49ers Blog and Q&A

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

June 28, 2013
Kaepernick: A body that doesn't know rest never craves it

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Colin Kaepernick said he listened to and appreciated Jim Harbaugh's warning this offseason that a quarterback shouldn't get too big and too muscle-bound in the weight room. But he's not going to spend his month-long hiatus on the couch, either.

Kaepernick this morning told KNBR radio's Murph & Mac show that he'd continue his 100-mph workout routine right up until training camp, which is scheduled to begin the third week in July. After all, he said, a quarterback who leaves the pocket as much as he does has to be able to absorb a few hits.

"That's the balance I'm trying to find," Kaepernick said. "Can I get big, can I get strong and still remain flexible enough to go out and throw the ball well?"

Harbaugh isn't the only one wondering if Kaepernick should tone it down. The quarterback said he had a conversation Thursday with Mike Iupati in which the guard asked him whether it would be wise to rest before training camp. Kaepernick's response: "If your body never knows rest, it never craves it."

That attitude has led to a whirlwind offseason that included meeting the First Lady, shooting a commercial for Jaguar and, earlier this week, hosting a gold tournament for Camp Taylor, which benefits children with heart issues.

Kaepernick's parents lost two young sons to heart ailments, and Kaepernick was able to raise more than $200,000 for Camp Taylor this week. "The more I spent time with the kids, the more I felt like it was the perfect decision for me, that it was something I needed to do," he said.

Meanwhile, the time he's spent in the weight room - and perhaps the tattoo parlor - landed Kaepernick a spot in ESPN The Magazine's "Body Issue", which comes out next month. Perhaps a future issue will include Michelle Obama. Kaepernick got her to take a photo with him while "Kaepernicking" - kissing her biceps - and he said the First Lady was a natural.

"It was something where I had to take advantage of the opportunity," he said. "She was more than willing. She was a great sport about it. I mean, she was a really cool lady. ... She definitely has the arms for it."

-- Matt Barrows

June 27, 2013
49ers' Okoye on American football: Hardest thing I've ever done

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The most impressive thing Lawrence Okoye did this spring: He kept showing up.

Okoye, as we all know by now, never had played a snap of American football prior to his first practice in May. Furthermore, injuries to defensive end Justin Smith, Tank Carradine, Quinton Dial, (and a minor one to Ray McDonald) meant that Okoye was not allowed to dip his toe into the sport. He plunged right in. No 49ers defensive linemen played more snaps this spring than Okoye.

"It's the hardest thing I've ever done, I'm under no illusions," the former British discus thrower and rugby player told England's Short List magazine.

Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio also offered no illusions about how difficult Okoye's transition will be. Next month promises to be even tougher because it will be the first time Okoye, 21, will participate in a full-contact practice.

"He hasn't had anybody hit him yet," Fangio said. "He hasn't had a double-team yet. He hasn't figured out if it's a run or pass, whether he should rush or play the run. So it'll probably be a very slow process with him much more than a normal rookie."

June 26, 2013
ESPN to feature Kaepernick's ink six months after it was criticized

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Vernon Davis says the Seahawks are building a "dynasty," Anthony Davis gives away a bulldog on Twitter, Colin Kaepernick is going to appear in the "body issue" of ESPN the Magazine. Welcome to the NFL in late June.

Actually, a couple of these story lines are worthwhile, beginning with Kaepernick's. After all, his body -- and the ink that covers a large percentage of it -- was an "issue" last season when writer David Whitley questioned whether a quarterback, the de facto leader of the team, should have so many tattoos.

The author's point seemed like it came out of 1959 -- what is this, an episode of "Mad Men"? -- at the time, and Kaepernick's inclusion in the magazine, which hits the stands July 12, only hammers home the point that tattoos are accepted (and in an NFL locker room are numbingly routine; the oddball is the player who doesn't have any tattoos).

June 24, 2013
Fact: People have wanted to punch Jim Harbaugh for nearly five decades

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So, you want to pop Jim Harbaugh in the nose or wring his neck or otherwise lay him out?

Take a number, honey. There's a line. That goes around the block.

Maybe all this animus toward a head coach is new to the NFL, but it's yawns-ville to Harbaugh. People have been wanting to punch him for a long, long time. After all, a young Jim Harbaugh once plunked a little girl between the shoulder blades - hey, she was crowding the plate! -- drawing hisses and boos from the parents in the stands.

"He would alienate the other kids, so I was really the only friend he had," his brother, John, said in 2011. "We joke that dad's profession was the perfect profession for Jim, because after two years, he'd be like, `It's time to move, dad. I've lost all my friends.' We were in Iowa one time and dad felt bad because we were leaving for Michigan. He tried to break it to us, and Jim goes, `Just in time, dad. I just ran out of my last friend.'"

CSN Bay Area's Dave Feldman, a high school basketball teammate of Harbaugh's at Palo Alto High, tells a story about a Santa Clara High team that became particularly rattled by Harbaugh during a game in 1982. When a fight broke out, not only did the opposing players go after Jim, the fans spilled out of the stands to take a swing at him, too.

The latest person to join the line is Seahawks receiver Golden Tate, who on Friday told a Seattle radio station he'd give Harbaugh "the Sean Lee treatment" if Harbaugh ever were on the field. Tate, you see, leveled an unsuspecting Lee, a Cowboys linebacker, in a game last year, a hit which drew a $21,000 fine from the league. He was responding to Harbaugh's well-publicized comments from earlier this month about the rash of PED suspensions in Seattle.

June 22, 2013
49ers' three Achilles' tears far above league average

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For the blog-only readers, here's a story that ran in today's Bee about the recent innovations regarding Achilles' heel injuries that are allowing elite athletes like Michael Crabtree and Kobe Bryant to come back sooner and stronger than they would have several years ago. The injury seems to be following in the path of ACL tears, which used to be career-enders but which now can be overcome.

One of the doctors I interviewed was Robert Anderson, who is one of the Carolina Panthers team physicians and the NFL's expert on foot and ankle injuries. Anderson operated on Crabtree's broken left foot prior to the 2009 draft. Some of the things Anderson said that didn't make it into the story:

* The NFL has been averaging between six and eight Achilles' tears a year. The 49ers have had three in the last seven months -- Kendall Hunter, Crabtree and rookie fullback Alex Debniak, who tore his Achilles' this month.

* Most Achilles' injuries occur before the regular season begins, as was the case with Crabtree (May) and Debniak (June). There was a rash of Achilles' tears in 2011. Anderson suspects it was related to the lockout and the fact that a lot of players hadn't been regularly training prior to the start of training camp that year.

June 21, 2013
Give 'em the heater, Kap: 49ers QB to throw out first pitch at Giants game

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******UPDATE******* Kaepernick's ceremonial first pitch was clocked at 87 mph -- not too shabby for a guy wearing high tops and jeans. Is 87 mph a record for a first pitch? Sadly, it's the one stat that Major League Baseball does not track.

Anything shy of 90 mph will be a bit of a let down.

Colin Kaepernick has been given the first-pitch honors at tonight's Giants-Marlins game. And while the first pitch usually ends in some lame attempt that dribbles to the catcher in front of decidedly disinterested fans, this one will be worth watching because Kaepernick is capable of bringing big-league heat. After all, he was a high school pitcher who threw two no-hitters his senior year, who was drafted by the Cubs and whose fastball once was clocked at 94 mph.

There's also some interesting contrast in order. Last year, Alex Smith got the honor of throwing the first pitch in Game 1 of the Giants' series with the Reds. (The ball hit the dirt before reaching the catcher). Meanwhile, Russell Wilson, the quarterback of the arch-rival Seahawks, threw out a first pitch at a Mariners game earlier this month. Wilson was an infielder at N.C. State and also was drafted to play baseball, by the Orioles.

