49ers Blog and Q&A

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

September 30, 2013
Film review: Miller, run-blockers excel; Brown aggressive; Iupati update


Coaches always say losses are never as bad as they seem when examined on film the next day. The opposite can be said of wins. When a team wins 35-11, as the 49ers did Thursday in St. Louis, you expect it to be a near-flawless, dominant performance. The 49ers still have plenty of room for improvement.

Some clunkiness remains on offense, which racked up 370 yards - 219 of it on the ground - but still called on Andy Lee to punt seven times. Colin Kaepernick definitely is emerging from the offensive funk that gripped the team in the preceding two weeks but still was off line on some throws, especially when he was scrambling. Frank Gore fumbled and Kaepernick and Kendall Hunter flubbed a handoff that resulted in another fumble.

There also were 10 more penalties, which is close to their average. With two teams yet to play in Week 4, the 49ers rank second in the league with 39 penalties for 339 yards (!). All of which is to say, the score may indicate the 49ers are back to their 2011-12 form, but the on-field play can get better.

One area that looked up to snuff - run blocking. It was excellent throughout the night. Everyone deserves credit, starting with the offensive line right on down to the tight ends and Anquan Boldin, who delivered several crushing blocks. But fullback Bruce Miller had key blocks on nearly all of the big runs of the game and had, by far, his best game of the season. With Delanie Walker in Tennessee now, Miller has taken on a bigger role in the offense and delivered in St. Louis. He also had three catches for 22 yards.

September 29, 2013
Q&A: 49ers won't rule out trading for Britt, Gordon but ...

A: Most of your questions on the matter have begun, "any chance ...?" Well, yes. I spoke to a team official on background who said the 49ers never would rule out trading for anyone, including the receivers mentioned above. But he said they were not actively looking at them at that moment.

There are a few reasons why. First, they have two players at the position - Mario Manningham and Michael Crabtree - expected to join the active roster this year. Manningham is on track to resume practicing in two weeks. Crabtree, meanwhile, is very much on track as far as a six-month rehab.

Furthermore, there's a good reason why some of these teams want to deal their receivers. Britt has run afoul of law enforcement multiple times since being drafted in 2009; Gordon faces a year suspension if he has another failed drug test. The 49ers at one point could argue that they were uniquely set up to handle problematic players. After Aldon Smith's multiple incidents, that no longer is the case, and it would seem unlikely they would take on someone like Britt or Wallace so soon after Smith entered treatment for substance abuse.

It's true that the 49ers' future at wide receiver is cloudy and that the 49ers particularly could use a big, down-the-field receiver like Britt or Gordon. Of the six receivers who were on the active roster Thursday, only Quinton Patton and Jon Baldwin are signed beyond this season. (Crabtree is as well, through 2014). But the team still has six pure receivers on the 53-man roster; one other, Chris Harper, who is a receiver/tight end blend; two more who are on the non-football injury list; and one more, Chuck Jacobs, on the practice squad. That's a lot of wideouts.

September 27, 2013
Harbaugh: It's ok for Kaepernick to give in to the Dark Side

"Good. Use your aggressive feelings, boy. Let the hate flow through you." - Emperor

Anyone else get a distinct Return-of-the-Jedi vibe from Jim Harbaugh today when he was talking about Colin Kaepernick and the quarterback's predilection for negative Tweets? If you're not familiar, Kaepernick this week admitted to not only reading but marking as "favorites" some of the nastiest, hate-filled messages directed at him by other Twitter users. And after the Seattle and Indianapolis games, there were quite a few from which to choose.

Harbaugh, meanwhile, was asked if that's a healthy endeavor for a young jedi/quarterback. He channeled his inner-Sith with this response.

"It can be," he said. "Energy is energy. And there's positive energy, there's negative energy. And sometimes a person can get more energy from negative energy. Sometimes that can be a gift. 'Thank You'"

You could practically see Harbaugh reaching for his lightsaber. (I know, I know. The Emperor doesn't have a lightsaber. Please don't send emails).

September 27, 2013
Tough break: Rookie WR Quinton Patton has foot fracture


Receiver Quinton Patton, who was slowed during training camp with a broken finger, will miss a chunk of the season with a broken foot, Jim Harbaugh said today. Patton, who seemed to be filling the role of No. 2 receiver Thursday, suffered the injury in the first half shortly after making his first-ever NFL reception. It went for no gain.

Harbaugh said the injury - to a metacarpal bone - was not significant enough to put Patton on injured reserve, meaning the rookie is expected to play again this season. Patton made an immediate impact in the preseason once his finger healed. He caught six passes for 87 yards and two touchdowns, one of them a 43 yarder.

Harbaugh said he was comfortable with the remaining receivers on the roster, and had particularly strong praise for Jon Baldwin, who made his 49ers debut against the Rams with two catches for 19 yards. "He's got a competitive heart," Harbaugh said.

Asked what he meant, Harbaugh said he couldn't articulate it but that it was a sense he had about Baldwin, whom the 49ers acquired in a trade with Kansas City last month. He said his sense was similar to how a birdwatcher can identify a specific species by its "gist". "I feel like sometimes I have an eye for a competitive heart," Harbaugh said. "I see it in Jon."

After Patton left the game, Kyle Williams resumed his previous role as the No. 2 receiver, playing 22 of the team's 69 snaps. Williams did not have a catch. Baldwin was next among wideouts with 16 snaps. Marlon Moore, a starter in the preseason, was inactive Thursday.

Pass catcher snap count
WR Anquan Boldin: 54; 78%
TE Vance McDonald 49; 71%
TE Vernon Davis 49; 71%
WR Kyle Williams 22; 32%
WR Jon Baldwin 16; 23%
TE Garrett Celek 15; 22%
WR Kassim Osgood 13;19%
WR Quinton Patton 7; 10%

As for Joe Staley, who went down with 1:50 remaining in the game, Harbaugh reiterated that the 49ers appear to have "dodged a bullet." That is, Staley is sore but not seriously injured.

-- Matt Barrows

September 27, 2013
Snap judgments: Skuta starts and Lemonier shines; more snaps for Baldwin?


Veteran Dan Skuta started Thursday's game at right outside linebacker in place of Aldon Smith. But it was rookie Corey Lemonier who ended up playing more snaps -- 43 of the the team's 67 defensive plays compared to 32 for Skuta. Lemonier entered the game in the team's nickel and dime defenses, which were prevalent considering that the Rams quickly fell behind and had no success running the ball.

Both players were active, and Lemonier looked good as a pass rusher. He was credited with three tackles, a quarterback hit and a pass defense. Led by NaVorro Bowman and Ahmad Brooks, the 49ers sacked quarterback Sam Bradford five times.

The lopsided score also allowed the team to rest defensive ends Justin Smith and Ray McDonald, both of whom have been on the injury report for the last two games and who will benefit from the extra three day's rest. McDonald played 53 snaps while Smith played 43. A week earlier against the Colts, Smith was on the field for 57 snaps while McDonald saw 56 snaps.

On offense, the team's plan appeared to be to give rookie Quinton Patton the lion's share of the snaps at No. 2 receiver. That plan went awry, however, when Patton hurt his foot in the first half and did not return. Kyle Williams resumed his previous role as the No. 2 receiver, playing 22 of the team's 69 snaps. Jon Baldwin, who received praise from Jim Harbaugh after the game, was next among wideouts with 16 snaps.

Of course, this was a big game for the running backs and run blockers. Because of that, all three tight ends saw plenty of action, as did fullback Bruce Miller. That group, as well as the offensive line, stood out in the victory.

Pass catcher snap count
WR Anquan Boldin: 54; 78%
TE Vance McDonald 49; 71%
TE Vernon Davis 49; 71%
WR Kyle Williams 22; 32%
WR Jon Baldwin 16; 23%
TE Garrett Celek 15; 22%
WR Kassim Osgood 13;19%
WR Quinton Patton 7; 10%

-- Matt Barrows

September 26, 2013
49ers notes: Bowman assumes leadership role; Baldwin's debut; Staley ok


ST. LOUIS - A 49ers defense missing its spiritual leader and its top pass rusher seemed susceptible to slipping Thursday in St. Louis. Instead it had its most dominant effort of the season by far, forcing 11 Rams punts, two Rams turnovers and holding them to a paltry 18 rushing yards.

"If a link gets taken out of the chain, somebody needs to step up," said linebacker NaVorro Bowman, who led San Francisco's defensive effort with two sacks and three tackles behind the line of scrimmage.

Inside linebacker Patrick Willis sat out the game with a groin injury. Aldon Smith, meanwhile, is seeking treatment after crashing his truck and being arrested for DUI last week. Despite not playing, Smith increased his sack total when the NFL ruled that he, not Justin Smith, took down Colts quarterback Andrew Luck on Sunday. Aldon Smith now has 4 ½ sacks to lead the 49ers.

Dan Skuta replaced him in the starting lineup rookie Corey Lemonier entered in obvious passing situations. The 49ers sacked St. Louis' Sam Bradford five times and hit him an additional eights times. Ahmad Brooks had 1 1/2 sacks. Safety Donte Whitner grabbed his first interception of the season after he gathered in an end-zone pass from Bradford that had been tipped by Tramaine Brock, who was filling in for injured Nnamdi Asomugha.

It could have been even more one-sided. Whitner also dropped an easy interception - the deflection was caught by the Rams - while Bowman let what would have been an interception and touchdown return slip through his hands.

Michael Wilhoite made his first-ever start in place of Willis. Wilhoite, who filled in during the exhibition season after Willis broke his hand, finished with five tackles.

Wide-receiver shuffle - Hoping to spark a slumbering offense, the 49ers gave rookie Quinton Patton, not Kyle Williams, the nod as the No. 2 wide receiver against St. Louis. Patton, however, suffered a foot injury after just one catch for zero yards and did not return. Williams resumed his role and finished without any catches.

September 26, 2013
Back to basics: Gore, 49ers beat Rams in romp


ST. LOUIS - Frank Gore is over the hill. Colin Kaepernick is overexposed. And the 49ers' offensive line is overrated.

Those story lines, which started to emerge during the team's two-game losing streak, were decisively dashed Thursday as the 49ers (2-2) halted their skid with a 35-11 win over the Rams. San Francisco broke out of an offensive funk by abandoning flashy plays and simply handing the ball to Gore, who had been the linchpin of previous 49ers' offenses but who had been lightly utilized in this year's version.

The 30-year-old tailback had been held under 100 yards rushing in each of the first three games this year. On Thursday he ran with the burst and desire of a younger man, surpassing the 100-yard barrier by halftime and finishing with 153 yards and a touchdown. It was his highest total since Dec. 14, 2009 when he ran for 167 yards against the Cardinals.

Gore reached that total despite sitting out the last 14 minutes of the game because the 49ers were so far ahead. An offense that seemed quick to desert the running game in Sunday's loss to Indianapolis, rushed for 219 yards total Thursday. Anthony Dixon added a one-yard touchdown run while Kendall Hunter ran one in from 29 yards late in the fourth quarter.

Gore, who had 20 carries combined in blowout losses to the Seahawks and Colts, had 20 carries through three quarters against the Rams. "It was a get-on-track game," Gore said afterward. "Especially against a team that beat us last year and also tied us."

He said a more simple game plan by offensive coordinator Greg Roman was the key. "Coach G-Ro went back to doing basic stuff," he said. "And we got it going."

September 26, 2013
Halftime: Gore, Boldin bump 49ers out of offensive funk

ST. LOUIS -- The 49ers abandoned flashy calls and fancy plays and started handing the ball to Frank Gore.

The team's 30-year-old tailback, who had been held under 100 yards rushing in each of the first three games, has run with the pop and energy of a much younger man, and he already has 107 yards, including a 34-yard touchdown run on fourth and 1. The 49ers lead 14-3.

Gore and receiver Anquan Boldin have been Colin Kaepernick's main - only? - weapons in the first half, and they appear to have knocked the 49ers out of their two-week-long offensive funk.
The Kaepernick-to-Boldin connection proved fruitful in the 49ers' Week 1 victory and has resumed in the second quarter.

San Francisco been shut down on third downs in the first half until, facing third and 10 in the second quarter, Kaepernick hit Boldin for 42 yards down the left sideline. Three plays later, this time facing third and 19, Kaepernick again looked to Boldin, who shook free of the cornerback, cut down the sideline and leaped into the end zone for the 49ers' first score since the opening quarter against the Colts. Boldin has three catches for 69 yards.

With that series, the 49ers seemed to emerge from the ugly, offensive cloud that has been hovering over them since a blwout loss in Week 2 against Seattle.

September 26, 2013
49ers-Rams pregame: Vernon Davis to start, Jon Baldwin, LaMichael James active


ST. LOUIS - Vernon Davis is active and will start for the 49ers today after missing Sunday's game with a hamstring strain. As expected linebacker Patrick Willis (groin) and cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha (knee) are inactive.

Michael Wilhoite will make his first-ever start in place of Willis. Wilhoite, 26, filled in for Willis throughout the preseason as Willis recovered from a broken hand. Nate Stupar will serve as a backup at inside linebacker. Tramaine Brock will serve as the team's No. 3 cornerback in place of Asomugha. The team also has Perrish Cox and undrafted rookie Darryl Morris in reserve.

Two players, receiver Jon Baldwin and running back LaMichael James, are in uniform for the first time this season. Baldwin, who at 6-4, 230 pounds, is one of the biggest -- and fastest -- receivers on the team was acquired in the trade for A.J. Jenkins last month. Meanwhile, receiver Marlon Moore, who has one catch through three games, is inactive for the first time this year.

James recently recovered from a knee sprain. He was the team's punt returner in the preseason, a job Kyle Williams has handled since Week 1. This is the first time James has been active alongside fellow rushers Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter.

September 25, 2013
Vernon Davis, Patrick Willis listed as questionable vs. Rams


Tight end Vernon Davis and Patrick Willis are listed as questionable on the 49ers' day-before-game injury report. One player, however, seems a lot more likely to play than the other.

Davis (hamstring) practiced on a limited basis this week. (The only full practice occurred on Tuesday). Willis (groin) did not practice this week. Neither did cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha (knee). They are likely to be replaced by Michael Wilhoite and Tramaine Brock respectively Thursday against the Rams.

Aldon Smith is not currently on the roster as he seeks treatment for what the team has termed "a personal matter." Dan Skuta and rookie Corey Lemonier will fill in for him at right outside linebacker. For more on Skuta -- my guess is he'll start and Lemonier will come in on passing downs -- click here.

Meanwhile, receiver Kyle Williams also is listed as questionable with both rib and knee injuries. Williams also practiced Tuesday and neither injury is considered serious. Williams has served as both the team's No. 2 receiver and its punt returner through the first three weeks. Tackle Anthony Davis also went through a limited practice Tuesday.

LaMichael James, who missed the first three games of the season with a knee injury, is not on the injury report this week. Offensive coordinator Greg Roman, however, on Tuesday said that James would be a game-time decision. For the Rams, offensive tackle Roger Saffold (knee) and defensive end Williams Hayes (knee) will not play.

