49ers Blog and Q&A

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

April 16, 2014
No Bowman? No Aldon? Is 3-4 still best defense for 49ers?


The 49ers are a 3-4 defensive team whose top two defensive players, NaVorro Bowman and Aldon Smith, may not be around when the season starts. Both are linebackers. Which raises the question: Is a three-lineman, four-linebacker defense still the best scheme for San Francisco?

One could argue that with Bowman's injury and Smith's troubles, the strength of the defense has switched from the linebacking corps to the defensive line. There, you have stalwarts Justin Smith and Ray McDonald. But there is also Glenn Dorsey and Ian Williams at nose tackle, as well as Tank Carradine, Quinton Dial, Demarcus Dobbs and everyone's favorite experiment, Lawrence Okoye.

Considering that the nose tackle currently comes off the field when the 49ers are in their nickel defense - more than 50 percent of the time - it's hard to imagine some of these players, especially Dorsey and Williams, getting significant playing time in the 49ers' current scheme.

If they switched to a 4-3 or otherwise tinkered with the scheme, the trick would be finding the right combination of linebackers. Patrick Willis, of course, played middle linebacker in a 4-3 scheme at Ole Miss and would be the natural "Mike" linebacker. Ahmad Brooks could line up at outside linebacker in a spot similar to the one Bruce Irvin plays in Seattle's 4-3 scheme. The 49ers would have to find a third linebacker from the remaining group of players.

Would the 49ers consider this? Probably not. For one, Bowman is making good progress from his ACL. And while he won't be on hand at the beginning of the season, the expectation is that he's back at the midpoint. And while Aldon Smith could miss all of the 2014 season, as The Merc's Tim Kawakami detailed Tuesday, the 49ers have interesting backups in Dan Skuta, Corey Lemonier and perhaps a draft pick. They are bringing in Boise State's Demarcus Lawrence, a possibility in the first round or early in the second round, next week.

Furthermore, defensive coordinator Vic Fangio prefers 3-4 defenses and has used that scheme for the bulk of his career. Fangio has said he likes the versatility of having an extra linebacker on the field and that the pass-rush angles are more favorable.

Still, in a scenario in which both Bowman and Smith are not available, you have to wonder if a 3-4 defense puts the 49ers' best defenders on the field.

One additional note. Skuta was the top backup at outside linebacker last season. He battled a foot injury for most of the year, and there was a possibility he could have surgery this offseason. It looks as if he will avoid that. Skuta saw the league's top foot and ankle specialist, Dr. Robert Anderson, earlier this year who diagnosed and treated him for plantar fasciitis in the foot.

-- Matt Barrows

April 15, 2014
49ers sign WR Brandon Lloyd to one-year deal


Veteran receiver Brandon Lloyd, who spent his first three seasons with the 49ers, is back after signing a one-year deal with the team today. Lloyd, 32, had 74 catches for 911 yards with New England in 2012 but sat out last season.

The 49ers took Lloyd with a fourth-round pick in the 2003 draft. He led the 49ers in receiving yards in 2005, but during the following offseason the new personnel chief, Scot McCloughan, eagerly traded Lloyd to the Redskins for a third-round pick in 2006 (the 49ers used it on WR Brandon Williams) and a fourth-round pick in 2007 (OLB Jay Moore).

Lloyd was brash as a young player, wanted to be a rap star and clashed with some of the veterans on the team. One of the players who disliked Lloyd was fullback Fred Beasley who famously complained that, following a grueling road loss, he had to listen to Lloyd talk about the length of his braids on the otherwise quiet plane ride back to San Jose.

The Redskins also grew weary of Lloyd, and he only spent two seasons there. He's been on six different teams over his career.

Still, he has proven to be a very smart and savvy player on the field, and he led the league in receiving yards while with the Broncos in 2010. While with the Patriots in 2012, he had a career-high 190 yards in a loss to the 49ers. In another loss to San Francisco -- this one in London when he was with Denver -- Lloyd caught seven passes for 169 yards.

The 11-year veteran, however, does not play special teams like another longtime veteran at the position, Kassim Osgood. And the 49ers are expected to draft a receiver - or perhaps two - next month.

That, plus the fact that Lloyd signed a one-year deal, suggests that a spot on the roster is not assured in 2014. The 49ers top three receivers currently are Anquan Boldin, Michael Crabtree and Quinton Patton. Lloyd joins a group that includes Jon Baldwin, Osgood, Chuck Jacobs, Devon Wylie, DeMarco Sampson and David Reed.

-- Matt Barrows

April 15, 2014
Charges dismissed in case against 49ers center Daniel Kilgore

The public intoxication case in Tennessee against 49ers center Daniel Kilgore has been dismissed, according to the Kingsport General Session clerk's office. Kilgore and a friend were stopped by an officer who saw them walking home from a Kingsport, Tenn. bar Jan. 25. They were arrested "for their safety and the welfare of the public," according to the police report.

Those charges were dismissed on Friday. The court clerk said Kilgore can file to have the charges expunged from his record.

A month after the incident, the 49ers extended Kilgore's contract by three years. He is the leading candidate to take over the starting center spot that Jonathan Goodwin manned the last three seasons. Adam Snyder, Joe Looney and Ryan Seymour also will compete at the spot.

-- Matt Barrows

April 15, 2014
Need for speed: 49ers meet with Colorado WR Paul Richardson

Speedy receivers definitely appear to be on the draft menu for the 49ers who are meeting with one of the fastest, Colorado's Paul Richardson, today. Richardson is one of 15 or so draft prospects in town to meet with coaches and take physicals this week. As far as receivers go, the list also includes Clemson's Martavis Bryant and Georgia State's Albert Wilson, both of whom stand out for their down-field ability.

Richardson seems to be similar in some ways to Redskins receiver DeSean Jackson, in whom the 49ers reportedly showed some interest earlier this offseason. The Colorado receiver is 6-0, 175 pounds with 32 5/8-inch arms. His 4.4-second time in the 40-yard dash in February was the third-fastest for a receiver this year. (Bryant was clocked at 4.42 seconds, Wilson at 4.43 seconds).

In 2013, Richardson stood out on a bad Colorado squad. He led the team with 83 catches, 1,343 receiving yards and 10 touchdown catches. He averaged 16.2 yards a catch one year after sitting out the 2012 season with a torn ACL. Significantly - in light of the 49ers' recent off-the-field troubles - he also was a team captain last season.

Richardson is considered a second- to early third-round pick. He has five other visits in addition to the 49ers.

The 49ers have not brought in Indiana wideout Cody Latimer for a visit, but a league source says they are looking closely at the receiver. Latimer, too, has good speed. Unlike the other receivers listed above, he also has excellent size at 6-2, 215 pounds. Some prognosticators think Latimer could go as high as the end of the first round.

-- Matt Barrows

April 14, 2014
Police report: Lockette called police to have woman removed from suite

Ricardo Lockette twice called 911 in Miami early in the morning of April 2 to report that a naked woman was on his friend's bed and refused to leave, according to incident reports, one of which was obtained today by radio station 940 A.M. That bed presumably was Colin Kaepernick's -- after all, it was his hotel suite -- who along with fellow NFL players Lockette and Quinton Patton was named in a "suspicious incident" investigation earlier this month. The first call was made at 12:03 a.m. from Lockette's cell phone. He called 911 again 17 minutes later.

In addition, a source familiar with the case said that Kaepernick was not at the suite during the disturbance or when police arrived. A police spokesman could not verify who was at the suite when police arrived.

That report fits what The Bee learned Friday - that it was one of the players who called authorities, who in turn called Miami Fire Rescue at 12:32 a.m. Paramedics transported the unidentified woman to Jackson Memorial Hospital in that city shortly thereafter.

Until now, the only document that had been released was the incident report the woman filed on April 3 that said she blacked out after drinking with Lockette, a former 49ers receiver who now plays for the Seaahwks, Kaepernick and Patton and woke up in the hospital.

The incident report obtained today says that a Crisis Intervention Team was summoned to the players' suite at the Viceroy Hotel. The unit's web site says that the Crisis Intervention Team "is an effective police response program designed for first responders who handle crisis calls involving people with mental illness including those with co-occurring substance use disorders."

On Friday, Kaepernick maintained his innocence via Twitter, slamming the initial report that claimed he was being investigated for sexual assault.

"The charges made in the TMZ story and other stories I've seen are completely wrong," Kaepernick wrote "They make things up about me that never happened. I take great pride in who I am and what I do, but I guess sometimes you have to deal with someone who makes things up .... I assure you that your faith is not misplaced."

No charges have been filed in the case and the players have not been interviewed. Kaepernick, in fact, is believed to be back in Santa Clara in advance of the 49ers' strength and conditioning program, which begins next week.

-- Matt Barrows

April 14, 2014
First-round pass-rush prospect Demarcus Lawrence to visit 49ers

One day after Aldon Smith was arrested at Los Angeles International Airport comes news that the team will host one of the more talented pass rushers in the upcoming draft. Boise State defensive end Demarcus Lawrence, who had 10 ½ sacks last season and is considered a late first-round pick, will visit next week.

A league source said the travel arrangements were made a week ago, before Smith was arrested at LAX for allegedly telling security personnel he had a bomb. Smith posted $20,000 bond and was released Sunday. Still, Smith's third arrest since 2012 must elevate pass rusher on the 49ers' list of draft needs. It's not known whether the NFL or the 49ers will suspend Smith and it's certainly possible that the team could release him.

Smith, who holds the franchise's single-season sack record, is entering the final year of his contract. The 49ers must decide by May 3 to pick up a fifth-year option on that deal. If they did, Smith would be in line to earn nearly $10 million in 2015 if he is still on the roster at the start of the new league year in early March.

In the last several years, the 49ers have felt that the strength of their locker room - led by hard-working players like Justin Smith and Patrick Willis - could accommodate younger players with so-called character concerns. However, that notion has been damaged by seven separate arrests since January 2012 when Aldon Smith was pulled over for DUI in Miami Beach. There have been additional police-blotter incidents involving three other players that have not led to arrests.