His first pitch - seen here - was impressive, but perhaps not quite as impressive at the 98 mph that was shown on the video board in the stadium. The Mariners broadcasters said the ball crossed the plate at 75 mph, which is what you'd expect from a middle infielder. In case you missed it, the 49ers and Seahawks just plain don't like each other, so Kaepernick has to - absolutely must - top 75 mph or else all hope is lost.

Ok, maybe we're getting too carried away. Kaepernick cautioned on Twitter that he hadn't picked up a baseball in seven years - since high school - and perhaps we shouldn't get our expectations too high. Still, you can envision him positioning Ricardo Lockette or Bruce Miller or Kyle Williams 60 feet and six inches away with a catcher's mitt today to get the old pitching arm warmed up. A little bird told me he plans to wear cleats so he can get a good push off the rubber.

And you know for sure his pitch will be better than this guy's ...

June 20, 2013
Justin Smith's deal means salary-cap relief for 49ers

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Justin Smith's two-year extension was a team-friendly deal that created roughly $4.3 million in salary-cap space for the 49ers this year, according to those who have analyzed the numbers. Smith recently parted ways with his long-time agency, CAA, and negotiated the deal himself.

"He gave the team a huge, home-town discount," said former agent Joel Corry, who now writes for CBS Sports and the National Football Post.

Smith was due to earn $7.5 million in base salary this season and to count $8 million toward the salary cap, which would have been San Francisco's second-highest figure behind tight end Vernon Davis ($8.7 million). He will now earn $940,000 in base salary this season after converting his former base pay into a $6.56 million signing bonus, which is spread over the remaining three years of his contract. Smith also gets a $500,000 workout bonus and a $100,000 roster bonus this season.

His salary-cap figure drops to $3.73 million. That's the $940,000 base salary plus $600,000 in roster and workout bonuses plus the prorated portion of the signing bonus. Smith will have a base salary of $3.15 million next year and $2.65 million in 2015. Overall, the deal averages roughly $4.35 million a year.

Corry said that was more than half of the $9 million he believes Smith is worth per year. Corry noted that the six-year deal Smith signed with the 49ers in 2008 averaged $7.5 million a season.

"Based on his play, even though he is an older guy, has he done anything to warrant a pay decrease?" Corry said.

Indeed, the veteran defensive end has been perhaps the most valuable member of the 49ers defense in recent years, which was underscored by San Francisco's defensive lapse when Smith was injured late last season. Smith, 33, has been to four consecutive pro bowls but was entering the final year of his contract before signing the extension Wednesday.

Smith on Wednesday said his new deal, which he acknowledged was likely his last, was not about money. "It was about wanting to be here, wanting to play, having an opportunity to be on a great team," he said. "And go for the championship. That's what it's all about. Having that opportunity, I feel real lucky. Real fortunate."

The 49ers have signed every member of their 11-man draft class save first-round pick Eric Reid. They have one of the league's deepest and most talented rosters but still may need help if there are any more injuries at wide receiver. The team's top receiver, Michael Crabtree, tore his Achilles tendon in May, and the 49ers are hoping one of several inexperienced players can perform in a starter's role opposite Anquan Boldin this season.

The team also could extend the contract of one of its top young players, such as guard Mike Iupati. Also, Boldin has said he'd like a longer contract than the one-year deal with which he is entering the season.

-- Matt Barrows

June 19, 2013
Report: 49ers ink Greg Roman to two-year extension

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The 49ers still risk losing Greg Roman to a team looking for a new head coach. But at least Roman will be a bit happier after recently signing a two-year contract extension with the team. News of Roman's new deal first was reported by NFL Network.

The 49ers offensive coordinator is considered one of the brightest young coaches in the league. San Francisco's long-suffering offense finished 11th in the league in yards gained last year, Roman's second season calling plays for the 49ers. Meanwhile, an array of 49ers, from quarterback Alex Smith to receiver Michael Crabtree, had the best seasons of their careers under Roman. His knowlege of various schemes and his creativity as a play caller also makes Roman a particularly good match with multi-talented quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

He was expected to get interest as a head coach in January, especially from new general managers David Caldwell in Jacksonville and Tom Telesco in San Diego, both of whom were teammates of Roman's at John Carroll University in the early 1990s. However, both the Jaguars and Chargers decided on new head coaches while the 49ers were in the midst of their march to the Super Bowl.

Roman's flaw in the eyes of NFL teams is that simply hasn't been coordinator for very long and there's a perception that Harbaugh is the one actually pulling the strings on the 49ers offense. That lack of experience - Roman was a co-offensive coordinator with Stanford in 2010 - led to him signing a relatively modest deal with the 49ers in 2011 when Harbaugh and his staff were hired, a league source said.

Roman's deal also comes shortly after the 49ers hired former NFL coach Eric Mangini as "senior offensive consultant" on Harbaugh's staff. It likely is assurance to Roman that he remains Harbaugh's no. 1 lieutenant on offense.

The 49ers can prevent assistant coaches from moving to another team if they are under contract, as they have done the past two seasons with defensive back coach Ed Donatell. However, they cannot bar a coordinator like Roman from a head-coaching job.

-- Matt Barrows

June 19, 2013
The 49ers indispensable man: Justin Smith to end career on his terms ... literally

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Justin Smith, the son of Missouri cattle rancher, is not a complicated guy. His two-year contract extension was simple, too. Smith said that general manager Trent Baalke approached him recently about a new deal and that he readily agreed. In fact, Smith negotiated the deal himself.

"They wanted me to be here and I wanted to be here," Smith said after a workout today. "So it makes it easy."

Smith, who had been in the final year of his deal, said veteran players rarely get to end their careers on their own terms. His deal allows him to do just that and to play for a championship-caliber team to boot.

"That's what it's all about," he said. "Having that opportunity -- I feel really lucky, really fortunate."

A year ago, Smith, 33, said he didn't want to be the type of veteran who spends his final seasons playing only a handful of snaps. He said there was language built into the contract that allows him to exit if he is no longer the prominent piece in the 49ers defensive line he has been since 2008.

June 19, 2013
49ers extend Justin Smith's contract by two years

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The 49ers signed perhaps the most indispensable member of their defense, lineman Justin Smith, to a two-year contract extension Wednesday. The new deal makes him a 49er through the 2015 season.

"Justin's All-Pro contributions on the field, as well as his leadership on and off the field, are integral to our success," general manager Trent Baalke said in a statement. "Justin consistently sets a standard of excellence. This contract allows Justin to finish his career as a 49er."

Indeed, Smith last year said he figured he had "three or four years" left in his career. Smith, 33, joined the 49ers as a free agent in 2008 and likely will go down as one of the franchise's best free-agent acquisitions ever. In 2011, he paired with then-rookie Aldon Smith to form one of the most fearsome pass-rush combinations in the NFL, one that helped get the 49ers to the NFC championship game.

Last year, Justin Smith tore his left triceps tendon in Week 15, and the 49ers defense suffered without him at full strength. Smith had surgery in February and is expected to rejoin practice at the start of training camp.

A week ago, Smith said he was not concerned about entering the season on the final year of his contract. "You really can't forecast anything out past the year you're in," he said. "So I'm thinking about 2013, and 2013 only. At this point in my career, nothing's a given, nothing's a guarantee. They don't like old guys, anyway, for football. I'm going to enjoy this year and do the best I can this year and hopefully it's enough for us and the team and we get it done."

The 49ers drafted defensive end Tank Carradine in the second round and defensive lineman Quinton Dial in the fifth round this year ostensibly to replace Smith at some point. Neither player, however, has been able to practice thus far and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said recently that he didn't expect them to be ready for the start of training camp.