Questionable: CB Nnamdi Asomugha (knee), T Anthony Davis (shoulder), TE Vernon Davis (hamstring), S Raymond Ventrone (concussion), WR Kyle Williams (rib, knee), LB Patrick Willis (groin)

Probable: LB Navorro Bowman (wrist), C Jonathan Goodwin (elbow), RB Frank Gore (knee), G Mike Iupati (shoulder), DT Ray McDonald (ankle, ankle), CB Carlos Rogers (knee), DT Justin Smith (shoulder)

Out: DE William Hayes (knee), T Rodger Saffold (knee)

Probable: T Joe Barksdale (not injury related), WR Chris Givens (knee), LB James Laurinaitis (foot), T Jake Long (foot), S T.J. McDonald (knee), TE Mike McNeill (chest), RB Daryl Richardson (foot), G Chris Williams (foot)

-- Matt Barrows

September 25, 2013
Anti-DUI crusader Delanie Walker comments on Aldon Smith incident


Delanie Walker, who lost an aunt and uncle to an alleged drunk driver hours after the Super Bowl, has become a crusader against DUIs, particularly when it comes to his fellow NFL players. "It starts with us. It starts with the NFL," the tight end told The Bee in May. "We need to lead by example. And those (DUIs) need to be eliminated."

So you might expect Walker would have strong words for former teammate Aldon Smith, who drove his truck into a suburban San Jose front yard early Friday morning and who was arrested for DUI for the second time in as many years.

Well ...

"He is just a young player," Walker said via the Nashville Tennessean. "A young player who has a lot of money, and things like that occur. If he wasn't a Pro Bowl linebacker, I don't think people would be making a big deal out of it. But he is a Pro Bowl linebacker. So a lot of stuff is being put on top of him. I pray for him because he is a good kid, he is just making some bad choices now."

It should be noted that both Smith and Walker are named in a civil suit filed by men who were shot at sprawling party at Smith's rental home in 2012. The suit alleges that the players, both of whom were members of the 49ers at the time, shot guns in the air to disperse the out-of-control party. Two men were later shot when the party goers were leaving; ballistics tests show neither was shot by Smith or Walker. The Chronicle had more on that incident today.

September 24, 2013
Vernon Davis returns to practice; no Willis, Asomugha

Tight end Vernon Davis was on the field for Tuesday's practice after missing Sunday's game with a left hamstring strain. Davis was listed as a "limited" participant on Monday's injury report and likely will have the same designation later today.

Linebacker Patrick Willis (groin) and cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha (knee) were not on the field and neither is likely to play Thursday against the Rams. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, however, would not rule Willis out for the Rams game. "He's making a lot of progress," Fangio said. "It remains to be seen whether he'll be ready on Thursday or not."

Special teams ace Ray Ventrone was in a blue, no-contact uniform after suffering a concussion on Sunday.

-- Matt Barrows

September 24, 2013
Hate therapy: Kaepernick motivated by Twitter criticism

Fuming that Colin Kaepernick has killed your fantasy team the last two weeks? Go ahead and send him an angry Tweet. The 49ers quarterback today says he uses them as motivation. "It's something that I do for me," Kaepernick said. "It helps me."

Evidence that Kaepernick keeps a close eye on his Twitter feed: He's recently been "favoriting" the most insulting, most critical - and most misspelled; this is Twitter, after all - messages addressed to him. In fact, Kaepernick highlighted seven more in the last hour (2:25 p.m.). He seems to especially like/loathe messages that include references to former 49ers quarterback, Alex Smith.

To wit:

* 12b ?@GAJICMAGIC: I've always said alex smith was better then you

* Michael Yohannes ?@mikeyohannes95: one year wonder, the truth hurts bro..

* Trevor MacArthur ?@ItsBigRedd: Kaepernick is a joke. His style doesn't win, he is the ronnie brown of 2008 with the wildcat.

* Connor Kerrigan ?@ConnorKerrigan: is absolute garbage #StartColtMcCoy

* Ivan Rangel @iVanR1288: We Want Alex smith back!!"

September 24, 2013
49ers promote CB Morris to active roster; sign pass rusher to practice squad

With cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha dealing with a knee injury, the 49ers today promoted practice-squad cornerback Darryl Morris to the active roster and signed pass rusher De'Aundre Reed to the practice squad. Morris (5-10, 188) went undrafted out of Texas State. He is one of the fastest players on the squad.

Reed (6-4, 260) was a defensive lineman in Minnesota but projects to outside linebacker/pass-rush specialist with the 49ers. Reed, 25, was a seventh-round pick by the Vikings in 2011 and he was active for six games last season. He was part of the Vikings' final cuts last month and worked out for the 49ers Monday.

The 49ers are short on pass rushers now that Aldon Smith is in treatment for an indefinite period. The 49ers on Monday placed him on the non-football injury list, and there is no time table for his return. He will miss Thursday's game in St. Louis for certain and could miss others as well. The move gave the 49ers an open roster spot they filled with Morris.

Veteran Dan Skuta is expected to start at left outside linebacker in Smith's place with rookie Corey Lemonier entering in passing downs. At one point this season, the 49ers had excellent depth at the position. But they traded both Parys Haralson and Cam Johnson for seventh-round picks in the upcoming draft.

- Matt Barrows

September 24, 2013
Tweet and make up: Finnegan says no bad blood with 49ers' Dahl


A laughing Cortland Finnegan says there's no bad blood between him and Ram-turned-49er Craig Dahl. But that doesn't mean he's going to shake Dahl's hand before Thursday's game.

"Absolutely not," Finnegan, the Rams cornerback, said on a conference call. "C'mon, man. This is not a movie. Not a fairy tale. We want to beat the 49ers, they're in our division. It's on Thursday night. There's a lot of reasons why we need to get on track."

Finnegan had some harsh words for Dahl, a former Rams safety, this spring after Dahl told reporters that he helped the 49ers identify some tells the Rams defense had picked up on in previous meetings. San Francisco was 0-1-1 against St. Louis last season.

Wrote Finnegan on Twitter following Dahl's revelation: "Craig Dahl is lame and weak for that glad he with another squad we know how he play thanks for the tips we know who 2 go at." Later he wrote: "Craig Dahl we know how you play thanks for the tips we know who to attack early and often."

At the time of that spat the 49ers said they were aware they were telegraphing some things during the first meeting with the Rams and fixed that issue by the second meeting. Finnegan corroborated that today. "It wasn't a factor at all," he said of the second encounter with the 49ers. "Not at all. They had definitely worked on it and everything was fine. And it took 10 quarters to get a win from them. They're a great football team, coached well, they do a lot of good things."

Finnegan also said that he and Dahl were on good terms and that he would shake his ex-teammate's hand after the game. "I think the perception of 'Cortland The Football Player' and off the field are two different things," he said. "I texted him and said the same thing. I texted him the same day before I even tweeted. So it's one of those things where me and Craig will continue to move forward from it."

-- Matt Barrows

September 24, 2013
Justin Smith warned 49ers to be wary of recent success


At the end of every Friday practice, the 49ers gather at midfield for Wise Words. It's typically a player who is chosen to deliver a message of his choosing, and on the most recent Friday team captain Justin Smith was tapped. Smith's Wise Words message: Don't let success get to your head.

"Anytime a team or people are having success, it's a natural reaction to exhale a little bit," Smith said later in the locker room that day. "I don't think that's what we're doing, but just be aware of it and keep working as hard as you have been in you do, win or loss, and we should be right back on track."

Smith's words, of course, came only hours after the man he plays beside and has a locker near, Aldon Smith, was arrested for his second DUI in as many years. Justin Smith said the message had nothing to do with that incident, that he would have delivered it despite the arrest.

Smith turns 34 this month, and only recently has he been part of winning teams. Last year his message to the team was that windows for success open only briefly, and that the 49ers must take advantage of them now. Another 49er in his thirties, Carlos Rogers, also had played for bad teams before coming to the 49ers in 2011.

He said that Smith's words struck home, and that he hoped his younger teammates took them to heart.

"Adversity is easy to handle," Rogers said. "When you lose a game, you're fired up and mad and come back and win a game. But when guys have success, you've got to keep having that hunger to come out work here every day and pile up winds, pile up good practices."

Said Rogers of Justin Smith: "Wise Words of the day. He hit it perfectly."

- Matt Barrows

September 23, 2013
Injury report full as 49ers start preparing for St. Louis

Thirteen players appeared on the 49ers' injury report Monday, including linebacker Patrick Willis (groin) and cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha (knee). Neither practiced, and neither is expected to play Thursday against the Rams. The 49ers had a walk-through practice today but were required to file an injury report because of the Thursday game.

Seven players were listed as limited. The good news for the 49ers: Tight end Vernon Davis, who missed Sunday's game against the Colts, was on the limited list. Aldon Smith is not listed because he is not on the active roster while he seeks treatment.

Did not practice: CB Nnamdi Asomugha (knee), S Raymond Ventrone (concussion), LB Patrick Willis (groin)

Limited: LB Navorro Bowman (wrist), T Anthony Davis (shoulder), TE Vernon Davis (hamstring), C Jonathan Goodwin (elbow), DT Ray McDonald (ankle, ankle), DT Justin Smith (shoulder), WR Kyle Williams (rib)

Full participation: RB Frank Gore (knee), G Mike Iupati (shoulder), CB Carlos Rogers (knee)

Did not practice: WR Chris Givens (knee), DE William Hayes (knee), T Rodger Saffold (knee)

Limited: LB James Laurinaitis (foot), T Jake Long (foot), S T.J. McDonald (knee), TE Mike McNeill (chest), RB Daryl Richardson (foot), G Chris Williams (foot)

-- Matt Barrows

September 23, 2013
49ers place Aldon Smith on non-football injury list

The 49ers today placed Aldon Smith on the reserve non-football injury list, a designation that allows the troubled outside linebacker to seek treatment immediately. Smith was arrested early Friday morning for DUI and marijuana possession after crashing his car into a San Jose front yard.

"Aldon Smith is taking a leave of absence to address a personal matter," said 49ers general manager Trent Baalke in a statement. "The 49ers organization both respects and supports Aldon's decision and commends him for taking responsibility for his actions. The long-term well-being of our players is paramount and we will stand by Aldon as he works toward addressing this issue. Due to the private nature of the matter, we will have no further comment."

Said Smith in a statement: "I am taking a leave of absence to address my health. I am sorry that I have affected my team, my family and the organization. I will do everything in my power to handle this situation the best way possible. I appreciate the support of the 49ers and our fans."

Rookie Corey Lemonier and Dan Skuta will fill in for Smith at outside linebacker while he seeks treatment. The designation opens up a spot on the 53-man roster, allowing the 49ers to sign another player this week. It's unclear at this point how many weeks Smith will miss. There is no minimum time he has to sit out by being on NFI.

-- Matt Barrows

September 23, 2013
Harbaugh offers few answers, hints at Jon Baldwin's 49ers debut


After last week's blowout loss to Seattle, Jim Harbaugh said that quarterback Colin Kaepernick was the lone playmaker on offense. Today, he couldn't find any bright spots on the unit. "You never lay it on one spot," he said. "If we're talking offensively, I thought the effort was very good. Precision needs to be better. And that falls under everybody's purview."

For the third straight game, the receivers not named Anquan Boldin were quiet. No. 2 receiver Kyle Williams was targeted six times and finished with two catches for 12 yards and one third-down drop. Marlon Moore and Quinton Patton each were targeted once but had no catches.

Asked whether Jon Baldwin, who has been inactive to this point, could play soon, Harbaugh said, "That's possible. He's doing a good job. Had a good week of practice last week." Baldwin is 6-4, 230 pounds and has excellent speed. At the least, he would be able to stretch defenses, something the 49ers had a hard time doing without Vernon Davis (hamstring) in the lineup Sunday.

Otherwise, Harbaugh had few answers. With a short week to prepare for the Rams in St. Louis, he and the rest of the coaching staff spent the night at team headquarters trying to figure out a remedy for the first, two-game skid of the Harbaugh era. "There's always another thing to try," he said. "Just go back to work and see if there's something to improve and fix."

Both Patrick Willis (groin) and Nnamdi Asomugha (knee) will have MRIs today. They are unlikely to play in St. Louis, and would be replaced by Michael Wilhoite and Tramaine Brock respectively. If Asomugha's injury is serious, Eric Wright likely would be taken off the NFI (non-football injury) list at the earliest possible date, which is just after Week 6.

Harbaugh said there would be an announcement upcoming about Aldon Smith's immediate future. He's likely to be placed on the NFI list. The question the team hasn't answered yet is whether that designation means Smith must miss a set number of weeks.

-- Matt Barrows

September 23, 2013
Film review: Woes are largely on offense; Kaepernick's slow starts

Thumbnail image for kaptripped.jpg

One of the themes from the 49ers' recent slide is how starkly different they look than the 2011 squad that everyone fell in love with when Jim Harbaugh first arrived. In fact, it was the Colts who looked very 2011-49ers-like in playing small ball on offense but making very, very few mistakes along the way.

After re-watching the game, the 49ers at times looked like their former selves. They had an excellent scoring drive on their second possession, then followed that by forcing a three-and-out by the Colts. But San Francisco's offense in particular never could maintain momentum. And it wasn't because they were continually in third-and-long situations. The 49ers had a series of third-and-3 and third-and-4 scenarios - absolutely reasonable, desirable downs - but Colin Kaepernick hardly ever had an easy read.

Was it because there were no open receivers? Or is Kaepernick having trouble going through his progressions? It's probably a combination of both, and it promises to be a big topic during Harbaugh's noon press conference. Either way, it's been an issue for two straight games, and San Francisco will have to find a solution, perhaps reshuffling its receiver lineup. Austin Collie remains a free agent. So does Lavelle Hawkins.

The statistics suggest the defense is collapsing. After all, it's allowed six rushing touchdowns in three games. Actually, the unit played well. Midway through the fourth quarter, for example, the score was 13-7. The defense put the offense in a position to win the game but the offense never could get anything going.

September 22, 2013
"Felt flat, looked flat" -- 49ers in trouble after latest blowout loss


SAN FRANCISCO - Two-game losing streaks are never good, but the 49ers' current skid seems particularly dark.

After falling 27-7 to the Colts Sunday, the 49ers revealed outside linebacker Aldon Smith who crashed his car in a suburban front yard two days earlier, would miss the next game while he seeks help for a substance abuse issue.

They started the game without tight end Vernon Davis and finished it without linebacker Patrick Willis and cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, both of whom were hurt in the second half and who are in danger of missing the next game. Their high-profile quarterback had a second abysmal performance, the offense scored in single digits for the second-straight game and the coach has lost two contests in a row for the first time in his tenure.

To top it off, the 49ers must travel to play the one division opponent - St. Louis - they could not beat last season and have a short week to prepare for the encounter. "We have no choice. No choice but to find our way," said Jim Harbaugh, who was short on answers for why his team faltered.

A few minutes later Harbaugh, general manager Trent Baalke and owner Jed York stood next to Smith, 23, as he admitted he had a "problem."

"It's something I will get fixed," Smith said. "I'll do everything in my power to make sure this never happens again. I also want to let everybody know that, once again, I'm sorry. Like I said, this won't happen again."

September 22, 2013
Aldon Smith admits he has a problem, will miss next game at least


Aldon Smith will miss Thursday's game in St. Louis as he seeks help for a "problem," both he and team owner Jed York said after today's 27-7 loss to the Colts.