Lawrence then becomes an interesting prospect. The underclassman is 6-3, 251 pounds, and has the long arms (33 ¾ inches) and big hands (11 inches) that general manager Trent Baalke loves. He is a two-time first-team All-Mountain West selection who, in addition to his sack total last season, also had 20 ½ tackles behind the line of scrimmage.

However, he also was suspended on three different occasions for violation of team rules. That's likely a big reason why the 49ers want to meet him in person prior to the draft.

-- Matt Barrows

April 14, 2014
Linebacker Preston Brown among those visiting 49ers today

The 49ers and every other NFL are allowed to host up to 30 college players in the run-up to the draft. A big chunk of those visits are taking place today and Tuesday at the team's facility.

One of the visitors is Louisville inside linebacker Preston Brown, who led the Cardinals in tackles last season. At 6-1, 251 pounds, Brown is slightly bigger than the 49ers' starting inside linebackers, Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman, were coming out of college, but he's been highly productive and has the long arms - 33 ½ inches - and aggressive style general manager Trent Baalke likes to see in prospects.

Brown had 14 tackles for loss last season and five sacks. He also returned a fumble 48 yards for a touchdown against Memphis.

Bowman, of course, is not expected to be on the field for the first half of the season due to his Jan. 19 ACL injury. The 49ers are seeking a replacement. They could turn to veteran Michael Wilhoite, who started two games for Willis in 2013. They could tap Nick Moody, a sixth-round pick in 2013. Or they could find an understudy in the draft in which the 49ers have 11 picks. Brown is considered a third-day option.

The 49ers had wanted Oklahoma cornerback Aaron Colvin to visit today and tomorrow but he had a previous visit scheduled and will make the trip later this week.

Visiting today:
ILB Preston Brown
WR Martavis Bryant, Clemson
RB Storm Johnson, Central Florida
OLB Demarcus Lawrence, Boise State (next week)
OL Matt Patchan, Boston College
WR Albert Wilson, Georgia State

-- Matt Barrows

April 14, 2014
All ACL team: 49ers will host injured cornerback Aaron Colvin

The 49ers this week will host Aaron Colvin, an Oklahoma cornerback who tore his ACL in January and who spent the first part of the year in Florida rehabilitating alongside a slightly more famous ACL patient, NaVorro Bowman. Colvin tore his ACL Jan. 21 during a practice at the Senior Bowl. Bowman suffered his injury Jan. 19. The surgeries were performed by famed orthopedic surgeon James Andrews and both players rehabilitated at Andrews' clinic in Pensacola, Fla.

The 49ers, of course, drafted two players with ACL injuries last year, defensive end Tank Carradine and running back Marcus Lattimore. Neither played in 2013. Because Lattimore never appeared on the 53-man roster, his contract tolled. That is, he still has four years on his initial contract.

In that way, adding injured players to a loaded roster has become a draft strategy for the 49ers. They are able to obtain a player in a lower round because he is injured and perhaps allow him to "redshirt" his initial year with the team.

Colvin's injury, however, is not nearly as severe as Lattimore's, which involved several ligament tears and a dislocated kneecap. Colvin's agent said Sunday that the rehabilitation has gone very well and that the 6-0, 186-pound, two-time All-Big 12 cornerback will start running later this month. Colvin's injured occurred in Mobile, Ala. The next morning, he was in Dr. Andrews' office - a short drive away - in Pensacola. The surgery occurred the following week.

Team ACL: Other draft prospects with ACL injuries

DL Dominique Easley, Fla.: Easley was a first-round talent before tearing his ACL in September. He also suffered an ACL injury as a sophomore. Easley will have a private workout on Thursday. The 49ers are expected to attend.

G Brandon Thomas, Clemson. He was considered one of the better interior linemen in the draft before tearing an ACL during a workout with the Saints earlier this month.

CB Antone Exum, Virginia Tech. Exum tore his ACL in January 2013 and missed seven games that season. He missed another three with an ankle injury. He is fully healed but the injuries could cause him to slip in the draft. At 6-0, 213 pounds, he has very good size and also experience at safety.

G Spencer Long, Nebraska. Big interior lineman suffered an ACL injury in October.

QB Zach Mettenberger, LSU. He suffered an ACL tear Nov. 29 but was able to throw at LSU's pro day last week. At 6-5, Mettenberger has good size but not the athleticism Jim Harbaugh typically likes in quarterbacks.

QB Aaron Murray, Georgia. He suffered an ACL tear Nov. 25. He is expected to throw at Georgia's pro day this week.

FB Trey Millard, Oklahoma. He suffered an ACL tear on Oct. 26. The 49ers just signed Bruce Miller to a contract extension, and fullback is not a priority. Still, Millard has excellent size (6-2, 247) and runs with power and could entice with a late-round pick.

S Vinnie Sunseri, Alabama. The strong safety prospect suffered an ACL tear on Oct. 19. He went through all of the drills at school's pro day earlier this month.

-- Matt Barrows

April 13, 2014
Police: Aldon Smith taken into custody after claiming to have bomb at LAX


This story was updated from an earlier version to show the charges on which Aldon Smith has been booked.

Troubled 49ers linebacker Aldon Smith was taken into custody Sunday at Los Angeles International Airport and booked on charges of making a false bomb threat. According to airport police, the incident occurred at 2 p.m. when Smith, 24, was going through security screening and said he had a bomb.

A statement from airport police reads: "At approximately 1400 hrs, a 24 year-old Aldon Jacarus Ramon Smith, a resident of San Jose, California, was going through Terminal 1 screening where he made a comment indicating that he was in possession of a bomb. Los Angeles Airport Police made contact with him in the gate area where he became uncooperative. After conducting their investigation, LA Airport Police took suspect into custody and transported him to LAPD-Pacific division where he was booked for California Penal Code 148.1(a) - False report of a bomb threat."

According to airport police Sgt. Karla Ortiz, it appeared that Smith had been drinking earlier in the day. Police, however, did not check Smith's blood-alcohol content, Ortiz said, because "it was not an issue that would affect the detention or the arrest." Still, whether Smith had been drinking is likely to be a major question for the 49ers. Smith is facing a DUI charge stemming from an incident in September. He had a hearing on Friday, and his next court date is April 29.

A witness told The Bee that trouble began brewing earlier at the Southwest Airlines ticket counter. Following an argument there, a ticket agent said that Smith would not be allowed on the plane. After going through security, the witness said Smith was approached by TSA personnel. He advanced toward his gate where he was taken into custody by five officers. A video of the incident shows an officer bringing a police dog into the vicinity of the gate as Smith is being led away in handcuffs.

The 49ers issued a statement from general manager Trent Baalke: "We are disappointed to learn of the incident today involving Aldon Smith. As this is a pending legal matter and we are still gathering the pertinent facts, we will have no further comment."

April 13, 2014
49ers to host Clemson WR Martavis Bryant on Monday

The 49ers, who are searching for a wide receiver who can make plays deep down field, will host one with those capabilities. Clemson's Martavis Bryant, who ran his 40-yard dash in 4.42 seconds in February, is among the players who will visit with coaches and personnel department officials on Monday.

Bryant is different than some of the other speedy receivers in this year's draft class in that he also has size. He stands 6-4, weighs 211 pounds, and he leaped 39 inches in the vertical jump. He also had 16 bench-press repetitions of 225 pounds at the combine, not bad for an underclassman with longish (32 5/8 inches) arms.

Bryant lined up opposite the draft's top wide receiver, Sammy Watkins, last season at Clemson, and he was definitely the team's deep threat. He averaged 19.7 yards a catch, finished with 828 yards overall and scored seven touchdowns. He caught two passes in the Orange Bowl against Ohio State, two of them for touchdowns.

A year earlier, he caught 10 passes and averaged 30.5 yards a reception, tops in the nation for a player with double-digit catches. Last year, however, was his first extensive season in the offense and he is entering the draft after his junior season. That's likely why the 49ers are interested in bringing him in - they want to learn more about him.

The 49ers also are hosting Georgia State wideout Albert Wilson, Central Florida running back Storm Johnson and Boston College offensive lineman Matt Patchan on Monday. Oklahoma cornerback Aaron Colvin will visit later in the week.

Bryant, meanwhile, has a busy pre-draft schedule. He's visiting 12 teams, including the Ravens this week, and has almost as many workouts scheduled. The 49ers have 11 picks overall and six in the first three rounds. They are expected to take at least one receiver early. Bryant is expected to be a second-day pick. San Francisco general manager Trent Baalke attended Clemson's pro day last month at which time he had dinner with Tigers cornerback Bashaud Breeland.

- Matt Barrows

April 12, 2014
Questions, clarifications in case involving NFL players


There has been no additional information today on the case involving Colin Kaepernick, Ricardo Lockette and Quinton Patton. Instead this post is meant to answer questions and to clarify other aspects of what is known so far.

* Is Kaepernick being investigated for sexual assault? That, after all, was the headline from TMZ on Thursday that started everything. The short answer: No. For one, no charges have been filed. In fact, neither he nor Lockette nor Patton has been interviewed by police. Instead, the case is being referred to as a "suspicious incident," one in which Lockette and Patton are mentioned just as equally as Kaepernick.

The longer answer is that the Miami Police Department is in the process of determining whether a crime of a sexual nature occurred. The case is being investigated by the department's Special Victims Unit, which handles sex crimes. The Miami Herald reported Friday that the unnamed woman underwent a rape test. The police also are waiting on toxicology tests that presumably will show if any drugs were in her system.

* If police were called to the players' suite at Viceroy hotel, which led to the woman being taken to the hospital, why is there no report of that incident or why hasn't it been released? Great question. Is it due to the sensitive nature of the case that some information can't be released? I asked Mary Anne Franks, an associate professor of law at the University of Miami School of Law, if there were rules or laws in Florida regarding the release of information that the department had to follow because it potentially is a sex crime. Said she was unaware of any specific protocol the police must follow when it comes to releasing information. "They know that any move they make is going to be met with a lot of scrutiny," she said. "My guess is that they want to err on the side of caution."