Smith had been represented by Creative Artist's Agency but recently parted ways with the firm. Evidently he negotiated this deal himself.
-- Matt Barrows

June 18, 2013
Mr. Speaker: Kaepernick to give keynote address at charity event

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Colin Kaepernick is headed deep into Buffalo Bills country today.

The 49ers quarterback is the featured guest and will give the keynote address at the 64th annual Rochester Press-Radio Club Day of Champions Children's Charities Dinner this evening. Kaepernick, 25, also will be honored as the Sports Personality of the Year.

The 49ers quarterback has been in great demand since he took over the 49ers offense in November and led them to within five yards of a Super Bowl victory. He's met Michelle Obama, been a pitch man for Jaguar - and got a sports car out of the deal - and attended the Country Music Awards.

Today's speech and appearance will benefit children. Since the Rochester Press-Radio Club's inception in 1949, it has donated more than $1.5 million to local charities. Tickets to the event begin at $130. Green Bay's Clay Matthew's was the featured guest at the event two years ago while the Giants Eli Manning was the guest of honor last year.

Meanwhile, Jim Harbaugh is on his own charity mission - to Piura, Peru, where he goes with a group of friends and church members each summer. Here's what I wrote a year ago.

-- Matt Barrows

June 17, 2013
Dear Mr. Fantasy: 49ers strike deal with Yahoo to enhance stadium experience

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Want to see yourself and your buddies on the big screen at Levi's Stadium? One of the facility's features will be booths in which fans can upload their pictures to Flickr, which could then be used as part of a gallery displayed on the stadium screens on game days.

The feature is part of a partnership announced today between the 49ers and Yahoo!, which operates Flickr, Yahoo! Sports Fantasy Football and other sites that will be part of the fan experience at the technologically ambitious stadium. The deal between the 49ers and Sunnyvale-based Yahoo! is for 10 years.

"Yahoo! is a tremendous example of Silicon Valley innovation at work," 49ers CEO Jed York said in a statement. "Their experience in servicing the fan and wealth of resources will serve integral roles as we strive to present an unparalleled experience to visitors of Levi's® Stadium."

One of the issues facing the NFL is that watching games from home has become preferable to some fans to watching them at the stadium. York's vision for the new stadium is to give fans many of the perks they have at home, including the bandwidth to operate hand-held devices and check fantasy football updates.

According to the release, the agreements gives Yahoo! entitlement and branding rights to the Fantasy Football lounge, and its two adjacent viewing platforms, located in the stadium's suite tower, as well as integration into the in-stadium fan experience and broadcast and digital media. Team President and co-owner Gideon Yu has worked for several Silicon Valley companies, including Yahoo!

Terms of the deal were not announced. The 49ers also have partnered Violin Memory, Brocade, NRG Energy, Sony and SAP at the new stadium. Last month they announced a 20-year, $220 million naming rights deal with Levi Strauss.

-- Matt Barrows

June 17, 2013
49ers pre-training camp depth chart

Though the 49ers won't release a depth chart until mid-August, here's one in mid June ... that has a lot of caveats. The position chart is based on where players mainly lined up during the rookie camp, OTAs and the minicamp. A number of players, however, can play multiple positions and likely will be used in several spots when training camp begins.

- Ian Williams, for example, is listed as a nose tackle but also can play either defensive end spot. Adam Snyder is listed at left guard but can fill in at any position on the line. B.J. Daniels is listed at quarterback but also got plenty of repetitions this spring as a tailback, etc., etc.

- This is the state of the team now, and the de facto depth chart likely will be similar when training camp begins but perhaps not when it ends. Everyone expects that first-round draft pick Eric Reid, for example, will be a starter at free safety this season, but it probably won't be on July 25 or whenever the first practice is. Patrick Willis wasn't even a starter on the first day of training camp.

- Also, the reason why Michael Crabtree, Mario Manningham, Marcus Lattimore and Luke Marquardt are not part of this list but other injured players - like Justin Smith, for example - are not is because those four are expected, as of right now, to begin the season on an injury list while the others are expected to come back at some point during training camp.

Offense:

June 15, 2013
Deep thoughts about the 49ers spring session

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Looking for some analysis about the 49ers' recently wrapped-up spring sessions? Well, put on your floaties and goggles because I'm taking you to the deep end. Here are three thoughts:

1. When Michael Crabtree tore his Achilles tendon last month, the 49ers' biggest offseason issue immediately became: Who will step into the void at wide receiver? The good news for the team is that there are plenty of promising candidates. A.J. Jenkins, Ricardo Lockette, Marlon Moore, Kassim Osgood and Quinton Patton all looked good at times, and perhaps no one caught more passes this spring than Chad Hall.

Still, the gap between the No. 1 receiver, Anquan Boldin, and everyone else is wide. That's obvious even to a casual observer. What the 49ers have right now is a No. 1 wideout and a bunch of Nos. 3s and 4s. What they want to see in training camp and the preseason is someone taking that next step and distinguishing himself from the pack. Who will do that? It's likely that Jenkins, given his first-round draft status and the oodles of encouragement he's gotten from coaches, will get the best opportunity to seize that role. Still, it's no guarantee that he will do so.

If no one rises to the top, look for the 49ers to start the season by rotating their receivers opposite Boldin like they did (at the position opposite Crabtree) a year ago. Kyle Williams (knee) promises to be full go by the start of training camp, and he likely will be part of that mix.

One more WR note: It was noteworthy that Boldin did not go through team drills during the last two days of the minicamp. It signals that he already has a strong mastery of the offense and a solid rapport with Colin Kaepernick; it underscores that the 49ers' most important task is evaluating the other receivers; and it shows that the 49ers realize just how disastrous an injury to both Crabtree and Boldin would be. Maybe Jim Harbaugh read my advice about freeze-drying Boldin until the regular season begins.

June 14, 2013
Seahawks cornerback says he wants to put his hands around Jim Harbaugh's neck

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The 49ers are 2-0 at antagonizing opposing cornerbacks this week.

A day after St. Louis' Cortland Finnegan got riled up about ex-teammate Craig Dahl, Seattle's Brandon Browner said he wouldn't mind putting his hands around Jim Harbaugh's neck. And he probably doesn't want to check the 49ers coach for swollen glands.

On Tuesday, Harbaugh was asked about the rash of PED suspensions in Seattle over the last two seasons. Harbaugh answered by saying it's impossible to know which drugs caused the suspensions and that it might not be Adderall as has been widely reported.

"Play by the rules, and you always want to be above reproach, especially when you're good," Harbaugh said. "Because you don't want people to come back and say, 'Oh, they're winning because they're cheating.' That's always going be a knee-jerk reaction by people in my experience ever since I was little kid."

Browner was one of Seattle players who tested positive for PEDs, and he was asked Thursday about Harbaugh's comments by KJR radio's Dave "Softy" Mahler.

"I don't have anything to say but at the end of the day we gotta win football games," Browner said. "He's a coach. He's never gonna be out there lined up against me. I wish he would; I'd put my hands around his neck. At the end of the day, man, I'm about winning football games, man."

Earlier in the week, Finnegan called Dahl, via Twitter, "soft and weak" after Dahl said he told 49ers coaches that the Rams were able to decipher, via San Francisco's alignments last year, whether the 49ers were going to run or pass on a particular play. Both Dahl and Harbaugh said the 49ers were aware of those giveaways before Dahl discussed them.

Wrote Finnegan: "Craig Dahl we know how you play thanks for the tips we know who to attack early and often."

After the first meeting with Seattle last year, Harbaugh questioned the physical style of play by Browner and fellow cornerback Richard Sherman, who are two of the biggest cornerbacks in the league. At the time, Browner told the Tacoma News-Tribune that the coach's comments were "obnoxious."

Browner was asked Thursday about the Seahawks-49ers rivalry. He said not to leave St. Louis out of the discussion. "The 49ers couldn't get past the Rams last year, so you can't overlook the Rams," he said. "They're a few players away from being contenders. So the NFC West is tough."

