentary called "Word Is Out," which features interviews with 26 gay men and women across the country. The film has since become iconic of the gay rights movement of the 1970s.

Brown also is related to Chris Culliver, whom he met for the first time last year after the 49ers drafted the cornerback in the third round.

Brown today said he hadn't spoken to Culliver since his controversial remarks about gays in the locker room on Tuesday. But he has been in contact with Culliver's mother and step grandmother and, after the Super Bowl, plans to meet with Culliver, who has pledged to learn more about the gay and lesbian community.

"I'm very sympathetic to him," Brown said in a telephone interview. "He's like so many young black men who have this identity problem, is what I call it. But I think it's a great opportunity. And that's what I told his family."

Brown said Culliver's step grandmother is his cousin and that Culliver's family got in contact with him when the 49ers drafted Culliver last April because Brown lived in San Francisco. He noted that Culliver is only 24 and that he, Brown, didn't come out until he was 28.

wordisout.jpg

At that time, he moved from Philadelphia, where Culliver was born, to San Francisco and began working on the film, which was pioneering at the time and which showed that gays were normal people - there are interviews with students, businessmen, housewives, etc. - and not the deviants portrayed in the media to that point. Brown was one of six directors.

Brown, 65, remained in San Francisco, got a PhD in psychology and now works with geriatric and mental health patients for a family service agency. "I'm an old hippy," he said with a laugh.

He said he saw Culliver's remarks as a valuable learning experience but noted that no one can be forced to change their opinions. He said it takes time and experience. "We all make mistakes," Brown said. "It's not the mistakes but how you address them."

Culliver was apologetic during a 40-minute session with reporters on Thursday and pledged to learn more about the LGBT community, which is prominent in San Francisco. As part of that promise, Culliver's publicist said the cornerback will become involved with The Trevor Project, which provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning young people, ages 13-24.

- Matt Barrows

February 1, 2013
Interactive: Ask 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh!

Screen shot 2013-02-01 at 6.22.18 PM.pngBee reporter Dan Hill put together this fun interactive of 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh quotes from the past few weeks. See what the coach is saying about his brother, his dad, Colin Kaepernick and more: Interactive: Ask 49ers Coach Jim Harbaugh

February 1, 2013
Injuries scorecard: Ravens 14, 49ers 13

The Super Bowl injury reports are out, and the bottom line is this: Every ailing player is listed as "probable" and will play in the big game.

49ers
Probable: LB Navorro Bowman (shoulder), LB Ahmad Brooks (shoulder), CB Tarell Brown (shoulder), TE Garrett Celek (foot), S Dashon Goldson (foot), RB Frank Gore (shoulder, ankle), LB Clark Haggans (shoulder), G Mike Iupati (shoulder), RB LaMichael James (finger), RB Bruce Miller (shoulder), LB Aldon Smith (shoulder), DT Justin Smith (elbow, triceps), LB Patrick Willis (shoulder)

Aldon Smith and Brooks were the only players on both teams that were limited in practice. They were listed as limited every day this week. Brooks, you'll recall, missed two practices last week before rejoining the sessions on a limited basis.

Ravens
Probable: WR Tandon Doss (ankle), LB Dannell Ellerbe (toe, back), CB Asa Jackson (thigh), FB Vonta Leach (knee, ankle), LB Ray Lewis (triceps), DE Albert McClellan (shoulder), DE Pernell McPhee (thigh), DT Haloti Ngata (knee), RB Bernard Pierce (knee, thigh), TE Dennis Pitta (thigh), WR David Reed (thigh), S Ed Reed (shoulder), CB Jimmy Smith (abdomen), LB Terrell Suggs (achilles, biceps)

-- Matt Barrows

February 1, 2013
Pool report: Noisy practice for all three phases; Brooks & Smith "probable" for Sunday

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Here's John Clayton's pool report for today's 49ers practice:

By John Clayton
Pro Football Writers of America

NEW ORLEANS--San Francisco 49ers Jim Harbaugh accomplished his coaching plan of trying to make Super Bowl week a normal week for his team both in practice and in preparation.

The players responded by being efficient. On Friday, the 49ers held an 80-minute practice at the New Orleans Saints indoor facility in Metairie, La., with practice ending 15 minutes early. If you include Wednesday and Thursday, the 49ers went through their normal week of work with 40 minutes less time on the practice field.

``We got everything done we normally do,'' Harbaugh said. ``There were only one or two repeats. The whole tempo was good in and out of the huddle and that might reflect that the most. There was good attention to detail and a crisp tempo.''

Harbaugh decided to practice indoors Friday because the 49ers are playing in a dome Sunday. He said he thought it was better for the players to get used to the lights and the artificial turf surface rather than being outside as the team was Friday.

The team also brought out the noise. The 49ers used the ``12 Man Crowd Simulator'' on offense, defense and special teams, which was a first for this team. ``Normally, we would use the noise for just one side of the ball,'' Harbaugh said. ``If it's a home game, we'd use it for the defense. If it's a road game, we'd use it for the offense and special teams. But this is a neutral site.''

February 1, 2013
LIVE CHAT replay: Matt Barrows shares final pre-Super Bowl insights

Matt Barrows hosted his final pre-Super Bowl live chat earlier today. Check out the in-depth discussion and see if you agree with the conclusions about how the 49ers-Baltimore Ravens match-up will turn.