* The incident report, which was written April 3 when the unidentified woman went to police, is the only report released by the police thus far. It contains the woman's version of events and should not be taken as gospel. For instance, she told police that the incident began when she went to Lockette's apartment at the Viceroy hotel complex. Nearly every media account written about the incident has listed the location as Lockette's apartment.

In fact it's Kaepernick's hotel suite, at which he'd been staying since February. Lockette and Patton recently began staying there with Kaepernick. My understanding is that Lockette may have invited the woman in question up to the suite but that it's being paid for by Kaepernick. The bottom line: Even though the incident report is a document released by the police, it hasn't been vetted by the police or any other official source.

-- Matt Barrows

April 11, 2014
Kaepernick denies wrongdoing; details start to emerge in Miami investigation


This is the unedited version of the story set to appear in Saturday's Bee.

A day after he was linked to a police investigation in Miami, Colin Kaepernick on Friday tweeted that media reports linking him to sexual assault are "completely wrong" and that "sometimes you have to deal with someone who makes things up."

The last quote referred to the unnamed woman at the center of the investigation who told police she blacked out after a night of drinking with Kaepernick, 49ers receiver Quinton Patton and Seahawks receiver Ricardo Lockette and ended up in a hospital room the next day.

It turns out that Miami Fire Rescue personnel transported the 25-year-old woman from the players' suite at the Viceroy hotel to a downtown Miami hospital. Lt. Ignatius Carroll said emergency responders were dispatched at 12:32 a.m on April 2 and that they were summoned by police, who were already at the hotel suite.

Sources familiar with the incident said it was one of the players who placed the original calls - two of them - to hotel security or the police. When police arrived they became concerned with the woman's frame of mind, and they called Miami Fire Rescue, which handles EMT service in that city.

The police investigation began April 3 when the woman arrived at the Miami Police Department at 9:40 p.m. She told police that approximately 48 hours earlier she arrived at a suite at the upscale Viceroy hotel, made drinks for the players and that they told her in order to drink with them "she had to 'hit' the bong, which contained marijuana."

April 11, 2014
Police, emergency personnel were called to players' hotel suite

The woman at the center of an ongoing police investigation involving Colin Kaepernick and two other NFL players was taken from the players' hotel suite to the hospital by Miami Fire Rescue personnel, who were summoned to the suite by police. Multiple sources said it was one of the players who placed calls -- two of them -- to police.

"At 12:32 (a.m.), Miami Fire Rescue was dispatched to the Viceroy (hotel) and transported a 25-year-old female from the Viceroy to the Jackson Memorial Hospital emergency room," Miami Fire Lt. Ignatius Carroll told The Miami Herald. Carroll later told The Bee that the Miami Police Department summoned emergency responders to the hotel.

Kaepernick, 49ers receiver Quinton Patton and Seahawks receiver Ricardo Lockette are named in the incident report involving a 25-year-old, unnamed woman who claims to have blacked out and woken up in a hospital room after drinking with the men. Earlier today Kaepernick took to Twitter to say that media reports, specifically the original report by TMZ, linking him to sexual assault are "completely wrong" and that "sometimes you have to deal with someone who makes things up."

Kaepernick's agency, XAM Sports, also released a statement: "We stand by Colin 100% and are fully confident that the truth will be evident once the facts come to light regarding this matter."

Miami police are examining evidence and waiting on toxicology reports in the case, according to The Herald.

"We have to examine evidence and wait for some tests to come back, including toxicology reports," Police Chief Manuel Orosa told the newspaper on Friday. "We can present it to the state attorney and they can decide whether to continue." Orosa added: "It's too early to determine what the evidence indicates."

The case is being handled by the Miami Police Department's Special Victims Unit, which investigates sexual battery and other serious crimes. Citing sources, the Herald reported that the unidentified woman underwent a rape test but that the results are not public. Kaepernick, Patton and Lockette have not been interviewed by police.

The police department would not answer questions relating to the case, such as why the woman was admitted to a hospital and how she was transported there. Police have said the only item they are authorized to release is the incident report.

-- Matt Barrows

April 11, 2014
Running back Storm Johnson among prospects visiting 49ers Monday

The 49ers will host a number of draft prospects on Monday, including Central Florida running back Storm Johnson. The 6-0, 210-pound Johnson ran for 1,139 yards, averaged 5.3 yards a carry and scored 14 rushing touchdowns and another three receiving touchdowns for the Knights in 2013. He had 117 yards in the game against Penn State (below).

Johnson transferred from Miami in 2010 and he spent only one season as Central Florida's featured runner. He is entering the draft as a junior, which is likely why the 49ers wanted to use one of the 30 visits they are allotted on him. That is, they are looking for more information. Johnson is expected to be a third-day draft pick.

The 49ers also are hosting Georgia State wideout Albert Wilson on Monday as well as Boston College offensive lineman Matt Patchan, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

The 49ers waived former USC receiver Brandon Carswell. Carswell signed with the 49ers on June 12, 2013. He missed the entire 2013 season after being placed on injured reserve June 19 with an ACL tear.

-- Matt Barrows

April 11, 2014
Kaepernick: Stories about Miami investigation 'completely wrong'

A day after he was linked to a police investigation in Miami, Colin Kaepernick today tweeted that the stories written about him were "completely wrong." To followers that have written him messages of encouragement, the 49ers quarterback wrote, "I assure you your faith is not misplaced."

Kaepernick, 49ers receiver Quinton Patton and Seahawks receiver Ricardo Lockette - a close friend of Kaepernick's and a former 49ers receiver - are named in an incident report involving a woman who claims to have blacked out at their hotel suite April 1 and woken up in a hospital. No charges have been filed in the case and it's unclear whether any crimes have been committed.

Kaepernick's agent, Scott Smith of XAM Sports, also released a statement today: "We stand by Colin 100% and are fully confident that the truth will be evident once the facts come to light regarding this matter. Thank you for supporting Colin."

The first media outlet to write about the case, TMZ, said that Kaepernick was being investigated for possible sexual assault. The Miami Police Department has tried to distance itself from that report, however. A police spokeswoman on Thursday said it was incorrect.

Wrote Kaepernick in a three-part tweet:

One thing to keep in mind: The incident report released by police on Thursday contains only the woman's version of events. Her name has been redacted to protect her identity. Police have refused to provide further details from the night of April 1, including why the woman was in the hospital and how she got there. The police will not release that information, they said, because it's part of an ongoing investigation.

-- Matt Barrows

April 10, 2014
Kaepernick, two other players, investigated in "suspicious incident" in Miami


Miami police are looking into what they termed a "suspicious incident" in Miami involving 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, receiver Quinton Patton and Seahawks receiver Ricardo Lockette, who once played for the 49ers and is a close friend of Kaepernick's. Police cautioned that the investigation is in its early stages and that no charges have been filed. In fact, the incident report makes no mention that a crime has occurred.

According to the report, the incident occurred April 1 when a woman went to Lockette's apartment at 485 Brickell Ave. in Miami at 9 p.m. Lockette, Kaepernick and Patton were there, and the woman made drinks and served shots to the players. She was also told that in order "to drink the shots she had to 'hit' the bong which contained marijuana," the report said.

The group then watched a basketball game on television. The report continues to say that the woman felt light headed and went to a bedroom where she was later joined by Kaepernick, 26, with whom she had a sexual relationship in the past. Kaepernick then left the bedroom. The two did not have sex, she said in the report. The report says that Patton, 23, and Lockette, 27, peeked inside the bedroom and that the woman yelled, "What are you doing? Where is Colin? Get out!"

According to the report, the woman does not remember anything about the night after that. She woke up in a hospital bed the following morning not knowing how she got there. The woman, whose name is redacted, reported the incident to police on April 3.

The 49ers released a statement from general manager Trent Baalke: "The 49ers organization is aware of the recent media report regarding Colin Kaepernick and is in the process of gathering the pertinent facts."

Kaepernick last year trained with Lockette in the Atlanta area and they lived together in Santa Clara until Lockette was released. They are training in South Florida this year. The 49ers and Kaepernick currently are negotiating a multi-year contract extension that, if completed, will make Kaepernick the highest-paid 49er and one of the highest paid players in the league.

Kaepernick and Patton were scheduled to be part of a large contingent of 49ers on hand for teammate Anquan Boldin's "Q Fest" festivities in South Florida this weekend that benefit his home town of Pahokee, Fla. Head coach Jim Harbaugh also is scheduled to attend. Also scheduled to attend -- receiver Michael Crabtree, who was interviewed in connection to an alleged sexual assault in San Francisco early in 2013. Charges never were filed in that case.

-- Matt Barrows

April 9, 2014
Chris Culliver faces three charges; threatening witness isn't one of them


Cornerback Chris Culliver is facing one felony charge and two misdemeanor charges after last month's hit-and-run incident involving a bicyclist in San Jose.

Culliver, 25, was charged with felony possession of metal knuckles, which carries up to a three-year prison sentence. He also was charged with misdemeanor hit and run with injury as well as misdemeanor hit and run, which have one-year maximum sentences.

The Santa Clara District Attorney's office today said it was unaware of any criminal activity in Culliver's past, which likely means he will not serve a maximum sentence and could avoid jail time altogether. The bicyclist, who was knocked down while crossing an intersection on March 28, was treated and released on the day of the incident.

Notably, Culliver was not charged for threatening the witness who followed Culliver in his vehicle after the encounter with the bicyclist. The initial media reports said that after the witness tried to block Culliver's white Ford Mustang to prevent him from leaving, Culliver got out of his car, threatened the witness with brass knuckles and then got back in the car and fled. A situation like that typically would result in a charge of "criminal threats," but that did not happen in this case.