-- Matt Barrows

June 14, 2013
Live chat: What we learned this spring

June 14, 2013
Minicamp notes: Kaepernick's flourish; Daniels' worth; Moore, McDonald stand out

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Anyone in show business knows that you always want to end your performance on a high note. That's exactly what the 49ers did in their final minicamp practice Thursday. The team's quarterbacks had been a tad off earlier in the session - an interception here, a bad throw there - until Colin Kaepernick got hot during team drills. When that was over, Jim Harbaugh dropped the curtain on the team's three-day minicamp, 45 minutes before it was scheduled to end.

Here was the sequence:

*Kapernick connected on a deep crossing route to Marlon Moore. Moore caught a similar pass earlier in the session and even caught a few kudos from Harbaugh after practice about how well he performed in minicamp. Bottom line: Don't go to sleep on Moore, whom I wrote about earlier this week.

* Kaepernick deep to tight end Vance McDonald, who made several catches on Thursday and who, like Moore, was cited by Harbaugh after the session. McDonald was particularly adept at leaping, twisting and making catches on balls along the sideline or on passes thrown behind him. This seems to bode quite well for the 49ers, especially when it comes to the red zone.

* Kaepernick to Kassim Osgood.

* Kaepernick deep crossing route to A.J. Jenkins, who made the catch of the day by going low and digging Kaepernick's fireball through traffic off the grass. An official on hand for the practice was on top of the play and quickly rushed in to signal it was a completion.

* Kaepernick to Ricardo Lockette along the sideline.

* Colt McCoy deep down the sideline to McDonald, who had a step on fellow rookie Corey Lemonier.

The 49ers did not have an incompletion in that series until McCoy tried a pass to Jenkins. And, in case you're wondering, it wasn't bad defense but rather really fantastic, pinpoint passing that caused this flurry of completions.

Said Harbaugh: "They were really sharp there. Colin, he's been on it all offseason. And that period especially was outstanding. Saw Vance McDonald on his birthday making some spectacular grabs. We'll have to have more Vance McDonald birthdays. But, yeah he was outstanding. Marlon Moore had a terrific day. And there were others. But, yeah it was highlighted by some really good throws and catches there at the end."

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On Wednesday receiver Kyle Williams (knee) returned to practice when the 49ers were working on plays at half speed. On Thursday he got into the action during the punt-return session. He also spent part of the practice running on his own with a huge chain tied around his waist and sprinting - full speed - the length of the football field.

June 13, 2013
Harbaugh on Dahl debriefing: "Yeah, of course we asked him"

Yes, free-agent acquisition Craig Dahl notified the 49ers coaches that the Rams defense was picking up on cues that told them whether the 49ers were planning to run or pass the ball. But Jim Harbaugh said Dahl, a safety who spent the previous four seasons in St. Louis, merely was confirming what the 49ers already knew.

He said the 49ers were tipping off the Rams in the teams' first meeting Nov. 11 but that the issue had been corrected by the rematch on Dec. 2. Both games went to overtime; the first ended in a tie, the other a Rams win. "Yeah, after the first game we played the Rams we saw that we were doing that," Harbaugh said.

Dahl's former teammates were not happy with his revelation with cornerback Cortland Finnegan on Wednesday taking to Twitter to call Dahl "lame and weak." Harbaugh, however, said it was natural for coaches to ask Dahl about any possible giveaways. "Yeah, of course we asked him," Harbaugh said.

-- Matt Barrows

June 13, 2013
Wideout Brandon Carswell tears ACL; 49ers deliberating on Austin Collie

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Just minutes into his first practice with the 49ers on Wednesday, wide receiver Brandon Carswell went to the ground awkwardly and began clutching his knee. Today Jim Harbaugh revealed that Carswell, who spent last season on the Raiders practice squad, had torn his right ACL and will be out indefinitely.

That means the 49ers are likely to add another pass catcher before training camp in late July. The team today worked out former Colts receiver Austin Collie but has not signed him. Harbaugh said "there are still a few more things we want to have checked out" before the team makes a decision on Collie.

That presumably refers to medical checkups for the receiver, who starred at Oak Ridge High in El Dorado Hills outside of Sacramento. Collie has had three concussions since joining the NFL in 2009. And he tore his pattelar tendon early last season for the Colts.

He worked out for the 49ers today and looked good, according to Harbaugh. "He had a pattelar tear seven and a half months ago and he's very far along," Harbaugh said.

With Michael Crabtree out for most of the season with an Achilles tear, the 49ers receivers are: Anquan Boldin, Chad Hall, Chuck Jacobs, A.J. Jenkins, Ricardo Lockette, Marlon Moore, Kassim Osgood and Quinton Patton. Kyle Williams and Mario Manningham have been rehabilitating on their own, although Williams has been worked into practices more and more and seems poised to be available for the start of training camp.

"It's fierce competition in there," Harbaugh said of the receiver battle. "They understand what's at stake and what the team needs from them. And they are rising to the occasion, and that's something that bodes well for the team."

-- Matt Barrows

June 13, 2013
Gore's advice to Lattimore: Let the doubters fuel you

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Ronnie Brown, Cedric Benson, Cadillac Williams, J.J. Arrington and Eric Shelton.

Those are the five running backs taken ahead of Frank Gore in the 2005 draft, and it takes Gore less than five seconds to recite the list. After all, he's been been playing it over and over in his head since April 23, 2005, the day the 49ers used a third-round pick on the talented but injury-riddled runner at the University of Miami.

In fact, one of Gore's tips to rookie running back Marcus Lattimore, whom the 49ers took at the end of the fourth round, has been to compile his own list as motivation. "That's one thing I told Marcus," he said. "When you get your opportunity, you always compete with the guys (selected) in front of you. That was one of my goals."

Gore spoke openly Thursday about how he's used doubt to fuel his eight-season career, including what he considered a draft snub in 2005 and his recovery from a fractured hip in 2011. "I feel like every year it's something with me - that I've got to overcome something every year," he said.

This year's obstacle: the calendar.

June 13, 2013
Report: 49ers give WR Austin Collie a tryout

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The 49ers will work out former Colts wide receiver Austin Collie, according to a report by USA Today. Collie, who played at Oak Ridge High in El Dorado Hills and who in 2009 was named The Bee's player of the decade, also has worked out for the Patriots this week as he attempts to re-start his career following a string of concussions and torn patellar tendon last fall.

Collie, 27, had three productive seasons in Indianapolis from 2009-2011 but caught only one pass for six yards last season. He's also had three concussions while with the Colts, a concern for teams in a league that's becoming more conscientious about head injuries. One of the 49ers team doctors, Daniel Garza, is a specialist at Stanford Hospital in concussions and head injuries.

The 49ers, meanwhile, are searching for a starting receiver after Michael Crabtree went down with a torn Achilles tendon last month. Anquan Boldin has been written in as one of the starters. Thus far, A.J. Jenkins, Ricardo Lockette, Kassim Osgood, Marlon Moore, Quinton Patton and Chad Hall have been competing for the other spot.

Both Jenkins and Osgood garnered praise from 49ers coaches this week.

-- Matt Barrows

June 13, 2013
Fangio says Carlos Rogers will remain in the nickel position

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Their NFC West opponents may have added new weaponry at the slot receiver position this offseason, but the 49ers aren't planning any changes as far as who will cover them. Veteran Carlos Rogers has been the team's nickel cornerback since 2011, and the plan is for him to continue in that role, defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said this week.

Asked if he envisions Rogers playing the nickel role again this year, Fangio said, "Yeah, right now I do. Yes."

Fangio moved Rogers into the position in 2011. It was the first time he had filled that role, and it was largely a success. Rogers finished that season with a career-high six interceptions and, in the team's first meeting with the New York Giants at least, handled one of the shiftiest slot receivers in the league, Victor Cruz.

