49ers Blog and Q&A

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

January 31, 2014
Look ahead: Who joins Tramaine Brock at cornerback?

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Over the next few weeks, I'll take a position-by-position look at the 49ers roster with an eye on the upcoming season and beyond. Today we examine the situation at cornerback.

Signed for 2014: Tramaine Brock, Chris Culliver, Carlos Rogers, Darryl Morris, Dax Swanson

Pending free agents: Tarell Brown, Perrish Cox (restricted free agent), Eric Wright

Outlook: First the good news at the position: Brock began the season as a relative unknown, started 10 games, led the team with five interceptions, tipped the pass against Atlanta that NaVorro Bowman returned for a touchdown and signed a contract extension that keeps him around through the 2017 season. Brock isn't tall at 5-9 ½. But he's very strong, has long arms (Trent Baalke looooooves long arms) is quick and aggressive. And he's young. Brock will turn 26 in August. In short, the 49ers appear to have secured one of their starting cornerbacks for the future.

The other starter and the all-important nickel cornerback? They are up in the air. Culliver is the favorite to play opposite Brock in 2014. He is on schedule to return from an ACL tear suffered early in training camp. But despite advances in the treatment of ACL's, they still are tricky injuries and more than 20 percent of players still do not fully return from the injury. Which is to say, you might be able to write Culliver's name in pencil as far as the 2014 starting lineup, but it's too early to write it in pen.

So who else is a candidate? Brown started the last three seasons at right cornerback but, barring a late change of heart by the organization, appears destined to leave via free agency. Cox likely will be easy to re-sign if the 49ers want him back. But they cut him in November before bringing him back just before the playoffs.

January 31, 2014
49ers' offensive lineman arrested for public intoxication

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Offensive lineman Daniel Kilgore, a leading candidate to be the 49ers' starting center in 2014 and beyond, was arrested and charged with public intoxication on Saturday in his home town of Kingsport, Tenn., the Times News first reported today.

According to the police report, an officer noticed Kilgore and another man "staggering" along the sidewalk at 2:18 a.m. The officer wrote that he observed that both men had bloodshot eyes, dilated pupils and that he noticed a "strong odor" of alcohol. He determined both were "too intoxicated to be in public." They were arrested "for their safety and the welfare of the public."

Kilgore, 26, played at Appalachian State and was drafted by the 49ers in the fifth round in 2011. He was sent into the game as an extra blocker in short-yardage situations -- he made an excellent block on Anthony Dixon's touchdown in the NFC Championship game -- and has been center Jonathan Goodwin's understudy the last two years.

Goodwin is a pending free agent and is not expected back. That means Kilgore is the likeliest candidate to take over the job with perhaps Joe Looney, a 2012 draft pick, competing for the spot as well.

A statement from the 49ers read: "The 49ers organization is aware of the recent matter involving Daniel Kilgore. We are monitoring the situation closely, but will reserve further comment at this time, as this is an ongoing legal matter."

-- Matt Barrows

January 30, 2014
Kaepernick on final throw: "I don't play this game with fear"

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Colin Kaepernick today said if he had just thrown the final pass in the NFC Championship game a foot farther, Michael Crabtree would have caught it and the 49ers, not the Seahawks, would be in the Super Bowl.

"I thought I had put enough on it where it would drop over his head and give Crab a chance," Kaepernick told KNBR radio's Murph & Mac. "... It's always easier to look back and say, I should have put a little more on it. But at that point, I thought I had thrown a good ball."

Kaepernick said if he had the opportunity, he wouldn't do anything differently. "I'm going to take Crabtree every chance I get on a one-on-one matchup," he said.

Even against Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman, who led the NFL in interceptions this season and who tipped the pass allowing it to be picked off? "I wouldn't second-guess that at all," Kaepernick said. "I don't play this game to play with fear - a player, or another team or anyone. To me, I saw the matchup, I liked it, I'm going to take my chance."

Here's Kaepernick on ...

January 30, 2014
Kaepernick says contract must be "balanced" against others 49ers want to sign

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A loose, lively and talkative Colin Kaepernick sat down with KNBR's Murph & Mac in New York City today to discuss topics ranging from his final, end-zone throw to Michael Crabtree, to Richard Sherman's post-game rant - "absurd," Kaepernick said - to a possible contract extension this offseason.

That last subject is perhaps the most pertinent. Kaepernick, who is scheduled to count a relatively paltry $1.63 million against the salary cap in the upcoming season, can extend that contract this offseason so that his salary is on par with the other top quarterbacks in the league. Last year the franchise number for quarterbacks was more than $16 million. He was asked whether he would tell his agents that the contract should be drawn up so that the 49ers will be able to sign other top players.

"I think it's a balance. You want to be paid fairly for what you feel like you're doing in comparison to your peers," Kaepernick said. "But at the same time, you have to realize, if we want to get Anquan Boldin back, if we want Donte Whitner to come back, we're going to have to make moves to get them back. And there has to be room for everyone. And that's something I'm going to let my agent and the organization try to figure out. But hopefully, it's a position where we can assemble the best team we need."

Boldin and Whitner are just two of 10 players who are scheduled to be unrestricted free agents in March. That list also includes kicker Phil Dawson and cornerback Tarell Brown. In addition, a number of young players, such as Crabtree, Aldon Smith and Mike Iupati are, like Kaepernick, eligible for contract extensions this offseason.

-- Matt Barrows

January 29, 2014
The Kap 'n' Cam show: QBs to host Cartoon Network awards

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Cam Newton apparently isn't steamed that Colin Kaepernick mimicked his "Superman" pose after scoring on Newton's home turf earlier this month.

The two quarterbacks - roomies three years at the scouting combine in Indianapolis -- will host the Cartoon Network's annual awards show next month. Previous hosts have included Shaquille O'Neal and skateborder Tony Hawk, reinforcing the notion that the 49ers quarterback A.) is quickly becoming one of the most recognizable and marketable players in the NFL and B.) is particularly popular with kids and C.) will be just as busy pitching products and handing out awards as he was last year. Kaepernick made an appearance on last year's Cartoon Network show, which was hosted by O'Neal and Nick Cannon.

What's also notable is that Kaepernick gets top billing over Newton, at least in the press release announcing the event. "Kaepernick is one of NFL's rising stars and top QBs in the league. He is also a talented baseball player and was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the 2009 MLB Draft," according to the release. "Kaepernick continues to dominate headlines highlighting his maverick sense of style on and off the field."

Said Kaepernick: "I'm looking forward to sharing the stage with Cam as host this year. We've both made appearances at past shows, but taking over as hosts? Let's just say we're going to take it to another level."

Newton was the No. 1 overall pick in 2011 and one of five quarterbacks drafted ahead of Kaepernick. This has provided endless motivation for the 49ers quarterback (he was drafted 36th overall), who as recently as this month said the perceived diss is "not something I'll forget."

After his four-yard touchdown run that helped the 49ers beat Newton's Panthers, Kaepernick mimicked Newton's signature pose and said it was "just a little shout out" to his former roomie. Newton didn't seem all that happy about it after the game. "It's not the first nor the last time somebody does that," he said when asked about Kaepernick's celebration.

Both players are now eligible for contract extensions, which promises to be one of the bigger storylines of the NFL offseason.

-- Matt Barrows

January 29, 2014
Look ahead: OLB in good shape, even when stars are absent

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Over the next few weeks, I'll take a position-by-position look at the 49ers roster with an eye on the upcoming season and beyond. Today we examine the situation at outside linebacker.

Signed for 2014: Ahmad Brooks, Aldon Smith, Dan Skuta, Corey Lemonier

Pending free agents: none

Outlook: Brooks and Smith combined for eight sacks and two forced fumbles in the playoffs, and the position is in vastly better shape than it was at this time a year ago. Last year, the backups at outside linebacker were Clark Haggans, and for five games, Eric Bakhtiari. They combined for 63 defensive snaps during the regular season and postseason. Skuta and Lemonier, meanwhile, combined for 570 snaps, and Lemonier received valuable repetitions during his rookie season.

The bulk of those snaps came during Smith's five-game absence that followed his September DUI arrest. Smith missed six weeks total - bye weeks count as far as time missed - while in rehab, and Commissioner Roger Goodell said in October that Smith's self-imposed absence will be considered when the league determines whether Smith should be punished. The 49ers hope that Smith's rehab stint will count as time served and that he will not be suspended at all during the upcoming season. Smith also has been charged with illegally possessing assault rifles relating to an out-of-control house party in 2012. He pleaded not guilty to those charges in November.

If Smith is suspended, the 49ers should be able to handle his absence. After all, they won all five games he sat out this past season. Skuta in particular was a pleasant surprise after the 49ers signed him to be a special teams player but then moved him from inside linebacker to the outside. He finished with 28 tackles in the regular season, scored a touchdown vs. Jacksonville on a 47-yard fumble return and had two sacks in the postseason. One caveat: Skuta played through the season with a foot injury, and he often was seen during the week in a walking boot. The 49ers are monitoring the injury, and it's not yet determined whether he will need surgery on the foot.

January 28, 2014
Look ahead: Questions at 49ers' best position, inside linebacker

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Over the next few weeks, I'll take a position-by-position look at the 49ers roster with an eye on the upcoming season and beyond. Today we examine the situation at inside linebacker.

Signed for 2014: NaVorro Bowman, Patrick Willis, Nick Moody, Darius Fleming.

Pending free agents: Michael Wilhoite (exclusive rights free agent)

Outlook: The 49ers expect Bowman to make a full recovery from his recent MCL/ACL tear, and the procedure has been perfected to the point where nearly 80 percent of players return to the field. But it's certainly not foolproof as recent ACL patients like Fleming, Kyle Williams and Mario Manningham can attest. Fleming and Williams both tore their left ACL in 2012 and suffered the same injury to the same knee a year later. Manningham tore his ACL in December of 2012. And while he didn't re-tear the ligament, it was clear he was not 100 percent recovered from the original injury and was placed on injured reserve last month.

All of which suggests the 49ers will take their time with Bowman. Could he be back in time for the start of the 2014 season? He hasn't had surgery yet and might not for a couple of more weeks. The fastest he could expect to return is six months, which would be around Week 1 of the preseason. However, it's difficult to believe the 49ers would rush him back onto the field in that span. A more likely scenario has Bowman going on the physically-unable-to-perform list - like Michael Crabtree did in 2013 - and then coming off when team doctors are certain the knee is strong.

Who would start opposite Willis in that scenario? Perhaps the 49ers' best offseason competition - the team's top training-camp battle -- will be between Wilhoite, who stepped in for Willis this past year, and Moody, a sixth-round pick in April. Wilhoite is an exclusive rights free agent, meaning that the 49ers will be able to bring him back on an inexpensive one-year deal (If they don't sign him to a longer one). Outside linebacker Dan Skuta also has experience as an inside linebacker while former 49er Larry Grant is available as a free agent.

January 27, 2014
Look ahead: Transition year on the 49ers' defensive line

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Over the next few weeks, I'll take a position-by-position look at the 49ers roster with an eye on the upcoming season and beyond. We'll start with the defensive line and work our way backward:

Under contract for 2014: Justin Smith, Ray McDonald, Glenn Dorsey, Ian Williams, Tony Jerod-Eddie, Tank Carradine, Quinton Dial, Lawrence Okoye, Mike Purcell, Christian Tupou

Pending free agents: Demarcus Dobbs (restricted free agent).

Outlook: Smith will turn 35 during the upcoming season while McDonald will turn 30. The 49ers already began the rejuvenation process along the line by drafting Carradine and Dial, although both remain question marks after mostly sitting out their rookie years with injuries. The 49ers did, however, get excellent production from another young player, Jerod-Eddie, who went undrafted in 2012. He ended up playing 36 percent of the team's snaps while Dobbs played 28 percent. This allowed Smith and McDonald more rest than they had the previous two seasons. Smith, for example, played one and half fewer games in 2012 but had 40 more snaps that season than he did in 2013.

Dorsey, a free agent pickup in 2013, played very well in the second half of the season. Williams began the year at nose tackle but suffered a broken ankle in Week 2. He is expected to make a full recovery and to be ready for training camp. This means that there will be a lot of depth - Dial also can line up there -- at nose tackle, a position that was on the field only about 41 percent of the time in 2013. Given their reinforcements, the 49ers are likely to offer Dobbs the lowest tender possible for an unrestricted free agent. He was very good on special teams in 2013 but the team will be eager to work its draft picks into the defensive rotation.

January 26, 2014
Patrick Willis had surgery on thumb

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Add Patrick Willis to the list of 49ers getting off-season tune-ups. The 49ers' inside linebacker had recent surgery on his left thumb and is now in a cast, as recent photos from his Instagram account show and as a league source confirmed.

Hand injuries have been Willis' Achilles' heel, so to speak. When he broke a bone in his right hand during a pass-rushing drill in July, it marked the fourth time since he was a junior at Ole Miss he has dealt with a fracture on that hand. He did not miss any games due to that or any of his hand injuries. However, he sat out two games early in the season because of a groin injury. It's not clear when the most recent injury occurred. Willis was not on the 49ers' injury report heading into last week's NFC Championship game.

Willis, who turned 29 on Saturday, healed and played better as the season went on, and he had 27 tackles and an interception in the playoffs. He was one of the eight 49ers who opted out of the Pro Bowl in Hawaii, presumable due to his injury.

Other 49ers who had or will have surgery include fellow inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman (ACL) and defensive end Ray McDonald (biceps tendon).

-- Matt Barrows

January 24, 2014
Seahawks' Sherman fined for after-interception gesture to Kaepernick

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The NFL fined Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman $7,875 for his end-of-game "choking" sign directed at 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. The gesture followed the game-clinching interception in the end zone in which Sherman tipped the ball to linebacker Malcolm Smith, who was trailing on the play.

Immediately after the play, Sherman ran to receiver Michael Crabtree, gave him a condescending pat on the backside and then extended his hand for a handshake saying, "Helluva game, helluva game." Crabtree shoved the cornerback in the facemask. At that point, Sherman put both hands around his throat, a gesture he later said was meant for Kaepernick.

Sherman noted that the 49ers quarterback hadn't challenged him for most of the game, and his post-game rage suggested he was insulted that the 49ers would attack him at the game's most critical moment.

"I really appreciate that, Kap," Sherman said afterward. "You try me like that. I hadn't gotten many opportunities all game. I'm happy. I'm happy about that."

Asked if he was surprised the 49ers threw in his direction, Sherman said, "I think everybody in the stadium was surprised. You throw that, it's a mistake."

No other players were fined, including 49ers safety Donte Whitner and 49ers cornerback Carlos Rogers, both of whom were penalized for unnecessary roughness. Seahawks special teams player Chris Maragos was not fined for hitting punter Andy Lee. Maragos was penalized but only for running into the kicker, a five-yard foul. Maragos hit Lee's plant leg, which typically is a 15-yard roughing-the-kicker penalty.

The league has not made a determination on the sideline incident in which Seahawks special teams player Jeremy Lane was knocked to the ground after making contact with a staffer on the 49ers sideline.

-- Matt Barrows

January 23, 2014
Donte Whitner wins local media's good-guy award

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Who are the best players to deal with in the 49ers locker room from a media perspective? The reporters who cover the team on a daily basis gave their voted for the annual Garry Niver Award - a.k.a., the good-guy award - and safety Donte Whitner was the run-away winner. Whitner also won the award in 2011.

Whitner was always available, was always interesting and spoke intelligently on an array of issues, from teammate Ahmad Brooks' summertime incident involving a beer bottle to rookie hazing relating to Miami's Richie Ingognito and Jonathan Martin to the league's policy on hard hits. Whitner was a true professional from the offseason through to the NFC Championship game. He received six of nine first-place votes.

Fullback Bruce Miller came in second, center Jonathan Goodwin came in third. Others receiving votes were: safety Eric Reid, tackle Joe Staley, cornerback Carlos Rogers, nose tackle Glenn Dorsey, cornerback Tarell Brown, kicker Phil Dawson and running back Frank Gore. My three votes went to, in order: Whitner, Goodwin and Rogers.