Brass knuckles later were discovered in Culliver's car by San Jose Police. Deputy District Attorney Jaron Shipp said that the district attorney's office will continue to investigate the case.

If the NFL decides to punish the fourth-year cornerback, it likely would not do so until the legal process runs its course. Culliver is due to appear in court for an arraignment hearing on Friday.

He and Tramaine Brock are the frontrunners to start at cornerback in 2014. General manager Trent Baalke also said that Culliver - as well as Brock, Eric Wright and Perrish Cox - is a candidate to slip inside to slot cornerback when opponents bring out three or more receivers. The 49ers also are expected to draft a cornerback next month, perhaps in the first round.

- Matt Barrows

April 8, 2014
Snap count: 49ers will have options, competition at center


The 49ers' have exactly one unrestricted free agent who has yet to sign with any team - center Jonathan Goodwin, who has handled virtually every snap for the team for the last three season. The frontrunner to replace him, of course, is fourth-year player Daniel Kilgore, who was Goodwin's backup last season and who recently signed a three-year contract extension.

The bigger question is, who will compete with and push Kilgore during the offseason and who will serve as his backup during the regular season?

The 49ers have options. Adam Snyder has started three games at center and was the team's backup there in 2011. Joe Looney has been taking practice snaps at center beginning with the draft process in 2010. Ryan Seymour, acquired off the Seahawks' practice squad last season, played some center his senior season at Vanderbilt.

"I feel good about that group competing for that spot," general manager Trent Baalke said when asked about the team's prospects at center last month.

And if he doesn't feel good, the team always can bring back Goodwin or perhaps draft a center. The 49ers have shown interest in one of the top players at the position, Colorado State's Weston Richburg, according to a league source. Richburg is either considered the top or second-best center (to Arkansas' Travis Swanson) in the draft, depending on which publication you read. He is expected to be taken in the second round.

-- Matt Barrows

April 7, 2014
Single high? New CB Cook suggests changes in store for 49ers defense

Last month Jim Harbaugh hinted about changes to the 49ers offense. Could the team's defense also be in for a tweak or two?

Newly-signed cornerback Chris Cook suggested as much when he spoke about being used in a "single-high" defensive scheme. That's the formation with which the Seahawks have had so much success, one that often uses a single safety, Earl Thomas, in coverage so that the other safety, Kam Chancellor is free to crowd the line of scrimmage. It also is used in conjunction with Seattle's big, physical cornerbacks playing press coverage.

"They want me to be the press guy," the 6-2, 212-pound Cook said last month of the 49ers' plans for him. "And that's what I like to do. I feel like I'll fit in well with the one-high (safety) scheme that they like to run. I came from a two-high scheme. And I feel like a one-high scheme and a man-to-man scheme fits me well."

The Seahawks' style of defense, of course, is all the rage after a 2013 season in which they finished first in total defense, first in pass defense and annihilated Denver's offense in the Super Bowl. Chancellor in particular has been effective against the 49ers' only true down-field threat, tight end Vernon Davis. His receiving statistics in three meetings last season: 3 catches for 20 yards, 2 catches for 21 yards and 2 catches for 16 yards.

The 49ers' interest in tall, press cornerbacks also makes a one-high scheme seem like a possibility. In addition to signing Cook, the team has looked closely at Clemson cornerback Bashaud Breeland, one of several press-style cornerbacks who could be taken in the second round of this year's draft. (More on that below).

April 1, 2014
49ers show interest in DeSean Jackson, will proceed cautiously


****UPDATE**** The 49ers reportedly made a late push for DeSean Jackson, but he ultimately signed a three-year deal with the Redskins.

Trent Baalke last week adamantly denied contacting the Eagles about wide receiver DeSean Jackson. But he never denied having an interest in Jackson, who is now a free agent. Instead the 49ers general manager chose his words carefully: "As of this moment, there's been no discussions between us and the Philadelphia Eagles whatsoever," Baalke said at the owners' meeting in Orlando.

Now it seems as if reports linking the 49ers and Jackson, the former Cal star, have been accurate all along. Both NBC news in Washington, D.C. and ESPN's Adam Schefter report the 49ers are one of the teams interested in Jackson, who recently wrapped up a two-day visit with the Redskins. Other teams with interest include the Raiders, who can perhaps offer him more money than any other squad, the Browns and the Bills.

One thing to keep in mind when it comes to Jackson and San Francisco is the 49ers' strategy when it comes to free agents. If they have a high grade on a player, they'll typically show interest early only to back off later if the price tag does not fit their parameters. For example, they were one of the teams that inquired early about then-Vikings free agent Jared Allen but quickly fell out of the running when Allen made it known he wanted a top-dollar contract.

Their message seems to be: 'If you want to play for a winning team, this would be a great spot. But we're not going to break the bank for you.' In that way, the 49ers could offer Jackson a better chance at making it to a Super Bowl than his other suitors. But the other teams -- especially the Raiders and Browns -- could offer more money and realistically offer him more playing time.

March 28, 2014
Report: 49ers' Chris Culliver arrested after hit-and-run incident


Chris Culliver, whom the 49ers have been eying for one of their starting cornerback spots this season, was arrested Friday for felony hit-and-run and weapon charges, according to a report by KTVU.

The report said Culliver, 25, was arrested after his vehicle struck a bicyclist in San Jose this morning. A witness followed Culliver and blocked him with his own car, at which point Culliver allegedly threatened him with brass knuckles. Culliver fled again, this time striking the witness' car. The bicyclist suffered minor injuries in the incident.

When San Jose Police arrived, they found brass knuckles in Culliver's vehicle.

The 49ers issued a statement: "The 49ers organization is aware of the recent matter involving Chris Culliver. We will remain in contact with Chris and the local authorities as we continue to gather the facts regarding this situation. As this is an ongoing legal matter, we will reserve further comment at this time."

Culliver drew unwanted attention to the 49ers last year when he said, during Super Bowl media day, he didn't want gays in the team's locker room. At the time, team owner Jed York said he was upset by Culliver's comments and that he "hopes and prays that it affects him in a positive way going forward."

The third-year player has worked to repair his image since then, reaching out to the LGBT community and recently didicating himself to improving the treatment of animals.

He tore his ACL early in training camp in July and spent the last eight months rehabilitating. He is expected to make a full recovery. With starting cornerbacks Carlos Rogers and Tarell Brown no longer on the team, Culliver had been expected to fill one of those roles along with Tramaine Brock.

-- Matt Barrows

March 26, 2014
Harbaugh hints at changes to 49ers' offense


ORLANDO, Fla. - The 49ers are seeking wide receivers this offseason and, Jim Harbaugh hinted, perhaps some tweaks to their power-based offense.

"A real good scheme evaluation, I think, is what's next for us as coaches," the 49ers coach said today at a media breakfast. "Now that we've had Colin (Kaepernick) here for a year and half and understand what we all do well, what we could do better. I think that's something that's a priority right now that we'll attack."

Will they be big changes? "No, not big changes," he said. "But always be an evolution, always strive to make it better."

As is his custom, Harbaugh lavished praise on his starting quarterback and defended him against criticism, including accusations that he's a one-read passer.

"Some of the time there was just one guy to go to," Harbaugh said. "There were times we had Anquan (Boldin) and Vernon (Davis). And they were literally doubling Anquan and Vernon. And he had one other option to go to. ... There was tough sledding. It's up to all of us to get better."

One of the ways to improve, Harbaugh said more than once during the hour-long sessions, is to supply Kaepernick with more weapons. When receiver Michael Crabtree was injured last season, the 49ers' passing game revolved around two players - Boldin and Davis, who caught all but one of Kaepernick's 24 touchdown passes during the regular season and playoffs.

The situation improved when Crabtree returned to the field in December, but Harbaugh indicated that more firepower is needed. He and general manager Trent Baalke like Quinton Patton, a fourth-round pick in 2013 who was injured for half of his rookie season. This year's draft, however, is especially rich in wideouts, and the 49ers are likely to give Patton competition for the No. 3 spot.

March 26, 2014
Harbaugh notes: Coach to scout QBs Fales, Carr; says 49ers seeking No. 3 WR


ORLANDO, Fla. -- Hotcakes with Harbaugh went well this morning. Like the other NFC coaches, Jim Harbaugh spent about an hour at a breakfast table with members of the media and, as you might expect, covered a lot of ground. Here are my notes from the session:

*As he had in the past, Harbaugh spoke highly of receiver Quinton Patton and noted that the then rookie made an impact last season despite dealing with a broken finger in training camp and then a broken foot that cost him eight games during the season. But Harbaugh also made it clear that the team is looking to augment the position and give Colin Kaepernick a better No. 3 option. He said Kaepernick's inability to spread the ball around, especially early last season, was largely due to his receiving corps.

What's he looking for? "A No. 3 receiver, a third guy that can get open, make plays, another option for the quarterback to go to. A chance to attack all areas of the field. A playmaker. That's what we're looking for."

* Harbaugh already has taken a look at Eastern Illinois' quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and Virginia Tech's Logan Thomas. He said he wants to check out a couple of California products next - San Jose State's David Fales and Fresno State's Derek Carr. He said this year will be similar to 2011 when he scouted "five or six" quarterbacks, including Blaine Gabbert and Kaepernick.

* Asked specifically about Johnny Manziel, Harbaugh said, "He sees the field like no one who's seen the field in college football." That's a bit like the lavish quote he gave about Cam Newton - he called him "plutonium-grade raw material" -- in 2011. It turns out the 49ers had no intention of drafting a quarterback in the first round that year. They are very unlikely to have a shot at Manziel this year.

* Frank Gore is entering the final year of his contract and, at age 30, what many believe will be his final season with the 49ers. Harbaugh, however, said, "I really think Frank has three more good years. I truly believe that." Then he paused. "But we're in a game of taking it one year at a time, so ..."