After the game, Smith, who crashed his car Friday morning and who was arrested for DUI, made a brief appearance. "First off I wanted to apologize to the team, the organization, my family, everybody I let down," he said. "You know, I also want to let it be known that this is a problem. It's something I will get fixed. I'll do everything in my power to make sure this never happens again. I also want to let everybody know that, once again, I'm sorry. Like I said, this won't happen again."

York then spoke, confirming that Smith, an All-Pro linebacker with 19 ½ sacks last season, will miss Thursday's game.

"We're very fortunate that nobody got hurt, Aldon included and anybody else, and we want to make sure that Aldon's never in a position like this again," York said. He said Smith's leave of absence would be indefinite.

Asked if it was fair to say Smith, who also had a DUI arrest last year, would seek treatment and counseling, York said, "Again, that's Aldon's personal issue. We're going to support him and I believe Aldon wants to tackle this problem. And we're going to do everything we can to help him."

Smith played nearly every defensive snap against the Colts, and he finished the game with five tackles, including one for a loss. Why didn't he start addressing his problem earlier? Why did he play today?

"We thought it was the best decision for Aldon, and for him and his future and to make progress and to get better," York said. Later he said benching Smith didn't make sense.

"Sitting someone down and paying them to sit down when they're going to seek treatment in the future - that didn't seem like an appropriate punishment," York said. "I know it might not sound reasonable. But for Aldon to be able to face the media, face his team and take full responsibility for what he's doing - we felt that was the best situation for Aldon himself and for the team and ultimately for the community at large. A lot of people might not agree with that decision, but that's the decision we felt was best."

Because this is Smith's second arrest, the NFL is likely to suspend him at some point, perhaps next season when the case has been adjudicated. "We're not worried about that," York said of the suspension. "We're not trying to circumvent what the NFL will do. This is about making sure Aldon has the opportunity to work on something, get better."

With Smith out, look for rookie Corey Lemonier and veteran Dan Skuta to play against the Rams.

-- Matt Barrows

September 22, 2013
Patrick Willis injures groin, is out for game

Inside linebacker Patrick Willis injured his groin while trying to tackle Colts receiver Reggie Wayne at the end of the third quarter and has been ruled out for the game. Michael Wilhoite has replaced him as the "Sam" inside linebacker. Willis' status for the next game automatically comes into question because the 49ers are operating with a short work week. They play the Rams in St. Louis on Thursday.

The 49ers also could be without tight end Vernon Davis, who missed today's game with a hamstring strain. Aldon Smith's status also is unknown. National reports say that the 49ers are strongly considering sending him to a rehabilitation program after he was arrested for DUI on Friday.

-- Matt Barrows

September 22, 2013
Halftime: 49ers and still-wobbly offense trail 10-7


Perhaps still reeling from their blowout loss in Seattle, the 49ers and their still wobbly offense trail the Colts 10-7.

Colin Kaepernick is 2-8 for 38 yards with one notable drop by rookie receiver Quinton Patton on third down in the second quarter. There already have been eight punts in the game - four by each team.

The 49ers' rushing game, largely absent in the first two weeks of the season, showed signs of life on the second drive. Frank Gore had runs of 22, 11 and 21 yards as the offensive line blew apart big holes and tight ends and receivers made solid blocks down field.

At the 13-yard line, Kaepernick handed the ball to Kendall Hunter on a delayed handoff, and Hunter darted to the right side of the end zone for his first touchdown since Nov. 19 last year.
Since then, however, the only offensive play of note has been a 24-yard, third-down catch by Anquan Boldin. That drive ultimately ended in a punt as well.

The 49ers entered the game tied for most penalties in the league, and they piled up a few more in the first half. The first two plays of the game, for example, were wiped away by an unnecessary roughness call against Donte Whitner - using the crown of his helmet - and a pass-interference penalty on cornerback Tarell Brown. Brown also was whistled for a holding call in the second quarter.

Those penalties brought Indianapolis to near midfield. From there, Andrew Luck twice found his favorite target today, Darrius Heyward-Bey, before newcomer Trent Richardson walked into the end zone for a one-yard touchdown.

Outside linebacker Aldon Smith, who according to reports may be heading to rehab after this game, has played every defensive snap so far. He even went into the game on special teams to try to block a punt.

-- Matt Barrows

September 22, 2013
Vernon Davis won't play vs. Colts; Aldon Smith to start


Aldon Smith is active today against the Colts, but Vernon Davis is not. The team's tight end, who was Colin Kaepernick's No. 2 option in a Week 1 win over Green Bay, suffered a hamstring strain last week in Seattle. With a game coming up Thursday in St. Louis, the 49ers did not want to risk exacerbating the injury. This would have been his first game against little brother Vontae Davis, a Colts cornerback.

Smith, meanwhile, will start at right outside linebacker despite a DUI arrest Friday morning. He'll be pitted against a reshuffled Colts offensive line. Mike McGlynn will start at center for injured Samson Satele while Jeff Linkenbach moves into McGlynn's right guard spot. Running back LaMichael James, who was listed as questionable on the 49ers' injury report with a sprained knee, is inactive for the first time this season.

The 49ers will enter the game with just two tight ends, rookie Vance McDonald and Garrett Celek. McDonald will start in place of Davis. The team has two fullbacks active this week, Bruce Miller and recent signee, Owen Marecic. Another tight end, Chris Harper, is not active.

The Colts also are missing two starters on defense. Delano Howell will make his first-ever start at safety in place of LaRon Landry. Kelvin Sheppard will start for Pat Angerer at inside linebacker.

49ers inactives:
TE Vernon Davis
QB B.J. Daniels
WR Chris Harper 
RB LaMichael James 
LB Nate Stupar 
G Joe Looney 
WR Jon Baldwin

Colts inactives:
G Samson Satele
WR Da'Rick Rogers
S LaRon Landry
LB Pat Angerer
WR David Reed
DT Montori Hughes
RB Kerwynn Williams.

-- Matt Barrows

September 22, 2013
Reports: Aldon Smith may play "sparingly" vs. Colts; get help after game

Jim Harbaugh said he "expects" Aldon Smith, who had his second DUI arrest in a year and a half on Friday, will be on the field today against Indianapolis. But the team's starting outside linebacker may not be the full-time player he was in the first two games. NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported this morning that Smith may play "sparingly."

More national reports said the 49ers would seek help for Smith, who has steadily shown up in a number of police reports since January 2012. Fox Sports reported that Smith could begin a rehab program as early as this week. No decision has been made on the matter, however.

Smith played 100 percent of the defensive snaps in Week 1 and 91 percent in Week 2 as he battled through a back injury. He was limited in practice this week and is listed as probable on the team's injury report. Smith leads the 49ers with 3 1/2 sacks. If he came out of the game, rookie Corey Lemonier and Dan Skuta would be available to replace him.

Smith, 23, was arrested at 7 a.m. Friday in San Jose after he went off the road and into a residential front yard. Smith, according to neighbors, was sleeping with his foot still on the accelerator, causing the tires of his truck -- pinned against a small tree -- to spin and smoke. He was arrested for suspicion of DUI and marijuana possession. He was released from jail three hours later and practiced with the team that afternoon.

-- Matt Barrows

September 20, 2013
Vernon vs. Vontae? Tight end's injury makes it iffy


Vernon Davis said he's waiting for team doctors to give him the go-ahead to play Sunday, which would be the first game he's ever played against his younger brother, Colts cornerback Vontae Davis.

Vernon Davis, who suffered a left hamstring strain late in Sunday's loss to Seattle, was the only 49er who did not practice Friday. He is listed as questionable on the team's injury report.

The 49ers tight end said he was able to run on a side field while the rest of the team practiced Friday. "I'm feeling pretty good, sore, bruised up, but that comes with the business, comes with the game," he said. " Definitely my focus is on this game. .. We shall see when Sunday comes."

Davis said he was surprised the injury occurred since he spends so much time before and after practice stretching his hamstrings, groin and calves. "That's all I do," he said. "When you guys don't see me, I'm in here stretching."

If Davis can't play, backups Vance McDonald and Garrett Celek would step in. It also might lead to Chris Harper's debut. Acquired just before the season began, Harper is listed as a receiver but is studying how to play the tight-end role Delanie Walker had the last two seasons. Harper has been inactive the first two games.

September 20, 2013
Harbaugh: Aldon Smith will play against Colts


Aldon Smith not only was on the practice field mere hours after being released from county jail Friday, Jim Harbaugh said he expects the 49ers outside linebacker to play Sunday against the Colts. Smith is listed as probable with a back injury on the team's injury report this week.

Harbaugh spent his Friday media session parrying reporters' questions about Smith's status. At first he said the team had not decided what would happen to the linebacker, who was arrested at 7 a.m. for suspicion of DUI and marijuana possession. Smith drove his car through a residential front yard where it became pinned against a tree.

Later Harbaugh said, "I expect Aldon, like today, he'll be back to work and playing on Sunday."

Last year, defensive end Demarcus Dobbs also was involved in a single-car accident the Friday before a game. Like Smith, Dobbs was arrested for suspicion of DUI and marijuana possession. Dobbs did not make the trip to St. Louis that weekend.

Asked why Smith's case was treated differently, Harbaugh said, "Demarcus wasn't here last year when we left for St. Louis." Pressed on why, if that were true, Dobbs couldn't have taken a later flight, Harbaugh said, "Like I said, I'm not going into specifics and the dissecting of what the policies are. If you want to question those, so be it."

Harbaugh said it also would be left up to the league, and not the team, to suspend Smith. "That's pretty exclusive to the league," he said. "Well, it is. They have exclusive rights to the consequences. And there will be consequences. There always is, good or bad. We all have consequences."

Teams, however, can suspend players for conduct detrimental to the team. Last year, for example, the 49ers suspended running back Brandon Jacobs for the final three games of the season.

Meanwhile, more details have surfaced about the accident. Smith appears to have driven off the road this morning and into a residential yard where his vehicle became pinned against a tree. According to a neighbor, who declined to be identified, Smith continued to press against the accelerator for a period of time, causing the tires to spin and smoke.

Defensive end Ray McDonald, who lives in the area, said that he "rolled by" to check on Smith.

September 20, 2013
Anthony Davis only player fined after Seattle showdown

The 49ers-Seahawks game Sunday had 22 penalties and plenty of after-the-whistle shoving. The only player fined, however, was right tackle Anthony Davis, who has been docked $7,875 for an unnecessary roughness foul late in the fourth quarter.

Tight end Vance McDonald was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct and Aldon Smith for unnecessary roughness, but neither was fined. Nor was Seahawks guard J.R. Sweezy, whose low -- but legal -- block on Ian Williams resulted in a broken ankle for the 49ers' nose tackle. Williams will not play again this season.

Davis also was fined after last year's game against the Seahawks in Seattle. Davis buried Seattle rookie cornerback Jeremy Lane -- who is 140 pounds lighter than Davis -- with a block well after the play had ended late in the fourth quarter in what was then a 35-6 game.

-- Matt Barrows

September 20, 2013
Police: Aldon Smith arrested for DUI in San Jose


Aldon Smith was involved in a single-car accident this morning in San Jose and has been arrested for suspicion of driving under the influence and marijuana possession, authorities said. Smith was not injured in the crash. He was arrested at 7:02 a.m., taken to Santa Clara County's main jail and has since been released. His bail was set at $5,250.

Smith was on hand for Friday's practice, which began at 12:40 p.m.

Sgt. Heather Randol of the San Jose Police Department said dispatchers received a 911 call this morning from a resident who reported an accident. When officers arrived, they found Smith in a dark-colored pickup truck, which had struck a tree. They determined he was under the influence, arrested him and he was booked into the county jail.

Smith, the 49ers All-Pro outside linebacker, also was arrested for DUI in January 2012, was stabbed at a raucous party at his house in June 2012 and was involved in a rollover accident near his home in September 2012. According to the CHP, Smith was the passenger in that incident.

This is the fifth DUI-related incident by the 49ers in the last three years. Defensive end Ray McDonald was cited for DUI in 2010. Two others, defensive end Demarcus Dobbs and offensive lineman Al Netter, were arrested for DUI last year. Another player, outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks, was involved in an ugly incident in June in which he struck a teammate in the head three times with a beer bottle, according to police reports. The local district attorney investigated the case for a month but ultimately did not file charges.

Dobbs' incident also involved marijuana possession after he, like Smith, was in a single-vehicle accident. Dobbs did not travel with the team to St. Louis the following Sunday. He also served a one-game suspension in Week 1 this year stemming from his incident.

September 20, 2013
Alex Smith still delivering for 49ers; a look at 2014 draft bounty


Looking very much like the 2011 San Francisco 49ers, Alex Smith and the Chiefs beat the Eagles 26-16 in Philadelphia Thursday night. The win improves Kansas City's record to 3-0 and increases the likelihood the 49ers will get better-than-expected compensation in the upcoming draft.

The 49ers already received a second-round pick in the trade that sent Smith to the Chiefs earlier this year. The 49ers parlayed that pick into defensive end Tank Carradine. They also get a pick in May (the draft will now be held in May; get used to it), which as of now is a third-round selection but improves to a second rounder if the Chiefs finish .500 or better. Smith's former 49ers backers are still rooting for him, though to a degree: The best scenario for the 49ers would be for the Chiefs to finish 8-8.

Smith never pushed the ball deep down field against the Eagles in throwing for 273 yards, and he completed only one pass to top receiver Dwayne Bowe. Those storylines are familiar to 49ers fans. Also familiar: He committed no turnovers and hit receiver Donnie Avery on a critical third-down strike when Avery was well covered and when the Chiefs were backed up near their own end zone.

September 19, 2013
Fangio, 49ers not counting on rookie lineman


The 49ers defensive line may get rookie reinforcements at some point this season, but Vic Fangio today said he has no idea when draft picks Tank Carradine and Quinton Dial will be back, and in Dial's case, what position he'll play.

"It's all just supposition right now," the 49ers defensive coordinator said. "These guys have not been on the field once, they're both coming off extensive surgeries on their legs, and we've got to see where they're at physically before we really know anything."

At 6-5, 318 pounds, Dial is the team's largest defender. He played both defensive end and nose tackle in Alabama's pro-style defense. "It's definitely a similar style to the way coach (Nick) Saban ran his program - an NFL-style defense," Dial said of the 49ers system. "It's very similar. It's just the terminology is different."

Theoretically, Dial could step in as a nose tackle if the 49ers have more injuries at the position later this year. The starter there, Ian Williams, broke his ankle on Sunday and is out for the season. Glenn Dorsey and Tony Jerod-Eddie will man the position now.

Dial's timeline, however, remains a question mark. He and Carradine (and Marcus Lattimore and Eric Wright) are on the non-football injury list, meaning the earliest they can play is Week 7, which is the team's Oct. 20 game at Tennessee.

But he first must get healthy.

September 19, 2013
Fangio expects to see plenty of new Colts RB, injury updates for 49ers


Running back Trent Richardson only will have two full practices this week with his new team, the Colts, but the 49ers are expecting to see a lot of the big tailback on Sunday.

"A lot of times when you get a trade like this during the season, it's when a guy was holding out or something, and he's really not ready to go," defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said today of the Wednesday deal that sent Richardson from Cleveland to Indianapolis. "This guy's ready to go. I expect him to play a bunch on Sunday."