Garry Niver Award winners:
2012: Frank Gore
2011: Donte Whitner
2010: Takeo Spikes'
2009: Alex Smith and Shaun Hill
2008: Eric Heitmann
2007: Frank Gore
2006: Bryant Young
2005: Julian Peterson
2004: Jeff Ulbrich
2003: Jeff Garcia
2002: Dana Stubblefield
2001: Jeff Garcia
2000: Lance Schulters
1999: Jerry Rice
1998: Tim McDonald
1997: Ray Brown
1996: Steve Wallace
1995: Steve Young
1994: Tim McDonald
1993: Jesse Sapolu

-- Matt Barrows

January 23, 2014
Game-ending pic: Bee's photo lands on Sports Illustrated

Congratulations to The Bee's Paul Kitagaki Jr., whose photo of the biggest play in the playoffs to date - Richard Sherman's last-minute swat in the end zone - landed on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Ah, but this is only one of several keepers taken by the Bee photogs and others at the game.

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Here's our gallery from Seattle. As rough as some of the recent playoff outcomes have been for the 49ers, every game has been well-played and dramatic, some of them instant classics. Sunday's was another. It ranks up there with the 2011 season games against New Orleans and the Giants in my book. Check out all that is happening in picture 44, the agony of picture 25, the juxtaposition of picture 50.

Very good stuff.

-- Matt Barrows

January 23, 2014
Keeping up with Carroll: 49ers needs in the upcoming draft

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The season is over and it's time to start at least warming up your ice-cold draft muscles. After all, it's only four months away. Here's where I see the 49ers' top needs in 2014:

Wide receiver: This need could diminish somewhat if the 49ers strike a deal with Anquan Boldin, who is a pending free agent. But even with Boldin on board, it's at the top of the list considering A.) He will be 34 in October. B.) Michael Crabtree has been injury prone and is entering the final year of his deal. C.) The 49ers need top-flight receivers to defeat their arch nemesis, the Seattle Seahawks. This is believed to be a good year for receivers although the top name at the position, Sammy Watkins, probably is out of their reach.

Cornerback: This position crept closer to the top spot over the last few weeks. That's when Eric Wright, who at one point seemed like an heir to Carlos Rogers at the nickel spot, fell out of favor with the coaching staff. He was replaced by Perrish Cox, whom the 49ers cut at one point this season. With Chris Culliver recovering from ACL surgery, the only sure thing at the position is Tramaine Brock, who had a very solid season. Earlier in the year, it seemed as if Rogers (huge salary) and Tarell Brown (pending free agent) were gone. Now the door remains open a crack for one of them to return. The good news for the 49ers: Trent Baalke and his staff have shown a knack for picking cornerbacks, especially late (Marcus Cooper) or after the draft has ended (Brock).

Safety: This obviously becomes a bigger issue if the 49ers can't re-sign Donte Whitner. If he goes, the team's duo would be Craig Dahl and Eric Reid. Reid, the rookie, had a very nice season. But his two concussions have to be a concern for the team. And as well as he played, he had a big, third-quarter whiff on a potential tackle of Marshawn Lynch on Sunday that opened the floodgates as far as Seattle's scoring. The only other true safety on the team is C.J. Spillman, who always has teemed with potential but who hasn't won the trust of the coaches.

January 22, 2014
Film review: Kaepernick's fateful, final decision; Gore's rough day; game's MVP

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OK, I've given you nearly three full days. It's time to come out from under the covers and read about what went wrong - and what went right - for the 49ers in the NFC Championship game. I watched both the game broadcast (a couple of times) and the All-22 film, so I can recite the contest from start to finish as if it were a poem. A tragic, Greek poem.

Let's start at the end, with the fateful and much scrutinized throw to Michael Crabtree. Both Seattle safeties were to Colin Kaepernick's left on the play. Anquan Boldin, Vernon Davis and Quinton Patton all ran routes to that side of the field. Patton hung around in the flat as a safety valve. He was open, but a throw to him would have gained maybe three to five yards. Kendall Hunter, who had replaced Frank Gore for the final five plays, ran a short pass pattern that also would have resulted in a minimal gain.

All of this meant that Crabtree was lined up one-on-one with Richard Sherman to Kaepernick's right. Kaepernick saw this right away and acknowledged afterward that he had no doubt where he would throw the ball. The question is, was it the right read? Against any other team, the answer is, yes. If you have a top pass catcher like Crabtree in single coverage, you throw his way.

Sherman's remarks after the game - and obnoxious as the delivery was, they were worthwhile ones - essentially asked why the 49ers would stay away from him throughout the contest but try to attack him at the most critical moment? It was no fluke that the Seahawks had safety help on one side of the field and let Sherman alone on the other. They had done that all season, and Sherman had won the rare instances in which teams challenged him. He led the league with eight interceptions in the regular season.

Going after Sherman was at best an aggressive move and at worst an exercise in bad judgment. Being aggressive is what the 49ers - and most of the time, their fans - like about Kaepernick. It's what separates him from his predecessor, Alex Smith. He threw a daring pass to a trusted, but well covered receiver, Boldin, in the the third quarter that resulted in a touchdown. The ball went through safety Early Thomas' fingers into Boldin's hands. The bottom line when it comes to Kaepernick's final throw of the 2013 season is that he made a calculated and aggressive gamble against Sherman and he lost the bet.

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There's been a lot of hand wringing about Gore, who averaged just 1.3 yards a carry. On five of his 11 carries, he either was held for no gain or dropped for a loss. That's typical early in games. The difference is that Gore didn't break anything big later in the game like Marshawn Lynch - he averaged 2.8 yards a carry in the first half -- did for the Seahawks.

There were two factors.

January 22, 2014
49ers ink QB Bethel-Thompson for 2014

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The 49ers today signed the remaining members of their practice squad, quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson and running back Jewel Hampton, to reserve/future deals as they begin to compile their 90-man offseason roster.

Bethel-Thompson is from San Francisco and played at UCLA and Sacramento State. The 49ers added him to their active roster midseason before moving him to the practice squad. He'll compete for a backup job, perhaps with free-agent-to-be Colt McCoy or a rookie draft pick, in the offseason.

Hampton was an undrafted free agent in 2012 who spent the most recent season on the practice squad. He'll be in the mix at running back along with Frank Gore, Marcus Lattimore, Kendall Hunter and LaMichael James.

Bethel-Thomspon is one of three players with Sacramento area ties. Defensive lineman Christian Tupou and receiver Devon Wylie also are from the area.

The players signed to reserve/future deals so far:

QB McLeod Bethel-Thompson
OT Carter Bykowski
S D.J. Campbell
RB Jewel Hampton
WR Chuck Jacobs
OT/G Al Netter
NT Mike Purcell
WR David Reed
WR DeMarco Sampson
P/K Colton Schmidt
DB Dax Swanson
DT Christian Tupou
WR Devon Wylie

- Matt Barrows

January 22, 2014
L.A. story: Logistics prompted 49ers' radio switch

The bottom line for 49ers' radio reshuffle that was announced Wednesday: The team wants its radio duo around the facility more than Eric Davis, who has a gig with the NFL Network in Los Angeles, could handle.

"That job really is going to require more than just calling 20 games," Bob Sargent, the 49ers' director of broadcast partnerships, said on Wednesday. Sargent said the team will continue to bulk-up its in-house media this season, which will require its new radio team of Ted Robinson and Tim Ryan to be at the practice facility and next-door stadium during the week. Ryan, who lives in San Jose, is more capable of fulfilling those obligations.

Both Sargent and Davis, a former 49ers cornerback who appears on "NFL AM" starting at 3 a.m. during the week, described the parting as mutual and amiable. "It's all good," Davis told The San Francisco Chronicle. "What they want from the position is they want their guys on-site. From a logistics standpoint it's not feasible. But everything's good. Loved doing it for three years ... Nothing but good feelings from both sides."

Ryan grew up in San Jose and has been handling the television color commentary for the 49ers' preseason games the last three years. He said his contract as a FOX television commentator had not expired but that he jumped at the chance to join Robinson in the radio booth.

"Not a lot of people leave network television," he said on KNBR radio this morning. "But to be a part of the 49er family in my backyard, if you will, growing up here in the Bay Area. ... To now be a part of it, going into the new stadium with the quality people that run that organization and a quality football team. I am jacked."

-- Matt Barrows

January 22, 2014
Tim Ryan replaces Eric Davis in 49ers' radio booth

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The 49ers are replacing a defensive back with a defensive tackle when it comes to their radio booth.

The team today announced that Tim Ryan will replace Eric Davis as the color analyst next to play-by-play man Ted Robinson on game days. Ryan has handled color analysis for the team's preseason games the last three seasons. He has been an analyst on NFL on Fox and previously the co-hosted "Movin' the Chains" on Sirius XM NFL Radio.

Davis, meanwhile, spent the last three seasons in the booth with Robinson. The former 49ers cornerback will continue to serve as an in-studio host for NFL AM, the NFL Network's daily morning show.

"We are absolutely thrilled that Tim will be joining our broadcast team as we enter a new era of 49ers football at Levi's Stadium," new 49ers President Paraag Marathe said in a statement. "His deep Bay Area roots and football acumen make him an ideal fit for the organization and our Faithful fans. As we strive to develop new and exciting avenues to bring 49ers football to our fans, both Ted and Tim will contribute greatly to all facets of our multi-media content and fan outreach. By pairing Ted and Tim, we are excited to offer our fans the most accomplished radio broadcast team in the NFL."

"Tim Ryan's work on NFL Radio has, for years, been a constant accompaniment during my countless hours on the road," Robinson said. "Like Eric, Tim has taught me a great deal about the NFL. Now his instruction and insight will continue face-to-face. I know Tim will be a terrific asset to 49ers broadcasts and all media platforms, and, like Eric, will be an excellent broadcast partner."

The duo can be heard on KNBR 680 in The Bay Area and on ESPN 1320 in Sacramento.

-- Matt Barrows

January 21, 2014
Gideon Yu steps down as 49ers president, Paraag Marathe steps in

Gideon Yu, the co-owner of the 49ers who was instrumental in financing the team's new stadium, is stepping down as team president, the 49ers announced today. He will be replaced by long-time Jed York lieutenant and player salary negotiator, Paraag Marathe, who most recently served as chief operating officer. Al Guido, who worked with the 49ers and the Santa Clara Stadium Authority in selling the seats and suites for the new stadium, will join the 49ers and step in as chief operating officer.

"As we move closer to the opening of Levi's Stadium, our organization will continue to evolve and grow," York, the team's CEO, said in a statement. "Gideon, Paraag and Al have been instrumental in making the new stadium a reality, and I couldn't be more excited about the future of our management team and the 49ers organization. Paraag and Al have developed a tremendous working relationship and I am deeply confident in their leadership."

Yu sent out a tweet that read: "Thanks to @JedYork for entrusting me to complete your stadium project. Looking fwd to many more years together as 49ers' co-owners!"

Yu spearheaded the financing of the team's billion-dollar Levi's Stadium, which is due to open later this year. A press release sent out about the promotions also said that Yu was instrumental in accelerating the opening date of the facility from the originally planned 2015 season to 2014.

-- Matt Barrows

January 21, 2014
Harbaugh: RB Marcus Lattimore, others to be full-go for 2014

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Jim Harbaugh today said he expects running back Marcus Lattimore, who spent his rookie season recovering and rehabilitating from a devastating knee injury suffered in college, to be healthy for the start of the offseason and to compete for a job at running back.

Both Lattimore, a fourth-round pick in 2013, and defensive end Tank Carradine, a second-round pick, suffered ACL tears during their 2012 college seasons and essentially had red-shirt seasons for the 49ers as rookies. Lattimore also suffered tears to his PCL and MCL as well as a dislocated kneecap. Harbaugh expected that both players would compete for roles in the upcoming season.

"I have great hope for that," he said. "There's a path there. Nobody owes anyone a career in professional football. Your career is literally your business. But I have great faith that those men have what it takes."

Harbaugh also said that cornerback Chris Culliver (ACL) and nose tackle Ian Williams (broken ankle) were recovering well from their season-ending injuries. Culliver has resumed sprinting while Williams has been off crutches for several months now.

Lattimore will compete with Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter and LaMichael James for playing time during the offseason. Another young running back, Jewel Hampton, spent the 2013 season on the practice squad. Carradine will compete with other backup linemen like Quinton Dial, Tony Jerod-Eddie and Demarcus Dobbs, a restricted free agent in March.

More Harbaugh:

* He said that it may be two or three weeks before the 49ers know how NaVorro Bowman's MCL tear has healed. At that point, the team would repair Bowman's ACL tear. He said he had no way of knowing whether Bowman would be ready for the start of the regular season.

January 21, 2014
Live chat replay: The Bee's Matt Barrows reviewing San Francisco 49ers season

See what Matt Barrows, The Sacramento Bee's 49ers beat writer, and others had to say in dissecting the 49ers' season.

 

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January 21, 2014
Frank Gore to have 'minor' surgery on his finger

Running back Frank Gore, who had a typically rough outing in Seattle on Sunday and who shared carries with Kendall Hunter in the second half, will have "minor" surgery on his finger, a league source said today. Gore carried the ball 11 times against a Seattle defense geared to stop him, and he gained 14 yards. His 1.3-yards per carry was his second-lowest of the season; he averaged 1.1 yards a run on 13 carries in the season finale against Arizona.

However, Gore and Colin Kaepernick hooked up on a critical fourth-and-2 pass for 17 yards on the team's final drive. That catch got the 49ers into Seahawks territory just before the 2-minute warning. Gore attended an autograph-signing session Monday evening at which news of a hand injury first was revealed.

Gore is one of several 49ers who will get offseason surgery. That list includes linebacker NaVorro Bowman, who will have his left ACL repaired one his MCL tear heals. Defensive end Ray McDonald will have his torn biceps tendon reattached. Guard Mike Iupati does not need surgery on his broken fibula.

-- Matt Barrows

January 20, 2014
Guard Mike Iupati suffered broken fibula

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Guard Mike Iupati suffered a fractured left fibula early in the second quarter Sunday and will not need surgery, a league source said today. As far as lower-leg diagnoses go, it was a good one for the 49ers' big left guard. The fibula is the smaller of the two bones in the lower leg. It is a clean break, there was no ligament damage and Iupati should be back to full strength in eight weeks.

Iupati had a rough season as he dealt with shoulder and knee injuries at various points. In the run-up to Sunday's game, he said he was finally feeling like himself, and it showed in the 49ers' divisional-game win against the Panthers. Iupati had perhaps his best game of the season as the 49ers offensive line dominated the second half, and he made key blocks on Colin Kaepernick's touchdown run and Frank Gore's long run for a first down in that game.

Against the Seahawks, that running room disappeared. Gore had only 14 yards on 11 carries. The 49ers rushed for 161 yards, but 130 came on Kaepernick's scrambles.

- Matt Barrows

January 20, 2014
Culliver has resumed sprinting; vows to help Bowman through ACL rehab

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Not all 49ers-related ACL news is bad news.

Cornerback Chris Culliver, who tore his at the start of training camp, said he has started sprinting and that he expects to be able to participate in the team's offseason program. "It's hard work, man. It's hard work," he said. "I'll be there every day. Ya'll come, you're going to see me. I'm there every day."

With question marks surrounding the 49ers' futures of Tarell Brown, Carlos Rogers and Eric Wright, Culliver appears to have a very good shot at securing a big role at cornerback in the upcoming season, perhaps as the starter opposite Tramaine Brock.

Brown and Wright will become free agents next month, and Brown at least thinks he will test the market. Wright seemed to get passed over by Perrish Cox in the cornerback pecking order, and now his future is in doubt. Lastly, the 49ers asked Rogers to take a pay cut last year, a request he is likely to get again this year. Rogers said he will sit down with his agent and discuss how to approach the offseason.

Culliver said he also has something to offer linebacker NaVorro Bowman, who suffered at least a torn ACL in Sunday's loss to the Seahawks. Culliver said he spoke briefly to Bowman and texted him to let him know that he will help the linebacker through his rehabilitation, which can take up to a year.

"I'm going to be there every step of the way, I know that," the cornerback said. "And help him out in anything he needs, any concern he has. ... I'm going to be there. Because I'm going through it right now."