March 25, 2014
DeSean Jackson? 49ers typically don't spend big on outside players


Sure, the 49ers signed Justin Smith to a big-money free-agent contract in 2008. And they traded for a high-profile receiver - Anquan Boldin - and paid him $6 million last year. But the team typically doesn't bring in high-priced players from the outside and pay them more than their locker room leaders.

And if the team were to trade for Eagles receiver DeSean Jackson - and inherit his $10.5 million salary in 2014 - Jackson's allotment would outstrip that of Smith, Boldin, Patrick Willis, Frank Gore and every other long-time 49er.

"Never say never, but history usually repeats itself, right?" general manager Trent Baalke said of bringing in an outsider and giving him a team-high deal. "So historically the answer to that would be no. But we always reserve the right to do what's in the best interest of the 49ers."

Baalke today reiterated that the 49ers have not made any contact with the Eagles, who are reportedly shopping Jackson and who could cut him if they can't find a trade partner. Jackson led the Eagles with 82 receptions, 1,332 receiving yards and nine receiving touchdowns last year. He theoretically would be desirable for a 49ers offense in need of a speedy, downfield receiver.

But Baalke said the question of how Jackson or any newcomer would affect the chemistry of the 49ers' locker room - from a salary and personalty standpoint - would be paramount.

"There's a lot of thought that goes into every decision," he said. "One key thing we focus on is, 'What is this decision going to do to our locker room?' That's a big part of the decision-making process. We spend a lot of time looking at that, talking through it, thinking about it and making sure that the move we make isn't counter productive to winning. Because that's the ultimate goal - is to win."

- Matt Barrows

March 25, 2014
Baalke: 49ers hoping to extend Kaepernick by training camp


The 49ers want to extend Colin Kaepernick's contract by the start of training camp, and general manager Trent Baalke said today that negotiations soon will enter a new, more specific phase.

The two sides sat down for the first time last month at the scouting combine. Baalke said "generalities" were discussed then and in conversations since, but that there will be more face-to-face meetings in coming months. "Now we're ready to present a formal proposal," he said.

Kaepernick is entering the final year of his original contract, one that will pay him just over $1 million. By comparison, backup quarterback Blaine Gabbert will earn $2 million. The going rate for franchise quarterbacks is far greater -- $18 million a year, a benchmark established by recent deals for Jay Cutler of the Bears and Tony Romo of the Cowboys.

The 49ers' challenge -- indeed, the challenge of any team that has paid top dollar for a quarterback -- will be making Kaepernick happy while still being able to field a competitive team in the future. John Harbaugh, whose Ravens team completed a big-money deal with quarterback Joe Flacco last year, conceded today that it's not an easy balance.

"It boils down to math," Harbaugh said. "Because that's a big chunk out of your bookkeeping. And it's really going to hit us this year and next year and going forward. ... So we've got to make tough decisions like (linebacker) Jameel McClain (signed by the Giants), and you've got to determine where you're going to spend your money."

If no deal is struck this summer, the 49ers still could retain Kaepernick for 2015 by giving him the franchise tag. The 49ers gave safety Dashon Goldson the franchise tag in 2012, but it's generally been something the team has avoided using in recent years. Could Baalke apply it to Kaepernick?

"I've said this before - the franchise tag is a tool we can use. It's not something we like to do," Baalke said. " ... We're going to use all resources to keep our football team together. Will we use it in this scenario? It's really too early to go into that type of discussion."

For now the team will work in earnest to get a long-term deal completed. "We're going to work extremely hard, very diligently in trying to get something done prior to training camp," he said. "That's the objective right now, as it stands."

-- Matt Barrows

March 24, 2014
49ers to re-sign WR Kassim Osgood


ORLANDO -- As expected, the 49ers will bring back special teams standout Kassim Osgood for 2014, according to a league source at the owner's meeting in Orlando. He is set to earn the league minimum for an 11-year veteran, $955,000. The 49ers signed Osgood, 33, as a free agent last season, and along with fellow veteran Ray Ventrone, he solidified a special teams coverage unit that had lapsed in 2012.

A three-time Pro Bowl selection, Osgood finished with 12 tackles on special teams to go along with one reception for 17 yards that came in the Candlestick Park finale against Atlanta on Dec. 23. The 49ers tied for third in the NFL in kickoff coverage. They finished 13th in punt coverage.

Osgood joins a wide-receiving corps on which Anquan Boldin and Michael Crabtree will be the starters and that also includes Quinton Patton, Jon Baldwin, Devin Wylie, Brandon Carswell, Chuck Jacobs, David Reed and DeMarco Sampson. The 49ers also are expected to use an early draft pick on a receiver.

Also today, general manager Trent Baalke reiterated his stance that the 49ers have not contacted the Eagles about receiver DeSean Jackson. Reports have consistently linked the 49ers to the former Cal star for the last week.

-- Matt Barrows

March 24, 2014
Harbaugh calls Kaepernick's extension a "high priority;" why 49ers never considered Gabbert in first round


ORLANDO -- The 49ers began discussing a contract extension for quarterback Colin Kaepernick last month, and Jim Harbaugh on Monday said it was "a high priority" to have that completed this offseason.

"The priority is that Colin Kaepernick is a San Francisco 49er for however long we can have him be a San Francisco 49er," Harbaugh said at the league's annual meeting. "So it's definitely a high priority. He's an amazing individual, an amazing player."

Harbaugh then explained why he thought Kaepernick was deserving of a deal.

"He shows up at work all the time," he said. "There's really no one that competes with him in a workout situation. He will bury everybody. And then when somebody tries to compete with him, he ramps his competitiveness up, and somebody's over their knee throwing up. He's unbelievable. So you can tell I feel he's a great player, a high priority."

The price tag for a starting quarterback begins at $18 million a season, which is what the Cowboys' Tony Romo and the Bears' Jay Cutler received in deals struck within the last two years. Kaepernick is scheduled to earn $1.073 million in 2014, the final year in his original four-year contract. Backup quarterback Blaine Gabbert, by comparison, is scheduled to earn $2.011 million this season.

March 24, 2014
Harbaugh sloughs off "mini-controversy," talks Jonathan Martin

ORLANDO -- Jim Harbaugh likened the 49ers' acquisition of Jonathan Martin to Glenn Dorsey's addition a year earlier. San Francisco signed Dorsey, the former fifth overall pick in the draft, to a two-year deal after he spent five mostly quiet years with the Chiefs. Dorsey started 13 games at nose tackle last season.

The 49ers traded for Martin after the offensive lineman left the Dolphins in October amid allegations of hazing and bullying inside Miami's locker room. Harbaugh, appearing on the NFL Network, was asked if he and Martin have talked about what happened in Miami. "No, didn't ask him anything," he said. "Told him I don't want to know anything."

Harbaugh called Martin's addition "a great opportunity and a powerful motivator. I hope it works out for Jonathan Martin just the way it did for Glenn Dorsey."

The 49ers have made a habit of signing players who have failed to live up to lofty draft positions. In addition to Martin, a former second-round pick, the 49ers recently traded for one-time first-round pick Blaine Gabbert and also signed cornerback Chris Cook, a former second-round pick, to a one-year deal. Last year they added Dorsey and cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, both of whom were first-round picks, and in 2011 they brought in Carlos Rogers and Donte Whitner, who also were former first rounders.

Meanwhile, Harbaugh reiterated that "there was zero chance of me leaving the San Francisco 49ers." In January, the Cleveland Browns approached the 49ers about trading their head coach. According to team owner Jed York, the Browns were quickly rebuffed.

"I love coaching my team too much," Harbaugh said. "It's a joy to coach my players. Love 'em. Love our coaches. And I love the organization I serve. That story hasn't been reported."

Harbaugh called it a "mini-controversy." "I treat mini-controversies and give them the respect they're due," he said.

-- Matt Barrows

March 23, 2014
Report: 49ers have not called about DeSean Jackson

Trent Baalke said the 49ers have not called the Eagles to inquire about receiver DeSean Jackson, according to CSN Bay Area. The 49ers have been one of the teams linked to Jackson, who played at Cal and whom Philadelphia reportedly is shopping to other teams.

"We've not made any contact with the Eagles relative to a trade for DeSean Jackson," Baalke said. "... As of this moment, those reports are totally misleading and false."

The 49ers have considered several free-agent receivers with speed and with punt-return abilities, which fits Jackson's description as well. But Jackson will earn $10.5 million next season, a price any team that trades for him will inherit. San Francisco currently has less than $4 million salary-cap space. Additionally, the 49ers have used three-wide receivers alignments less than any other team over the last three seasons, suggesting that on a team with Anquan Boldin and Michael Crabtree, Jackson may not be worth a high price tag.

Perhaps tellingly, Jackson used his Instagram account over the weekend to presumably flirt with possible employers -- a picture of him with Carolina quarterback Cam Newton and another with Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, for example. The teams he listed included the Seahawks, Jets, Panthers and Raiders. The 49ers were not part of his array of pictures.

-- Matt Barrows

March 23, 2014
Phil Dawson has a point: 49ers kicker leery of possible rule changes


ORLANDO -- Extra points have become far too easy in the NFL. But don't tell that to the guys who kick them for a living.

"I wouldn't call anything out there easy," 49ers kicker Phil Dawson said last week. "I mean, anybody's that's ever played golf knows the three-foot putt is the most stressful."

Still, Dawson, a 15-year veteran, avoided the extra-point yips last season, converting all 44 of his attempts. In fact, the NFL had only five misses in 1,267 attempts in 2013, a 99.6 percent success rate that some officials consider so efficient it has become the most boring play in sports.

The league's owners are meeting in Orlando this week to decide whether to add more spice to the one-point play, including a proposal to move extra-point kicks from the 2-yard line to the 25-yard line. The league is unlikely to alter extra points for the 2014 season but it could experiment with longer attempts and other ideas in the preseason.

Dawson has mixed feelings. He's been one of the top long-range kickers in recent seasons, and he said he's all for highlighting the kicker's skills. But he certainly doesn't want to see the position diminished.