Fangio has said that Rogers' combination of athleticism and smarts were the right fit for the role. "He's got a really good understanding, as you would think a veteran would, but some guys never master it," Fangio said last year. "He's got a good understanding of what the offenses are trying to do from route concepts, and he has good anticipation."

But Rogers and the 49ers also have been hurt by slot receivers, beginning with Cruz in the 2011 NFC Championship game. Percy Harvin, Danny Amendola and Chris Givens all had big games against the 49ers last year (all non-wins for the 49ers), and Rogers often struggled to keep pace with smaller but quicker wideouts.

That issue became more magnified this offseason when the 49ers' top rival in the NFC West, the Seahawks, traded for Harvin while up-and-coming St. Louis drafted jitterbug-quick wideout Tavon Austin in the first round.

Fangio and the 49ers prefer to have bigger cornerbacks in the nickel position because they play so close to the trenches and must be able to play a linebacker-like role as well as that of cornerback. While Rogers has been nursing a minor injury this month, Perrish Cox and safety Michael Thomas mostly have been filling in at nickel cornerback.

- Matt Barrows

June 12, 2013
Minicamp notes: Interesting dynamic between QBs Tolzien and Daniels

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There's an interesting dynamic to the 49ers' recent practices. Scott Tolzien and B.J. Daniels presumably are competing for the same spot on the team, that of No. 3 quarterback. Daniels, however, also was one of Tolzien's pass-catching targets Wednesday afternoon. The former South Florida quarterback spent a lot of time lined up as a tailback and often was Tolzien's check-down target during seven-on-seven drills. Daniels caught at least four passes out of the backfield Wednesday, the second day of the team's minicamp.

Daniels also had one of the more exciting plays at quarterback. Practicing the goal-line offense, he found no one open and started sprinting to his right. At the last moment possible, he fired a pass to the near corner of the end zone to receiver Ricardo Lockette, who was able to dig it off the grass for the touchdown in front of cornerback Tramaine Brock.

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Receiver Anquan Boldin, one of the 49ers' indispensable players this season, was attended to by a trainer midway through practice. After having work on one of his legs, Boldin jogged back to his offensive mates and didn't seem to be outwardly bothered by anything. But he didn't return to practice, either. The 49ers are wise to be cautious with Boldin, who was having another very good practice before he was apparently nicked.

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Brock saw a lot of action at cornerback again today. Carlos Rogers is out with an injury that Vic Fangio said was precautionary. Chris Culliver also has been held out of drills the last two days. That has given a lot of repetitions to Brock, Nnamdi Asomugha and Tarell Brown. Perrish Cox and safety Michael Thomas have stepped in as the nickel cornerbacks.

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The 49ers on Wednesday released tight end Cameron Morrah and signed receiver Brandon Carswell. Carswell, however, went down early with a right knee injury while trying to juke cornerback Darryl Morris in a one-on-one drill. Carswell remained on the field with his knee wrapped in ice.

June 12, 2013
Craig Dahl: The Rams knew the 49ers' tell last season

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Why did the 49ers have so much trouble with the St. Louis Rams last season? The Rams knew the 49ers' tell, according to safety Craig Dahl.

Dahl today said the Rams were able to pick up on cues from the San Francisco offense that told them whether the 49ers were planning to run or pass. That's a huge advantage for any defense, especially when playing a team like the 49ers that uses a strong running game to set up its passing attack. Knowing when the 49ers would pass theoretically would allow the Rams to blitz with more abandon.

"It was a few different things," said Dahl, who spent the last four years in St. Louis. "Some personnel and alignment stuff really were the big keys as far as the giveaways."

Dahl said he had a sit-down with the 49ers offensive coaches upon joining the team in March and that those giveaways already have been eliminated. "It's been addressed and corrected," he said. "They knew most of it before I even got here, and they were just reconfirming it. It's just ongoing self-study and self-scouting stuff that got that cleared up."

That exchange of information evidently didn't sit well with one of Dahl's former Rams teammates, cornerback Cortland Finnegan, who had this to say on Twitter:

The Rams and 49ers tied in their first meeting last year while the Rams came from behind to win the second one in St. Louis. Both games went to overtime. The 49ers averaged 24.8 points on the season but just 18 in the two games against St. Louis.

Dahl was one of the team's first free-agent acquisitions in March, one that seemed a bit superfluous when the 49ers traded up 13 spots to select Eric Reid in the first round of the draft. However, the acquisition may have paid off immediately if it helps the 49ers beat the Rams, the only NFC rival the 49ers could not top last season. It's also worth noting that starter Donte Whitner is entering the final year of his contract. Dahl signed a modest, three-year deal with the 49ers in March.

Meanwhile, the 49ers recently hired Eric Mangini to offer another set of eyes for the offense. Mangini's defensive background presumably would help the 49ers detect the type of giveaways that gave the Rams an advantage last year.

-- Matt Barrows

June 12, 2013
Greg Roman plans to lock himself in a room with Eric Mangini

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Greg Roman wants to lock himself in a room with new hire Eric Mangini. But don't worry, he's not planning a Thunderdome-esque fight to the death between the two most prominent members of the 49ers offensive coaching staff.

"Eric's a wealth of knowledge," Roman said Tuesday. "He's a guy that's got a great pedigree. And he's a very hardworking, intelligent. He can come at things with a different angle than we might do. So, it's been great. And he's getting caught up with what we're doing. And then in the next week probably we're going to sit down just lock ourselves in the room and really look to the future a bit."

The 49ers hired Mangini, a two-time former head coach, last week and gave him the title of "senior offensive consultant." Exactly what Mangini will do hasn't been nailed down - not even by the 49ers - but the intent of his hire was to put another set of eyes onto San Francisco's offense.

Roman said the two might go over the game film from the 2012 season, and they presumably will look ahead at the 49ers' 2013 opponents as well. "You could take one play and you could end up talking about it for 30 minutes because of all the different things you could branch off and talk about," Roman said. "So, just excited to have Eric's expertise on our side and looking forward to working with him."

Roman shouldn't feel threatened by Mangini, whose expertise to this point has been almost entirely on defense. As was noted last week, Mangini gains plenty by his exposure to Roman and the 49ers' offense, which employs the pistol formation and read-option elements that have started to become en vogue across the NFL. His two-year stint with the 49ers presumably will make him a more well-rounded head-coaching candidate.

That said, the only competition Mangini might pose to Roman would come after the season when both presumably would be hunting for a head-coaching job.

-- Matt Barrows

June 11, 2013
49ers minicamp: Nice snag by Jenkins, who may be in the lead for No. 2 wideout

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After being lavished with praise by his coaches earlier in the day, receiver A.J. Jenkins turned in what may have been the catch of the day in the afternoon practice. Jenkins, who mostly was lined up opposite Anquan Boldin with the first-string offense, was running a crossing route on the pattern.

The throw by second-string quarterback Colt McCoy was behind him, and Jenkins reached back and snagged the ball as he went to the ground. Both Jim Harbaugh and Greg Roman said that Jenkins had very strong practices last week, and he seems to have emerged as the early frontrunner to start opposite Boldin this season.

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Earlier in the day, Roman said the 49ers have been installing new red-zone plays this offseason. (See: Super Bowl; final drive of). They appeared to be doing just that on Tuesday, spending big chunks of the practice running through plays at half speed. The good news for 49ers fans: the team should have more in its arsenal when it is in the shadow of the goal line this year. The bad news: It made for a rather boring practice.

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Among the highlights: Tramaine Brock, Craig Dahl and Darcel McBath had interceptions, all of them on passes from Scott Tolzien. McBath's came when Tolzien tried to hit Quinton Patton in the corner of the end zone. McBath, however, leapt in front of the rookie and landed on his side with the ball in his hands. Dahl's interception came on a pass to rookie tight end Vance McDonald.