Culliver said patience and hard work were the keys to returning from the injury. "It definitely was hard," he said of watching Bowman go down in the fourth quarter. "I cried. ... You play this game and put all your effort into it. It's injuries, and it comes with the game. But it's hard. You just have to find a way to keep your spirits up and keep pushing."

- Matt Barrows

January 20, 2014
Patrick Willis: 'We stay optimistic. We fight'

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I mentioned yesterday on Twitter that Patrick Willis stood out among the 49ers who spoke after yesterday's loss. He had a lot of weighty things to deal with - his friend, NaVorro Bowman's, knee injury; the third straight devastating loss to end the 49ers' season - and he handled it with grace. Here's the transcript of his comments:

(On if he felt sick watching NaVorro Bowman leave the game as he did...)
PW: "Yeah, man. It's one of those things. I look at him as my brother, my partner in crime on the field. It's one thing in practice, but it's a whole another thing when you see that. I know how tough he is. When he couldn't get up on his own and I could hear him yelling. At that point in time, I didn't even care where the ball was. I was like, 'Man, get out here and come help him. He's hurting.'"

(On if it's harder knowing how hard Bowman has worked...)
PW: "Yeah, I've watched him from Day One as a rookie and now as a starter. Each year he has worked, just like the year before. This year he was having a heck of a year, a heck of a season. My hat goes off to him. The season that he had, if he doesn't get Defensive Player of the Year, I don't know what they go by. Most important, I just pray that he's all right. I just saw him a little bit after the game. There's no question that he's a competitor. I know that he wanted nothing more than to be out there and to finish that game with us. Win, lose or draw, I know he wanted to be out there with us. He's going to be all right. He's strong, mentally and physically strong."

(On what it feel like to have the season to end in this manner...)
PW: "I could sit up here and tell you what you want to hear. Tell you that I'm angry, that I'm mad. But I'm not going to do that. I'm going to look at you and say, 'You know what? It was a heck of a run.' We fought. We gave everything we had. Even before the beginning of the season when everyone was picking us to go back to the Super Bowl, then we went through that little slump and everybody started writing us off, we just stayed together and we continued to fight. And that's what we did tonight. It's unfortunate that the win didn't go our way. But as I told my brother and my sister today, win or lose, God gets all the glory. Just for the opportunity to be able to play this in game. So many guys who are home right now wished they could compete in the NFC championship, so we have to be grateful for that. Somebody has to win, somebody has to lose. Unfortunately, we lost the game. Seattle did what they needed to do to win it. Them being in the NFC and also our division, I wish them luck. I hope they go and take care of business for the NFC side."

(On if seeing Bowman get injured hurts even more than the loss...)
PW: "Yeah. This game is huge. No one person is bigger than the game, but the bond that we have is so much deeper than the game that we play. To see him go out like that, it's not supposed to be like this. It's not supposed to happen like this. Sometimes we don't know why things happen the way they do, but we'll see in time. He's going to be all right."

(On if the team, after tough postseason losses, will someday win a championship...)
PW: "We just stay optimistic. We fight. We stay together in every game. That's the goal that every team has. That's what all the training in the off-season is for, all the camaraderie. Each year you put that work in. You say, 'You know what? This is the year.' I have no other reason not think that next year will be our year. For as long as I've played this game, I always think, this will be our year."

(On if he thinks Colin Kaepernick should blame himself for the loss...)
PW: "No. We win as a team and we lose as a team. As a quarterback, I imagine he feels like it's all on his shoulders. We all have a hand in this game, offense, defense and special teams. One thing we've been the best at all year is not pointing the fingers at anyone and taking the win or the loss together as a team. So it's not all on his shoulders. We could have done more as a defense, made a few more plays here and there. I'm sure they feel the same way on offense and they feel the same way on special teams. That's been our motto all year: All three phases. We play good, we win. We didn't do as well as we wanted to today."

(On if the TD pass to Kearse on fourth down took something out of the team...)
PW: "Any time another team scores it takes a little bit out. We just thought we made it harder on ourselves. We had to find a way to try and get it back. It's hard. It's hard to get here. It's hard to win enough games to get in the playoffs. It's hard once you get in the playoffs to get to the Super Bowl. Now to twice come up short in the NFC championship, you just realize how hard it is to win it. You wonder how much more work, how much harder you have to fight to make sure you get this opportunity again and take it. That's all you can do: Stay together as a team, go into this off-season heads up, and work, and work, and work."

- Matt Barrows

January 20, 2014
Another look: Video highlights from 49ers-Seahawks title game

See the big plays that determined the outcome of Sunday's NFC Championship game, won by the Seattle Seahawks 23-17 over the San Francisco 49ers.




January 20, 2014
Report: Crabtree tried to fight Sherman at offseason charity event

The feud between Richard Sherman and Michael Crabtree began last summer when Crabtree tried to start a fight at a charity event, according to a column in today's Seattle Times by Jerry Brewer.

Sherman's brother, Branton, told Brewer that both players attended an event hosted by Arizona receiver Larry Fitzgerald. Branton said that when Sherman went to shake Crabtree's hand, Crabtree tried to start a fight. "I'm going to make a play and embarrass him," Sherman vowed that day, according to the story.

Sherman certainly did everything he could to embarrass Crabtree after Sunday's game. "I was making sure everybody knew that Crabtree was a mediocre receiver. Mediocre," Sherman said. "And when you try (to beat) the best corner in the game with a mediocre receiver, that's what happens. Game."

Sherman acknowledged in his MMQB piece this morning that something happened between him and Crabtree in Arizona:

Erin Andrews interviewed me after the game and I yelled what was obvious: If you put a subpar player across from a great one, most of the time you're going to get one result. As far as Crabtree being a top-20 NFL receiver, you'd have a hard time making that argument to me. There are a lot of receivers playing good ball out there, and Josh Gordon needed 14 games to produce almost double what Crabtree can do in a full season. And Gordon had Brandon Weeden, Brian Hoyer and Jason Campbell playing quarterback.


But that's not why I don't like the man. It goes back to something he said to me this offseason in Arizona, but you'd have to ask him about that. A lot of what I said to Andrews was adrenaline talking, and some of that was Crabtree. I just don't like him
.

In the run-up to the game Crabtree was asked if he thought Sherman was the league's best cornerback. "I don't know (anything) about the best cornerbacks in the league," he said. "I just know teams, you know? We are playing the Seattle Seahawks and hopefully we come out with a win. We are going hard."

Whether Crabtree tried to start a fight with Sherman is likely subjective and more than a bit suspicious considering that Crabtree tore his Achilles' tendon in May. The 49ers receiver probably has a different recollection of how things went down. The 49ers are having a final team meeting this morning. The players are supposed to be available to the media afterward.

Related: Richard Sherman's postgame rant

-- Matt Barrows

January 20, 2014
NaVorro Bowman's DPOY chances likely improved Sunday night

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SEATTLE -- NaVorro Bowman's season is over, but his candidacy for defensive player of the year is very much alive. In front of a national audience Sunday, Bowman led his team with 14 tackles and had a big, first-half sack of quarterback Russell Wilson.

Bowman's most graphic and most heroic moment also was his lowest. As Seattle receiver Jermaine Kearse was being driven into Bowman's planted leg, the linebacker ripped the ball free from the receiver's grasp and held onto it. The contrast was sharp: Bowman was in agonizing pain, but he also made the game-altering play at the goal line that the 49ers defense desperately needed at that moment.

Except the officials didn't see it that way. They ruled that the Seahawks recovered the ball even though it was clear -- especially after replay after grisly replay -- that Bowman was down with the ball in his possession. Still, the officials told Jim Harbaugh that plays like that can't be reviewed.

"They said I could not challenge it," Harbaugh said after the game. "That's just the rule, they said. Just a loophole in the rule. Once they rule a fumble, and it's in the field of play, and the ball is ruled recovered by the Seahawks, then it couldn't be reviewed by me. I asked, 'What happens if I do challenge it?' He said, 'You'll lose a timeout and we won't review it.' They said they would not review the play."

January 19, 2014
Crushing coda: Fourth-quarter flaws doom 49ers in Seattle

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SEATTLE - The 49ers started hot, played smart and were careful with the ball early on.

But in the Seahawks' home, where their defense waits like wolves for opportunities and where the stadium literally shakes with crowd noise, all it takes is one mistake to turn a well-played game into an avalanche.

That play and the ensuing Seattle feeding frenzy occurred early in the fourth quarter Sunday when the Seahawks converted a fourth-and-7 attempt into a 35-yard touchdown that gave them their first lead of the game. With the crowd suddenly at full throat, the 49ers' final three drives ended with three Colin Kaepernick miscues: fumble, interception, interception.

The 23-17 loss is the third straight punch-to-the gut ending to 49ers' season in the Jim Harbaugh era. This one, however, had two added elements that made it perhaps even more difficult for the 49ers to digest.

It came at the hands of their arch rivals, with the most hated adversary of the bunch, cornerback Richard Sherman, tipping a pass in the end zone that was intercepted with 22 seconds remaining. And it ended with the 49ers' best player, inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman, in the locker room with an ACL injury that is likely to affect his 2014 season as well.

But while there was plenty of disappointment in a quiet 49ers locker room after the game, there also was an element of pride.

"I could sit up here and tell you what you want to hear - that I'm angry, that I'm mad," linebacker Patrick Willis said afterward. "But I'm not going to do that. I'm going to look at you and say, 'You know what? It was a heck of a run.' We fought. We gave everything we had."

January 19, 2014
49ers notes: NaVorro Bowman suffered likely ACL tear; Sherman won't stop agitating

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SEATTLE - CenturyLink Field continued to be a house of horrors for the 49ers, who lost two more starters - including the team's defensive MVP, NaVorro Bowman, to what Jim Harbaugh said was a likely ACL tear - to injuries.

Bowman suffered the gruesome injury in the fourth quarter when Seahawks receiver Jermaine Kearse fell onto his outstretched leg. Bowman was pulling the ball free from Kearse's grasp near the goal line as safety Eric Reid drove the receiver into Bowman.

Bowman recovered the ball, but the officials ruled that he lost it again and that the Seahwks recovered. He was carted into the locker room, his head bowed, and he did not return. He slowly left the locker room afterward while using two black, metal canes.

A number of 49ers were kneeling as Bowman was loaded onto the cart. "I look at him as my brother, as my partner in crime on the field," linebacker Patrick Willis said. "I know how tough he is, and when he couldn't get up on his own ... I could hear him yelling. I never heard him yell like that, or stay down."

Meanwhile, left guard Mike Iupati, who paved the way for Frank Gore last week against Carolina, had to be helped off the field early in the second quarter with a broken ankle. Iupati missed four games earlier this year with a sprained knee. In the run-up to Sunday's game, he said that injury, as well as a shoulder injury he suffered early in the season, finally were feeling better. He had perhaps his best game of the season against the Panthers as Gore ran for 84 yards and averaged nearly five yards a carry.

On Sunday Gore had only 14 yards on 11 carries. The 49ers rushed for 161 yards, but 130 came on Colin Kaepernick scrambles.

Iupati was hurt on a fourth-and-goal touchdown leap by fullback Anthony Dixon, who landed on Iupati. Another player fell on Iupati's lower leg in the pile. Adam Snyder filled in at left guard when Iupati missed time earlier this year, and he filled in for most of the second quarter and the second half Sunday.

Last year in Seattle, tight end Vernon Davis was knocked out of the game with a concussion while a knee injury ended receiver Mario Manningham's season in the same game. Earlier this year in Seattle, nose tackle Ian Williams was lost for the season with a broken ankle.
Bowman is likely to miss the 49ers' entire offseason and perhaps part of the regular season as he rehabilitates his knee.

He led the 49ers in tackles this season, and his 14 stops on Sunday led the 49ers. Earlier this month, teammates voted Bowman the winner of their most prestigious honor, the Len Eshmont Award. Willis thinks Bowman deserves one more award.

"If he doesn't get defensive player of the year, then I don't know what they go by," he said.

Mouth roars - The game had long ended, but Seattle's notorious agitator, cornerback Richard Sherman, was still stirring the pot. Over and over.

January 19, 2014
Video: Seahawks Richard Sherman post-game interview

Seconds after making the game-saving play to send Seattle to the Super Bowl, cornerback Richard Sherman was fired up.

Sherman deflected a pass intended for San Francisco's Michael Crabtree near the corner of the end zone with less than a minute left, right into the arms of Seattle teammate Malcolm Smith to seal the Seahawks' 23-17 win.

Sherman was subsequently whistled for unsportsmanlike conduct on the play, after exchanging words with Crabtree and making what appeared to be a choking gesture.

Asked about the incident afterward by Fox reporter Erin Andrews, Sherman stole the show and lit up Twitter with this rant:

-- The Associated Press


January 19, 2014
Halftime: Kaepernick running wild on Seattle defense

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The game hardly could have started better for the 49ers.

On the very first snap, Russell Wilson fake a handoff to Marshawn Lynch and pulled out in the opposite direction. But he couldn't get past Aldon Smith, who knocked the ball free and recovered it at Seattle's 15-yard line.

The 49ers settled for a 25-yard Phil Dawson field goal four plays later. Still, compared to previous starts in Seattle in which mistakes, the noise and the Seahawks defense snowballed against the 49ers, this beginning was a masterpiece. The Seahawks hadn't allowed any opening-drive points all season.

Meanwhile, quarterback Colin Kaepernick has gotten off to shaky starts in Seattle in his previous two trips here. But he looks calm and in control in gouging the Seahawks defense for 98 first-half rushing yards, including a 58-yard scamper that set up the game's only touchdown. Kaepernick set an NFL record last year with an 181-yard outing against the Packers. The Seahawks, however, boasted the best defense in the league this season. Kaepernick now has three of the five highest rushing totals for a quarterback in NFL postseason history.

That touchdown came on a one-yard dive by fullback Anthony Dixon. The 49ers thought he had scored on third down, but replays showed his arm landed just short of the goal line. Jim Harbaugh and the 49ers, who had settled for early field goals in their previous two playoff games, decided to go for the touchdown, and this time a leaping Dixon left no doubt.

The score proved costly, however, when left guard Mike Iupati suffered an ankle injury. He will not return to the game.

Meanwhile, the 49ers defense has done an excellent job containing Wilson, who has hurt them in the past by scrambling out of danger and heaving the ball down field. That happened once in the first half on a 51-yard heave to Doug Baldwin, who got past safeties Eric Reid and Donte Whitner.

That set up Seattle's only score of the game, a 32-yard field goal by Steve Hauschka.
Still, Wilson has gained only three yards on the ground while running back Marshawn Lynch has just 33 yards on 12 carries. Smith has two sacks for San Francisco while NaVorro Bowman has one.

-- Matt Barrows

January 19, 2014
Mike Iupati leaves game with ankle injury, will not return

Left guard Mike Iupati, who paved the way for Frank Gore last week against Carolina, had to be helped off the field early in the second quarter with an ankle injury. He will not return to the game

Iupati missed four games earlier this year with a sprained knee. In the run-up to today's game, he said that injury, as well as a shoulder injury he suffered early in the season, finally were feeling better, and he had perhaps his best game of the season against the Panthers. The big guard was hurt on a fourth-and-goal touchdown leap by fullback Anthony Dixon, who landed on Iupati. Another player seems to have fallen on Iupati's leg in the pile.

Adam Snyder filled in at left guard when Iupati missed time earlier this year; The 49ers won all four of the games that Snyder started.

The team also watched return man LaMichael James go to the locker room with a neck injury after he was hit hard following a muffed punt to start the second quarter. James was hit by former teammate Ricardo Lockette, remained on the ground for several minutes but later returned to the game. The loose ball was recovered by cornerback Darryl Morris.

-- Matt Barrows

January 19, 2014
Live blog: 49ers at Seattle Seahawks, 2:30 p.m. Jan. 19

Follow The Bee's Matt Barrows and Ailene Voisin, along with other reporters and observers covering and commenting on the NFC Championship game between the San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks from CenturyLink Field in Seattle. Final score: Seattle 23 - San Francisco 17.