Fangio and the 49ers said they wouldn't alter their game plan. But they had to account for the fact that, at 225 pounds, Richardson is bigger and is a more aggressive runner than the Colts previous starter, Vick Ballard and his understudies, Ahmad Bradshaw and Donald Brown. Ballard tore his ACL on Sunday and is out for the season.

The 49ers learned of the trade during their Wednesday afternoon practice. Linebacker Patrick Willis said the defense watched some film of Richardson after that session and studied him a bit more on Thursday. "He's a good running back," Willis said. "You don't know why Cleveland would let go of a guy like that, but for whatever reason that is, he's a Colt now and that's what we'll have to get ready for."

Safety Eric Reid played against Richardson, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2012 draft, twice when he was at LSU and Richardson at Alabama.

"He's an SEC running back," Reid said. "He definitely looks the part, as you can tell. He runs just like it. You've got to gang tackle him. ... I don't think we necessarily change the game plan. You just recognize it might take a little but more oomph to get him on the ground."

September 18, 2013
Kaepernick has foot injury; 49ers' starting defensive line dinged

The 49ers, who went into Sunday's game in Seattle with only one player, LaMichael James, on their injury report, emerged from it with 10 injured players, including quarterback Colin Kaepernick and the team's entire starting defensive line.

Kaepernick is listed with a foot injury but practiced in full Wednesday. So did left guard Mike Iupati, who has a shoulder injury. Iupati had surgery on his shoulder this offseason and didn't take part in the team's May and June OTA sessions.

Defensive ends Ray McDonald (ankle, ankle) and Justin Smith (shoulder) did not practice at all. McDonald's injury is not a typo. He has injuries to both ankles, though it was an apparent right ankle sprain that knocked him out of Sunday's game. Starting nose tackle Ian Williams was lost for the season when he suffered a broken ankle in the first quarter.

The others who did not practice were tight end Vernon Davis, who suffered a hamstring strain in the fourth quarter, and James, who still is dealing with a knee injury suffered in the preseason finale.

Starting defensive players NaVorro Bowman (wrist), Eric Reid (concussion) and Aldon Smith (back) were limited in practice. Reid practiced in a blue, non-contact uniform. He has not shown any symptoms since his concussion against the Seahawks but still must pass the league's post-concussion protocol before being cleared to play Sunday against the Colts.

Aldon Smith, meanwhile, briefly left Sunday's game and was replaced by rookie Corey Lemonier. Still, Smith finished the game and had two sacks. He has three and a half on the season, tying him for third place.

-- Matt Barrows

September 18, 2013
Crabtree ready for Seahawks rematch? It sure seems possible


Michael Crabtree remains on schedule to return to action this season, and he looked surprisingly healthy before Wednesday's practice got underway. Crabtree, who tore his Achilles' tendon in May, spent the early part of the session - the only part open to reporters - going through low impact drills on a side field along with other injured and rehabilitating players like Marcus Lattimore, Tank Carradine, Eric Wright, etc.

Before that began, however, I watched him horsing around with some other players who were warming up before practice. There was a rope ladder on the field, and Crabtree went through that drill - it's similar to the old-fashioned tire drill where an athlete must rapidly step into a series of tires - quickly and with ease.

Crabtree is exactly 17 weeks removed from the surgery to repair his Achilles' tendon. The 49ers have been mum about his rehabilitation schedule, saying only they think he can play this year and that he has been on schedule to do so.

If he is following the timeline used by other orthopedic surgeons who have worked on high-level athletes, Crabtree is now in the two-month stage where he adds muscle mass that was lost immediately after the surgery. Here's the overall timeline:

September 18, 2013
Hot tip: Andrew Luck gave Harbaugh his first scouting report on Colin Kaepernick


The first person to give Jim Harbaugh a scouting report on his future starting quarterback, Colin Kaepernick? It was his then-current starting quarterback, Andrew Luck, who attended the Manning Passing Academy alongside Kaepernick and other top college football passers in 2010 when he and Harbaugh were at Stanford.

"When Andrew got back from the Academy, just asked him what quarterbacks stood out to him, who was good and I asked him who he got along with," Harbaugh said today. "He lit up talking about Colin. It was the first name out of his mouth."

Luck was fuzzier on the details during a conference call this morning. "I must have said something because I remember people talking about that as a story when he got drafted. But I don't remember a specific conversation at that point," the Colts quarterback said.

Opposing coaches always bombard the opposing quarterback with praise before the encounter, whether the opponent is Drew Brees or Brian Hoyer. Harbaugh today did just that with Luck, but the admiration was genuine. Together, the two rebuilt Stanford's football program, and Harbaugh gushed over Luck's smarts, maturity and athleticism.

September 18, 2013
Mind games: Luck recalls picking Fangio's brain about defense


Cornerback Richard Sherman, who has a history with Jim Harbaugh and familiarity with the 49ers' offense, was named NFC's defensive player of the week today for his role in the Seahawks' recent blowout win over San Francisco. On Sunday, another player with long background with Harbaugh and the 49ers' system will try to do the same.

Colts quarterback Andrew Luck said he used to knock on Vic Fangio's door when Fangio was Stanford's defensive coordinator in 2010. His objective - learn as much as he could about Fangio's defense because it would help him learn more about himself.

"They whupped our butts every now and then in practice, and then (the goal) was to figure out why was the defense doing so well, what are our weaknesses, what are my weaknesses?'" Luck said on a conference call this morning. "And he was always very accommodating and very patient probably with what seemed to be a very young, sort of brat, snot-nosed quarterback coming in and trying to learn a little bit about the defense."

There are plenty of other Colts who know a thing or two about Fangio and the 49ers defense as well. Starting defensive end Ricky Jean Francois spent his first four NFL seasons in San Francisco while backup outside linebacker Cam Johnson was traded from San Francisco to Indianapolis on Sept. 2.

In addition, tight end Coby Fleener - who becomes Luck's No. 1 tight end with Dwayne Allen on injured reserve - also practiced against Fangio's defense at Stanford while Colts offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton was Stanford's wide receivers coach in 2010.

It will be Hamilton and Luck who will be charged with figuring out Fangio on Sunday.

"I wish I'd paid more attention to those (2010) conversations now, I guess," Luck said with a laugh.

"It'll be sort of fun, I guess, to see those guys," he added. "I feel very fortunate to have played under them in college and they taught me so much about football and growing up. But at the end of the day, it'll be another game."

-- Matt Barrows

September 18, 2013
Vernon Davis to rest hamstring; several starters wait-and-see for Sunday


Three injured 49ers starters have wait-and-see status as the team begins practicing for the Indianapolis Colts today. Tight end Vernon Davis, who strained a hamstring on Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman's fourth-quarter interception, wrote on Twitter that he needed rest.

"No need to worry y'all," Davis wrote. "My leg is feeling great just need a little rest til kickoff according to the docs."

After two games, Davis is second on the 49ers in receiving with nine catches, 118 yards and two touchdowns. If he cannot play, Vance McDonald and Garrett Celek would see more action. Newcomer Chris Harper also could be active for the first time this season. The 49ers will release their first injury report of the week around 5 p.m. today.

Meanwhile, both defensive end Ray McDonald and safety Eric Reid will be end-of-week decisions as well. Reid suffered a concussion on Sunday. And while he showed no symptoms Monday, defensive coordinator Vic Fangio noted on KNBR radio Tuesday that former quarterback Alex Smith didn't show symptoms, either, immediately after last year's concussion. But those symptoms appeared the day before the following game -- six days later -- which led to Colin Kaepernick starting instead.

McDonald suffered a sprained ankle late in the fourth quarter. "I think he's going to be ok, but again it's a fluid situation," Fangio said. "His ankle is bothering him a little bit, but we'll see how it goes. But I think it's much like the Eric Reid situation. We really won't know until the end of the week." 

It's likely that defensive lineman Tony Jerod-Eddie, inactive against the Seahawks, will be in uniform Sunday against the Colts. The team placed another defensive lineman, Ian Williams, on injured reserve Tuesday with a broken ankle.

-- Matt Barrows

September 17, 2013
Together at last: 49ers sign Harbaugh favorite, Owen Marecic


Jim Harbaugh, who lamented missing out on drafting former Stanford fullback Owen Marecic in 2011, finally has his man. The team signed Marecic, a free agent, to a one-year contract today while placing nose tackle Ian Williams on injured reserve with a broken ankle.

Williams had surgery Monday after suffering the injury in the first quarter Sunday when a Seahawks guard who was blocking him low landed on his lower leg. Glenn Dorsey will take over as the team's starting nose tackle. On Monday, Harbaugh said the 49ers would look at adding another nose tackle but have not at this point. They have one player, undrafted rookie Mike Purcell, on the practice squad. Another, rookie Quinton Dial, is eligible to play after Week 6.

Marecic, meanwhile, worked out for the 49ers late last month after being released by the Browns, who drafted him in the fourth round in 2011. The 49ers have a good fullback in Bruce Miller. Like many 49ers offensive players, Miller struggled in Sunday's loss to Seattle.

Marecic, 24, also played inside linebacker for Harbaugh and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, and he likely will be used on special teams and as a reserve at fullback and linebacker. While at Stanford, he rushed for 67 yards and nine touchdowns on 36 carries, while adding 25 receptions for 258 yards and a touchdown. Marecic also had 55 tackles, two sacks, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery and two interceptions on defense.

During the 2011 draft, Harbaugh said he wished he could have landed Marecic.

"We did everything we could to get him here and we came up short on that one," he said. "Cleveland got an outstanding football player in Owen Marecic. Like Trent (Baalke) said, I'm going to be, in my mind, associated with Owen Marecic for a long time and following him and his career. I'll be a fan because I love the way he plays football. I texted him and said we tried. It didn't happen. That was one that we didn't get that is a 49er kind of guy and Cleveland will be very happy with him and that was a heck of a job by them."

Linebacker Eric Bakhtiari, who played for Harbaugh at the University of San Diego, spent five games on the 49ers' 53-man roster last season. However, until this point he has been the only ex-Harbaugh protege on San Francisco's active roster since Harbaugh became the head coach. Another former pupil, Andrew Luck, visits on Sunday.

The 49ers also reached an injury settlement with defensive lineman Will Tukuafu, who injured his knee last week. That means the 49ers could sign Tukuafu later this season.

-- Matt Barrows

September 16, 2013
Williams' injury sends 49ers in search of a nose tackle


Ian Williams is having surgery today and will be lost for the season, Jim Harbaugh said at his Monday press conference. That puts Glenn Dorsey in a starting role on the 49ers' defensive line and sends the team in search of a backup nose tackle. Harbaugh said the 49ers will make a decision on the position in the next day or two.

Williams was making his first start Sunday when he was hit low by the Seahawks right guard J.R. Sweezy while engaged with center Max Unger. That sort of "cut block" is legal in the NFL, but it drew the wrath of Williams' fellow defenders last night. Dorsey, a free-agent pick up by the 49ers this offseason, filled in well. He finished with five tackles and had one of the four sacks on quarterback Russell Wilson. "I thought he played well," Harbaugh said. "Had a lot of good snaps."

Williams played a snap at fullback in the first quarter before he was injured.

The 49ers had a number of potential backups at nose tackle this offseason. But two of them, Lamar Divens (hip) and Will Tukuafu (knee), were released while injured and cannot be re-signed until later this season. Another, rookie Quinton Dial, is on the non-football injury list and can't play until Week 7 at the earliest. One possibility is signing undrafted rookie Mike Purcell from the practice squad.

The 49ers will have an open roster spot when they place Williams on injured reserve.

Another injured player, safety Eric Reid, was asymptomatic after suffering a concussion last night. Reid still must go through the league-mandated protocol before returning to practice.

Harbaugh said Vernon Davis (hamstring) and Ray McDonald (ankle) were being examined today. "Nothing to report there," he said of McDonald.

-- Matt Barrows

September 16, 2013
Film review: Seahawks outsmart 49ers, Kaepernick's slow starts; d-line depth to be tested


Was it Colin Kaepernick? Was it his protection? Was it the Seahawks defense? As is usually the case in a lopsided loss and an abysmal passing performance like the one the 49ers had last night in Seattle, it was a little bit of everything.

Kaepernick has not been a fast starter. Even in his epically fantastic game against the Packers last week, he began with two incompletions, one of them a near pick six by Packers cornerback Tramon Williams. He and the 49ers got off to slow starts in each of their playoff games last year, too.

He was off target early Sunday as well. The 49ers' plan was to catch the Seahawks defense and a Seahawks crowd off guard with a no-huddle defense. It almost worked. But a third-down pass to Bruce Miller was a bit off target and Miller stumbled and was tackled down a half yard short of the first down. Result: punt.

There were lapses in pass protection, especially after the Seahawks took a sizable lead late in the game and their pass rushers no longer had to worry about the 49ers' running game. But the bigger issue is that the 49ers pass catchers - so wide open last week against Green Bay - were being hounded by the Seahawks throughout. Kaepernick, for example, attempted five passes to Miller, his very last option. That signals that the quarterback, who isn't shy about firing the ball down field, found few openings.

The 49ers tried to take advantage of the close, man-to-man coverage with more read-option runs by Kaepernick. The theory is that if the cornerbacks are engaged with the 49ers wide receivers and the safeties are deep to take away any downfield passes, they won't have time to react to the quarterback escaping the pocket.

September 15, 2013
49ers notes: Offense unveils no-huddle; no ill-will over Sherman's pat

Richard sherman.jpg

The 49ers hoped to take some some of the energy out of the Seahawks defense and CenturyLink stadium with a no-huddle attack, which they unveiled at the start of the game. Their initial drive, however, stalled after gaining nine yards and the 49ers, held without a touchdown on Sunday for the first time since an Oct. 14 blowout loss to the Giants, had to punt.

"I think we are very comfortable with it," Colin Kaepernick said of the no-huddle offense. "I think we moved the ball well when we were in it, but once again we had drives that stalled."

Kaepernick also said the 49ers thought they had a good play called when he threw a third-down pass to Vernon Davis in the end zone in the first quarter. Cornerback Walter Thurmond, however, came off the man he was covering and tipped the ball in the air. It was intercepted by safety Earl Thomas.

"We had gone over it during the week, and we thought it was something we might have had," Kaepernick said. "And one of the defenders came off and made a play on the ball and it got deflected in the air."

The Seahwks obviously did a good job of getting under the 49ers' skin during the game, but that was not Richard Sherman's intent when it was over, Jim Harbaugh said. Sherman, the Seahawks loquacious cornerback who played for Harbaugh at Stanford, gave Harbaugh a pat on the back after the game. Sherman didn't wait for Harbaugh to react before he took off in another direction. Afterward, he told NFL Network Harbaugh's reaction smacked of poor sportsmanship.

"I told him good job, good game, but he didn't give me nothing back," Sherman said. "I guess sportsmanship doesn't go both ways."

September 15, 2013
Lightning crashes, so does Kaepernick


SEATTLE -- The lightning crashed and so did the 49ers' offense.

After throwing for 412 yards against the Packers a week earlier, Colin Kaepernick on Sunday found the coverage suffocating and the noise deafening inside Seattle's CenturyLink field. The 49ers quarterback threw three interceptions - including one by noted 49ers scourge, Richard Sherman - fumbled on another play and finished with just 127 yards in the 29-3 loss to the Seahawks.