The league already is toying with the idea of eliminating kickoffs, which produce some of the biggest collisions and most serious injuries, including concussions, in the game. A longer extra-point attempt also might keep the kicker on the sideline.

March 21, 2014
49ers notes: Hester was on SF's radar; team checks out cornerback


The 49ers' desire to at least check out speedy receivers included another name - ex-Bears wideout and returner Devin Hester, who was signed by the Falcons this week. On a conference call with Atlanta-area reporters, Hester said San Francisco, Seattle, Miami and Tampa Bay were on his list of possible destinations.

The speedy Hester, 31, has been used as a down-field threat in the Bears offense. But he's had perhaps a bigger impact as a punt and kick returner. He has 13 touchdowns on punt returns in eight seasons. San Francisco used a second-round pick in 2012 on LaMichael James, and he served as the primary return man last season.

The 49ers also showed interest in receivers Julian Edelman, Emmanuel Sanders, Hakeem Nicks, Golden Tate and Dexter McCluster during the free-agency period. Edelman, Tate and McCluster all have handled punt returns at some point in their careers.

They also have been linked to Eagles receiver DeSean Jackson, whom Philadelphia reportedly has considered trading. Acquiring Jackson - another receiver with punt-return ability - would mean a $10.5 million salary-cap hit. The 49ers currently have about $3.8 million in salary-cap space, according to NFLPA records.

* The 49ers had a scout at Stanford's pro day Thursday where safety Ed Reynolds and defensive end/outside linebacker Ben Gardner stood out. Inside linebacker Shayne Skov did not do any on-field drills after straining his hamstring.

* The sharp eyes of reader Franco Mazzoli noticed that the 49ers' top college scout, Matt Malaspina, attended Middle Tennessee State's Pro Day. The main attraction there was a cornerback, Sammy Seamster, who ran the 40 in 4.47 and 4.44 seconds, had a 35-inch vertical jump and an impressive 10-4 broad jump. Seamster has good size at 6-0 1/2, 200. His arm length? That critical piece of information has been unavailable heretofore. The 49ers like to use a late-round pick on a cornerback.

- Matt Barrows

March 20, 2014
49ers sign FB Bruce Miller to three-year contract extension


Three years ago, Bruce Miller was an undersized defensive end at Central Florida who was wondering if he'd even get drafted. On the eve of the draft, he got a phone call from 49ers assistant coach Tom Rathman. The good news: The 49ers were interested in selecting him. The odd news: They also were interested in switching him to fullback.

"I didn't care if it was offense, defense, special teams or any of that," said Miller, who ended up being taken in the seventh round. "It was exciting to know that I was on their radar and that I had the possibility of moving out to California and being a Niner."

That open-minded attitude has served him well since, and on Thursday he was rewarded with a three-year contract extension through the 2017 season. Few teams in the pass-heavy NFL use a fullback as much as the 49ers, and Miller will be among the highest paid at his position with his new deal.

Miller also is the latest member of the 49ers' successful 2011 draft class to receive an extension. The team previously extended the deal of offensive lineman Daniel Kilgore, a fifth-round pick that year, and is working on a longer contract for quarterback Colin Kaepernick, a second rounder in 2011. Kaepernick's is expected to be the highest on the team and one of the most lucrative in the NFL.

"Bruce is a hard-working, dedicated young player that has done an outstanding job for us, both on and off the field," general manager Trent Baalke said in a statement. "He is one of those players that contributes a lot more to the team and to the community than he gets credit for, yet wouldn't have it any other way. We are pleased that Bruce has chosen to extend his stay with the 49ers."

Miller, 26, has played in 45 games (34 starts), and has 48 receptions for 410 yards and one touchdown and 16 carries for 39 yards. In 2013, Miller set career-highs in receptions (25) and receiving yards (243) despite breaking his scapula in a Dec. 15 game in Tampa Bay and missing the last two games of the season and the postseason. Miller said he has completely recovered from the injury and will be full-go for the team's offseason strength and conditioning program that begins April 21.

-- Matt Barrows

March 20, 2014
49ers look at big-legged kicking prospect

Wide receiver, cornerback, quarterback ... kicker?

It doesn't appear to be a big offseason need for the 49ers after they signed Phil Dawson to a two-year deal earlier this month. But the team worked out a big-legged prospect, Old Dominion University's Jarod Brown, at the school's pro day on Tuesday.

At 5-11, 235 pounds, Brown has a Janikowskian physique. He also has shown the ability to hit from long range. Brown made four kicks of 50 yards or more while at ODU, including a 54-yarder against Pitt last season that is the longest field goal ever at Heinz Field, both in college football and the NFL. Brown also was known as a touchback specialist on kickoffs and had 14 successful on-side kicks at ODU.

A rookie certainly isn't expected to take over for Dawson, who kicked 27 consecutive field goals for the 49ers last season. But they likely are looking for someone to help kick during OTAs, minicamps and training camp. And with Dawson turning 40 in January it certainly doesn't hurt to start looking at younger prospects.

- Matt Barrows

March 20, 2014
Fine catch: Anquan Boldin wins community service award


The NFL Players Association announced today that Anquan Boldin is the winner of its annual Byron "Whizzer" White Award given for community service. Boldin is the first 49er to win the award, which has been given out since 1967 and is named for the late Supreme Court Justice who played halfback for the Pittsburgh Pirates (now the Steelers) and Detroit Lions. The award includes a $100,000 donation to Boldin's foundation.

Boldin won for his "Q81"Foundation, which has set up charities in Phoenix, Baltimore, the Bay Area as well as his hometown of Pahokee, Fla. Boldin has also been involved with Oxfam America, Wounded Warriors and the United Way campaigns. He traveled to Africa a year ago to learn more about mining abuses in West Africa and is planning another trip this spring. Boldin signed a two-year extension with the 49ers earlier this month.

All 32 teams voted for nominees during the regular season. The judges, Domonique Foxworth, Kevin Mawae, Charlie Batch, Mike Kenn and Trace Armstrong, narrowed the applicants down to five finalists. The other finalists were: Davin Joseph (Tampa Bay Buccaneers), Stephen Tulloch (Detroit Lions), Matthew Slater (New England Patriots) and Vonta Leach (Baltimore Ravens).

Previous Justice Byron R. "Whizzer" White Award Winners
2013 Charlie Batch, Pittsburgh Steelers
2012 Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints
2011 Tony Richardson, New York Jets
2010 Nnamdi Asomugha, Oakland Raiders

March 19, 2014
Epic Fales: San Jose State QB performs for NFL scouts


SAN JOSE -- One of David Fales' deep passes got away from him today. His other 52, however, were on target, bolstering the assessment that Fales is one of the more accurate quarterbacks in the draft and is a worthy mid-round addition for teams who skip a passer early on. Fales had a completion percentage of 72.5 in 2012 and 64.1 last season.

Representatives from more than 20 teams watched the San Jose State quarterback and the other Spartan prospects, including Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie and 49ers quarterbacks coach Geep Chryst. The 49ers had three other scouts in attendance.

Also watching were a couple of ex-49ers quarterbacks, Alex Smith, who trains at San Jose State, and Trent Dilfer, an analyst with ESPN. Dilfer tweeted that he thought Fales resembled former Redskins, Rams and Chief quarterback Trent Green, who spent 15 years in the league.

Smith's wife's family lives in the area, and he spends parts of his offseasons here despite playing for the Chiefs. He and Fales trained together last offseason and the two will work with San Jose State strength and conditioning coach Gary Uribe over the next two months. "So I'm going to be really looking forward to that," Fales said. "You get to train with someone whose been around the league for a while and knows it - it's awesome. He's a great guy, too."

March 18, 2014
Cold War over? Baalke, Harbaugh appear to be working together


Jim Harbaugh and Trent Baalke at each others' throat? Sending snippy emails back and forth? Staring straight ahead when they pass each other in the hallway? Both men are careful not to allow even the slightest peek into their inner sanctum, so it's impossible to say for sure whether any cold war between them has thawed or rages on. But the free-agency period has offered some significant clues that they have been working hand in hand in recent weeks.

* Trading for Jonathan Martin. Baalke is the one who pulls off trades, indeed he's the one that handles any additions or subtractions to the 49ers' roster. But it was obviously Harbaugh who was pushing to add his former Stanford pupil. Harbaugh spoke highly and confidently of Martin when he left the Dolphins in October. He did the same in the independent Ted Wells' report that looked at allegations of bullying and hazing inside Miami's locker room. In short, Harbaugh has been Martin most vocal defender and champion, and his addition to the 49ers' roster has Harbaugh's fingerprints all over it.

* Trading for Blaine Gabbert. As general manager, Baalke is the team's top talent evaluator. But he gives Harbaugh more license when it comes to quarterbacks. Harbaugh took a long look at Gabbert during the 2011 draft. And while we don't know whether Harbaugh lobbied to trade for Gabbert, it's reasonable to assume that Harbaugh had plenty of input before Baalke pulled the trigger on this deal. Quarterback likely was a sore point between the two in the past. In the last three years, the 49ers' backups at the position went from McLeod Bethel-Thompson to Scott Tolzien to B.J. Daniels to John Skelton to McLeod Bethel-Thompson. Baalke would prefer to be less impulsive when it comes to roster maneuvers. That they agreed on adding Gabbert is a positive sign.

March 17, 2014
Sub-par secondary? Don't judge yet, 49ers fans


The 49ers have blown up the secondary they built in 2011 and that ranked in the top 10 in pass defense the past two seasons. But if you thought that unit was going to be great when it was assembled back then, you are either clairvoyant or -- more likely - a big, fat liar.

One of the starting cornerbacks in 2011, Tarell Brown, had started five games in his previous four seasons in the league and none in 2010. He only got the job because Shawntae Spencer pulled his hamstring in training camp. The other, Carlos Rogers, was considered a first-round bust in Washington and was best known for dropping would-be interceptions at inopportune times. Rogers was so lightly regarded that he lasted more than a week in free agency before the 49ers signed him to a one-year deal.