 

January 19, 2014
49ers pregame: Carlos Rogers, Will Tukuafu to play

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A couple of injured 49ers, cornerback Carlos Rogers and fullback Will Tukuafu, are in uniform and will play today for the 49ers. Rogers is listed as a starter at cornerback but has said that he'll play nickel cornerback today. If that's the case, Tarell Brown and Tramaine Brock will start on the outside - as has been the case in the 49ers' first two playoff games - and Rogers will enter when the Seahawks go to three wide receivers. Rogers strained his right hamstring late in the 49ers' regular-season finale against Arizona.

Cornerback Eric Wright, who lost the nickel job to Perrish Cox before the Green Bay game two weeks ago, is among the 49ers who are inactive for today's game.

Tukuafu, meanwhile, sprained his left knee after being dragged down from behind on the 49ers' opening drive a week ago. He left the game and did not return. But he practiced on a limited basis throughout the week while wearing a brace on his knee. Tukuafu had become the 49ers' fullback of choice - over Anthony Dixon - prior to his injury.

Outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks missed Wednesday's practice with a head cold. But he practiced on Thursday and Friday, and he will start today.

49ers inactives:
CB Eric Wright
TE Derek Carrier
LB Nick Moody
G Ryan Seymour
DT Quinton Dial
G oe Looney
WR Jon Baldwin

Seattle inactives:
WR Percy Harvin,
RB Christine Michael
G Caylin Hauptmann
DE Benson Mayowa
DT Jordan Hill
OL Michael Bowie
LB O'Brien Schofield.

-- Matt Barrows

January 17, 2014
Beats by Jim: 49ers coach raves about QB's headphone ad that upset some Seahawks fans

When it comes to Colin Kaepernick's Beats by Dre commercial, life imitates art. At least according to Jim Harbaugh.

"I love it. I absolutely love it," the 49ers coach said of the ad in which Kaepernick escapes the taunts of opposing fans by slipping on a pair of black headphones. The fans in the ad are particularly rabid, they live in a rainy city and they wear colors similar to those of the Seattle Seahawks. When it was released last month Seahawks fans complained about the near-feral manner in which they were depicted.

Is the portrayal accurate? "It's somewhat like that," Harbaugh said of arriving at an opponent's stadium. "Yeah, definitely. Riding in and the fans are all out there. Sometimes they're the way that they are in the video."

The 49ers, of course, won't have the luxury of noise-canceling headphones Sunday at CenturyLink Field.

To prepare for the din there, the 49ers cranked up the music and artificial fan noise at their Friday practice to higher volumes than they would for a typical road trip and played it for longer durations. The offensive linemen, who must get used to snapping the play off of silent counts, wore earplugs.

The 49ers also have altered their travel routine.

January 17, 2014
Injury report: Carlos Rogers expects to be nickel cornerback Sunday

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Cornerback Carlos Rogers, who is listed as questionable on the team's injury report, said he took all of the nickel cornerback repetitions during Friday's practice and expects to be in that role Sunday against the Seahawks. Rogers had missed the last two games with a hamstring strain. Perrish Cox has filled in at the nickel spot.

"I've been sprinting, making sharp cuts, a lot of cuts I didn't think I was going to make. And I've been making them with no problem," Rogers said. "I'm feeling good."

Still, he said doctors wanted to ease him back onto the field. He said he's prepared to play in the base defense but figured his role will be in the nickel. "It's tough coming off the injury that I had and saying, ok, you're going to play 65, 70 snaps," he said.

In Week 2, the 49ers' third cornerback played 42 of 76 snaps against the Seahawks. In Week 14, the third cornerback played 19 of 53 snaps.

The 49ers' nickel cornerback mostly will face Seahawks receiver Dog Baldwin, who finished second to Golden Tate for Seattle in receiving yards - 778 - in the regular season. The team's other option, Percy Harvin, was ruled out with a concussion earlier in the day.

"He didn't play but one or two games this year and those guys are at the top of the NFC," Rogers said of Harvin. "So I don't think it affects them. We're glad that he's not playing. That's an effective guy. (But) we've got a lot more guys to deal with - those receivers, the running back, the quarterback."

49ers
Questionable: CB Carlos Rogers (hamstring), RB Will Tukuafu (knee)

Probable: LB Navorro Bowman (wrist), LB Ahmad Brooks (illness), WR Michael Crabtree (wrist), DE Demarcus Dobbs (knee, shoulder), C Jonathan Goodwin (foot), RB Frank Gore (knee), LB Dan Skuta (foot), DT Justin Smith (shoulder)

Seahawks
Out: WR Percy Harvin (concussion)

Questionable: DT Jordan Hill (groin)

Probable: RB Marshawn Lynch (not injury related), LB K.J. Wright (foot)

-- Matt Barrows

January 17, 2014
Harvin ruled out, but Carroll assures he'll be OK for Super Bowl

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Wide receiver Percy Harvin will not play in the upcoming NFC Championship game after suffering a concussion against the Saints on Sunday. But don't worry, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said today, Harvin will return to practice next week.

"It's super-disappointing for Percy," Carroll said at his news conference in Renton, Wash. "He wants to play. You could see it. He played his tail off when he had his chance. Just unfortunate circumstances, you know. He'll be back practicing next week. He'll be ready to go and get back on the field, and we'll be thrilled to have him back."

The Seahawks traded their first-round pick in 2013 to Minnesota in the hope that Harvin would add an element of danger to their passing attack. Seattle finished with a 13-3 record and the top playoff seed in the NFC largely without him. A hip injury limited him to one catch for 17 yards in the regular season. He had three catches for 21 yards before leaving the game Sunday.

Harvin did not play in either contest against the 49ers this year. "He's a fantastic player, and they have many of those," Jim Harbaugh said when asked about Harvin this week. "We have a lot of respect for the Seattle wide receiver group. They've always been outstanding when they've played us, Doug Baldwin and Golden Tate and (Jermaine) Kearse, etc. The two tight ends have been very good. We understand that's a big task with those men."

Saints safety Rafael Bush was fined $21,000 for his shoulder-to-helmet hit that knocked Harvin out of the game.

Meanwhile, the league fined Anquan Boldin and Frank Gore $7,875 each for infractions that occurred in Sunday's win over Carolina. Boldin's fine was for head butting safety Mike Mitchell. He was not penalized at the time. Gore's fine was due to a face-mask penalty for which he was penalized.

Carolina cornerback Captain Munnerlyn was penalized but not fined for head-butting Michael Crabtree. Panthers cornerback Josh Thomas was fined $7,875 for throwing a punch at a 49ers player. Harbaugh was not fined for running onto the field in the second quarter, which drew a 15-yard personal foul penalty.

-- Matt Barrows

January 16, 2014
Injury update: Every 49er practices; Harvin is a no go in Seattle

Cornerback Carlos Rogers (hamstring) and fullback Will Tukuafu (knee) were limited participants for the second straight day, but every 49er on the 53-man roster was on hand for today's session.

That includes Ahmad Brooks, who missed Wednesday's practice with what he described as a severe head cold, and defensive end Demarcus Dobbs, who is recovering from knee and shoulder injuries suffered against Green Bay. Justin Smith and Jonathan Goodwin also practiced in full after sitting out Wednesday's session.

49ers
Limited: CB Carlos Rogers (hamstring), FB Will Tukuafu (knee)

Full: LB Navorro Bowman (wrist), LB Ahmad Brooks (illness), WR Michael Crabtree (wrist), DE Demarcus Dobbs (knee, shoulder), C Jonathan Goodwin (foot), RB Frank Gore (knee), LB Dan Skuta (foot), DT Justin Smith (shoulder)

Seahawks
Did not practice: WR Percy Harvin (concussion)

Limited: DT Jordan Hill (groin)

Full: RB Marshawn Lynch (not injury related), LB K.J. Wright (foot)

-- Matt Barrows

January 16, 2014
49ers notes: Fangio says "we'll see" when it comes to Carlos Rogers' role

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Cornerback Carlos Rogers went through his second straight limited practice today, but defensive coordinator Vic Fangio wouldn't commit to giving Rogers his old job back, even if he's fully recovered from his hamstring strain.

"We're hoping that he can get 100 percent healthy," Fangio said today. "And then we'll see exactly what his role will be at that point."

With Rogers out of action the last two games, Tarell Brown and Tramaine Brock have started at cornerback with Perrish Cox filling in as the nickel cornerback. Asked if there might be an inclination to continue with that largely successful arrangement, Fangio said, "All possibilities are on the table."

**********************************
Rookie tight end Vance McDonald hasn't caught a pass since Nov. 25. In fact, he hasn't been targeted in the passing game since Dec. 23.

But McDonald, who primarily served as a pass catcher at Rice, has improved as a blocker throughout the season, and he even lined up as a fullback on Sunday after Will Tukuafu left the game with a sprained knee.

"Oh, he's getting a lot better without question," offensive coordinator Greg Roman said. "All the little things, the nuances ... all the little tricks of the trade -- he's starting to get a little bit more comfortable with. He's developing nicely into the player that we really felt he would be. He's been a very valuable asset for us this year."

McDonald has played about 50 percent of the 49ers' offensive snaps through the first two playoff games.

***********************************
Michael Crabtree today was willing to praise the Seattle defensive backs he'll face on Sunday. But only so far.

Asked if Richard Sherman, who led the NFL this year with eight interceptions, was the best cornerback in the league, Crabtree said, "I don't know (anything) about the best cornerbacks in the league. I just know teams, you know. We are playing the Seattle Seahawks and hopefully we come out with a win. We are going hard."

So how does the entire Seattle defense rank, in terms of its secondary? "They move around, they are pretty good, pretty good," Crabtree said. "They are a good football team. We got some good guys too. So it is going to be a good game."

-- Matt Barrows

January 16, 2014
Harbaugh on Aldon Smith: "We tend to forget that the reason we got smart is because we learned from our mistakes"

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Edge rusher Aldon Smith figures to play a key role for the 49ers' defense in Sunday's NFC championship game as it deals with the dual threats of the Seahawks' conventional, Marshawn Lynch-fueled running game and the scrambling ability of quarterback Russell Wilson.

The good news for the 49ers is Smith has been his disruptive self of late, with head coach Jim Harbaugh going so far this week as to say that opponents trying to contain Smith with a solo blocker are "whistling Dixie."

"That's the way he's playing right now," Harbaugh said. "Therefore he's getting quite a bit of double-team chips, help from the backs and the tight ends. And he's really playing well."

After going through the final six games of last season -- postseason included -- with no sacks, Smith registered 1 ½ in the wild-card round against the Packers before being held without one last week in Carolina. Still, he was part of a defense that held the Panthers to 93 rushing yards and didn't allow mobile quarterback Cam Newton (10 rushes, 54 yards) to cause too much havoc with his legs.

Smith today said he feels "a lot more healthy" than at this time last season -- likely due in part to his missing five games earlier in the year while attending an out-of-state treatment facility following his second arrest for DUI in as many years. Smith returned in Week 10 against Carolina and was eased back into his normal role on the defense.

Harbaugh was asked this week about Smith's performance and behavior since rejoining the team -- both of which have been by most accounts very good -- and had this to say:

January 16, 2014
Air Ahmad: 49ers linebacker's spectacular penalty was calculated

There are encroachment penalties, and then there's what Ahmad Brooks did against Cam Newton and the Panthers on Sunday.

With Carolina facing third-and-1 from the San Francisco 1-yard line, Brooks took off from his inside linebacker position, leaped over both the defensive and offensive lines and landed beyond Newton, who was under center. The only problem - the ball hadn't been snapped and Brooks was flagged for one of the most spectacular and obvious off-sides penalties in the history of the game.

Brooks today said it was calculated. He had successfully stopped the Panthers at the goal line one possession earlier. And he knew that even if he mistimed his leap, the 49ers wouldn't truly be penalized because the ball, already on the edge of the goal line, wouldn't be moved ahead very much. Indeed, the 49ers stonewalled running back Mike Tolbert when third down was re-run and Carolina had to kick a field goal on fourth down.

"That idea right there - NaVorro (Bowman) was telling me, 'Ahmad, jump over the line. Wreak havoc.'" Brooks said. "Then the second time they got down there, I was going to do the same thing, but I was offsides."

It wasn't the first time Brooks went over the top. He dropped in - literally - on Virginia Tech quarterback Bryan Randall when he was at Virginia, registering a sack. Brooks was an inside linebacker then, and the 49ers moved him back to that position in short-yardage situations for the Panthers game.

January 15, 2014
Injury report: Brooks under the weather; Tukuafu, Rogers practice

The good news for the 49ers: Outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks, who is coming off of two multi-sack games, did not miss practice due to an injury. Instead he is listed as having an illness. He, defensive end Demarcus Dobbs, center Jonathan Goodwin and defensive end Justin Smith sat out today's session.

Dobbs suffered his injuries last week against Green Bay. He also missed last Wednesday's practice but returned to practice on Thursday and played against the Panthers. Smith and Goodwin typically are given a day off due to their veteran status. Two other players, cornerback Carlos Rogers and fullback Will Tukuafu, were listed as limited participants. Tukuafu practiced with a brace on his left knee.

Meanwhile, Michael Crabtree suffered a shoulder injury on the second play of Sunday's game against Carolina that kept him out three plays. But he was full-go in today's practice, and his shoulder injury was not listed as an issue. Instead he is dealing with the same wrist injury he has had for the last month.

49ers
Did not practice: LB Ahmad Brooks (illness), DE Demarcus Dobbs (knee, shoulder), C Jonathan Goodwin (foot), DT Justin Smith (shoulder)

Limited: CB Carlos Rogers (hamstring), RB Will Tukuafu (knee)

Full: LB Navorro Bowman (wrist), WR Michael Crabtree (wrist), RB Frank Gore (knee), LB Dan Skuta (foot)

Seahawks
Did not practice: WR Percy Harvin (concussion), DT Jordan Hill (groin), RB Marshawn Lynch (not injury related).

Limited: LB K.J. Wright (foot)

-- Matt Barrows

January 15, 2014
Practice peek: Rogers present for start of practice, Brooks is not

As he forecast yesterday, cornerback Carlos Rogers was on hand for the start of 49ers practice. However, another starter, outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks, was not present. Brooks, Justin Smith and Jonathan Goodwin were not seen at the start of practice. Smith and Goodwin, two of the 49ers' most veteran players, typically are given Wednesdays off.

Also not practicing today is fullback Will Tukuafu. He was seen working out on a side field with a trainer while wearing a brace on his left knee. Tukuafu is believed to have suffered a Grade 1 sprain of his MCL in the first quarter Sunday. His availability for the upcoming game against the Seahawks will be determined later this week.

Receiver Michael Crabtree suffered a shoulder injury on the second play of Sunday's game. Crabtree seemed to be affected by it early, but he looked better as the game went on. He was at practice today and - from afar, at least - seemed fine.

Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio has said in the past that a starting player has to be near 100 percent for him to resume his spot in the lineup. Asked today if Rogers gets his former spot back if he is healthy enough to play, Jim Harbaugh seemed to dance around the question.

"You can't just - there's a subset of questions other than the question, 'Will Carlos start if he's ready to play?'" Harbaugh said. "In terms of do you come back at 100 percent, 90 percent, 95 percent, that all will be determined on the practice field, those subset of questions will be answered out there."

The 49ers will release the practice report -- and presumably reveal why Brooks is missing -- later this afternoon.

-- Matt Barrows

January 15, 2014
Jim Harbaugh Q&A: Relaxed coach talks Johnny Cash and Dickies

Super-fast transcriber, Matt Kawahara, got the jump on Jim Harbaugh's Wednesday transcript today. The 49ers head coach was loose, funny and -- for him -- expansive. That tends to diminish as the week goes on, and Harbaugh is scheduled to speak Thursday and Friday, too. So enjoy....

Q: How would you describe your relationship with Pete Carroll? Is there any animosity?
A: Animosity, no. Erroneous, erroneous. It's football, it's competition, it's winning.

Q: You guys interact?
A: We've had football. Competition. Winning. That's what we've had. Great competition.

Q: Colin is a good QB. Is there an intangible that makes him stand out?
A: Yes. A-plus in all those regards in terms of intangibles. Poise, big stage never seems to bother him. And his leadership ability. Players love him, coaches love him. Work ethic off the charts. A-plus-plus.

Q: Does he have the same composure in a big game like this weekend as in a regular season game?
A: Just noticed it watching him play even going back to college when I first started watching him play. The big game, the big challenge, the big task, he has that special ability the great ones have to elevate their game in those situations.