February 1, 2013
Goodell glad Alex Smith "raised his hand" regarding concussion symptoms

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Alex Smith did the right thing in self-reporting concussion symptoms earlier this season, Commisioner Roger Goodell said, and he said he hopes other players would do the same thing in a similar situation.

"I understand somewhat the dilemma, but the highest priority you can is for players to raise their hand when they're injured so they can get the proper treatment," Goodell said Friday during his annual Super Bowl press conference.

The dilemma, of course, is that Smith set in motion a series of events that ultimately cost him his starting job. Colin Kaepernick started the next game against Chicago and played so well that Jim Harbaugh decided to pick Kaepernick over a healthy Alex Smith the following week in New Orleans.

Goodell noted that once Smith's concussion symptoms went away, it became a football decision and not a medical issue. "The coaches made a decision to go in another direction," he said. "And that's something the coaches have to do."

Smith has said he has no regrets about telling team doctors about his concussion symptoms. They had gone away two days after the Nov. 11 hit that caused the initial concussion but reappeared one day before the Bears game Nov. 19.

- Matt Barrows

February 1, 2013
Generation gap: Jim Harbaugh limiting talks this week with son Jay, a Ravens staffer

NEW ORLEANS -- Turns out Jim vs. John isn't the only Harbaugh family dynamic in the Super Bowl. There's also Jim vs. Jay -- as in the 49ers head coach and his oldest son. After serving as an undergraduate assistant for the football team at Oregon State, Jay Harbaugh is currently working for John's Baltimore Ravens.

The Harbaughs have kept this part of the family narrative fairly quiet (you may have heard the head coaches are brothers). Jack Harbaugh, father of the head coaches, mentioned at his news conference Wednesday that Jay is "doing grunt work (for Baltimore as the) assistant strength coach. ... He does video and works in the weight room and he just graduated from Oregon State."

At their joint news conference this morning, Jim said he's "thankful and proud that Jay is doing what he loves to do" with the Ravens, and he hears Jay is doing "a phenomenal job." With the teams preparing to play each other for the Lombardi Trophy, though, it has made for limited communication between father and son the past week.

"This week has been tough. I haven't been talking to him or calling him or anything," Jim said. "Sending him a few texts just letting him know how I feel about it. I don't want to get him where people are thinking I'm talking to him. But I've heard he's done a great job and that means the world."

John Harbaugh said Jay has been a valuable addition to the Ravens.

"Maybe that'll tip the scale," John quipped. "Maybe that'll be our edge, will be Jay. He is really good. He's a hard-working guy."

Neither brother strayed far from character during their 25-minute news conference this morning. John got things started by welcoming the dozens of media members in attendance, commenting on "what an honor it is" for the brothers to be on stage together and acknowledging the other Harbaugh family members in the crowd. Jim added: "I concur."

Jim did give a glimpse at the source of his notorious competitiveness when a reporter asked about mother Jackie Harbaugh's influence on the brothers' coaching styles.

"There's nobody in the family that has more competitive fire than my mother," Jim said. "She competes like a maniac."

Though their jobs look pretty safe right now, both Jim and John said they would embrace the idea of coaching together at some point down the road if the opportunity came up.

"We've had that conversation in the past," John said. "It just never really worked out timing-wise. But I would love to work for Jim. It would be the greatest thing in the world."

Along with their parents, John acknowledged the presence of his maternal grandfather Joe Cipiti, "97 years old and going strong!"

So make that four generations in New Orleans this week.

-- Matt Kawahara

February 1, 2013
Suited to their personalities: Harbaugh bros. hold joint press event

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NEW ORLEANS -- The Harbaugh family has insisted all week that brothers John and Jim are much more alike than they are different. Their respective garbs this morning stated otherwise.

When they came out for the first-ever press conference featuring both Super Bowl coaches - did you know they're brothers?! - this morning, John was nattily decked out in a dark suit, a snappy black, purple and gold tie around his neck. Jim? He had on his go-to suit as well - khakis, black fleece, black and white Nikes and a 49ers cap.

The only thing in common is that they were wearing black socks.

Their behavior ran counter to their attire. The guy in the suit seemed more relaxed, more laid back and more open to the questions. Jim, meanwhile, kept looking at his watch during a photo session afterward, and then bolted as soon as it was over.

Their dad, Jack Harbaugh, was in attendance and afterward shared a story of Jim's week in Youngstown, Ohio earlier this season. When the 49ers arrived, a chest of clothes for the week was delivered to his room. When Jim opened it, there were 15 of the same khaki pants, 15 identical blue, collared shirts, 15 black fleeces, etc.

Said Riley Crean, Jack's grandson, who was on hand for the unveiling, according to Jack: "Riley said he could have brought just two and washed them every other day and saved himself a lot of heavy lifting."

Perhaps the best fashion statement was made by 97-year-old Joe Cipiti, who is John and Jim's grandfather on their mother's side. He wore a baseball cap that was split down the middle between the Ravens and 49ers. He had the cap made for last year's Thanksgiving Day encounter between the brothers.

**********************************
When they were in Baltimore a year ago, Jack and Jackie Harbaugh watched the game from an office inside the stadium, which meant they followed it on tv. On Sunday, they'll be in the Commissioner's box and following the contest live.

They should expect some angry looks. Commissioner Roger Goodell isn't exactly Mr. Popular in New Orleans after the Saints' bounty-related suspensions. In fact, t-shirts featuring a certain four-letter word followed by "Goodell" are ubiquitous in the city.

- Matt Barrows



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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