With the win, Seattle took an early one-game lead in the NFC West. The game was delayed for an hour in the first quarter due to lightning strikes in the area.

Kaepernick's passing total was a career low and his interceptions a career high. He had never thrown more than one in his previous 11 starts. "We're not going to win games if I play like that," he said afterward.

He had plenty of company at the bottom of the stat sheet as the 49ers once again unraveled badly at the home of their arch rivals. Receiver Anquan Boldin, who finished with 208 receiving yards a week ago, had one catch for seven yards against the Seahawks. Frank Gore finished with 16 yards on nine carries, a 1.8-yard average.

Three 49ers, Aldon Smith, Vance McDonald and Anthony Davis were hit with personal fouls after reacting to Seahawks players eager to goad them into silly penalties. A week after finishing with 11 penalties, the 49ers had 12 against the Seahawks. "We definitely made things harder on ourselves," Jim Harbaugh said.

Perhaps the biggest concern for the 49ers is that they were beat up for the second straight time in Seattle.

September 15, 2013
Report: Ian Williams' first start ends with broken ankle

Ian Williams' first-ever NFL start ended quickly when the 49ers' nose tackle suffered a broken left ankle on the 49ers' second defensive series, according to a report by Pro Football Talk. Seattle center Max Unger appeared to be engaged with Williams when guard J. R. Sweezy rolled onto Williams' lower leg during a two-yard run by Marshawn Lynch. Williams had to be helped to his feet and was limping badly as he was helped into the locker room for X-rays.

During the offseason, Williams beat out free-agent acquisition Glenn Dorsey for the starting role at nose tackle. However, those players rotated at the position during the preseason and the plan today was to give Dorsey a fair number of repetitions at nose tackle. Both played last week against the Packers, though their snaps came mainly at defensive end.

During the offseason, the 49ers had a third nose tackle, Lamar Divens, on the roster. Divens, however, was waived/injured to reduce the roster to 53 players before the season began,

Williams went undrafted out of Notre Dame in 2011. He appeared in four games over the last two seasons; today was his first start.

-- Matt Barrows

September 15, 2013
Lightning strikes before the offenses do; game halted

*****UPDATE***** League officials announced the game is scheduled to resume at 7:05 p.m.

At 6:02 p.m., a lightning bolt flashed across the sky outside CenturyLink Field as Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson scrambled on third down. Three minutes later, the officials halted the game and sent the teams into their respective locker rooms with the game scoreless. The two teams have played almost 12 minutes in the first quarter and both quarterbacks have thrown an interception.

The NFL's opening game in Denver also was suspended for a little more than a half hour because of thunderstorms in the area. The forecast in Seattle calls for more lightning this evening. A 2006 game between the 49ers and Seahawks in Seattle was delayed 12 minutes due to heavy rain that puddled on the artificial surface of the field.

-- Matt Barrows

September 15, 2013
No Browner, Clemons for Seahawks; Dobbs active for 49ers

No surprises for the 49ers as far as who's in uniform for the showdown in Seattle. LaMichael James, who still is dealing with a knee sprain, will be inactive for the second straight week. In fact, it's hard to envision James being in uniform even if he is fully healthy. He was inactive for every game last season before Kendall Hunter suffered an Achilles' tear.

Meanwhile, defensive lineman Demarcus Dobbs is active after serving a one-game suspension last week. Will Tukuafu was waived/injured to make room for Dobbs on the roster. Tony Jerod-Eddie, who was active last week against the Packers, is inactive today.

For the Seahawks, Walter Thurmond will start at cornerback in place of Brandon Browner, who is dealing with a hamstring strain. Thurmond started for Browner in last week's win over the Panthers. Browner was not on hand for Seattle's 42-13 win over the 49ers in December. Michael Bennett will start at defensive end for Chris Clemons. Cliff Avril is expected to play

49ers inactives:
3rd QB B.J. Daniels
RB LaMichael James
WR/TE Chris Harper
WR Jon Baldwin.
G Joe Looney
DT Tony Jerod-Eddie
LB Nate Stupar.

Seahawks inactives:
RB Christine Michael
S Jeron Johnson
OT Michael Bowie
OT Alvin Bailey
DE Chris Clemons
DT Jordan Hill
CB Brandon Browner

- Matt Barrows

September 14, 2013
Kaepernick, Wilson battling for jersey dominance, too


Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson aren't only duking it out for NFC West and NFL supremacy. Salesmanship supremacy also is on the line.

From April 1 until now, Kaepernick's No. 7 jersey has been the NFL's hottest seller, according to sports merchandiser Fantatics.com. In fact, Kaepernick has led all merchandise sales. Wilson and his No. 3 jersey has been the fourth-best seller in that span.

Ah, but Wilson may be gaining in the ranks. Over the NFL opening weekend, Wilson was the third-highest seller, leapfrogging Washington's Robert Griffin III. Peyton Manning was No. 2 and Kaepernick was No. 1 last weekend.

Here are the top-selling states for each player, according to Fanatics.com. (I'd be interested to know who is the top seller in Wisconsin, where each has ties).

Kaepernick: California, Texas, New York, Nevada and Arizona.
Wilson: Washington, California, Texas, Oregon and Arizona.

It's unknown how many red-and-white No. 7 Kaepernick jerseys have been purchased by the Seattle Police Department. The police there this week said that undercover officers dressed in the opposing team's gear will be stationed at CenturyLink Stadium this season. That is, the Kaepernick supporter at whom you're screaming obscenities between chugs of cheap, watered-down beer could very well be a cop.

"We have great fans," Seahawks President Peter McLoughlin said in a statement released by the team. "Our goal is to ensure a safe environment for all in attendance, including visiting team fans."

Pugnacious fans removed from the stadium will have to complete a four-hour online course and pay $75 before they can return. Truly ugly behavior can result in the revocation of season tickets.

- Matt Barrows

September 13, 2013
With knuckles: Boone would rather punch Matthews than fine him


Jim Harbaugh today said he had "zero" to say about the $15,000 fine levied against Packers linebacker Clay Matthews for his late hit on 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Right guard Alex Boone, however, wasn't about to hold his tongue.

Told of the amount, Boone said, "Good." What amount would he have fined Matthews? "Probably just punch him in the face," he said. "I don't want his money."

Boone and left tackle Joe Staley seemed to be particularly worked up after Matthews' hit and the brief melee on the sideline that ensued. NFL Films caught the two when they returned to the 49ers' side of the field.

Said an animated Boone to Kaepernick: "That ain't going to be tolerated at all."

Kaepernick: "I got you, I got you."

Staley to Kaepernick: "I hear you about that, but we're setting a precedent. No one is (expletive) hitting you late."

When he was asked about Matthews' fine, Harbaugh said, "I have no reaction to it. I have zero reaction to the fines. They're at the discretion of the league. I have nothing to say about that publicly."

Harbaugh appeared to dodge his own fine. At the start of the Packers game, he was wearing a sweatshirt issued by the league's previous sponsor, Reebok, instead of the current one, Nike. He changed clothes at half time and later called it an innocent mistake. (After all, all of his clothes look alike).

- Matt Barrows

September 13, 2013
Two angry men: Avril likely to face 49ers, Browner in doubt


Brandon Browner, one half of the Seahawks' suffocating cornerback duo, is doubtful to play against the 49ers on Sunday, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said today, and he will be a game-time decision. Browner has been dealing with a hamstring strain this week.

He did not play in the Week 1 opener in Carolina, either. Instead, Walter Thurmond started the game at cornerback opposite Richard Sherman and the Seahawks held Carolina quarterback Cam Newton to 125 yards passing. Browner also missed last year's game in Seattle against the 49ers, which the Seahawks won 42-13.

The 49ers have been preparing this week as if Browner will play. Backup cornerback Perrish Cox, one of the bigger, more physical cornerbacks on the squad, has been wearing Browner's No. 39 in practice.

Browner gained notoriety this offseason when, following Jim Harbaugh's comments on the Seahawks' Adderall-related suspensions, he said he wished he could get Harbaugh onto the field. "I'd put my hands around his neck," Browner told KJR radio.

Meanwhile, another Seahawk with a history of venom against the 49ers is expected to play Sunday.

Defensive end Cliff Avril also has been dealing with a hamstring injury but he is listed as probable for the game. Avril, a free-agent acquisition from Detroit this offseason, got into a Twitter battle with San Francisco right tackle Anthony Davis following the 49ers' last-minute win against the Lions two years ago.

In the rematch at Candlestick Park last season, also a 49ers win, Avril was involved in a series of scrapes, most of them with Anthony Davis. He also poked tight end Vernon Davis in the eye, causing the tight end to sit out parts of the game. One play before his eye injury, Davis and fellow tight end Delanie Walker tangled with Avril near the 49ers sideline, with all three of them going down in a heap.

Avril also attempted to rip off Anthony Davis' helmet during today's game. "He tried to do it a lot," Anthony Davis said. "He hates me. It's so funny. We don't even know each other. You can just tell it burns him up."

- Matt Barrows

September 13, 2013
Clay Matthews docked $15K for late hit, but 49ers fined more


Clay Matthews' flying, out-of-bounds hit on Colin Kaepernick on Sunday will cost him $15,000, the NFL reported today. The hit sparked a sideline tussle, a tongue-lashing from 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh and led to two blown calls by the officials.

In addition to a personal foul on Matthews, they also flagged left tackle Joe Staley for unsportsmanlike conduct, which the league later said shouldn't have been called. Staley was not fined. Officials also erroneously replayed the third-down play when it should have been fourth down. The 49ers scored a 10-yard touchdown on the play.

Harbaugh called Matthews' hit a "cheap shot," and he also poked fun at Matthews' open-palmed slap of Staley. Matthews apparently was not fined for striking Staley during the sideline scrum.

September 13, 2013
Anquan Boldin vs. Seahawks secondary highlights battle in Seattle


Anquan Boldin's most important reception on Sunday involved so much more than catching the ball.

The 4th-and-2 play late in the fourth quarter was designed to be a quick hitter from Colin Kaepernick to Boldin in the flat. He was covered, however, and he and Kaepernick had to improvise. As the quarterback pump faked and drifted toward the sideline, Boldin gave cornerback Tramon Williams a shove that created the separation Kaepernick was looking for.

Gain of 15 yards. First down 49ers. Game in hand.

The play was vintage Boldin: Calm and clutch, but also showing how savvy, tough and - most of all - how strong he is. "We found that out during training camp," cornerback Perrish Cox said. "He's strong, talented and he knows how to use his body perfectly."

Boldin is one of the most compelling figures in Sunday's game against the Seahawks because he'll be matched up against the most physical and suffocating secondary in the NFL. That punishing style was on display when the 49ers visited Seattle last season. While the 49ers were uncharacteristically shoved around as a team in the 42-13 loss, their pass catchers were roughed up in particular.

Tight end Vernon Davis was knocked out of the game with a concussion in the first quarter after a big hit by safety Kam Chancellor. Receiver Mario Manningham was knocked out for the season with an ACL injury, an injury from which he is still recovering.

September 12, 2013
Turn up the base: Ian Williams to make starting debut vs. Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks


Patrick Willis today said he's looking forward to playing a more traditional brand of defense on Sunday. The Seahawks are likely to oblige.

Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch has surpassed 100 rushing yards the last three times he's faced the 49ers, most recently a 111-yard, one-touchdown effort in December at CenturyLink Field. Lynch also had a receiving touchdown in that game.

The defensive front Lynch faces Sunday, however, will be a bit different than the one he saw in December. For one, Justin Smith will be in the lineup at defensive end. He missed last year's game in Seattle after partially tearing his triceps tendon in a game in New England.

"It was a big factor," Willis said of Smith's absence. "To me, he's one of the best defensive players in this game and shows it week in and week out. And anytime he's not out there, we miss him. There's no question about that."

The 49ers also will have a different lineup at nose tackle. Isaac Sopoaga and Ricky Jean Francois now play for the Eagles and Colts respectively. They have been replaced by Ian Williams and Glenn Dorsey. Williams is expected to start Sunday, although Dorsey likely will be platooned into the game.

Willis said that Williams was similar in style to Aubrayo Franklin, who played in front of Willis from 2007-2010. In two of those seasons, Willis led the NFL in tackles. Franklin is now with the Colts.

"In just being able to move, real low center of gravity, real strong at the point," Willis said of the similarities between Williams and Franklin. "I'm really excited to see him work - him and Glenn both. They've worked hard all offseason. Just seeing how they've improved from Day 1 until now. I'm excited. I'm excited to be running some base."

September 11, 2013
Earl Thomas sticks to his story about Harbaugh Honk-gate


Seahawks safety Earl Thomas is sticking to his guns when it comes to Honkgate.

After the second 49ers-Seahawks meeting last season, Thomas and cornerback Richard Sherman told Yahoo! Sports that Harbaugh honked, saluted and otherwise mocked the Seahawks team bus following a 49ers victory at Candlestick Park earlier in the year.

"He honked his horn at the bus and waved," Sherman said. "That happened -- a bunch of the guys told me. Yeah, he was [honking]."

At the time, Harbaugh called it a "fabrication." Asked if he would be in his car at that time, he said, "I can't think of a time when I've left the game and the other team's still been there this entire season."

Thomas, however, didn't back down when asked about the alleged incident Wednesday. "It's just that he has a lot of personality," he said of Harbaugh. "And that's all fun and games. It's good for the sport of football. ... He's a competitor it seems like, and our coach is the same way. I don't think our coach would do that, but I'm not trying to get into that. I'm just trying to get ready for this game."

Did it feel like you were being mocked?

"Of course we took it that way," Thomas said. "But the good thing about it is when you carry yourself like a champion on and off the field, good stuff is going to happen for you, and of course we'll use that stuff for motivation."

The Seahawks won the rematch 42-13. It was the worst loss of the Harbaugh era and it occurred on Harbaugh's 49th birthday.

-- Matt Barrows

September 11, 2013
Eyebrow bet is fiction. So is Kaepernick-Wilson friendship


The eyebrow bet between Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson is make believe. So is their chumminess, it seems.

"Just had a few brief conversations in between shoots," Kaepernick said about his relationship with his Seattle counterpart. Has that relationship continued since their commercial shoot? Do they text each other?

"No," said Kaepernick.

The two quarterbacks met in Los Angeles this offseason to shoot a series of commercials for EA Sports. At the end of each, the two are side by side intently playing a video game like a couple of long-time buddies. In one, Wilson kisses his bicep and asks Kaepernick if he's doing it correctly. In another, they bet on their upcoming game - the loser has to shave off one of his eyebrows.

Wilson said Tuesday the bet was "not real serious." "It was more of just a friendly, joking around type deal," he told KJR Radio in Seattle. "We'll probably do something digitally. Something like that."

Asked who he thought would look better with a lone eyebrow, the no-mirth Kaepernick said, "I'm not thinking about that. I'm worried about getting the win."

A year ago, Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers reportedly made a bet with Boyz II Men singer Nathan Morris that if he lost to the 49ers in Week 1 last season, he would wear Alex Smith's 49ers jersey for a week. Rodgers and the Packers fell to Smith and the 49ers. However, Rodgers never was seen wearing a red and white No. 11 jersey.