Q: Do you have to give him stronger emphasis in the playoffs on protecting the ball?
A: We do that with the whole team, in terms of protecting the ball, daily, hourly.

Q: How so?
A: Remind them to protect the ball. Daily and hourly.

Q: When it comes to protecting the ball against Seattle, what are the biggest challenges?
A: The Seattle defense is looking to get the ball at all times, create turnovers in any situation, generate them on all downs. They're looking to take the ball away.

Q: Why have they had success in the past doing that against Colin?
A: Well some they have, some they haven't in previous matchups.

January 15, 2014
49ers turnover woes vs. Seattle has been a tale of two cities

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Colin Kaepernick has thrown 11 regular-season interceptions in his career. Four of them have come in two games in Seattle.

The 49ers' quarterback had one of the better touchdown-to-interception ratios in the league this year. And both he and his head coach said today that being careful with the ball will be essential against Seattle's opportunistic defense that led the league with 39 takeaways this season.

Jim Harbaugh said coaches are reminding their players of the importance of turnovers "daily, hourly." "The Seattle defense is looking to get the ball at all times, create turnovers in any situation, generate them on all downs," he said. "They're looking to take the ball away."

During their two previous trips to Seattle, the 49ers have thrown four interceptions and committed three fumbles. That's not counting a blocked David Akers' kick in 2012 that Richard Sherman returned 90 yards for a touchdown. That sequence occurred on the first play of the second quarter of what quickly turned into Seahawks route. The final score was 42-13. A promising 49ers drive in the first quarter of their most recent trip to Seattle, a 29-3 Seahawks win, ended when safety Earl Thomas intercepted a Kaepernick pass to Vernon Davis.

The 49ers have not been perfect in their recent home wins against Seattle. Alex Smith threw an interception in 2012 and Kaepernick threw one on Dec. 8. But the turnover ration has been even in those games while it's been lopsided, 7-2, in the two games in Seattle.

Kaepernick threw an interception in the second quarter against Green Bay last week, but the 49ers did not commit any turnovers Sunday in Carolina. What's more, they got out to quick starts in both playoff games, subduing the crowd early on in both contests.

"I think we came out and executed better to start games," Kaepernick said today. "That's something we try to do throughout the whole game."

-- Matt Barrows

January 15, 2014
Roster watch: 49ers sign safety, punter to future deals

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The 49ers signed two more players to reserve/future deals: safety D.J. Campbell, who played at Cal, and punter/kicker Colton Schmidt, who played at UC Davis. On Tuesday, they signed two wide receivers, David Reed andDeMarco Sampson, as well as defensive tackle Christian Tupou, who played at Grant High School before attending USC. Players signed to reserve/future deals will compete for roster spots during the offseason.

Campbell (6-0, 205) was a seventh-round pick by the Panthers in 2012. He was inactive for the first 11 regular season contests that year, but started four of the final five games at strong safety. The following offseason he lost his spot to Mike Mitchell and was waived. The Dolphins picked him up, and he ended up playing in three games this past season.

The 49ers' starting strong safety, Donte Whitner, will be a free agent in March. The 49ers have Craig Dahl and C.J. Spillman in reserve. But a young safety they liked, Michael Thomas, was snatched off their practice squad last month by the Dolphins.

Schmidt spent training camp with the 49ers. He's primarily a punter but also specializes in kickoffs. The Browns signed Schmidt after he was released at the end of the preseason.

- Matt Barrows

January 15, 2014
Vikings hire head coach; Roman, Tomsula passed over

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The Minnesota Vikings, one of two teams still looking for a head coach, found their man today, and it wasn't 49ers assistant Greg Roman or Jim Tomsula. Both had interviewed with the Vikings on Saturday in Charlotte, N.C. Instead, the Vikings tapped Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer for the job.

With the 49ers playing in the NFC Championship game for the third straight season, and with the possibility that an assistant could not join another team until after the Feb. 2 Super Bowl, it seems unlikely that any 49ers assistant will get a head-coaching gig this year. I wrote about the obstacles the 49ers assistants face last week.

Still, there remain possibilities, including the Cleveland Browns, the lone team without a head coach. Cleveland's general manager, Mike Lombardi, is close to Jim Harbaugh from their time together on the Raiders. Lombardi, who was a finalist for the 49ers' general manger job (loud cough/the 49ers were going with Trent Baalke all the way), presumably likes Harbaugh's style of play and could be interested in bringing an assistant or two for an interview. The Browns certainly seem intent on slow-playing the process.

There also remains the possibility of a 49ers assistant taking a better assistant job elsewhere. Secondary coach Ed Donatell, for instance, has been a candidate for defensive coordinator the last two seasons but the 49ers have blocked his interviews. They cannot do so this offseason. Tomsula, meanwhile, is a defensive line coach and may be looking to become a coordinator. The Vikings ostensibly could be looking at him in that capacity now that they've found their head coach.

-- Matt Barrows

January 15, 2014
Pick your poison: 49ers return to Seattle with more firepower

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Immediately after last 49ers game in Seattle, on Sept. 15, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll giddily pointed to the stat sheet. "They got nothing done," Carroll said amid the post-game euphoria of a 29-3 win. "What were their numbers? What did Anquan do tonight? Their quarterback threw for (412) last week. He threw for (127) tonight."

Indeed, receiver Anquan Boldin, who had had 13 catches for 208 yards a week earlier against Green Bay, was held to one catch for seven yards by Seattle's talented and aggressive secondary. That catch didn't come until the middle of the fourth quarter when the game was far, far out of reach. It turned out to be Boldin's lowest output of the season.

The Seahawks certainly could hold Boldin, the team's leading receiver in the regular season, down again on Sunday. But if the pattern the 49ers have established in the last few weeks holds true, a quiet game from Boldin means that the receiver on the other side, Michael Crabtree, will have a big game. The chart below highlights most prominent difference between the 49ers now and when they went to Seattle in Week 2. In Crabtree, who returned from an Achilles' injury in Week 13, Colin Kaepernick has another receiver he won't hesitate to target.

The last few weeks have been a case in point. In the regular-season finale against Arizona, Boldin caught nine passes for 149 yards. The next week the Packers made sure Boldin wouldn't thump them again, and he caught only three passes for 38 yards. But Crabtree finished with 125 yards in that game. A week after that, the Carolina Panthers' attention was on Crabtree, and Boldin had eight catches for 138 yards.

"I guess they thought they were going to try and take Crab out of the game," Boldin said after the win over the Panthers. "That's the good part about our offense -- we have weapons all around. Try and take one guy out, we still have two, three guys left who can make big plays."

Said offensive coordinator Greg Roman: "Some (opponents) pick their poison. And we're always very curious to see what that poison is, and then answer likewise."

Crabtree stats
Wk 13 vs. STL: 2, 68
Wk 14 vs. SEA: 4, 40
Wk 15 @ TB: 5, 45
Wk 16 vs. ATL: 5-102
Wk 17 @ ARI: 3-29
Wk 1 @GB: 8-125
Wk 2 @ CAR: 3-26

Boldin stats
Wk 13 vs. STL: 9-98
Wk 14 vs. SEA: 6-93
Wk 15 @ TB: 3-43
Wk 16 vs. ATL: 6-72
Wk 17 @ ARI: 9-149
Wk 1 @GB: 3-38
Wk 2 @ CAR: 8-136

-- Matt Barrows

January 14, 2014
Carlos Rogers, Will Tukuafu optimistic they'll be ready for Seattle

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Cornerback Carlos Rogers said he's on track to return to the defensive lineup on Sunday, and fullback Will Tukuafu may not be far behind him.

Rogers, who suffered a hamstring strain Dec. 29 and who has missed the 49ers' first two playoff games, was walking without a limp Tuesday and said he's increased his sprinting to beyond 20 yards.

"I think I'm going (to play)," he said today. "You know, it depends on how practice goes. No setbacks and I'll be out there."

Rogers hasn't practiced since suffering the injury in the fourth quarter of the regular-season finale against the Cardinals. Tramaine Brock has taken over Rogers' left cornerback spot while Tarell Brown has resumed his starting spot on the right side.

Perrish Cox filled in for Rogers in the nickel position throughout last week's game against the Packers and was in on 20 snaps in the nickel formation against Carolina on Sunday. Rogers would have to convince defensive coordinator Vic Fangio that he has fully recovered to get his starting job back. Fangio has said on more than one occasion that he'd rather have a healthy backup in the game than an injured starter.

Tukuafu, meanwhile, was walking without a limp after suffering a sprained knee when he was dragged down from behind in the first quarter Sunday.

January 14, 2014
Film review: 49ers' momentum moment; Fangio's genius; Iupati surges

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One of the the most critical moments in Sunday's game came on the third play. Everything was going Carolina's way. Frank Gore was stuffed on first down. On second down, Michael Crabtree was thrown down hard after a short catch and had to leave the game, his arm dangling at his side, the result of a possible stinger.

But facing third and 10, Colin Kaepenick got excellent pass protection from his offensive line and found rookie Quinton Patton for a 23-yard gain. The 49ers went on to kick a field goal on the drive. It was Patton's only catch of the game, but it was a huge one that staved off what could have been a Panthers' avalanche of momentum early on.

It's the kind of play the 49ers must make early in Seattle where the Seahawks positively go into a feeding frenzies when opponents make mistakes early in games. To wit: The 49ers' first seven drives in Seattle in Week 2: punt, interception, punt, punt, safety, fumble, punt. The first four drives of their Week 16 loss in 2011: punt, punt, blocked field for a TD, punt.

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The 49ers need to give Vic Fangio a game ball. He rarely calls blitzes, but when he does they are usually very effective. NaVorro Bowman's critical sack of Cam Newton in the the third quarter and Dan Skuta's sack in the fourth both came on one of the few 49ers blitzes of the game. Fangio has a rare personality trait in today's NFL - he's patient. And it's as if he lulls offenses to sleep just before pouncing with a blitz at key moments. It was a very smartly coached defensive game for San Francisco.

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I wrote about the offensive line's dominance in my game story from Carolina. The left side of the line, Joe Staley and Mike Iupati, deserve special notice, especially Iupati, who has dealt with injuries this season and has had a down season for him.

January 13, 2014
Live chat replay: Join Matt Barrows discussing 49ers-Seahawks playoff game, 11 a.m.

The Bee's Matt Barrows hosts a live chat at 11 a.m. to assess the upcoming NFC championship game between the 49ers and Seattle Seahawks. Be part of the chatter.


 

January 13, 2014
Home security: Harbaugh respects Seahawks' ticket strategy for NFC title game

SANTA CLARA -- Tickets to Sunday's NFC Championship Game at CenturyLink Field in Seattle went on sale this morning through the Seahawks' website -- but not to anybody with a billing address in California, among other states.

The Seahawks announced on their website that tickets would only be available to buyers with a billing address in Washington, Oregon, Montana, Idaho, Alaska, Hawaii and two Canadian provinces. Notably absent from that list, of course, is the state that would most likely produce the most interested buyers who would show up to the game wearing red and gold.

Tickets went on sale at 10 a.m., and the Seahawks posted an update at 10:43 a.m. saying they had sold out. 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh was asked for his thoughts on the decision at his press conference today and had this to say:

"Well, it's within the rules," Harbaugh said. "It's within the spirit of the rules of the National Football League. I actually respect it, what you're trying to do for your team, put them in the best possible position to win that you can. And I respect that their organization does that for their team."

January 13, 2014
How to beat Seahawks in Seattle? The Cardinals give advice

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The only team to beat the Seahawks at home in the last two seasons? That would be the Arizona Cardinals, who won, 17-10, at CenturyLink Field in Week 16. The 49ers played the Cardinals the following week, and we asked coach Bruce Arians and cornerback Patrick Peterson how they pulled off the upset.

* Arians: "I thought stopping the run was huge in that game. We wanted to win both lines of scrimmage, and I felt like our defensive line stopped them pretty good. And our third-down conversion rate was outstanding on defense, getting off the field."

* Peterson: "Honestly, just jump on 'em early. Seattle is a pretty good team and the things they like to do, they do it well. I believe if you shut down those things early, get 'em into a one-dimensional team, which is throwing the football, I think you have a pretty good opportunity to win it."

Indeed, Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch had a decent game in carrying the ball 18 times for 71 yards. But he didn't get into the end zone and he had 10 carries of 2 yards or fewer. Furthermore, quarterback Russell Wilson had a bad day (108 passing yards; 49.6 passer rating), and the Seahawks had seven three-and-out series. They were 2-13 (15 percent) on third downs. As Peterson said, the Cardinals got out to an early lead. But they certainly never had a big lead; their widest margin was seven points, which occurred when they scored a touchdown with 2:13 left.

-- Matt Barrows

January 13, 2014
Highlights from 49ers 23, Panthers 10

The San Francisco 49ers set up an NFC championship showdown with Seattle to see who goes to the Super Bowl after beating the Carolina Panthers 23-10.

January 12, 2014
Battle in Seattle: 49ers have been expecting encounter for months

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. - The Week 17 win against a very good defense in Arizona. The bad-weather game in Green Bay last week. Sunday's victory over a Panthers team that roughed them up in November.

All of it has been a perfect warm up, safety Donte Whitner said, for what awaits the 49ers on Sunday: the rubber-match game with their arch rivals, the Seattle Seahawks.

"We don't want it to end for us," said Whitner, who clinched Sunday's win with a fourth-quarter interception. "We understand that we have to go up there in a hostile environment with a really good football team and do what a lot of people probably aren't going to pick us to do. That's OK with us. We understand what we have to do."

Whitner and other 49ers have been anticipating a championship-game encounter in Seattle for months, some as far back as the 29-3 loss to the Seahawks in Seattle in Week 2. The 49ers have been blown out there in two straight times, and Colin Kaepernick has has had some of his worst games at CenturyLink Field, throwing four interceptions to one touchdown in two games there. The 49ers won the rematch at Candlestick Park last month, 19-17.

"That's in the past," Kaepernick said Sunday. "This is a different situation. We have to go out there and win it."

January 12, 2014
49ers notes: Harbaugh loses cool; Crabtree says he's ok; LB battle goes to SF

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. - In a game marked by personal-foul penalties and after-play headbutts, the 49ers players kept their cool.

But their head coach didn't.

"I dodged a bullet," Jim Harbaugh said of being flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct just before halftime. "A couple of players told me to get my butt off the field, 'We can't have that.' They were right."

The ever-animated Harbaugh drew the penalty when he charged onto the field following an end-zone pass to Vernon Davis that originally was ruled incomplete but later was overturned for a touchdown. Harbaugh said he was more concerned that the clock kept ticking than he was the officials' ruling.

"I watched it go, 9, 8 (seconds), and then I ran out for them to see the scoreboard and it ticked, 7, 6, 5 as he was throwing the flag on me," Harbaugh said. "But I was just trying to get somebody's attention to look at the scoreboard."

The cooler heads on the 49ers sideline belonged to the players, including receiver Anquan Boldin and Colin Kaepernick, who told their coach to get back to the sideline. "I had to grab him and tell him, 'Don't cost us,'" said Boldin, who led all receivers with 136 yards. "He understood."

January 12, 2014
Game story: "We ran right at 'em," Greg Roman says

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. - The momentum was slipping away from the 49ers early in the second quarter. The Panthers defense was as fearsome and disruptive as it had been in the teams' earlier meeting and their quarterback, Cam Newton, was decidedly better.

His perfectly placed 31-yard touchdown pass to Steve Smith in the corner of the end zone erased San Francisco's 6-0 lead and sent the home crowd into a towel-waving frenzy.

But the 49ers had been there before. Just last week, in fact.

And as was the case in Green Bay, they absorbed their opponent's best shot and countered with a touchdown drive of their own just before halftime. They never trailed again in a methodical and decisive 23-10 victory that sets up an NFC Championship game in Seattle that the 49ers - and the rest of the league - has been looking forward to all season.

"You're very proud of your team when they do that - when you go out on the road and in the playoff game and beat another team that's a very good football team in their stadium," Jim Harbaugh said afterward. "Yes, it does make you feel like a strong, mighty man."

The late, second-quarter drive set the tone for the rest of the game.