June 11, 2013
Harbaugh on PED use: Play by the rules

The rash of performance-enhancing drug suspensions in Seattle hasn't escaped the notice of 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh, who on Tuesday said his message to his own team is, "play by the rules."

"It has no place in an athlete's body," Harbaugh said. "Play by the rules, and you always want to be above reproach, especially when you're good. Because you don't want people to come back and say, 'Oh, they're winning because they're cheating.' That's always going be a knee-jerk reaction by people in my experience ever since I was little kid.

"So we want to be above reproach in everything," he continued. " ... Because if you cheat to win, then you've already lost, according to Bo Schembechler. And Bo Schembechler is about as close to the word of God as you can get in my mind. It's not the word of God, but it's close."

Five Seahawks have been suspended for PED use since 2011, most recently 2012 first-round draft pick Bruce Irvin. Adderall, a stimulant prescribed mainly for attention deficit disorder, reportedly has been the culprit in Seattle, though Harbaugh said no one could be sure.

"You don't know what it is," he said. "Even when people say what it is, you don't know that that's what it is. I've heard this thrown out or that, but that's usually the agent or the players themselves saying it's, for example, Adderall.  But the NFL doesn't release what it actually is, so you have no idea.  You're taking somebody at their word that I don't know if you can take them at their word, understanding the circumstances."

One 49er, linebacker Larry Grant, tested positive for PEDs and has been suspended the first four games of the season. Grant currently is a free agent.

-- Matt Barrows

June 11, 2013
Minicamp notes: Harbaugh, Roman sing A.J. Jenkins' praises

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Who is leading the battle-royal to replace Michael Crabtree in the starting lineup? Offensive coordinator Greg Roman and head coach Jim Harbaugh both said it was early in the process. But both noted that 2012 first-round draft pick A.J. Jenkins is coming off of two strong practices.

Said Roman: "A.J. I thought, the last two days of last week (OTA) had the best two days he's had since I've been here. Quinton Patton and Ricardo Lockette - they're all stepping up. And it's just going to be a continuing process. We're trying to get these guys ready for training camp to come in compete and win a job. And it's happening."

How did Jenkins stand out on Wednesday and Thursday? "Oh, just made some clutch catches for us moving the ball," Roman said. "Just made plays, did all the right things, made plays when he had the opportunity. And he just needs to continue to do that."

Said Harbaugh: "Thought A.J. had his best week of football since he's been a 49er the last four days of OTAs. And he continues to build on that. ... Anybody that's going from Year 1 to Year 2, it's a great window of opportunity to improve in the kind of fashion that you'll never have again in your career. Because you're going from doing things for the first time to now everything that you do, you've already done."

June 11, 2013
Worker killed at 49ers stadium in Santa Clara

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Work has been shut down on the 49ers' new $1.3 billion stadium after a construction worker was killed in an elevator shaft at 6:50 a.m today. Exactly how the fatality occurred is under investigation, according to officials for Turner-Devcon, the general contractor for the project.

There are approximately 1,000 people working on the stadium, which is due to be completed a little more than a year from now. Turner-Devcon said all workers must take a safety orientation and safety training before beginning work.

Stadium construction has been halted while Cal-OSHA interviews workers and conducts an investigation. Construction at Levi's Stadium has been around the clock since a groundbreaking ceremony for the facility in April of 2012.

The 49ers posted a statement on their web site at 9:45 a.m.: "The 49ers organization was deeply saddened to learn this morning of the news at the construction site. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family, friends and co-workers affected by this tragedy. The 49ers family has lost a teammate today."

The 49ers and the Bay Area recently were awarded Super Bowl L, which will be played in February 2016 at the new stadium. The 49ers will begin playing there in 2014. This is their final season at Candlestick Park in San Francisco.

The 49ers will kickoff a three-day minicamp today on their practice fields, which are adjacent to the stadium.

-- Matt Barrows

June 10, 2013
49ers sign draft pick Lemonier; only Reid remains

The 49ers today signed third-round pick Corey Lemonier to a rookie contract, leaving only one member of their 11-man draft class unsigned, first rounder Eric Reid.

Lemonier (6-3, 255) played defensive end at Auburn but is being converted to outside linebacker with the 49ers. With starters Aldon Smith and Ahmad Brooks nursing shoulder injuries, Lemonier promises to see plenty of action at the three-day minicamp that begins Tuesday.

Lemonier, veterans Parys Haralson and Dan Skuta, and second-year players Darius Fleming and Cam Johnson, are competing for spots on the team. Fleming also has been asked to play inside linebacker. He tweaked his surgically repaired left knee during last week's OTA practice, and his status this week is unknown.

The 49ers also signed tight end/fullback Jason Schepler and parted ways with rookie fullback Alex Debniak, who was waived/injured. Debniak played at Stanford.

- Matt Barrows

June 10, 2013
Animal house: Boone to feed Boone at SF Zoo

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There are now two large, land mammals with ornery temperaments named "Boone."

The first, of course, plays right guard for the San Francisco 49ers. The second, slightly larger "Boone" is a four-year-old black rhino at the San Francisco Zoo that was named in honor of the 49ers' Alex Boone. On Friday, Boone (the approximately 300-lb. man) will be at the zoo to officially unveil the critically endangered animal's (it weighs somewhere between 1,500 and 1,800 pounds) new name. The public event begins at 3 p.m. when Boone will feed Boone at the rhino exhibit.

"There are very few black rhinos left on this planet, so to have one named after me is truly an honor," Boone said in a press release. "It's awesome to share a close connection with a black rhino, but it's even better that we can raise awareness for these endangered species through the Alex Boone Animal Education Project."

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The zoo has been working with the 49ers Foundation to bring at-risk kids to the zoo. The zoo also is eager to teach kids about endangered animals, and the black-rhino project has that as its aim.

-- Matt Barrows

June 7, 2013
Report: Is the final year as 49ers for Frank Gore, Justin Smith?

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There was an interesting article about the 49ers yesterday by former sports agent Joel Corry. It's the sort of state-of-the-franchise piece every 49ers fan should read once and one that really big fans ought to read a few times.

The thrust of the story is that, via sound salary-cap management and excellent scouting the 49ers have set themselves up to be the dominant team of the next decade the way the Patriots were the preceding one.

Ah, but that doesn't mean it will be easy.

Corry notes what many of us have been pointing out over the last six months - that following the 2014 season a slough of talented, young 49ers will see their contracts expire. That list includes Michael Crabtree, Mike Iupati, Aldon Smith and, of course, Colin Kaepernick, who - it's not a stretch to predict this - could be due for one of the biggest contracts in NFL history. The 49ers can begin working on extensions for Kaepernick and Smith after this season.

What I found interesting is that Corry also points to two veteran stalwarts and wonders whether this will be their final year on the team. Of defensive end Justin Smith, whose contract expires in March, Corry writes, "(Smith) might be an example of it's better to lose a player a year too early than a year too late since he will turn 35 during the 2014 season."

June 6, 2013
RB Jewel Hampton gets a chance to shine for 49ers

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Stop me if you've heard this one before: Jewel Hampton not only suffered an ACL tear in his right knee in college. The 49ers running back suffered one in his left knee as well. The injuries came in 2009 and 2010 when Hampton was at Iowa, which makes him unique among NFL tailbacks in general but not the ones on San Francisco's roster.

Hampton, Frank Gore, Marcus Lattimore and undrafted rookie D.J. Harper all suffered double ACL injuries in college. (Harper's both occurred to his left knee). In fact, the only 49ers runners who didn't go through that ordeal are Anthony Dixon, Kendall Hunter and LaMichael James.