NFL bets: jerseys stay off, eyebrows remain on.

-- Matt Barrows

September 11, 2013
Speak up: Seattle crowd attempting noise record vs. 49ers


The question struck Joe Tafoya in the middle of the night in early July. The Seahawks stadium is famously loud. Could it be world-record loud?

So at 3 a.m., the former Seahawks defensive end hopped on the Internet, found the site for Guinness World Records and fired off an application.

On Sunday evening, he and a legion of Seahawks backers will get their answer when their team takes on the hated San Francisco 49ers. A monitor from Guinness will be on hand at CenturyLink Stadium to see if the din can reach 131.77 decibels, making it the loudest crowd ever recorded. The current record holders, the fans of Galatasary, a Turkish soccer team, reached 131.76 decibels during a match against rival Fenerbahce on March 18, 2011.

Tafoya noted that the Turkish fans set the record with the aid of vuvuzelas and other noise-making devices. Those aren't permitted in NFL venues, meaning the Seattle fans will have to do it by clapping their hands, stomping their feet and exhausting their vocal chords. "That's similar to a jet engine," he said of the noise level. "In order for us to break the record, it's going to have to be extremely loud."

3M is passing out earplugs before the game.

September 11, 2013
Welcome back: 49ers reacquire WR Kassim Osgood


****UPDATE**** The 49ers officially announced they have signed Kassim Osgood to a one-year and placed linebacker Nick Moody on injured reserve/designated to return. Moody will not be eligible to practice with the team until at least six weeks have passed, and cannot be activated until at least eight weeks have passed.

The 49ers re-acquired receiver and special teams ace Kassim Osgood, according to a league source. The 10-year veteran originally joined the team in June and he was among the 49ers' final cuts. If he had been on the roster in Week 1, his $940,000 salary would have been guaranteed. Signing him now means the 49ers can release him later and not owe him his full salary. The Monterey Herald first reported the acquisition. Osgood is a Salinas native.

It's not known yet who was bumped off the 53-man roster in order to make room for Osgood (6-5, 220), but rookie linebacker Nick Moody is nursing a right hand injury from Sunday's game. Moody, who played 23 snaps on special teams against the Packers, may be a candidate for injured reserve with a designation to return to the roster later this season.

Osgood's role, meanwhile, likely will be on special teams coverage units rather than on offense. The 49ers have six receivers on the active roster as of now. Two more, Mario Manningham and Michael Crabtree, are expected to join the roster later this season. Osgood has played the gunner role on punt coverage in the past. One of the team's gunners on Sunday, C.J. Spillman, served as the team's special teams captain for Week 1. The other, Tramaine Brock, was called for two penalties on one play late in the game.

Osgood finished the exhibition season with three catches for 34 yards, all of them coming in Game 1 against Denver. He was credited with two special teams tackles, both of them also in the Broncos game.

Meanwhile, Anquan Boldin was named the NFC Offensive Player of the Week for his 13-catch, 208-yard effort against the Packers in Week 1.

-- Matt Barrows

September 10, 2013
Catch me if you can: 49ers have new way to prepare for Russell Wilson


The Panthers had Russell Wilson surrounded Sunday, and it seemed like the Seattle quarterback would be sandwiched between two fast-approaching defensive ends for a key, third-down sack.

Instead, Wilson retreated 17 yards, spun away from one defender, ducked under the other one and flung the football - while falling backward - down field to receiver Doug Baldwin, who made a toe-tapping catch on the sideline.

Wilson's Houdini act, which resulted in a first down, is all-to familiar to the 49ers defense. Aldon Smith, Ahmad Brooks and co. chased him all around Centurylink Field in a 42-13 loss in December but sacked him only once. One play in the third quarter lasted 19 seconds as a scrambling, weaving Wilson evaded four tackles and eventually picked up six yards.

This week, however, the 49ers have their own slippery, sub-six-foot quarterback with a big arm to get them ready for the rematch. Rookie B.J. Daniels, the team's No. 3 quarterback, often has been likened to Wilson because of their similarly low profiles. Both measured exactly 5-10 and 5/8 inches prior to their respective drafts.

September 10, 2013
Dobbs returns from suspension; 49ers to release Tukuafu


****UPDATE -- The 49ers announced they put Tukuafu on the waived/injured list. He was not on the team's injury report last week and he did not play in Sunday's game. Tukuafu evidently has been dealing with a minor knee issue recently. ********

With one defensive lineman, Demarcus Dobbs, returning from a one-game suspension, the 49ers on Tuesday released another, Will Tukuafu, a league source said. Tukuafu appeared in 14 regular-season games last season and was used as a defensive end, a fullback in the team's power formations, and mostly as a special teams player.

However, both Dobbs and Tony Jerod-Eddie passed Tukuafu on the depth chart at defensive end. Tukuafu was one seven players who was not in uniform for Sunday's game against the Packers, which foreshadowed today's move. Nose tackles Ian Williams and Glenn Dorsey also can play defensive end in the 49ers' 3-4 scheme, and both did so Sunday.

It will be interesting to see whether the 49ers' upcoming opponent, the Seahawks, make a move for Tukuafu. He originally signed with them as an undrafted free agent in 2010. More important, the Seahawks are light on defensive linemen. Chris Clemons, Cliff Avril and Bruce Irvin all missed the opener in Carolina. Seattle also drafted two defensive tackles - where Tukuafu would be the best fit. One of them, Jesse Williams, is on injured reserve. The other, Jordan Hill, is dealing with a bicep injury.

Adding a player and cutting another may become a Tuesday pattern for the 49ers later this season. They have several players on the physically unable to perform or non-football injury lists. When those players, such as receiver Mario Manningham or defensive end Tank Carradine, are healthy enough to return, the 49ers must find a spot on the 53-man roster to accommodate them. Those players cannot return until after Week 6.

Dobbs served a one-game suspension related to a marijuana-possession charge last year. Tukuafu is not eligible for the practice squad.

-- Matt Barrows

September 10, 2013
49ers work out OT Jason Smith; inquired about QB Quinn

The 49ers on Monday worked out offensive tackle Jason Smith, the no. 2 overall pick in the draft by the Rams in 2009, according to a league source. Smith (6-5, 308) dealt with injuries - most significant, concussions - while with the Rams, and in 2012 he was traded to the Jets. Since then he has been released by the Jets twice and the Saints once.

The 49ers, meanwhile, have depth on the interior of their offensive line in Adam Snyder, Daniel Kilgore and Joe Looney, but do not have any reserves who are primarily tackles. Two of their practice-squad players, seventh-round draft pick Carter Bykowski and undrafted rookie Patrick Omameh are tackles.

If either of the team's starters, Joe Staley or Anthony Davis, had to leave a game, the 49ers could replace them with Snyder or with right guard Alex Boone, who began his career as a tackle. Davis was observed getting X-rays after Sunday's win over Green Bay. Davis did not miss any plays Sunday and did not have any obvious injuries.

According to ESPN, the 49ers also inquired about quarterback Brady Quinn, a free agent last week who eventually signed with the Jets. Quinn wanted guarantees in the contract that San Francisco was not willing to provide, Chris Mortensen reported. Quinn spent the summer with the Seahawks, the team the 49ers face on Sunday. Another quarterback, John Skelton, also has worked out for the 49ers recently.

-- Matt Barrows

September 9, 2013
Still swinging: Harbaugh verbally slaps Clay Matthews during Monday presser


Jim Harbaugh delivered the verbal equivalent of a flying tackle on Packers linebacker Clay Matthews during his noon press conference today.

The 49ers head coach, who was in rare form today, not only made it clear he thought Matthews' second-quarter hit on Colin Kaepernick was a "cheap shot," he poked fun at how Matthews went after offensive tackle Joe Staley, who was locked up with Matthews during the brief melee that ensued on the sideline.

"Two punches thrown to Joe's head," Harbaugh said. "Well, one punch and one open slap, which, if you're going to go to the face, come with some knuckles, not an open slap. I think that young man works very hard at being a tough guy. He'll have some repairing to do to his image after the slap."

Harbaugh wasn't finished.

"You talk about launching, you talk about a clothesline to the neck are to our quarterback, who's six or seven feet out of bounds," he said of Matthews' hit. "It struck me like, 'I've seen this play before.' I thought, 'Emlen Tunnell,'" said Harbaugh of the 1950s-era defensive back and hall-of-famer, who was known for his brutal - but at the time legal - clothesline hits.

"I thought of Emlen Tunell. You all know who he is -- No. 45 of the Giants," Harbaugh said. "Back when that was legal, he would stand there in the middle of the field waiting for receivers to cross and clothesline them. And their feet would fly in the air and their backs would hit the ground. I was struck: 'I'm seeing Emlen Tunell here.'"

September 9, 2013
Film review: 49ers imperfect but still win; McDonald stands out; Asomugha targeted


My biggest take from Sunday's game: The 49ers were far from perfect yet still were able to beat one of the best teams in the NFL. Yes, the 49ers were a little Dr. Jekyl-and-Mr. Hyde-ish against the Packers, stringing together a beautiful drive on one possession and then flubbing their way through the next.

It seemed like they were still shaking off the slumber of the offseason. There was bad tackling early on with NaVorro Bowman, Patrick Willis, Eric Reid, Nnamdi Asomugha and Perrish Cox all missing tackles in the first half. The running game was not in sync, and I thought that both Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter - who each had precious few snaps in the preseason - didn't get into a rhythm until game's end. There were all sorts of play-clock issues and the 49ers were flagged for 11 penalties for 85 yards vs. 5 for 44 yards by the Packers.

But they still won. That's due in part to the fact that they forced two turnovers and committed none. And to the fact that they converted 50 percent of their third-down opportunities (9 of 18). It also underscores just how talented they are and how scary they can be once the rust is off and the team is firing at 100 percent capacity. I'd put Sunday's effort at about 83 percent.

Furthering that point: Throughout the game, the 49ers seemed like they were about to put their heel down on Green Bay's neck, but a mistake would allow the Packers to climb back in. Here's the stop-and-go drive chart by the 49ers' offense: punt, touchdown, punt, touchdown, punt, missed field goal, end of half, touchdown, punt, field goal, punt, touchdown, field goal.

I thought one of the unsung players of the game was defensive end Ray McDonald. His stat line was very good: a half sack, four tackles, a tackle for loss and a quarterback hit. But it doesn't quite show how disruptive he was to the Packers offense. If there was a good play along the line, McDonald invariably was in on it.

September 9, 2013
Snap judgments: Ray McDonald, Justin Smith get more relief


In last year's season opener against the Packers, left defensive end Ray McDonald played 100 percent of the 49ers' defensive snaps - 68 plays total.

McDonald again played extensively in Sunday's rematch. But perhaps signaling that there will be more relief this year for him and other front-line players, he played only 90 percent of the 62 defensive snaps, 56 total. The change was even more pronounced for right defensive end Justin Smith, who played 66 snaps in the 2012 game (97 percent) but 52 snaps in the rematch (84 percent).

What's more, a pair of nose tackles, Ian Williams and Glenn Dorsey, provided most of the relief at defensive end. Williams played 10 snaps (most of them at defensive end) while Dorsey was in on eight. Tony Jerod-Eddie played three snaps. (Demarcus Dobbs was suspended for the game while Will Tukuafu was not active; Dobbs' suspension ends today, which will means the 49ers will have to make a roster move).

The condition of the 49ers' front-line players became an issue at the end of last season when it turned out that three of the four starters - Smith, Aldon Smith and Ahmad Brooks - played with injuries during the playoffs and Super Bowl. None of those players saw much relief during the regular season, and San Francisco's defense dipped toward the end of the season.

Aldon Smith played 100 percent of the snaps on Sunday and finished with 1 ½ sacks. Brooks played 95 percent of the snaps.

Other snap counts of note:

* Last year, No. 3 cornerback Chris Culliver played 90 percent of the defensive snaps. His replacement, Nnamdi Asomugha, played 92 percent of the snaps on Sunday.

* Along with Aldon Smith, every member of the starting secondary played 100 percent of the defensive snaps. That includes rookie Eric Reid, who had a strong first performance.

* Kyle Williams was very much the team's No. 2 receiver. While Anquan Boldin played 78 percent of the team's 77 offensive snaps, Williams was in on 71 percent of the snaps. Marlon Moore played 16 snaps (21 percent) while Quinton Patton played four snaps (5 percent)

* Frank Gore played 66 snaps; Kendall Hunter was in for 11 snaps. Anthony Dixon did not appear on offense.

- Matt Barrows

September 8, 2013
49ers notes: Eric Reid a big hit in NFL debut


SAN FRANCISCO - Eric Reid's most glaring weakness during Sunday's win over Green Bay: ball security.

The 49ers' rookie safety came away with his first-ever interception when he scooped up a bobbled pass late in the second quarter. But he failed to stow the ball for safekeeping when he returned to the sideline. "I don't know what I was thinking, but I wish I kept the ball," he said afterward. "I am glad I got my first one."

Reid's task this season is making 49ers forget about Dashon Goldson, the team's starting free safety for the last four seasons who signed a free-agent deal with Tampa Bay in the offseason.
Against the Packers, Reid looked an awful lot like Goldson in blasting receivers who caught passes over the middle of the field and zooming up out of the secondary to tackle a scrambling Aaron Rodgers late in the game.

Reid finished third on the 49ers with six defensive tackles, knocked away a pass and even had a stop on special teams. He also had a second interception when he wrestled away Rodgers' deep thrown to the end zone from receiver Randall Cobb. The play was wiped away because Aldon Smith was offsides at the snap, but it would have been a touchdown had Cobb caught the ball.

September 8, 2013
Kaepernick to Packers: I can do more than run


SAN FRANCISCO - Colin Kaepernick, who smashed rushing records the last time he faced the Packers, spent Sunday's rematch smashing myths about him and the 49ers offense.

Myth No. 1: Kaepernick is solely a running quarterback.

He gained an NFL-record 181 yards on the ground against Green Bay eight months ago in the playoffs, and the Packers made it a priority to make sure that didn't happen again on Sunday. Kaepernick picked up only 22 yards with his feet in the 34-28 win, but he had 412 yards - easily the most prolific outing of his NFL career - with 208 of them going to new receiver Anquan Boldin.

The passing yards were the most for a 49ers quarterback since Tim Rattay threw for 417 yards in 2004 . It was the first time Kaepenick surpassed the 400-yard mark since he had 402 yards as a freshman at Nevada.

Myth No. 2: Kaepernick has no rapport with tight end Vernon Davis.

Former 49ers receiver Randy Moss, who is now a FOX analyst, delivered that premise in the lead-up to the game. During last year's regular season, it might have been true. With Kaepernick as his quarterback, Davis went through a six-game stretch in which he caught just six passes for 61 yards.

September 8, 2013
Late hits, mistackles mark first half between Packers-49ers


If you didn't see a late hit on Colin Kaepernick coming in the run-up to today's game, you weren't paying attention.

The Packers defensive players, mainly linebacker Clay Matthews, said they were prepared to rattle both the 49ers quarterback and the 49ers coaching staff by hitting Kaepernick when he ran out of the read option formation.

Kaepernick didn't have any read-option runs in the first half, but he took off on scrambles three times, including on a third-down scenario near the goal line. Kaepernick ran out of bounds short of the first-down marker but Matthews still hauled him down well out of bounds.