January 12, 2014
Halftime: Davis, Kaepernick -- and Panther penalties -- give 49ers the lead

The Carolina defense has been just as ferocious as it was during a Week 10 matchup between these teams, but this time the 49ers have come in with a bit more firepower. That includes tight end Vernon Davis, who did not finish the earlier game because of a concussion but who caught a controversial pass at the side of the end zone with five seconds to go in the first half.

That touchdown, originally called an incompletion, gave the 49ers a 13-10 lead going into the locker room. They scored nine points, all of them in the first half, back in November.

All three of the 49ers' scoring drives have been helped by prominent penalties by the Panthers, who have been flagged five times for 48 yards. The 49ers' final drive of the half seemed to get bogged down close to the goal line - an issue for the 49ers last week in Green Bay, too - but a pass-interference call on cornerback Drayton Florence gave the 49ers a first down at the goal line.

Frank Gore couldn't punch the ball in on first down with 37 seconds left, and with the clock ticking the 49ers didn't call their final timeout before their second-down call. Instead Colin Kaepernick rolled to his right and hit Davis, also heading to his right, just before the tight end went out of bounds. When the play originally was called an incompletion, Jim Harbaugh ran onto the field in protest, drawing a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.

Phil Dawson hit field goals of 49 and 33 yards on the 49ers' first two drives.

The problem for the 49ers is that Carolina's offense also looks sharper than it did in Week 1. Panthers quarterback Cam Newton only has throw two incompletions, and he hit receiver Steve Smith - back from a knee injury - on a perfectly placed 31-yard touchdown pass at the start of the third quarter. Smith leads all receivers with four catches for 74 yards.

Meanwhile, Kaepernick was off target for much of the first half. He's 11-24 for 121 yards. But he heated up on the team's final, 80-yard drive of the half in hitting Anquan Boldin twice for first downs and Michael Crabtree once. Crabtree appeared to hurt his shoulder on the opening series-- he missed three snaps - but he leaped high to snatch a Kaepernick pass out of the air on the final drive of the first half for 20 yards.

The 49ers lost fullback Will Tukuafu to a knee injury when he was tackled awkwardly after a two-yard reception. Anthony Dixon is the lone fullback on the squad now.

January 12, 2014
Live blog: 49ers at Carolina Panthers, 9 a.m.

Join The Bee's Matt Barrows as well as other reporters and observers covering and commenting upon the second-round NFC playoff game between the San Francisco 49ers and Carolina Panthers from Charlotte, N.C. Coverage begins at 9 a.m., and the game is scheduled to begin at 10:05.


 



You also may access the live blog here.

January 12, 2014
49ers pre-game: No Carlos Rogers, Steve Smith ready for Panthers

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The 49ers will play their second straight game without their most experienced cornerback, Carlos Rogers, who was declared inactive 90 minutes before kickoff. Rogers warmed up before the game - including 20-yard sprints - but he has not practiced with the team since injuring his right hamstring late in the regular-season finale Dec. 29.

The 49ers' secondary will look like it did last week against Green Bay - Tarell Brown and Tramaine Brock will start at cornerback with Perrish Cox entering in nickel situations.

The 49ers were in the nickel formation throughout the Packers' game. They are expected to mostly be in their base package today against the Panthers, who are one of only five teams - the 49ers and Seahawks are two of the others - to have run the ball more than they've passed it this season. The 49ers were in their base package on 65 percent of the snaps in the teams' Nov. 10 meeting.

Meanwhile, Carolina receiver Steve Smith is active after missing recent games with a sprained knee. Smith practiced on a limited basis throughout the week but told reporters he wasn't at full strength. Smith finished second on the team to tight end Greg Olsen in receiving this season. Olsen had 73 catches, 816 yards and six touchdowns; Smith finished with 64 catches, 745 yards and four receiving touchdowns.'

Running back Jonathan Stewart, who finished a distant fourth on the team in rushing yards, this year, is inactive. He has not played since spraining his MCL (knee) against New Orleans in Week 14.

49ers:
CB Carlos Rogers
TE Derek Carrier
LB Nick Moody
G Ryan Seymour
G Joe Looney
DT Quinton Dial
WR Jon Baldwin

Panthers
WR Tavarres King
WR Marvin McNutt
CB Josh Norman
RB Jonathan Stewart
LB Dan Connor
OT Travis Bond
DE Wes Horton

-- Matt Barrows

January 11, 2014
So long, 'Stick: Seahawks make sure championship game is in Seattle

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The dream of a last hurrah at Candlestick Park is dead. And for that you can blame the Seahawks defense and running back Marshawn Lynch. They were their usual dominant selves at home today in a 23-15 win over the Saints, meaning that the NFC championship game will be played at CenturyLink Field next week featuring the winner of Sunday's 49ers-Panthers game.

This development comes as no surprise to the 49ers, who split the regular-season meeting with their division foes and who have been hoping for an eventual rubber match in Seattle for many weeks now.

"We understand that it's going to come down to going to Seattle and winning," safety Donte Whitner said three weeks ago. "We understand that. No matter what team it is in the NFC, you're going to have to go to Seattle to win, so that's the only thing -- winning football games and then going up there and beating them in their home stadium."

Before the season even began, the 49ers and Seahawks seemed destined to face each other in the NFC Championship game. The 49ers must win tomorrow against the Panthers to make that a reality. Carolina beat the 49ers in Week 10, 10-9, but the 49ers have won all but one game since. Furthermore, there are several key players who will play in tomorrow's game -- Michael Crabtree, Vernon Davis, Eric Reid and Garrett Celek -- who did not finish the contest on Nov. 10. That's likely a big reason why the 49ers are slight favorites heading into the game.

The 49ers will move into their new, 69,000-seat stadium for the upcoming season. The final regular-season game at Candlestick Park was on Dec. 23. If the 49ers and Saints had won this weekend, there would have been one final game at the venerable stadium.

-- Matt Barrows

January 11, 2014
Report: Vikings to interview Greg Roman, Jim Tomsula in Carolina

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Offensive coordinator Greg Roman could not go to Minneapolis to interview for the Vikings' vacant head-coaching job, so the Vikings instead will come to him. According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, a contingent of Vikings officials, presumably including general manager Rick Spielman, will interview Roman today in Charlotte, N.C.. The Vikings also have requested an interview with 49ers defensive line coach Jim Tomsula, and they will interview him in Charlotte as well.

Roman also had been on Penn State's and the Washington Redskins' radar. Both of those organizations found head coaches this week. Roman reportedly interviewed for the Penn State opening on Monday in Chicago after the rest of the team flew back from Green Bay on Sunday. Asked about job possibilities this week, Roman said, "Really focused on this game and I'm sure there's a lot of rumors floating around out there, but really irrelevant. Focused on this game and beating the Panthers."

The Vikings also have interviewed Cincinnati defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer, Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn and Cleveland defensive coordinator Ray Horton.

-- Matt Barrows

January 10, 2014
Meticulous Dawson called enemy kicker for field condition information

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Five hours before Sunday's game in Green Bay, a lone, bundled figure in a black hat walked onto the otherwise empty field to check it for soft spots, to find the bare patches, to gauge which way the wind was blowing, to orient himself with the scoreboards.

It was 49ers kicker Phil Dawson performing the painstaking game-day ritual he goes through no matter whether the 49ers are playing in 5-degree cold or in a climate-controlled dome. "I don't have an opponent across the line of scrimmage," he said Friday. "The conditions of the day are my opponent, so anything I can do to study and prepare, I'll take advantage of that."

Sunday's game will be played under sunny skies and temperatures in the high 50s. But it brings its own degree of angst for the 15-year veteran, who has kicked game-winning field goals as time expired in San Francisco's last two contests.

Dawson spent in the bulk of his career in the AFC, meaning he's seldom kicked at Carolina's Bank of America Stadium. He said his experience there amounts to one regular-season game and one game in the preseason.

To get as much information about the field and what's in store for him, Dawson even went so far as to call his counterpart in Sunday's game, Panthers kicker Graham Gano. "To his credit, he didn't give me a lot of information, so the gamesmanship has begun," Dawson said.

What did Gano say when he called?

Said Dawson: "Pretty much said, 'I'll see you Sunday.' So I'll see him before the game and I'll have to do the homework myself."

-- Matt Barrows

January 10, 2014
Video: Matt Barrows, Rick Bonnell break down 49ers-Panthers match-up

The Sacramento Bee's Matt Barrows and Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer assess keys for the San Francisco 49ers and Carolina Panthers as those teams prepare for the NFC divisional round playoff game on Sunday.


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January 10, 2014
Carlos Rogers doesn't practice this week; unlikely to play Sunday

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Carlos Rogers was continuing to rehabilitate his sore right hamstring while the rest of his teammates practiced this morning, signaling that the team's most experienced cornerback will miss his second straight game. Rogers officially is listed as questionable on the team's injury report, which was his designation last week.

A day earlier, defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said Rogers would have to practice at least some this week in order to face the Panthers. Rogers has begun sprinting, but he hasn't practiced since suffering the injury on Dec. 29 in Arizona. Tarell Brown and Tramaine Brock are likely to start at cornerback with Perrish Cox entering in nickel situations.

The 49ers were in the nickel formation throughout Sunday's game against the Packers. They are expected to be in their base package against the Panthers, who are one of only three teams - the 49ers and Seahawks are the others - to have run the ball more than they've passed it this season. The 49ers were in their base package on 65 percent of the snaps in the teams' Nov. 10 meeting.

Rogers previously had not missed a game since joining the 49ers in 2011. The 49ers are hoping that, with a win, he can be back for the NFC Championship game, which either would be held in Seattle or at Candlestick Park. For the Panthers, receiver Steve Smith (knee) has been limited in practice during the week, and said on Thursday he is not yet at full speed.

49ers
Questionable: CB Carlos Rogers (hamstring), LB Dan Skuta (foot)
Probable: LB Navorro Bowman (wrist), WR Michael Crabtree (wrist), DT Demarcus Dobbs (knee, shoulder), C Jonathan Goodwin (not injury related), RB Frank Gore (knee), DT Justin Smith (shoulder)

Panthers
Questionable: WR Steve Smith (knee), RB Jonathan Stewart (knee), DT Colin Cole (calf)
Probable: TE Ben Hartsock (knee), S Quintin Mikell (thumb)

-- Matt Barrows

January 10, 2014
Slam Newton: Ex 49er Jennings says Panthers QB owes him $25K

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Brian Jennings feels like the NFC should have won the 2011 Pro Bowl, and he blames the Panthers' Cam Newton.

"Cam Newton owes me $25,000, a lot of people don't know that," Jennings said this week on the Murph and Mac Show on KNBR. "We have Drew Brees with his playbook all week, studying. ... We have Cam Newton with his head phones on all week goofing off. ... We go into the game, and this guy is chucking the ball all over the place, and everybody is looking around going, 'What's this guy doing? Are you kidding?' The punter and I look at each other and say, 'We are going to have a long second half.' We punted five times."

Newton was 9-of-27 with a 43.7 passer rating and threw three interceptions during his stint as the NFC's quarterback. The NFC lost 59-41.

He also rubbed teammates - and especially opponents - the wrong way in the week before the game. He allegedly committed the most cardinal of sins by dissing then Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis - collective gasp! -- perhaps the most esteemed player at the time. When game day rolled around, the other AFC players took their revenge.

Left tackle Joe Staley, playing in his first ever Pro Bowl, figured he's have a rather relaxed outing considering that the game is played at three quarters speed (if that) and no one wants to see another player get hurt. Newton, however, was the exception, and Staley found himself having to block ravenous pass rushers like Houston's Antonio Smith and Denver's Von Miller. Newton was the only quarterback sacked in that game.

- Matt Barrows

January 9, 2014
Hall pass? DeBartolo, Haley move on in hall-of-fame voting

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Eddie DeBartolo, Jr. and Charles Haley will get another shot at making the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Roger Craig will not.

DeBartolo, the former 49ers owner who won five Super Bowl titles, and Haley, the former 49ers and Cowboys defensive end who won five Super Bowl titles of his own, were among the list of 15 modern-era finalists announced this evening. The Hall's selection committee will meet on Feb. 1 to decide this year's class. Craig, the 49ers' running back who became the first player in NFL history to run for 1,000 yards and finish with 1,000 receiving yards in the same season, was a semifinalist but did not make the pared-down list.

Haley has now been on the ballot 10 times. He was a fourth-round pick by the 49ers in 1986, and he is the only player in NFL history to have played on five winning Super Bowl teams. Haley twice was named NFC Defensive Player of the Year (1990, 1994) and was voted to five Pro Bowls over his career.

DeBartolo owned the 49ers from 1977-2000. In that span, his teams made it to the playoffs 16 times, won 13 division titles, played in 10 championship games and became the first to win five Super Bowls. During that time, DeBartolo set a standard in the modern era, not just in the NFL but in all of professional sports, in the spare-no-expenses way he ran his club.

This is the third year DeBartolo has been in the running for the Hall. Prior to the 49ers game in Tampa Bay, he said he expected Haley to make the final cut this year and that Haley has asked him to induct him in August.

Hall of Fame finalists

January 9, 2014
Running man? 49ers expect Cam Newton to take off more on Sunday

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After watching their own quarterback run for a season-high 98 yards in the playoffs on Sunday, the 49ers say they wouldn't be surprised if their upcoming opponent, Cam Newton, leans on his legs more than normal given there's a trip to the conference championship at stake.

"Absolutely," defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said Thursday. "I think when you have a quarterback of Cam Newton's ability in this type of game, I think he'll be apt to run maybe a little bit more than he would normally. They may even call more of the quarterback runs for him, the quarterback powers and lead draws - anticipating more of them from them. So I think Newton's a playmaker, and we've all got to be aware of him."

Newton ran for 585 yards this season, more than any other quarterback in the league and 61 yards more than Kaepernick had in the regular season. But he had only 15 yards on eight carries against the 49ers, who sacked him three times in the game.

The 49ers are unlikely to employ a spy against the Carolina quarterback. Instead, the team will rely on its front seven defenders, especially linebackers Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman. Bowman's coming-out party occurred early in the 2011 season when he was able to continuously corral Eagles quarterback Michael Vick and make sure he didn't hurt the 49ers with his feet.

"That's everyone's job," Bowman said today of stopping Newton from gobbling up ground yards. "It starts up front and those guys doing their job. And then if he gets away from those guys, it trickles down. But he's a guy that has to be paid attention to when it comes to his scrambling. So for us as a defense, we have to keep that in mind the whole game."

Neither quarterback excelled in the Week 10 meeting between the 49ers and Panthers. Newton completed a season-low 50 percent of his passes and finished with a 52.7 passer rating. He only had one lower rating - Week 5 against Arizona - all season.

Still, Bowman noted that the Panthers have had plenty of time to tweak their game plan since the last encounter. "They had, I think, two weeks to look at us," he said. "So we're expecting some different looks that we haven't seen."

Top rushing QBs*
Cam Newton, CAR, 585 yards
Terrell Pryor, OAK, 576
Russell Wilson, SEA, 539
Colin Kaepernick, SF 524
Robert Griffin III, WAS, 489
Alex Smith, KC, 431
Andrew Luck, IND, 377
Geno Smith, NYJ, 366
Michael Vick, PHI, 306
Ryan Tannehill, MIA, 238

* regular season only

-- Matt Barrows

January 9, 2014
Rogers making progress, but will it be enough to play in Carolina?

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Carlos Rogers said he's making progress from his Dec. 29 hamstring strain, but he missed his second practice of the week today and it seems unlikely that he will play Sunday against the Panthers. Rogers said he began sprinting at 10- and 20-yard intervals on Wednesday.

"If I can continue to (ramp) that up to further yards and I can continue to go, I'm going to go," he said. "And if I can't do that, I don't want to set it back. Because if I tear it again, I'm done for the rest of the season for sure."

Earlier in the day defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said that Rogers would have have to practice at least some this week to play against the Panthers. If Rogers can't play as expected, the cornerback lineup would be the same as it was against Green Bay - with Tarell Brown and Tramaine Brock starting and Perrish Cox playing the nickel position.