It was another injury, however, that kept Hampton out of action as a 49ers rookie last year and makes him an intriguing mystery man this spring and summer. Hampton had bone chips removed from his foot/ankle last year, and the 49ers put him on the non-football injury list before training camp. He was taken off the list Nov. 27 after Hunter went down with an Achilles tendon tear but was inactive for the final eight games.

When he wasn't injured in college, Hampton was a prolific runner, first at Iowa and then at Southern Illinois. In 2011 - less than a year after his most recent ACL tear - he ran for 1,121 yards and scored 17 touchdowns and was invited to the scouting combine. He went undrafted and chose the 49ers from a long line of suitors because, in his words, the 49ers pursued him most heavily.

June 5, 2013
Chat replay: Kaepernick's "erratic" practices, a Mangenius hire, Roman's creativity trap

Join Matt Barrows at 11 a.m. Wednesday to discuss the 49ers and their final week of organized team activities.

June 5, 2013
OTA session: Hampton becomes bell cow, Patton is prolific

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The 49ers held their final OTA practice of the spring on Tuesday. How is that significant? It's not. The team will hold a three-day minicamp, the first mandatory session of the offseason, next week. All three days are open to the media per NFL rules, and that will be the best indication thus far of where things stand for the defending NFC champions.

The first thing to note from Tuesday was who was absent either because they are coming back from injuries or had previous engagements. That groups includes: OLB Ahmad Brooks, CB Tarell Brown (non injury), WR Anquan Boldin (non injury), WR Michael Crabtree, CB Chris Culliver (non-injury), RB Frank Gore, RB Kendall Hunter, G Mike Iupati, RB LaMichael James, WR Mario Manningham, CB Carlos Rogers, OLB Aldon Smith, DE Justin Smith, OT Joe Staley, WR Kyle Williams and S Donte Whitner (non injury). It also includes rookies DE Tank Carradine, RB Marcus Lattimore, DE Quinton Dial and OT Luke Marquardt.

In addition, cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha did not take part in any team drills. However, he did not seem injured as he stayed after practice for 20 minutes to work with safety/cornerback Michael Thomas on the nuances of press coverage. The 49ers coaches appear more than willing to allow younger players to get repetitions while veterans like Asomugha remain on the sideline.

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With Brown, Rogers, Culliver and Asomugha out, the top cornerbacks were Perrish Cox and Tramaine Brock. They got the most work with the first-team unit, although seventh-round pick Marcus Cooper also was worked in. Cooper had an interception of Colin Kaepernick early in practice.

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The only healthy running backs were Anthony Dixon, Jewel Hampton and undrafted rookie D.J. Harper. This was our first chance to get an extended look at Hampton, who was injured for most of last season and who seemed to get the lion's share of the carries. OTAs, of course, are non-contact, and the emphasis is on the passing, not the running, game.

June 4, 2013
Opinions wanted: Mangini calls Harbaugh's staff "ego-less"

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The big news of this, the last week of 49ers OTAs: Eric Mangini was on hand in his new role as senior offensive consultant. Mangini, who started his new job on Monday, signed a two-year deal with the team. He said his duties will evolve as the season goes on but that he was brought in to offer another set of eyes to the organization, specifically the offense.

"Any time you can have different ideas, it's a good thing," Mangini, who said he liked to bring in college coaches or former head coaches when he was with Cleveland and the Jets. " ... It's just a way to try to keep growing, I think."

Mangini said he first met Jim Harbaugh two years ago when the 49ers spent a week in Youngstown, Ohio. Mangini is still close with special teams coach Brad Seely, Magini's assistant when he was the head coach of the Browns, and Seely invited him to the session. He said he took a trip to Santa Clara earlier this offseason and that he and Harbaugh have been talking about a role since.

"The great thing that I've found with Jim and Greg (Roman) and all the guys here is it's ego-less," Mangini said. "And that's really appealing. Everyone just wants to get to the right answer. And to me, input seems to be really encouraged, and I'm happy to offer it if I think it will help."

Mangini, whose background is mostly on defense, said that he'll be busy in the coming weeks learning the 49ers offense. The team's west-coast system uses a different lexicon than what Mangini is accustomed to, and that alone will make him a more well-rounded coach, he said.

Mangini, 42, spent the last two years working for ESPN. He said he aspires to be a head coach again.

"That's definitely a goal of mine," he said. "Right now I'm going to do what I do here as well as I can do it. But I think it's every coach's goal to eventually do that (become a head coach)."

-- Matt Barrows

June 4, 2013
No Boldin as voluntary OTA session begins; Fleming injured

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Wide receiver Anquan Boldin said via Twitter this week that he would skip the Ravens' Super Bowl ring ceremony at the White House this week. However, the veteran wide receiver was not on the practice field when the 49ers began a voluntary OTA practice today. Boldin was the star of last week's session that was open to the media, and he looked very much up to speed with the team's offense.

Meanwhile, outside linebacker Darius Fleming, a fifth-round pick a year ago, went down with an apparent left knee injury. He remained on the ground for several minutes where he was attended to by head trainer Jeff Ferguson before getting up and moving around under his own power. Fleming tore his left ACL last May and was lost for the season.

Also missing today is safety Donte Whitner. A trio of running backs, Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter and LaMichael James, were rehabilitating with trainers on a side field. Hunter is coming back from an Achilles injury; Gore's and James' conditions are unknown, though neither appears to be serious.

Starters Justin Smith, Aldon Smith, Ahmad Brooks, Joe Staley and Mike Iupati continue to rehabilitate from offseason injuries. So do receivers Kyle Williams and Mario Manningham.

A trio of veterans who missed last Tuesday's practice, linebacker NaVorro Bowman, Jonathan Goodwin and Anthony Davis, were back for today's session. Cornerback Tarell Brown continues to train on his own in Texas while fellow starter Carlos Rogers was working out in the weight room during practice. That will mean more practice time for newcomer Nnamdi Asomugha.

June 4, 2013
Even more special teams help: 49ers sign WR Osgood, cut WR Hastings

The 49ers on Tuesday signed free agent receiver Kassim Osgood, yet another player with a reputation for his special teams play. Osgood, 33, is entering his 11th season. At 6-5, 220, he easily is the 49ers' biggest wide receiver.

To make room, the team released receiver Joe Hastings, who made the active roster midway through the 2011 season but was released prior to 2012.

He spent last year with the Lions and had no starts and no catches. However, he made the Pro Bowl in 2006, 2007 and 2009 as a special teams ace, and he adds to a growing list of 49ers acquisitions with special teams backgrounds.

The team already has signed Dan Skuta, Marlon Moore, and on Monday, Ray Ventrone to compete for spots on the coverage units. The 49ers also used a sixth-round pick on Nick Moody, an inside linebacker who stood out on special teams in college.

-- Matt Barrows

June 3, 2013
More special teams help: 49ers sign safety Ventrone

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More evidence the 49ers weren't happy with their coverage units in 2012: The team today signed Ray Ventrone, a special teams standout most recently in Cleveland, to a one-year deal.

Ventrone got his NFL start with the Patriots in 2005 and played the last four seasons in Cleveland, two of them with current 49ers special teams coordinator Brad Seely. He appeared in 12 games last season and recorded seven special teams tackles. Ventrone also is familiar to newly hired 49ers consultant Eric Mangini, who has been a head coach with the Jets and Browns.

The 49ers ranked second to last in defending kickoff returns last year, and they allowed a Super Bowl-record 108-yard touchdown to open the second half against the Ravens in February. Two of the players the team relied on to bolster that unit, linebackers Tavares Gooden and Larry Grant, were not re-signed in free agency.

Meanwhile, the 49ers added two other coverage specialists, linebacker Dan Skuta and receiver Marlon Moore, in free agency. They used a sixth-round draft pick on Nick Moody, whose initial contribution, should he make the squad, likely would be on special teams.