That drew a penalty, but so did the 49ers' reaction to the obvious late hit. Joe Staley was flagged for a personal foul, and the penalties offset, erasing the most intriguing play so far. When the was replayed, Kaepernick hit Anquan Boldin on a slant pattern for a yard touchdown, giving San Francisco a 14-7 lead.

Kaepernick, who eight months ago set a rushing record for a quarterback against Green Bay, has done nearly all of his damage as a passer. He's thrown for 177 yards, including a 20-yard touchdown to Vernon Davis in the first half. He has 10 rushing yards. The 49ers retaliated with a late hit on Aaron Rodgers -- committed by linebacker Ahmad Brooks -- on a drive that also led to a touchdown.

Mistackles by the defense also led to big plays by the Packers.

September 8, 2013
49ers lineup: four wide receivers, two nose tackles

The 49ers will head into today's game against the Packers with two nose tackles, Ian Williams and Glenn Dorsey, in uniform, a mild surprise given how often the Packers have passed the ball against San Francisco in the past.

In the two meetings last season, the Packers used three or four receivers on 88 percent of their offensive plays. In those instances, the nose tackle comes out of the game and a third cornerback goes in. Both Williams and Dorsey can play defensive end as well as nose tackle. Tony Jerod-Eddie, a backup defensive end, also is active for the game.

Will Tukuafu is the lone defensive lineman inactive for the 49ers today, which may hint that he is the odd man out when Demarcus Dobbs returns from a one-game suspension. Newcomer wide receiver Jon Baldwin also is inactive. That means the four active 49ers wide receivers are Anquan Boldin, Kyle Williams, Marlon Moore and Quinton Patton.

For the Packers, starting safety Morgan Burnett will not play. He is replaced in the starting lineup by Jerron McMillian, No. 22.

49ers inactives:
QB B.J. Daniels (third QB)
WR/TE Chris Harper
RB LaMichael James
DL Will Tukuafu
LB Nate Stupar
G Joe Looney
WR Jon Baldwin

Packers inactives:
CB Casey Hampton
S Morgan Burnett
LB Nate Palmer
LB Sam Barrington
G Lane Taylor
TE Brandon Bostick
DE Josh Boyd

-- Matt Barrows

September 7, 2013
Anquan Boldin: Ravens' loss serves as a warning


Anquan Boldin said this week the Ravens' 49-27 blowout loss to the Broncos Thursday merely reinforces a theme in the 49ers locker room that everyone will be gunning for last season's Super Bowl participants this year.

"That message always has been preached around here," the veteran receiver said. "Nobody's going to lay down for you because you were in the Super Bowl last year. It's just the opposite. Everybody wants to beat you. Every week we come out and play, we have to be on our best because everybody's looking to knock us off."

What'd you think of your former team?

"Ha! What'd you think of them?" said a chuckling Boldin, whose contract was too hefty for Baltimore, which traded him to San Francisco in March. In the next breath he returned to his usual, serious self. "Yeah, it's the first game of the season," he said. "I'm sure they'll get better."

More Boldin:

Does Colin Kaepernick seem like a team captain?
AB: "Yeah. You see the guy here every day working, even the days you don't have to be here he's working. He's one of the first guys here, one of the last guys to leave. So he definitely exemplifies it."

September 6, 2013
Harbaugh calls NFL's read-option rules "flawed and biased"


Jim Harbaugh continued to question - in animated fashion this time - the league's position on read-option quarterbacks on Friday, calling it "flawed and biased." Harbaugh also voiced his concern on Wednesday and said at the time he had approached the league for clarification on the issue.

The league's competition committee responded but said it wasn't interested in changing the rules. "They said they don't have an appetite to look at it any further," Harbaugh said. "So that's where we're at."

The topic has been popular around the league this season as defenses figure out how to adjust to the proliferation of read-option quarterbacks in cities like San Francisco, Washington and Seattle. It's a particularly hot one this week because the Packers defensive players have been open about their intent to hit the 49ers' Colin Kaepernick when he is in the read-option formation, perhaps even when he doesn't have the ball. Kaepernick rushed for 181 yards - an NFL record for a quarterback - when the teams met in January.

Packers linebacker Clay Matthews, for example, said this week that the strategy was to hit read-option quarterbacks enough that their coaches stop calling read-option plays.

In an officiating video distributed to the media, NFL Vice President of Officiating Dean Blandino says that read-option quarterbacks can be viewed by the defense as a ball carrier, even when they no longer have the ball. "He is still treated as a runner until he is clearly out of the play," Blandino said. "The quarterback makes the pitch, he's still a runner -- he can be hit like a runner until he's clearly out of the play."

Harbaugh argued that, while in the pocket, a quarterback running the read-option should be given the same protection as he is in a more traditional formation. Defensive players must hit a pocket quarterback in the so-called "strike zone," which extends from the knees to shoulders.

"He's as defenseless as a quarterback who's in the act of throwing," Harbaugh said. "And I'm not advocating that they don't hit the quarterback if he has the ball. But if he's in the pocket, I think there should be a strike zone, the same strike zone as when he's in the pocket and throwing the ball.

He continued: "I feel like you give a license now for players to hit quarterbacks at the knees or in the head. It just seems to be a flip flop of what the league's trying to accomplish, you know, player safety."

-- Matt Barrows

September 6, 2013
Is Asomugha back on top? Packers should provide quick answer


If Nnamdi Asomugha is the 49ers' most prominent mystery heading into the 2013 season, the Packers passing attack ought to provide a quick answer.

In last year's Week 1 meeting against the San Francisco, quarterback Aaron Rodgers attempted a season-high 44 passes. In the rematch in January, he put the ball in the air 39 times.

More important when it comes to Asomugha, the Packers were in three- or four-receiver formations on 88 percent of their offensive plays in the two losses to the 49ers. In those instances, San Francisco's No. 3 cornerback goes into the game and the nose tackle - this year it will be Ian Williams - comes out.

When the teams met last season, then-No. 3 cornerback Chris Culliver mostly covered receiver Jordy Nelson, and it ended up being a winning matchup for the 49ers.

In the Week 1 game, Rodgers only targeted Nelson twice when Culliver was covering him, according to stats from Pro Football Focus. Nelson caught one pass for seven yards and knocked away a pass to Nelson late in the fourth quarter that sealed the win for the 49ers. In the rematch in January, Culliver gave up one catch for 10 yards, according to PFF, but also was hit with a pass-interference penalty against Nelson.

This year the new No. 3 cornerback, Asomugha, promises to see plenty of Nelson.

September 5, 2013
Vic Fangio to Sacramento State: You stink


Sensitive Sacramento State alums and students may not want to read any further.

Forty-niners defensive coordinator Vic Fangio today was asked what he thought about rookie safety Eric Reid getting his first NFL start Sunday against a quarterback as accomplished and savvy as Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers.

"I'm sure there are other teams we would prefer him to start against," Fangio said before going for the kill shot. "But there are no Sacramento States in this league."


Why, of the myriad college programs, did Fangio pick on your beloved Hornets, who, by the way, beat Colorado in Boulder last season and a year earlier beat Oregon State in Corvalis in the season opener? (Take that, Fangio!) Why not some sounds-like-it-was-made up school like Tarleton State or College of the Ozarks or St. Olaf or Duke? Or he could have used a good ol' standby like The Little Sisters of the Poor.

Fangio may have seized Sac State from his memory bank because in 2010, his only season coaching in the college ranks, his Stanford defense opened against Sacramento State. Stanford won 52-17. Some guy named Andrew Luck was the Cardinal quarterback - he threw four touchdowns that day -- while the Hornets' starter got hurt.

But it should be noted that someone was impressed by Sacramento State that day. The 49ers would later sign both of the Hornets quarterbacks who played in the Stanford game, albeit to quickie contracts. McLeod Bethel-Thompson, the starter who was injured that day, spent the 2011 training camp with the 49ers. His backup, Jeff Fleming, took part in a 49ers rookie minicamp the next year.

Bathel-Thompson is now the Vikings' No. 3 quarterback.

Where did Fangio attend college? East Stroudsburg University.

-- Matt Barrows

September 5, 2013
Benedict Tolzien? 49ers downplay ex-QB's impact on Sunday's game


Vic Fangio today said one of the reasons to hold off on game planning for a Week 1 opponent is because you never know if any players from your preseason roster may end up joining that Week 1 foe. "That's part of it," the 49ers defensive coordinator said today. "We don't do it quite as early as our offense does it."

Fangio said the 49ers defense didn't begin working on Green Bay until last week. But that's not because Fangio had an inkling two of the team's former quarterbacks, Scott Tolzien and Seneca Wallace, would end up with the Green Bay Packers. The 49ers released Tolzien Aug. 26. They parted ways with Wallace five days later.

"No, I had no idea that we were going to cut him and I absolutely had no idea where he would end up," Fangio said of Tolzien, who had been with the 49ers for two and a half seasons and who might provide particularly good insight about his old team.

Asked if he felt the need to change things defensively now that Tolzien is in enemy hands, however, Fangio said, "No." Offensive coordinator Greg Roman took a similar stance.

"I think it's really going to come down to the players on the field," Roman said. "I mean, I could say something clever like, 'Once they think they have all the answers, we change the questions.' And that may or may not be true. But I'm not going to say that."

Roman said the intrigue of a quarterback spilling secrets "tends to get a little overrated."

September 5, 2013
Oh Kaptain, my Kaptain: 49ers vote for team captains

Colin Kaepernick not only took over Alex Smith's starting job. Now he takes over Smith's team captaincy.

On the 49ers, team captain is a two-year term. Smith was elected captain last year along with Justin Smith. Smith, of course, is now with the Chiefs, meaning his spot was vacant. So the 49ers elected Kaepernick to that spot while also voting in Patrick Willis and, for this week at least, C.J. Spillman as the special teams captain.

Willis and Frank Gore were elected team captains in 2011.

-- Matt Barrows

September 5, 2013
Report: Aldon Smith's house party may result in criminal charges, too


Aldon Smith not only is facing a civil lawsuit in the aftermath of a sprawling house party last year, he may be hit with criminal charges as well. The Mercury New reported today that the Santa Clara County District Attorney is considering charging him with possessing three illegal assault rifles.

According to the newspaper, Smith bought the weapons in Arizona where they are legal, but he did not modify them to comply with California's gun laws. The charge could be filed as a felony or misdemeanor. Jail time is possible, but probation is more likely.

Sheriff's deputies found the weapons when they were called to break up a massive party at which two people were shot and Smith stabbed. One of the two men shot, Ronndale Esporlas, is suing Smith, claiming he and former teammate Delanie Walker, who is now with the Tennessee Titans, illegally fired weapons in an attempt to disperse the crowd at the party at Smith's isolated rental home in the foothills east of San Jose.

In the lawsuit, Esporlas says he was struck when a group of people near the street began firing toward Smith's residence. Ballistics tests indicate that neither Esporlas nor the other shooting victim were shot by Walker or Smith.

Under the new collective bargaining agreement, the NFL can suspend or otherwise discipline a player whether charges are filed or not and is more likely to do so if a player has had previous run-ins with the law. Smith also was charged with DUI in 2012, a charge that later was reduced to reckless driving.

Meanwhile, the NFL continues to ponder a case involving another 49ers outside linebacker, Ahmad Brooks. After a month-long investigation, the Santa Clara County District Attorney's decided not to charge Brooks in an alleged assault on then-teammate Lamar Divens, which occurred in June this year. Divens required stitches after Brooks allegedly struck him in the head with a Heineken bottle.

The NFL, however, says it still is looking into the Brooks' matter. Brooks also was charged with punching a Kentucky woman in the face in 2008, a misdemeanor case has since been expunged. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said he doesn't think Brooks will be suspended for any games this season.

-- Matt Barrows

September 4, 2013
Collarbone injury puts Asomugha in a no-contact jersey


Nnamdi Asomugha, the presumed No. 3 cornerback for the 49ers, went through a limited practice in a blue, non-contact jersey because of an injured collarbone. Asomugha was one of several veterans who sat out Thursday's preseason finale. He presumably suffered the injury in the third preseason game four days earlier.

Asomugha was one of only two players on the 49ers' initial practice report. Running back LaMichael James did not practice with a sprained knee, which will keep him out of Sunday's game against the Packers.

In last year's Week 1 game against the pass-heavy Packers, the team's No. 3 cornerback, Chris Culliver, played 90 percent of the defensive snaps. In the rematch in January, he played 83 percent of the snaps. Culliver is out for the season with an ACL tear.

Last week defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said that Asomugha had taken the lead over Tramaine Brock to be the No. 3 cornerback but that the competition remained fuzzy because of Asomugha's injury. If Asomugha is not 100 percent, it may be Brock who enters Sunday's game when the Packers use three receivers or perhaps a combination of both players.

September 4, 2013
Aldon Smith says he knew party lawsuit was coming

Aldon Smith said Wednesday he was not caught off guard by a lawsuit filed by a man who said he was shot at a party at Smith's house last year.

In a suit filed Tuesday in Santa Clara County Superior Court, Ronndale Esporlas says Smith and former teammate Delanie Walker, who is now with the Tennessee Titans, illegally fired weapons in an attempt to disperse the crowd at a sprawling party at Smith's San Jose home in June 2012.

"Things happen, and you've just got to focus on the things you do," Smith said. "So I'm focused on playing against Green Bay, and see how it goes." Smith said the lawsuit was not a surprise.

Walker had a different reaction. "Most definitely I was shocked, to see something like that on national TV with my name put through the mud," Walker told the Nashville Tennessean. "But I'm not focusing on that."

According to police reports at the time, two people were shot at the party while Smith suffered stab wounds to his torso. When police arrived at the home in the foothills east of downtown San Jose, hundreds of party goers were exiting the home. No one ultimately was charged in the incident. In the lawsuit, Esporlas says he was shot twice when people near the street started firing back toward Smith's house.

The 49ers issued a statement Wednesday saying they have been "aware of this matter concerning Aldon Smith for some time. We will continue to monitor the situation closely, but will have no further comment at this time, as this is an ongoing legal matter."

-- Matt Barrows

September 4, 2013
Harbaugh decries Packers' "tough talk" about hitting Kaepernick


Jim Harbaugh never has been timid about lobbying officials or the league office for a favorable ruling, and he's at it again when it comes to just how much abuse defenses can deliver to Colin Kaepernick when he runs the read option.

Packers linebacker Clay Matthews, for example, said this week that the Packers plan to take their "shots" against Kaepernick and other read-option quarterbacks this season. "One of the things that the referees have told us is that when these quarterbacks carry out the fakes, they lose their right as a quarterback, a pocket-passing quarterback, the protection of a quarterback," Matthews said Monday on ESPN Radio. "You do have to take your shots on the quarterback, and obviously they're too important to their offense."

An NFL officiating crew arrived in Santa Clara in August to discuss that and other points of emphasis this season. Umpire Garth DeFelice backed up Matthews' point - even if a quarterback no longer has the ball, he can be hit if he's carrying out a read-option fake, DeFelice told reporters.

Harbaugh, however, called it "a gray area," and he said he's been in contact with the league office and will seek more clarification from the officiating crew before Sunday's game. Harbaugh went as far to say that all the "tough talk" coming from defensive players this offseason is tantamount to "targeting a specific player."