Asked why Cox, and not Eric Wright, got the call in Green Bay, Fangio had a blunt answer: "Perrish had a better week of preparation," he said. Wright suffered a mild hamstring strain last week, but he was healthy enough to play in Sunday's game and is not on the injury report this week.

Rogers, who has never dealt with a hamstring strain in his career, said he didn't think there would be a scenario in which he would play solely in nickel situations in the upcoming game.

"If I come back, I'm coming," he said. "I'm not coming back to play nickel or play a few snaps. Because if that's the case I'm not healthy. And you would rather have some of the cornerbacks who are healthy playing instead of me."

In other injury news, the three other players - defensive linemen Justin Smith and Demarcus Dobbs and center Jonathan Goodwin - who missed Wednesday's practice were back on the field today.

-- Matt Barrows

January 9, 2014
Coaching openings close on Roman, Fangio

Coaching opportunities spring up out of nowhere but vanish just as quickly.

On Wednesday, for example, Greg Roman was a head-coaching candidate in Washington and at Penn State, with whom he had interviewed on Monday. By this morning, the Redskins had hired Cincinnati offensive coordinator Jay Gruden as its next head coach while Penn State was zeroing in on Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin, according to multiple reports.

That takes Roman and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio out of the running for the Washington gig and Roman out of the running at Penn State, which he once called a "lifetime job."

Of course, more possibilities are likely to spring up. The Vikings presumably still are interested in Roman and, according to Sirius XM's Adam Caplan, Minnesota also has requested an interview with defensive line coach Jim Tomsula. It's unknown if interviews have been scheduled. The initial interview would have to happen before Sunday, and it would either occur in the Bay Area or in Charlotte, N.C.

-- Matt Barrows

January 8, 2014
Injury report: Carlos Rogers not practicing today

Cornerback Carlos Rogers began today's practice on an elliptical machine, raising the prospect that his sore hamstring could keep him out of his second straight game. Meanwhile, fellow cornerback Eric Wright was on hand at the start of practice. Wright injured his hamstring last week in practice but unlike Rogers was able to play some - five snaps on special teams - against the Packers.

The other 49ers who were not practicing today were defensive linemen Justin Smith and Demarcus Dobbs, as well as center Jonathan Goodwin. Smith and Goodwin are two of the most senior members of the team and they routinely get Wednesdays off.

Dobbs, meanwhile, injured his knee against the Packers. He plays both on special teams coverage units and as a backup to Smith and Ray McDonald at defensive end. If he can't play, look for rookie Quinton Dial to be active against the Panthers.

49ers

Did not practice: DT Demarcus Dobbs (knee, shoulder), C Jonathan Goodwin (not injury related), CB Carlos Rogers (hamstring), DT Justin Smith (shoulder)

Full participation: LB Navorro Bowman (wrist), WR Michael Crabtree (wrist), RB Frank Gore (knee), LB Dan Skuta (foot)

Panthers

Limited participation: DT Colin Cole (calf), WR Steve Smith (knee)

Full participation: TE Ben Hartsock (knee), S Quintin Mikell (thumb), RB Jonathan Stewart (knee)

-- Matt Barrows

January 8, 2014
Harbaugh insists assistants -- whether they're staying or not -- are focused on Panthers

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For the first time since joining the 49ers, Jim Harbaugh will have significant defections on his coaching staff. But he insisted today they won't be a distraction. "I know our people," Harbaugh said at his weekly press conference. "Their focus is right here on this game."

The latest to go appears to be senior offensive assistant Paul Wulff, who reportedly was hired by South Florida to be their offensive coordinator. Harbaugh would neither confirm nor deny that Wulff, formerly the head coach at Washington State, was leaving the team.

"I'll let other people comment on their job status and let other programs go through their process without interfering," he said.

The 49ers also will lose assistant offensive line coach Tim Drevno at the end of the season. USC last month hired Drevno, who has coached under Harbaugh since 2004, to be its offensive line coach.

The big loss could come at one or perhaps both of the coordinator positions. ESPN's Adam Schefter today reported that offensive coordinator Greg Roman interviewed with Penn State officials Monday in Chicago for the school's head-coaching job. The 49ers flew back from Appleton, Wi. on Sunday night and began preparing for the Panthers on Monday. Roman also interviewed for the Penn State opening in 2012, but the job went to then-Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien.

"There's only one job I'm concerned about, and that is this one," Roman said as he was walking off the practice field today.

Harbaugh said on Monday that he has received interview requests for Roman, defensive coordinator Vic Fangio and defensive line coach Jim Tomsula.

-- Matt Barrows

January 8, 2014
Kuechly explains why he turned down Harbaugh at Stanford

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Jim Harbaugh never forgets the ones that got away. In fact, he's spent the last two years at the scouting combine asking the NFL prospects whom he recruited at Stanford why they decided to go elsewhere, a list that includes Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III and Carolina inside linebacker Luke Kuechly

"I thought it went really well," Harbaugh recalled when the 49ers played the Panthers in November. "Sat in the home visit in the living room there in Cincinnati with the Kuechly's and felt confident and sure that Luke would be a Stanford man. And walked out of the living room that night feeling pretty darn good about it and got the tragic news the following week that he was going to Boston College."

Kuechly today was asked what prompted that "tragedy" in Harbaugh's life. His answer: distance.
"It felt so far away," said Kuechly, who is from Cincinnati. "They said, 'It's a plane flight, it's a plane flight.' But it's a long plane flight. And I kind of realized that my parents wouldn't be able to get to that many games. On the East coast, they were able to get to a lot of the ACC games."

How did Harbaugh react? "Obviously, he was bummed out a little bit," the Panthers linebacker said. "But he was very cool about it, wished me the best of luck, wished me well in everything I did. And when I got to the combine, obviously he saw me and we talked a little bit. It was the first time I'd seen him since the whole recruiting thing. So he was joking around with me a little bit."

Keuchly led all tacklers with 11 stops during the teams' earlier meeting, a 10-9 win for Carolina. He also joined the 49ers' NaVorro Bowman on the first-team All-Pro list, replacing Willis on that list. Willis had been a first-team All pro the last two years.

"They've got a great group out there - you know, Willis and Bowman have been studs for a long time," Kuechly said. "They work extremely hard just like we do."

-- Matt Barrows

January 8, 2014
Report: Roman to interview with Penn State, which he called "lifetime job" two years ago

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Greg Roman, who was a finalist to succeed Joe Paterno as Penn State's head coach in 2012, will get another crack at the job, according to a report by CBS Sports. The school has an interview set with the 49ers' offensive coordinator, presumably after the 49ers play the Panthers in Charlotte, N.C. on Sunday. ****UPDATE*** Another CBS reporter, Bruce Feldman, reports that the meeting with Penn State already has occurred.

Two years ago, Roman, a native of Ventnor, N.J., called coaching at Penn State a "lifetime job."

"I've coached in college at Stanford and in the pros for 14 years in the NFL, so it's more about the individual opportunity, the people you're surrounding yourself with," Roman said at the time. "And a job like Penn State is a lifetime job. That's a job if I were to become the head coach there, I wouldn't leave there. I'd be back East, setting up camp, I'd be at the (Jersey) Shore in the summer. And that would be my routine."

Jim Harbaugh this week confirmed that Roman also has drawn interest in NFL circles, reportedly from the Vikings and Redskins. Washington also is interested in defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, and it's possible the Redskins could send a contingent to Charlotte, N.C. on Saturday to meet with both men.

In 2012 the Penn State job went to then-New England offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien, who was recently named the Texans' head coach. When news that Roman was in the running for the job broke two years ago, the 49ers were preparing to face either the Saints, Falcons or Giants in the divisional round of the playoffs. Roman had interviewed for the position in November of that season.

The 49ers ended up scoring 36 points and gaining 406 yards of offense in a win over the Saints the following week.

Penn State also is reportedly considering Vanderbilt coach James Franklin, Miami coach Al Golden, former Titans coack Mike Munchak and Penn State defensive line coach/interim head coach Larry Johnson for the position.

-- Matt Barrows

January 7, 2014
Unemployed one week, starter the next; Cox reflects on "crazy" season

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When the 49ers signed cornerback Perrish Cox last week, he figured he'd play perhaps a handful of snaps against the Packers and serve as insurance if one of the other cornerbacks had to leave the game with an injury.

As it turns out, Cox started Sunday's game and was on the field for all but one defensive play - 62 total -- the most he's played in a non-preseason game since he was a rookie with the Denver Broncos in 2010. "I had no clue at all," Cox said Tuesday. "I actually didn't know I'd be starting the nickel until right before the game. I had no clue. It was fun, though."

Perhaps Cox should have expected another sharp turn on the rollercoaster he's been riding the last two months.

It started in early November when the 49ers cut him in an effort to create roster space for, among others, fellow cornerback Eric Wright. He was then signed and cut by the Seahawks, welcomed a baby girl, Carter, into the world, and was signed and cut again by Seattle.

When the Seahawks let him go a second time, the 49ers didn't waste time snapping him up. Cox had played in the team's "dime" defense in previous seasons, and he had his most extensive outing as a 49er against the Packers in that package during the opening game of the 2012 season. Cox said he thought that would be his role Sunday.

January 7, 2014
Film review: Defensive line well rested and it shows; why Cox was tapped

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One of the best signs for the 49ers and their playoff hopes was how well their front four defenders played against the Packers. Going into Sunday's game, Ahmad Brooks hadn't had a sack in five outings while Aldon Smith hadn't had one in the last two. Against Green Bay, however, Brooks led the way with two sacks and two quarterback hits while Smith had 1 ½ sacks and two quarterback hits.

What's more, the 49ers pressured Aaron Rodgers without blitzing. They occasionally sent an extra man, such as Perrish Cox, who blitzed out of the slot in the fourth quarter. But for the most part it was Justin Smith, Ray McDonald, Aldon Smith and Ahmad Brooks creating pressure.

Perhaps best of all when considering the potential road schedule ahead: Nobody played an exceeding amount of snaps. San Francisco forced four three-and-out series, which reduced the number of snaps. Furthermore, Vic Fangio and Jim Tomsula continued to rotate in Dan Skuta, Corey Lemonier, Tony Jerod-Eddie and Demarcus Dobbs as they had during the regular season.

As a result, Justin Smith played 46 of the team's 63 defensive plays while Ray McDonald played 51 snaps. Aldon Smith, who missed a series due to cramping, was in on 45 snaps. Only Brooks played the nearly every snap - 62.

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Cox, meanwhile, got the call to play nickel cornerback instead of Eric Wright. Because the 49ers were in nickel or dime defense on all but two plays, Cox played the majority of the game. He was either lined against Jordy Nelson or Randall Cobb - Rodgers' two favorite targets - and they definitely caught passes against him. Nelson finished with seven catches for 62 yards and a touchdown (TD vs. Tramaine Brock) while Cobb caught the only two passes that went his way for 51 yards.

January 7, 2014
Live chat: San Francisco 49ers on to Round 2

Sacramento Bee 49ers beat writer Matt Barrows hosts a live chat with readers as the Niners prepare for the division playoffs.

 

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January 6, 2014
Harbaugh confirms interest in Roman, Fangio, Tomsula

SANTA CLARA -- 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh confirmed today that teams have contacted the 49ers about potential interviews with offensive coordinator Greg Roman, defensive coordinator Vic Fangio and defensive line coach Jim Tomsula.

Harbaugh did not say which teams have reached out to the 49ers. Multiple reports this morning have the Washington Redskins interested in Roman and Fangio Tomsula, with Roman also on the radar of the Minnesota Vikings for their head coaching vacancy.

"I imagine there'll be some interviews taking place in the coming week or weeks," said Harbaugh. "You know, it's smart on their part. Those guys are great coaches, all of them. There's nobody that's got a better staff in my humble opinion than we do here."

January 6, 2014
Report: Greg Roman drawing interest from two teams

Offensive coordinator Greg Roman has caught the interest of at least two teams in need of a head coach. According to Albert Breer of NFL Network, the Redskins and Vikings have reached out to Roman and that he "could have" interviews with those teams. As a member of a team that played in the Wildcard round, Roman is permitted to interview this week. The Vikings are a short plane ride from the 49ers' most recent destination, Green Bay, Wis.; the Redskins are a short flight from their upcoming destination, Charlotte, N.C.

Both Washington and Minnesota would appear to be good fits for Roman, who has run power-based offenses at Stanford and San Francisco. The Redskins finished fifth in rushing offense and have a quarterback, Robert Griffin III, with similar abilities as Roman's current passer, Colin Kaepernick. The Vikings, of course, have perhaps the league's best running back in Adrian Peterson and finished eighth in rushing offense.

Roman's name was bandied about last year as well, but he never had any interviews. The 49ers played in the Super Bowl in early February whereas most teams try to secure new head coaches by mid January. The general manager of at least one team, the Jaguars, said he would have interviewed Roman had he not been preoccupied with the 49ers' Super Bowl run.

Could the same scenario occur again? The 49ers are now two wins away from going to their second straight Super Bowl and Roman recently told The Merc's Tim Kawakami that job interviews are "just not something I'm thinking about right now." Still, he conceded that landing the right head-coaching job is a lifelong pursuit.

-- Matt Barrows

January 6, 2014
NFC Wild Card: Highlights from 49ers 23, Packers 20

In frigid Green Bay, the 49ers get the job done, beating the Packers 23-20 in the NFC wild card game.

January 5, 2014
49ers notes: Officials hold hankies, defense holds Rodgers in check

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GREEN BAY, WIS --You can call quarterback Aaron Rodgers a magician for his impressive fourth-quarter escape on Sunday, but it was hard not to notice his assistant gave him some help - perhaps illegal help -- on the play.

With the Packers facing a critical fourth-and-two situation, 49ers defensive end Ray McDonald had Rodgers wrapped up for an apparent sack. But a Packers lineman seized McDonald and pulled him off the quarterback, and Rodgers went on to hit receiver Randall Cobb for a 26-yard gain to the San Francisco 4-yard line.
They scored a touchdown two plays later.
"I felt it was a hold and I thought I was going to get a flag," McDonald said. "I guess they figured they would just let us play. So when when they make that decision, we just have to get off the blocks a little faster."

During the regular season, an average NFL game had 12 penalties. There were far fewer per game in the opening round of the playoffs, and the 49ers-Packers contest had five total.
Still, the hands-off officiating was applied evenly and didn't lead to an offensive explosion by the Packers.

Instead, the 49ers sacked Rodgers four times - tying a season high for him - and hit him another six times. Linebacker Aldon Smith, who went through the 2012 postseason without a sack, finished with 1 1/2 on Sunday to go along with four tackles and two quarterback hits.

"The focus for us all week was getting pressure on the quarterback," said Smith, who dealt with cramping at halftime but returned to the game. "We knew it was important (when facing) a quarterback that can hurt you when he has time."

The 49ers allowed 755 passing yards in their final two regular season games largely because they gave Atlanta's Matt Ryan and Arizona's Carson Palmer time to throw in the pocket. Rodgers, however, finished with 177 yards, his lowest, complete-game total since Week 14 of the 2012 season.

Cox gets call - The 49ers' starting defense had a surprise member - cornerback Perrish Cox, who only was signed six days earlier.

January 5, 2014
Onto Carolina: Kaepernick pads reputation as biggest Packers slayer of them all

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GREEN BAY, WIS - Tie game. Five minutes to play. The playoffs on the line. Three degrees and dropping.

Colin Kaepernick didn't freeze and he didn't flinch.

Instead the quarterback, one of ten 49ers who played the frigid game without sleeves, converted one third-and-long situation with his arm and another with his legs on a final drive that ended with Phil Dawson's 33-yard game winner as time expired.

The 23-20 win sends the 49ers onto Charlotte, N.C. to face the Panthers, who beat the 49ers 10-9 in San Francisco in Week 10, and adds to Kaepernick's reputation as the biggest Packers slayer of them all.

A year ago, he set an NFL rushing record for a quarterback with 181 yards against the Packers. On Sunday he finished with 98 yards on the ground - the fifth-most gained by a quarterback in the postseason - to go along with 227 passing yards. His rushing total included an 11-yard, around-the-edge scamper at game's end that gave the 49ers a first down and put them in Dawson's range.

"I mean he was just clutch," said Jim Harbaugh, a word he repeated throughout his post-game press conference. "Colin Kaepernick - I think we can all agree is a clutch performer. This is not his first time doing this."