In addition, linebacker Michael Wilhoite, who was activated on Nov. 30 last season and who turned out to be one of the team's better coverage players, returns this year. In just five games, Wilhoite had seven tackles, which ranked seventh on the team.

To make room for Ventrone, the 49ers waived fullback Jason Schepler.

-- Matt Barrows

June 3, 2013
Michael Crabtree gets his stitches removed. Now what?

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Michael Crabtree had his stitches removed today following surgery to repair a torn, right Achilles tendon on March May 22. So what's next for the 49ers' No. 1 wideout? If he plans on playing in 2013 - and Jim Harbaugh has been consistent in saying the injury isn't season-ending - he will need to get to work right away.

Dr. Dan Solomon, an orthopedic surgeon with Marin Orthopedics and Sports Medicine in Novato, said an aggressive course of action would get Crabtree in the pool and working on his range of motion as soon as the surgical wound heals. The rehabilitation routine for Achilles injuries has been honed and improved over the last decade or so, which is one of the reasons why the injury is not the career-ender it used to be.

One of the things we know about Crabtree's injury is that - unlike, say, Baltimore Ravens' linebacker Terrell Suggs' last year - it was a complete tear. That's not good. The Achilles tendon attaches the calf muscle to the heel bone. Partial tears like Suggs' means that there are parts of the six-inch tendon that are still intact. That not only is beneficial for a speedier recovery, it means there is no guesswork as far as figuring out the right amount of tension in the tendon.

When there's a complete tear, the surgeon has to make an educated guess - usually involving the other, undamaged Achilles - as far as how much tension to give the tendon when it is reattached. Solomon said tears that occur at either end of the tendon are easier to repair than tears in the middle. For one, there is better blood flow at the end points. Two, the tension is easier to determine.

June 3, 2013
Wit happens: Levi Strauss is stealing my jokes

Levi's has positioned itself to turn cleverness into cash.

According to The Merc's Mike Rosenberg, the company recently coughed up $350 each to trademark two one-liners that refer to the newly named "Levi's Stadium." The first is, "Field of Jeans," which 49ers CEO Jed York mentioned -- to laughs -- at last month's naming rights press conference.

The second is, "Win one for the Zipper," which Levi's honcho Chip Bergh mentioned -- to laughs -- at the press conference. You can envision these slogans being used on billboards, advertising and t-shirts, and the 49ers and Levi's making beaucoup dollars off of them. Which is all well and good, except for one thing ...

... "Win one for the Zipper" is my joke! I tweeted it mere minutes after the team announced its $220 naming rights deal with the blue jeans maker. Proof:

Don't get me wrong. I'm not implying Levi's has stolen my intellectual hilariousness. I'm saying it. Now I know how Ziggy felt when The New Yorker published his ideas. Some charlatan has stolen a Barrows and passed it off as his own.

The only way to make amends for this theft is for York and Bergh to write me a check for ... oh, $4.9 million ought to cover it. Or at least send me a pair of jeans. I have a size 29 waist (just like in high school!). I'll wear them with my "Win one for the Zipper" t-shirt.

-- Matt Barrows

June 2, 2013
Two hurt as oak tree crashes down on 49ers coaching outing

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A sprawling, 150-year-old oak tree came crashing down during a lawn bowling outing for 49ers coaches and their wives Saturday evening, injuring two people.

Neither of those hurt suffered life-threatening injuries and neither is affiliated with the 49ers. The tree was so wide that it spread from a parking lot outside the San Jose Lawn Bowls Club in the Willow Glen neighborhood of San Jose to over the club's green. One man in the parking lot was injured when the tree crashed down on his car, one of six vehicles struck. He had to be cut out of the vehicle by the San Jose Fire Department, said club president Larry O'Dea.

A club member, a woman in her 60s, was on the green and suffered a compound leg fracture and a gash to her head, O'Dea said. He said the group - about 20 49ers assistant coaches and their wives - scattered as the tree started coming down. A testament to how fast it fell and how close it came to inflicting more injuries: One unnamed assistant coach came away with scrapes on the back of his neck.

"It was so unbelievably violent and fast," O'Dea said of the fall. "It took five seconds. It was incredible. It just split right down the crotch of the tree from the crotch to the roots. Everybody was yelling, 'run for your lives!'"

Running backs coach Tom Rathman said he and his wife, Holly, heard a sharp crack from the tree and just started running. When he looked back, he said the tree had fallen precisely in the spot everyone had been standing moments earlier. "Very easily someone could have died," he said.

O'Dea said the outing was hosted by defensive backs coach Ed Donatell and that special teams coach Brad Seely, Rathman, quarterbacks coach Geep Chryst and linebackers coach Jim Leavitt were among those in attendance. Jim Harbaugh was not on hand. The group had been bowling for about 20 minutes when the tree fell at about 6 p.m.

O'Dea said the tree was so big that, in the immediate aftermath, there was no way to know how many people were trapped beneath it. He said the 49ers assistants were busy pulling tree limbs away as the fire department and Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office arrived on the scene.

One of the 49ers had been standing next to the woman who was injured when the tree started to fall. After it went down, he realized the woman was no longer next to him and the group began clearing branches to find her. "Those guys were so helpful," O'Dea said.

There was no wind when the tree fell, O'Dea said, and the City of San Jose had trimmed the tree a few weeks earlier.

Photo: Defensive backs coach Ed Donatell.

-- Matt Barrows

June 1, 2013
49ers to hire Mangini as offensive consultant

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The 49ers will hire former Browns and Jets head coach Eric Mangini as a "senior offensive consultant," a league source confirmed today. Mangini's name surfaced in relation to a 49ers' consulting job last month, and Jim Harbaugh on Tuesday hinted that a move could be made soon. Mangini is expected to report for work Monday.

ESPN's Chris Mortenson was first to report the imminent hire.

Harbaugh, as is his habit, refused to talk about the particulars of the job. "Well, rather than be premature about what we're looking for, or what we're going to do, there will be a time and a place to talk about that," he said on Tuesday.

That Mangini, 42, would offer expertise on the offensive side of the ball at first seems odd. He made a name for himself as a defensive coach, first coaching the secondary with the Jets and Patriots and then as a defensive coordinator in New England. Furthermore, the 49ers have an abundance of coaching talent on offense, including Harbaugh himself, offensive coordinator Greg Roman, who is expected to become a head coach at some point, and assistants like Tim Drevno, John Morton and Tom Rathman.

Mangini's role will be to break down film of upcoming opponents and to offer defensive expertise -- and a defensive perspective -- to those offensive coaches. When former Nevada coach Chris Ault was shopping his services to the NFL as a consultant, for example, he found that most of the interest came not from offensive coaches wanting to know how to run Ault's famed "pistol" formation but from defensive coaches eager to figure out how to stop it.

Hiring Mangini, who's been working as an ESPN analyst the last two seasons, also presumably would give the 49ers a jump on hiring him as an assistant if, say, someone like secondary coach Ed Donatell or defensive line coach Jim Tomsula were hired elsewhere. Donatell has been on several teams' short lists for defensive coordinator the last two seasons, but the 49ers have blocked those overtures.

Perhaps more significant, the newly created position gives Mangini experience with, and exposure to, offensive minds like Harbaugh and Roman to make Mangini a more well-rounded and more desirable head-coaching candidate in the future. Mangini has only coached offense for one season in the NFL, when he was an offensive assistant for the Ravens in 1996.

Mangini was on hand for one of the 49ers' practices in Youngstown, Ohio, in 2011. In addition, he has a relationship with 49ers special teams coordinator Brad Seely, who also is San Francisco's assistant head coach and is a trusted adviser for Harbaugh. He also was on the Jets staff when 49ers general manager Trent Baalke was a scout in that organization.

-- 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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