September 4, 2013
49ers notes: Still no steady No. 2 WR, but that's how the 49ers operate


The 49ers released their initial depth chart this week, and Kyle Williams was listed as the starting wideout opposite Anquan Boldin. But even Williams said the designation was a bit fuzzy. "It really doesn't matter who's starting," he said. "We're all going to be in there making plays."

Like the beginning of last season, when Williams, Mario Manningham, Randy Moss and Ted Ginn all received snaps opposite Michael Crabtree, there likely will be plenty of platooning opposite Anquan Boldin this year. The others in the mix are Marlon Moore, Quinton Patton and newcomer Jon Baldwin, although Baldwin is a strong candidate to be one of the eight inactive players Sunday.

Moore started all four preseason games; Williams, recovering from an ACL tear, didn't play in the preseason. Moore also seems to be the wideout who has taken over Moss' role in packages that call for a lone wide receiver. Moss typically would run a "go" or a post route, taking a cornerback and a safety down field with him. The 49ers, in turn, usually would hand the ball to Frank Gore.

Moore, however, is a much more rough-and-tumble player than Moss -- that's why the 49ers like him -- and he's still in the running to be one of the team's gunners on special teams. C.J. Spillman is certain to be a gunner.

September 3, 2013
New 49er Chris Harper: "I've never gotten in a three-point stance before"


New 49er Chris Harper was given a wide receiver's number - No. 13 - on Tuesday but confirmed he will have a Delanie Walker-like role in San Francisco.

Harper was drafted by the Seahawks as a wide receiver out of Kansas State. And he began his college career as a quarterback at Oregon. However, he's never played tight end, something he got a taste of in his first practice with the 49ers Tuesday afternoon.

"I've never gotten in a three-point stance before, so that's going to be different for me," Harper said. Asked whether he was a good blocker, he said, "I thought I was a great blocker - as a receiver. But now I've got to block dudes like Aldon (Smith) and Patrick (Willis). So we'll see."

At 232 pounds, Harper is slightly lighter than Walker, the 49ers' former No. 2 tight end, was when he came out of Central Missouri University in 2006. Like Harper, Walker played wide receiver in college. Harper said he already was somewhat familiar with Walker and watched game film of him when he arrived in Santa Clara Monday night. "They put him all over the field," Harper said. "And he's a great athlete You can see that on film - he's a big guy that can run."

Harper was drafted in the fourth round this year by the Seahawks. However, his hands were inconsistent, and he was outperformed by unheralded receivers Jermaine Kearse and Stephen Williams and did not make the final roster. When Seattle put Harper on their practice squad, the 49ers signed him away.

September 3, 2013
49ers work out another quarterback -- John Skelton


The 49ers have three quarterbacks on their roster, but they are not finished kicking the tires on quarterbacks. Former Cardinals quarterback John Skelton, who had a win against the 49ers in 2011, worked out for the team today, a league source confirmed. News of the workout first was reported by the SportsXchange's Howard Balzer.

Skelton, 25, started 17 games for the Cardinals during the last three seasons and has a 63.0 passer rating. One of his starts last year came against the 49ers. He threw an interception and was sacked four times in a 24-3 loss in October. However, he also earned a victory against the 49ers in 2011, throwing three touchdowns in a 21-19 win. In that game he relieved Kevin Kolb, who was knocked out of the contest early with a concussion.

The 6-6, 250-pound Skelton was part of the Bengals' final wave of cuts Saturday. Former 49ers quarterback Josh Johnson will back up Andy Dalton to start the season. Two other former 49ers quarterbacks, Seneca Wallace and Scott Tolzien, are with the Packers.

-- Matt Barrows

September 3, 2013
Derek Carrier makes eight: 49ers psquad analysis


Here are the 49ers' eight practice-squad players and how they fit into the team's current and future plans. The practice squad always is in a state of flux, but many of those who have stuck around on Jim Harbaugh's squads in recent years have gotten shots on the regular roster. Jose Hastings, Michael Wilhote, Chad Hall and Tony Jerod-Eddie all spent time on both the practice squad and - later -- on the 53-man squad in the last two seasons.

2013 practice squad:

OT - Carter Bykowski. The team's penultimate draft pick has nice size at 6-7 but needs to get stronger and to move his feet better. That's typical for a late-round rookie. Next year will be interesting when Luke Marquardt, who at 6-8, 311, looms over everyone else in the locker room, joins the competition. Marquardt is coming back from a broken foot.

TE - Derek Carrier. Carrier is the only practice-squad player who did not spend the offseason with the 49ers. He was prolific in college - Division III Beloit College - with 189 receptions, 3,111 receiving yards and 29 touchdowns. He spent time last season on the Raiders' and Eagles' practice squads. The 49ers, however, have a lot of tight ends at the moment. Newcomer Chris Harper will be converted from wide receiver to F-back, the role Delanie Walker played in recent years. That conversion, however, likely will take time.

RB -- Jewel Hampton. Finally healthy, Hampton led the team in rushing in the preseason. Though the 49ers seem stacked at the position, Frank Gore is in the twilight of his career, Kendall Hunter is coming back from an Achilles', LaMichael James does not have the size to be an every-down runner and Marcus Lattimore is no sure thing moving forward. That is, they are wise to keep a good inside runner like Hampton in the fold for now.

WR - Chuck Jacobs. Every offseason, a plucky wide receiver seems to earn a spot on the practice squad, whether it's Hastings or Hall or, this year, Jacobs. He impressed coaches by toughing it out through every training-camp and preseason practice despite being sub-180 pounds. That zeal will serve the team well as Jacobs emulates opposing wide receivers in practice. Will it ever earn him a regular role on the 49ers' 53-man squad? It didn't for Hastings or Hall.

September 3, 2013
49ers settle with Divens; Okoye to injured reserve


The 49ers reached an injury settlement with one of the defensive linemen they waived a week ago, Lamar Divens, but not with the other, rookie Lawrence Okoye. That means that Divens can join another squad but that Okoye will revert to injured reserve, allowing the 49ers to retain his rights through the season.

The team could have reached an injury settlement with Okoye, a newcomer to American football, and then later signed him to the practice squad. The 49ers still have one open space on the squad but probably don't need another defensive linemen. They have six on the active roster; another, Demarcus Dobbs, on the reserve/suspension list; and an eighth, rookie Mike Purcell, on the practice squad.

Okoye suffered a sprained knee in the 49ers' third preseason game. While he will not be able to practice with the 49ers this season, he can attend meetings, do classroom work, watch games from the sidelines and otherwise get an insider's education on how the NFL works -- exactly what a football neophyte requires. The 49ers are expected to sign Okoye to a contract at the end of the season, and the plan is that he'll start up again in the spring when the 49ers' offseason program begins.

Divens' injury is unknown.

Divens, of course, was involved in an ugly offseason brawl with outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks that resulted in Divens needing stitches on his head and him sitting out a week of minicamp. After a month-long investigation, the Santa Clara County District Attorney's office decided not to pursue a case against Brooks, in part because of a previous scuffle between the two men and in part because Divens demanded $1 million from Brooks. Both Okoye and Purcell witnessed the June incident, according to police records.

Neither the 49ers nor the NFL has announced any discipline for Brooks, although the NFL has said the case still is being reviewed. Brooks will start in Sunday's game against the Packers.

- Matt Barrows

September 2, 2013
Delanie part deux? 49ers intend to play Harper at tight end

The 49ers are looking at Chris Harper not as a wide receiver, the spot he played at Kansas State, but as a tight end/H back in the mold of former 49er Delanie Walker, according to a league source.

There are plenty of similarities between the two players. They both played wide receiver at the college level. And they are around the same size. Walker measured a little under 6-1 and weighed 240 pounds out of Central Missouri in 2006. Harper is a little under 6-1 and weighs 235 pounds. He ran a 4.5-second 40-yard dash prior to the draft. Walker ran a 4.49-second 40-yard dash before his rookie season.

Walker played 57 percent of the 49ers' offensive snaps last year, often lining up in the backfield as an H-back or in the slot as a receiver. He also occasionally was split wide like a wide receiver. That gave the 49ers the ability to run or throw the ball on any play in which Walker was in the game.

The 49ers, of course, used a second-round pick on a more traditional tight end, Vance McDonald, and he is expected to play in two tight end sets this season along with Vernon Davis. The 49ers also have Garrett Celek on the roster.

Harper must get a little bigger and stronger, but he is being eyed as a weapon for the future. The 49ers had a similar player, MarQueis Gray, on their roster this offseason. The Browns, however, signed Gray to their 53-man roster before the 49ers could sign him to their practice squad.

The 49ers signed Harper off the Seahawks practice squad. A fourth-round pick this year, he will sign a three-year deal with his new club. The deal is expected to be announced this afternoon.

-- Matt Barrows

September 2, 2013
QB Seneca Wallace joins Scott Tolzien in Green Bay


The mystery surrounding Seneca Wallace's final day with the 49ers grew clearer today when he became the second ex-49ers quarterback in as many days to sign with the Green Bay Packers, who face the 49ers in six days. Wallace will serve as Green Bay's primary backup to Aaron Rodgers to start the season.

Wallace strangely didn't make the trip with the 49ers to San Diego for Thursday's preseason finale. Jim Harbaugh later said Wallace told him that morning he wanted to retire. It seems now that Wallace knew he would have a much better chance of making another team's roster and didn't want to expose himself to injury by playing behind the 49ers' third-string offensive line in the fourth quarter.

Wallace seemed like he had a real shot to make the 49ers' roster when they signed him Aug. 22. Both Colt McCoy and Scott Tolzien had struggled in the preseason while B.J. Daniels, while playing well, was a rookie. But three days later, Harbaugh announced that McCoy would begin the season as the No. 2 quarterback.

In the interim, McCoy restructured his contract with the 49ers. Wallace's signing now seems like it was leverage to get McCoy to rework his deal. Suspecting as much, Wallace (Cordova High, Sacramento City College) realized he had no chance to make the 49ers' roster. Harbaugh told reporters after Thursday's game that Wallace had decided to retire, which Wallace disputed.

In Green Bay today, Wallace told reporters it was "miscommunication" and said he called the coach to clear the air.

The Packers added Tolzien to their practice squad on Sunday. He had been with the 49ers for two and half years while Wallace was only with the team a week.

Tolzien, obviously, would have very good insight into the 49ers offensive and defensive personnel - especially starting quarterback Colin Kaepernick -- their defensive tendencies and their snap count pattern at the line of scrimmage. But in talking to players this spring and summer, there's been little, if any, game-plan preparation for the Packers thus far.

The 49ers opened the season against the Packers last year, too, and they openly said they began their Week 1 preparation as far back as the spring. The coaches undoubtedly started working on Green Bay earlier this year as well. But it hasn't been passed on to the players - perhaps in anticipation of this type of situation - and it won't until the first practice of the week on Tuesday.

-- Matt Barrows

September 2, 2013
Roster maneuvers: 49ers send Cam Johnson to Colts, add WR Harper

The 49ers traded a pass rusher for a receiver this morning, sending preseason finale star Cam Johnson to the Colts for a conditional, seventh-round pick in next year's draft. That made room on the 53-man roster for wide receiver Chris Harper, whom the 49ers plan to sign from the Seahawks practice squad. The Harper transaction was reported by ESPN.com and hasn't been made official yet.

The move gives the 49ers an expected 13 picks in the upcoming draft, including four in the third round and four in the seventh round. One of the third rounders is an expected compensatory pick,

"We appreciate Cam's efforts since joining our team a year ago," 49ers general manager Trent Baalke said in a statement. "He has continued to grow as a football player and we wish him all the best with his new opportunity in Indianapolis."

Harper, 23, was a fourth-round pick by the Seahawks this year. At 6-1, 234 pounds, he's a big-bodied player who had 58 catches, 857 receiving yards and three touchdowns last year at Kansas State. During Seattle's preseason, he had four catches for 39 yards with a long of 16.

Harper was taken with the 123rd pick in the draft (fourth round), which is five picks before the 49ers selected receiver Quinton Patton. He'll join a wide-receiving corps of Anquan Boldin, Kyle Williams, Patton, Marlon Moore and Jon Baldwin.

September 1, 2013
Packers sign ex 49ers QB Tolzien to practice squad


The 49ers didn't keep Scott Tolzien around for the last two seasons because of his arm or athletic ability. Jim Harbaugh liked Tolzien for his work ethic and for his brain.

That brain - and all the knowledge it accumulated in two and half seasons in San Francisco - is now back in Wisconsin. The Packers added Tolzien to their practice squad today, and they are likely pumping him for information - Zero Dark 3? - about their Week 1 opponent as you read this.

And if you don't think that happens when one player is picked up to another, recall that former Rams safety Craig Dahl said the 49ers immediately debriefed him about the Rams defense when he arrived in Santa Clara in March. That drew some angry words from Dahl's former Rams teammates but a shoulder shrug from Rams coach Jeff Fisher.

"First off, any time a player that's involved in the system changes addresses, there's always going to be some sort of debriefing," Fisher said. "That always happens, so that's not unusual."

Tolzien's job the last few years was to act as a second set of eyes for the starting quarterback as far as breaking down the opposing defense in the run-up to the game and to help analyze what's happening on the field during the game. Both players and coaches said that was something at which Tolzien, a noted gym rat, excelled.

Alex Smith, for example, said he leaned heavily on Tolzien when he was the starter. "Scott - I can definitely ask him to try to keep an eye on things and watch specifics that week," Smith said last season.

Tolzien, obviously, would have very good insight into the 49ers offensive and defensive personnel, their defensive tendencies and their snap count verbiage at the line of scrimmage. But in talking to players this spring and summer, there's been little, if any, game-plan preparation for the Packers thus far.

The 49ers opened the season against the Packers last year, too, and they openly said they began their Week 1 preparation as far back as the spring. The coaches undoubtedly started working on Green Bay earlier this year as well. But it hasn't been passed on to the players - perhaps in anticipation of this type of situation - and it won't until the first practice of the week on Tuesday.

Another ex 49er, receiver Ricardo Lockette, was added to the Bears practice squad.

-- Matt Barrows

September 1, 2013
Other teams poaching ex 49ers as team begins building practice squad


Because the 49ers had such a loaded roster, other teams were expected to poach their former players following cut-down day. That indeed has been the case today as at least three players were added to other squads' 53-man rosters.

Two players, wide receiver Chad Hall and cornerback Marcus Cooper, were picked up by the Chiefs, according to league sources. Cooper was a seventh-round draft pick, and the 49ers intended to sign him to their practice squad. Hall and Cooper join former 49ers Alex Smith and A.J. Jenkins in Kansas City.

Meanwhile, CSN Bay area reported that undrafted rookie MarQueis Gray, a tight end, was claimed by the Cleveland Browns. Gray, who played quarterback and receiver at the University of Minnesota, also was a practice-squad candidate.

The team intends to sign cornerback Darryl Morris, draft pick Carter Bykowski, an offensive tackle, and six others to their practice squad this afternoon.

Practice squad:
CB Darryl Morris
OT Carter Bykowski
WR Chuck Jacobs
RB Jewel Hampton
OL Patrick Omameh
DL Mike Purcell
S Michael Thomas

-- Matt Barrows


Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.


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