Rogers finished the season with six interceptions and started in the Pro Bowl. Brown started all 18 games and finished with five interceptions, including one in the playoffs.

At safety, the 49ers brought in one experienced starter in Donte Whitner. But there was not a big demand for the undersized, over-drafted Whitner on the free-agent market and he, too, lasted several days before being signed. On other side, Madieu Williams (yes, Madieu Williams; I double-checked it) started the first two games before Dashon Goldson took over. Whitner would go on to have the most iconic defensive play of the 49ers' playoff run when he knocked Saints running back Pierre Thomas out of the game on New Orleans' opening drive. Goldson tied with Rogers for the team lead with six interceptions and, like Rogers, made his first Pro Bowl. The 49ers tied for the league lead in takeaways.

March 16, 2014
Cornerback Walter Thurmond to sign with Giants


Walter Thurmond has left the building. According to a number of reports, the former Seahawks cornerback will sign a one-year deal with the Giants. The contract, for $3.5 million, is similar to the one Tarell Brown signed with the Raiders last week, which makes sense because they are represented by the same agent.

Thurmond was attractive to the 49ers because he had played the nickel cornerback position with the Seahawks. The only two players who manned that spot in San Francisco for the last three years, Carlos Rogers and Perrish Cox, are both free agents. Thurmond visited Jacksonville and the 49ers before agreeing with the Giants.

Meanwhile, wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders never showed up for his Saturday meeting with the 49ers. He instead will sign a deal with the Broncos, ESPN's Adam Schefter first reporter. Three other wideouts the 49ers were interested in also will sign elsewhere: Golden Tate with the Lions, Hakeem Nicks with the Colts and Julian Edelman with the Patriots.

The common thread for the cornerbacks and wide receivers the 49ers have considered so far? They're either 26 or 27 years old. Who else fits that description? Here's a list:

March 15, 2014
Update: Edelman retained by Patriots; Thurmond mulling options

It probably should come as no surprise that receiver Julian Edelman, who visited the 49ers Friday, reached a deal with the Patriots Saturday. Edelman was Tom Brady's favorite target last season, catching 105 passes for 1,056 yards. He simply had more value to New England than he did the 49ers, who will start Michael Crabtree and Anquan Boldin at wideout and who only use three wide receivers about 20 percent of the time.

Edelman, who is from the Bay Area, took to Twitter to confirm the deal.

Meanwhile, another receiver who drew the interest of the 49ers, Hakeem Nicks, signed with the Colts on Friday. A third receiver, Steelers free agent Emmanuel Sanders, is visiting the 49ers today. Sanders has multiple suitors, including Kansas City and Jacksonville.

Seattle cornerback Walter Thurmond is weighing his options after visiting with the 49ers Friday. He would be a good fit on the 49ers because he plays the nickel cornerback position and because his loss would hurt their division rivals. Thurmond, however, also has multiple suitors, including Jacksonville, where former Seattle defensive coordinator Gus Bradley is now the head coach.

-- Matt Barrows

March 14, 2014
Pressing matter: Chris Cook clear about his role with 49ers


As Tarell Brown was signing his one-year deal in Oakland today, cornerback Chris Cook was signing a one-year contract on the other end of the bay

Like Jonathan Martin and Blaine Gabbert before him, Cook - who spent four, often rocky seasons in Minnesota - said he was looking forward to "revamping my career" with San Francisco. "I feel rejuvenated now that I've signed my contract," he said.

Cook, who is 6-2, 212 pounds, said the 49ers didn't mince words about how they saw him fitting into the defense. "They want me to be the press guy," he said. "And that's what I like to do. I feel like I'll fit in well with the one-high (safety) scheme that they like to run. I came from a two-high scheme. And I feel like a one-high scheme and a man-to-man scheme fits me well."

The arch-rival Seahawks, of course, specialize in that one-high-safety concept. Asked if he felt he bore any similarities to Seattle's tall, long-limbed man-to-man specialist, Richard Sherman, Cook said, "He's a great player, and I respect his game a lot. We have similar body types and stuff like that. But other than that, I don't really compare myself to him."

Said Cook: "I'm just coming in to do my job to the best of my ability and help the team continue on a winning path."

-- Matt Barrows

March 14, 2014
Right around the corner: Raiders snag Tarell Brown


Tarell Brown is leaving the 49ers but won't have to go far.

The 49ers' starting cornerback for the last three seasons signed a one-year, $3.5 million deal with the Raiders, who will host their Bay Area rivals in Oakland later this year. The 49ers remained in contact with Brown's agent, Joel Segal, over the week, but the two sides never could settle on a deal. Segal also represents Seattle free-agent cornerback Walter Thurmond, who visited San Francisco today.

Brown's departure means that the entire secondary the 49ers assembled in 2011 is likely gone. One safety, Dashon Goldson, signed with the Buccaneers last year while the other, Donte Whitner, is now in Cleveland. The 49ers cut cornerback Carlos Rogers Tuesday. He remains un-signed.

Brown follows the path of Shawntae Spencer, a cornerback who played eight seasons in San Francisco before joining the Raiders in 2012. Spencer did not play last season.

Brown was fifth-round pick in 2007. He was the team's starter at right cornerback the last three seasons, although a rib injury caused him to miss the last six games of the regular season. That allowed Tramaine Brock to take over as a starter. The 49ers gave Brock a four-year contract extension soon thereafter and Brock promises to be one of the cornerback starters in September. Chris Culliver, who is on schedule to fully recover from an ACL injury, is the frontrunner at the other spot.

As Brown was signing his one-year deal with Oakland, Chris Cook was signing a one-year contract for the 49ers. Like Jonathan Martin and Blaine Gabbert before him, Cook - who spent four, often rocky seasons in Minnesota - said he was looking forward to "revamping my career" with the 49ers. "I feel rejuvenated now that I've signed my contract," he said.

March 14, 2014
Seeking stability: Gabbert hoping to follow Alex Smith's footsteps


The similarities are abundant, right down to the shoulder injury that washed out Blaine Gabbert's second season. The newest 49ers quarterback today said he is seeking stability after a shaky start to his career, and he figures the best landing spot is where another high-profile 49ers passer who had been knocked around a bit finally found his footing.

"You always hear the comparisons," Gabbert said of Alex Smith. "Alex is a great quarterback, and he's done extremely well in Kansas City. And he's a guy that you look and you like to emulate yourself after - seeing the struggles he went through early on his career with all the changes that were going on around him and the way he's persevered through injuries, through all those changes to put himself in the position he's in now and take their team to the playoffs."

Smith, of course, was a former No. 1 overall pick who dealt with two season-ending shoulder injuries and a revolving door at offensive coordinator before Jim Harbaugh and his staff gave him some consistency in 2011. His passer rating - 67.3 to that point - jumped to 90.7 that season, and Smith led the 49ers to within overtime of going to the Super Bowl.

Like Smith, Gabbert was a high draft pick, having gone 10th overall to Jacksonville in 2011. He and Smith are the same height (6-4), they are mobile and they played in read-option offenses in college. They both wear No. 11 (although 49ers receiver Quinton Patton has it now), and they even trained together in San Diego last summer. Kansas City backup Chase Daniel preceded Gabbert at the University of Missouri and suggested he train alongside him, Smith and Saints quarterback Drew Brees.

March 14, 2014
Emmanuel Sanders next WR to visit 49ers


If you still don't think wide receiver and cornerback top the list of 49ers' offseason needs, consider the parade of free agents heading through team headquarters this week. The latest is another wideout, Emmanuel Sanders, who had 67 catches, 740 yards and six touchdowns in 10 starts for the Steelers last season. He's already visited the Jaguars and Buccaneers and was in Kansas City today.

Of the group of receivers linked to San Francisco - it includes Julian Edelman and Hakeem Nicks - Sanders has the best deep speed, something the team could use against defenses that stack the line of scrimmage against their running game. Sanders ran his 40 in 4.41 seconds in 2010.

Still, as with the other free-agent wideouts, it's hard to see how the 49ers would fit Sanders into an offense that will start Michael Crabtree and Anquan Boldin in 2014. While three- and four-receiver sets are all the rage in the NFL, the 49ers have gone retro with their alignments, preferring instead two-tight end sets or a fullback. Three wide receivers? Including playoff games, the 49ers used that formation 21.8 percent of the time in 2011, 18.8 percent of the time in 2012 and 22.8 percent of the time last season, according to stats from Pro Football Focus.

The league average for three-receivers sets is 54 percent.

The 49ers like 2013 draft pick Quinton Patton and are expected to add at least one wideout in a May draft that is deep at the position. A good free-agent receiver could expect to be part of a rotation just as Randy Moss, Ted Ginn, Mario Manningham and Kyle Williams were during 2012. This led to frustration from Moss and Ginn following the season. Ginn notably had 556 yards and five touchdowns as Carolina's third receiver last season, and he signed a three-year deal with Arizona yesterday.

If the 49ers don't have a big role in mind for a free-agent receiver, it also raises the question of how much they will pay that receiver. As of today, the team is a little less than $4 million under the salary cap.

- Matt Barrows

March 14, 2014
49ers free-agent tracker: CBs, WRs top the list


Here's a run-down of where things stand for the 49ers in free agency.

Persons of interest

CB Chris Cook: UPDATE -- SIGNED with 49ers. The ex-Vikings cornerback flew to the Bay Area Thursday and is visiting today. A second-round pick in 2010, Cook has been a disappointment on and off the field for Minnesota. However, he has the size and athleticism GM Trent Baalke is seeking in a cornerback, and his past transgressions may make him more affordable than other options. The 49ers also have perhaps the best defensive backs coach in the league in Ed Donatell.

CB Walter Thurmond: UPDATE -- SIGNED with the Giants. The ex-Seahawk can play both outside and the nickel position, a real asset considering that Carlos Rogers is unlikely to be back. Thurmond is from California. But he also wants to return to Seattle and is hoping the Seahawks increase their offer. He already has visited Jacksonville, where ex-Seahawks defensive coordinator Gus Bradley is the head coach, and he has other suitors, including the Redskins.