One day earlier, Harbaugh had watched Kaepernick get ready for a walk-through practice in 31-degree temperatures and suggested that he at least wear sleeves. He made the same recommendation today but Kaepernick, whose family moved from Wisconsin to Turlock when he was four years old, said he'd rather bare his arms.

January 5, 2014
Halftime: Hot start for 49ers, but Rodgers sizzling, too

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The 49ers started out hot in the Upper Midwest freeze but Aaron Rodgers suddenly is on fire, too. San Francisco leads Green Bay 13-10 and will get the ball first to open the second half.

The 49ers went on long drives on each of their first two possessions but couldn't punch the ball into the end zone from the Green Bay 4- and then the 7-yard line, settling for short Phil Dawson field goals instead. That meant that a more efficient offense could quickly get back into the game, and that exactly what happened in the second quarter.

Packers cornerback Tramon Williams picked off a bad throw by Colin Kaepernick at the start of the quarter, and then Packers sleepy offense - six yards in the first quarter -- suddenly woke up and went on a 14-play drive. Rodgers and the Packers failed to pick up a first down in the opening quarter. They only needed to convert two on their long drive, including a short touchdown pass from Rodgers to receiver Jordy Nelson under the outstretched arm of cornerback Tramaine Brock.

On the ensuing drive, Kaepernick looked a lot like he did in last year's playoff game against Green Bay, scrambling through the center of the Packers defense for a 42-yard run, his longest of the season. Two plays later, Kaepernick gave a read-option handoff to Frank Gore, who barreled in for a touchdown.

Rodgers and the Packers then responded with a nine-play drive just before the half that ended in a Mason Crosby 34-yard field goal. Counter intuitively, the Packers opened the game with four running plays. Since the second quarter, however, they have returned to their strength, and Rodgers has connected on 11 of his last 13 passes for 97 yards.

His favorite target has been Nelson, who has five catches for 45 yards. Nelson mostly has been working out of the slot where he is matched against newcomer Perrish Cox. The 49ers' regular nickel cornerback, Carlos Rogers, is inactive with a hamstring injury. There has been no sign of Eric Wright, who is active for the game but who suffered his own hamstring injury during the week.

-- Matt Barrows

January 5, 2014
Live blog: SF 49ers at Green Bay Packers, 1:40 p.m. Jan. 5

Follow the San Francisco 49ers vs Green Bay Packers game with Sacramento Bee beat writer Matt Barrows and others. Game time is 1:40 p.m. Pacific, Sunday, Jan. 5.

 

View the 49ers live blog here from your mobile device.

January 5, 2014
No Rogers vs. Rodgers; 49ers cornerback to sit out game

CarlosHolmes.jpg

The 49ers will face Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay passing attack without their most experienced cornerback, Carlos Rogers, who is recovering from a hamstring strain. Instead Tarell Brown and Tramaine Brock will start at cornerback while Eric Wright - who has been dealing with his own hamstring issue - will fill in with the team's nickel defense, which promises to be on the field for the bulk of San Francisco's defensive snaps.

Rodgers' two favorite targets, Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson, will work out of the slot. Rodgers hit Cobb for the Packers' game-winning touchdown on last week that propelled them into the playoffs.

The 49ers also have Perrish Cox, who was signed on Monday and who has played in the 49ers' dime defenses in the past. The only other cornerback on the roster is undrafted rookie Darryl Morris. He's primarily been a special teams player this year.

Rogers injured his hamstring at the end of last week's game against the Cardinals. And while the injury was considered fairly minor, it did not help that temperatures at kickoff will be around 5 degrees and the wind chill temperature at minus-11. Rogers did not practice in the run-up to today's game, and should the 49ers win he likely will be listed as questionable for next week's game against the Panthers.

Wright showed up on the injury report on Thursday after tweaking his hamstring in practice. He was listed as limited in Friday's session. Wright has experience playing the nickel, including a game in 2011 against the Packers when he was a member of the Lions.

49ers:
CB Carlos Rogers
TE Derek Carrier
LB Nick Moody
G Ryan Seymour
G Joe Looney
DT Quinton Dial
WR Jon Baldwin

Packers:
QB Scott Tolzien
WR Chris Harper
CB Jumal Rolle
LB Nate Palmer
G Lane Taylor
G JC Tretter.

-- Matt Barrows

January 4, 2014
Saints win keeps alive possibility of a final farewell to Candlestick

The Saints' win over the Eagles tonight means the 49ers, should they win Sunday, would visit the Panthers next Sunday for a game that starts at 10:05 a.m. (PST)

It also keeps alive the possibility of one final game at Candlestick Park. For that to happen, the 49ers, of course, would have to beat the Panthers and the Saints would have to top the Seahawks in Seattle. If both of those events occur, the NFC Championship game will be held in San Francisco.

- Matt Barrows

January 4, 2014
Boldin back in 2014? 49ers coaching staff has cast its vote

boldinPack.jpg

Do Jim Harbaugh and the 49ers coaches want Anquan Boldin, scheduled to become a free agent in March, back for the 2014 season? No one has enunciated that position to this point, but the fact that Boldin won the team's Bill Walsh Award on Friday is a strong indication of a 'yes' vote.

While the team's other MVP honor, the Len Eshmont Award, which went to linebacker NaVorro Bowman, is voted on by players, the coaching staff votes for the Walsh award. In his first year with the 49ers, Boldin had more receiving yards than any 49ers pass catcher since Terrell Owens in 2002, he and Vernon Davis kept the passing game afloat for three-quarters of the season while Michael Crabtree was returning from his Achilles' injury and he's been an excellent role model/mentor to young receivers like Quinton Patton.

Earlier this year, general manager Trent Baalke called Boldin, 33, the "consummate professional." "There is no better pro, in my opinion, than Anquan," Baalke said in October. "He is the consummate professional. He's a leader, he's a mentor. He's a great family man. He is a class act."

Of course, the future will depend on Boldin's position and the 49ers' salary-cap situation. Boldin last year reportedly refused to accept a pay cut without an extension from the Ravens, which prompted his trade - for a sixth-round pick - to San Francisco. Boldin is making $6 million in base salary this year, a contract the 49ers inherited from the Ravens.

Unlike veteran receiver Randy Moss, who last postseason complained about his role in the 49ers' offense, Boldin seems to be content in San Francisco, telling reporters on Friday "I felt like I fit right in" upon coming to Santa Clara.

Will he be back? The coaching staff has cast its vote.

-- Matt Barrows

January 3, 2014
Snow day: 49ers to practice outdoors in Green Bay on Saturday

lambeau.jpg

While the 49ers have been practicing in unseasonably warm, mid-60-degree weather in the Santa Clara Valley this week, the Packers have ventured outside in an effort to get better acclimated with the bitter cold that awaits them on Sunday.

The 49ers, however, at least will get a taste of the arctic blast that's sitting over the upper Midwest.

Jim Harbaugh today said the team would hold a Saturday walk-through outdoors, either at Lambeau Field or at a nearby practice field. As The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Tom Silverstein writes, that walk through likely will be at the practice facility, especially if it snows Saturday morning as forecast.

If that's the case, the Lambeau playing surface will be covered with a tarp, which won't be lifted until shortly before kickoff at 1:40 p.m. (PST).

The good news for the 49ers is that Green Bay will experience a warm-up (relatively speaking, of course) on Saturday, with temperatures topping out at 26 degrees. The bad news is that the temperature won't give Harbaugh and his players a true sample of what they'll get the following day.

The forecast calls for rapidly dropping temperatures Sunday with an expected high of 4 degrees, a low of minus-20 degrees and a wind-chill of up to minus-50 degrees. That means the swing between the high temperature Saturday to the low temperature Sunday is roughly the same as the difference between Santa Clara's high temperature this week and Green Bay's high temperature Saturday.

That is, the 49ers are easing themselves into what could be one of the coldest NFL games ever played.

-- Matt Barrows

January 3, 2014
Carlos Rogers still not practicing, Eric Wright also questionable

carlos rogers.JPGSANTA CLARA -- Toward the end of Friday's practice, San Francisco 49ers cornerback Carlos Rogers walked by reporters wearing a blue track suit and was asked about his nagging right hamstring.

"I ran on it," Rogers said, "but I don't know."

Head coach Jim Harbaugh said Rogers, who hasn't missed a game since joining the 49ers, is officially listed as questionable for Sunday's wild-card playoff game against the Green Bay Packers.

Rogers' potential replacement at the nickel cornerback position, Eric Wright, did practice Friday after appearing on the injury report Thursday as limited with a hamstring issue. Harbaugh was asked if Wright had strained the hamstring in practice Thursday and said: "I wouldn't even call it that. He's back practicing today."

The 49ers have been holding out hope this week that the veteran Rogers will be able to play against the Packers, who run a lot of three- and four-receiver sets. But Rogers did not practice all week.

Rogers was the only player who did not participate in practice Friday. Wright and linebacker Dan Skuta (foot) were limited in practice, as was receiver Michael Crabtree (quadricep), who appeared on the injury report for the first time this week.

-- Matt Kawahara

PHOTO: San Francisco 49ers cornerback Carlos Rogers (22). October 2012 file photo. Hector Amezcua/The Sacramento Bee

January 3, 2014
All-pro team announced; Bowman, Boldin honored by teammates

bowwill.jpg

A 49ers team that led the league with a franchise-record six, first-team all-pro selections a year ago, had just one this year -- inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman. The team's leading tackler and a candidate for defensive player of the year also won the 49ers' most prestigious team honor, the Len Eshmont Award. Receiver Anquan Boldin took the Bill Walsh Award, which is given to the 49ers' most valuable player.

Last year, Bowman, Patrick Willis, Aldon Smith, Dashon Goldson, Mike Iupati and Andy Lee were voted to the all-pro team by The Associated Press. Justin Smith, Ahmad Brooks and Joe Staley made the second team. This year Staley, Brooks, Justin Smith and Vernon Davis, who led the 49ers with 13 touchdowns, made the second team.

Patrick Willis, who was voted to the Pro Bowl last month and who for years has been considered the league's top inside linebacker, did not make the all-pro team, the first time in his seven-year career he did not make the first or second team.

Carolina's Luke Kuechly joined Bowman as a first-team selection while Cincinnati's Vontaze Burfict, who led the league in tackles, and Arizona's Karlos Dansby made the second team.

The 49ers had five first-team selections in 2011.

Team awards:

Len Eshmont Award: LB NaVorro Bowman

The Len Eshmont Award is voted on by the players and is given to the 49er who best exemplifies the inspirational and courageous play of Len Eshmont, an original member of the 1946 49ers team. Eshmont, who coached at Navy and Virginia following his career in San Francisco, died in 1957. The award was established that year.

Bill Walsh Award: WR Anquan Boldin

January 2, 2014
Hamstrung? Cornerback Wright added to injury report with hamstring injury

Eric Wright, whom the 49ers felt could step in at cornerback in Carlos Rogers can't play Sunday, now is dealing with his own hamstring injury. Wright was added to the team's injury report today after presumably suffering the injury in practice. He was listed as a limited participant. Wright was not on Wednesday's injury report.

Meanwhile, defensive coordinator Vic Fangio today said that Rogers' hamstring injury was not as severe as originally feared and the team is holding out hope that the veteran cornerback can play against the Packers. Rogers, however, has missed the team's two practices so far this week.

Given how much the Packers like to throw the ball and how many three- and four- receiver formations they use, having two injured cornerbacks is a major development for the 49ers. The team signed another cornerback, Perrish Cox, on Monday. They also could tap undrafted rookie Darryl Morris, who thus far has been used mainly on special teams.

49ers
Did not practice: CB Carlos Rogers (hamstring).
Limited: LB Dan Skuta (foot), CB Eric Wright (hamstring)
Full: WR Jon Baldwin (illness), LB Navorro Bowman (wrist), CB Tarell Brown (ribs), C Jonathan Goodwin (not injury related), RB Frank Gore (knee), G Mike Iupati (knee), DT Justin Smith (shoulder).

Packers
Out: Clay Matthews (thumb)
Limited: LB Brad Jones (ankle), RB Eddie Lacy (ankle), DE Mike Neal (abdomen), LB Nick Perry (foot), DT Ryan Pickett (knee)

-- Matt Barrows

January 1, 2014
Rogers doesn't practice; team has faith in backup Wright

lospoints.jpg

Carlos Rogers' sore, right hamstring has him in jeopardy of missing his first-ever game since joining the 49ers in 2011. The veteran cornerback has started 53 games since then, but he sat out Wednesday's practice while getting treatment on the hamstring, which he strained late in Sunday's win over Arizona. Coach Jim Harbaugh said Rogers was sore Tuesday but had improved some by Wednesday.

Rogers has said that he considers the injury to be minor, and he became animated when asked if he would rule himself out of Sunday's game. "Hell no," he said as he was leaving the facility Tuesday.

Still, hamstring injuries typically keep players out at least a week. If that's the case for Rogers, the team's most experienced cornerback, Tarell Brown and Tramaine Brock would start the game with Eric Wright entering in nickel situations.

The nickel cornerback figures to play extensively against the Packers and will often be matched against Randall Cobb, one of the heroes from Green Bay's recent win in Chicago. Wright has faced Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers twice, once when he was with Cleveland in 2009 and again when he was with Detroit in 2011.

"He's not like a bum off the street," safety Donte Whitner said of Wright. "He was a guy that just scored a 30-plus-million-dollar contract from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers before he got into the off-the-field stuff. So he can actually play the game. Played a lot of nickel in Detroit. ...He's played Rodgers a few times. So he's going to be OK. He's looking forward to this opportunity to get back on the football field. So if Carlos can't go, I think he'll be all right."

Rodgers, meanwhile, said he thought Rogers would play. Asked about Wright, Rodgers said they were familiar with him from his stint with the Lions. "We know him," he said. "I think we're expecting Carlos to be ready."

Veterans Justin Smith and Jonathan Goodwin also missed practice but are expected to return on Thursday. Receiver Jonathan Baldwin sat out the session with an illness. Baldwin is unlikely to be active for the game anyway.

Limited: LB Dan Skuta (foot)
Full participation: LB Navorro Bowman (wrist), CB Tarell Brown (ribs), RB Frank Gore (knee), G Mike Iupati (knee)

Packers
Out: LB Clay Matthews (thumb)
Did not practice: DE Mike Neal (abdomen), LB Nick Perry (foot)
Limited: LB Brad Jones (ankle), RB Eddie Lacy (ankle), DT Ryan Pickett (knee)

-- Matt Barrows

January 1, 2014
Cold reality: Packers offense goes through Rodgers no matter the weather

arSnow.jpg

Eddie Lacy and Old Man Winter will get a lot of press in the run-up to Sunday's game. But Patrick Willis isn't taking his eye off the Packers' no. 1 threat.

"The offense runs through Aaron Rodgers," the 49ers linebacker said today. "He gets those guys lined up and throws the ball, and the throws it quick."

Indeed, the consensus among 49ers players is that Rodgers looks like his old self after missing seven games this season with a collarbone injury. During his absence, the Packers leaned on Lacy, and the rookie running back came through in that span by averaging 74 yards a game and scoring six of his 11 rushing touchdowns. Lacy finished the season with 1,178 yards, good for eighth most in the NFL this year. (Frank Gore finished ninth with 1,128 yards).

But even if the temperature is under 10 degrees - which is what the latest forecasts predict - at kickoff, Willis thinks the Packers will let Rodgers decide their fate. Sunday in Chicago, for instance, there was a 16 mph wind and the wind chill was 14 degrees. Despite the conditions, Rodgers attempted 39 passes and finished with 318 yards. Lacy had a good day, carrying the ball 21 times for 66 yards.

"He's a dynamic quarterback," Willis said. "He can run if he has to and he can most definitely sling the ball. Having a running game helps with the pass, but at the end of the day he's going to throw that ball."

Asked today how he prepares for a bitterly cold game, Rodgers quipped that he prefers a cup of chicken noodle soup. Relayed that strategy, Willis laughed and said hot soup sounded good but that something else would be better.

"Give me a "W" and that will take care of all the warmth I need," he said.

-- Matt Barrows



MATTHEW BARROWS

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

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