WR Julian Edelman: UPDATE -- SIGNED with the Patriots. He's a Bay Area native the 49ers have had their eye on since he was preparing for the draft in 2009. He's become Tom Brady's top target and the Patriots want to re-sign him. However, their offer to date has been unsatisfactory. Can the 49ers give him more? And can they promise him a big role in an offense that has Michael Crabtree and Anquan Boldin and which uses three wide receivers only 20 percent of the time?

WR Emmanuel Sanders: UPDATE -- multiple reports say he will SIGN with Denver. He had plans to be in town Saturday. He has the kind of deep speed to stretch defenses, which the 49ers sorely lacked at wide receiver last year. Still, you have to wonder why the Steelers -- who use that type of receiver as well as any team in the league -- haven't made a bigger effort to retain him.

March 13, 2014
49ers to host Edelman; reportedly interested in Nicks


The 49ers will get another crack at Julian Edelman.

The team worked out the Redwood City product at their facility before the 2009 draft. He ended up being drafted by the Patriots in the seventh round that year, converting from quarterback to receiver and becoming a very good pass catcher out of the slot for Tom Brady as well as New England's return man.

On Friday, he'll pay a free-agent visit to the 49ers, a league source confirmed Friday. The team also has interest in Giants free-agent receiver Hakeem Nicks, ESPN reported. The team showed interest in one-time Seattle receiver Golden Tate early in free agency.

Edelman, 27, is interesting because he's local - he began his college career at San Mateo College before moving to Kent State - and because he could fill a number of roles for San Francisco. He had a career-high 105 catches for 1,056 yards last year for New England. He also has handled 107 punts over the last five seasons and has averaged 12.3 yards a return with three touchdowns. The team's return man last year, LaMichael James, averaged 10.9 yards a return.

Given his original draft slot, Edelman has been underpaid so far in his career and is looking for a big contract. The 49ers certainly could create some room under their salary cap by restructuring contracts. However, there's not a lot of space right now after adding Antoine Bethea, Phil Dawson, Jonathan Martin, Blaine Gabbert and Eric Wright in recent days. Meanwhile, the Patriots are pressing to retain Edelman, who has become Brady's favorite target. The Browns also have shown interest, the source said.

Nicks, 26, is a five-year veteran who caught 56 passes for 896 yards last season. However, his production tailed off over the last two seasons as he battled foot and knee injuries, and he was a trade option last season.

-- Matt Barrows

March 13, 2014
Jonathan Martin's odyssey: I feel like I'm back home


Jonathan Martin said he's exchanged texts with one new linemate, Joe Staley, and had a Twitter conversation with another, Anthony Davis. "I can tell already that I'm going to get along just great with those guys," said Martin, whose trade from the Dolphins to the 49ers became official this afternoon. "I felt a warm welcome from the entire 49ers community, fanbase, coaching staff, everybody."

That warmth, of course, is in stark contrast to the messy ordeal Martin went through with the Dolphins, the team that drafted him in the second round two years ago. Martin left the squad in October amid allegations of hazing inside the locker room, especially from his fellow linemen. The details - often salacious, vulgar and ugly - were recently laid out in a 144-page, independent report commissioned by the NFL.

In a conference call with reporters today, Martin was determined not to wade into the past. Asked if he felt any regrets about what happened last year, he said, "You can say, 'This or that could have gone differently,' but hindsight is 20-20," he said. "My focus is 100 percent on the future and moving forward." Asked what he would say to those who think he broke a locker-room code and should have toughed it out, he said, "I'm not worried about that. All that's in the past at this point."

Instead he said he was looking forward to joining his new team. Ever since he left the Dolphins, the 49ers seemed like a probable landing spot. Jim Harbaugh, who recruited Martin out of North Hollywood, Calif. when Harbaugh was coaching Stanford, called Martin a "personal friend" when news of Martin's absence first broke five months ago. Harbaugh also spoke highly and confidently of Martin in the independent report.

March 13, 2014
49ers on hand to watch speedy Wyoming wideout

We step away from FA Watch to note that the 49ers had a scout at Wyoming's pro day today. The featured attraction was a wide receiver, Robert Herron, who reportedly ran his 40-yard dash in the 4.3-second range. That's an improvement from the combine when he was clocked at 4.48 seconds.

Herron also had a good showing at the Senior Bowl. He's seen as a mid-round draft pick who has drawn comparisons to Colts receiver T.Y. Hilton, a third-round pick in 2012. Hilton's name should raise the ears of 49ers fans considering he is one of the few wideouts last year to have a big day against Seattle's secondary.

Wyoming quarterback Brett Smith also was impressive today, according to reports. The 49ers traded for Blaine Gabbert this week but still could add a quarterback in the draft.


-- Matt Barrows

March 12, 2014
Cornerback Chris Cook to visit 49ers Thursday


The 49ers will host free-agent cornerback Chris Cook, who has the tall, long-limbed profile they covet at the position, on Thursday, a league source said tonight. The 6-2 Cook was a second-round pick by the Vikings in 2010. And while he doesn't have elite stats -- no interceptions in four seasons -- he does have the long arms (32 1/2 inches) general manager Trent Baalke likes and he figures to fit under the 49ers' quickly contracting salary cap.

The 49ers are light at cornerback after cutting three-year starter Carlos Rogers on Tuesday. Another starter, Tarell Brown, is testing the free-agent market. It's not known which teams have shown interest in Brown, but he indicated on Monday that he had suitors on the east coast.

The 49ers also have asked about Dolphins free-agent cornerback Nolan Carroll. He visited the Bills today, but Buffalo ended up signing another player at the position, Corey Graham. UPDATE, 7:00 a.m.: Today Carroll signed a two-year, $5.2 million deal with the Eagles, according to Fox Sports.

The 49ers have five cornerbacks under contract: Tramaine Brock, Chris Culliver, Eric Wright, Darryl Morris and Dax Swanson.

-- Matt Barrows

March 12, 2014
Clean hitter: Antoine Bethea adjusted to new rules


Antoine Bethea came clean today during a radio interview with KNBR. After he was signed Tuesday, a number of reporters noted that he played 99 percent of the Colts' defensive snaps last season but finished without a single penalty.

Well, that's not exactly true, Bethea said. The new 49ers safety said he was penalized once - during his team's divisional playoff loss to the Patriots. (A check of the official game book, however, shows no such penalty and he's not listed as having any penalties on the NFL's official stat site.)

Whether it's one penalty or no penalties, it's still a remarkable achievement in a league that has become very sensitive about big hits on pass catchers and ball carriers. The man Bethea is replacing, Donte Whitner, struggled to adjust to the new rules throughout the 2013 season. He had six personal-foul type penalties (including four unnecessary roughness calls) in the regular season and one more in the championship game against the Seahawks.

Bethea agreed that adjusting to those rules isn't easy.

"It's most definitely tough - don't get me wrong," he said. "I most definitely understand the argument that DBs have with the rules. But at the end of the day, they are the new rules and we all understand why they install the rules. But you've got to go go with the flow, and if they change it you've got to do your best to change as well."

Bethea's penalty count
2013: 0
2012: 2, 25 yards
2011: 3, 24 yards
2010: 1, 15 yards
2009: 1, 15 yards
2008: 2, 10 yards
2007: 3, 34 yards
2006: 1, 2 yards

Bethea said he had dinner Tuesday night with defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. He also said that winning a Super Bowl, which he did with the Colts his rookie year, was a big reason he signed with the 49ers. "Of course, sitting here, I wish I had two Super Bowl rings instead of one," he said. "It's one reason I'm here in San Fran. A great opportunity to get another ring. That's what I'm here to do."

-- Matt Barrows

March 12, 2014
Wednesday morning QB: Analyzing 49ers' busy start to free agency


Here are some thoughts on Tuesday's additions to the 49ers' roster. All of the transactions - free-agent signings, trades - are contingent on the players passing physicals. There is no reason to believe that any of the players below have any conditions that may scuttle a deal.

Safety Antoine Bethea. The 49ers wanted to retain Donte Whitner but felt that $7 million a year outstripped his value. So they acquired a Whitner-like player at a slightly lower price, between $5 and $6 million a year. As was the case last year when Eric Reid replaced Dashon Goldson, the new safety starter's skills and physical profile are eerily similar to the old starter's. The bottom line is that the 49ers needed a smart and steady veteran at safety as a counterbalance the youth at other positions in the secondary. That's what they had in Whitner but also what they get in Bethea.

Quarterback Blaine Gabbert. You have to assume that Jim Harbaugh, who once attended Gabbert's pro day alongside GM Trent Baalke, had input on this trade. And if Harbaugh had input, you have to assume that he believes he can work his magic with Gabbert. Sure, everything from Gabbert's arm strength to his leadership to his moxy has been questioned since he was drafted 10th overall in 2010. But he has size and physical gifts. And given Harbaugh's track record with quarterbacks, including some (See: Smith, Alexander D.) who had been all but heaped on the trash pile, you have to give Harbaugh and the 49ers the benefit of the doubt at this point. Remember, they did not use a 10th overall pick on Gabbert. They used the 200th pick (or thereabouts) to get him.

Tackle Jonathan Martin. This is another example of parlaying a late-round pick - a conditional 7th rounder in 2015 - on a promising reclamation project. Martin has played both right and left tackle for the Dolphins, which makes him a good candidate to take over the "swing tackle" role for the 49ers. It also will be interesting if they give Martin a look at guard. Mike Iupati is entering the final year of his contract and his price tag promises to be steep if he hits the open market in a year in which the salary cap is north of $140 million. The 49ers must have options. Joe Looney is one. Martin could be another. It must be noted that Martin didn't play well for the Dolphins. Like Gabbert, however, he's someone who showed potential as a college athlete and you can only assume he's motivated to prove his doubters wrong. Harbaugh loves that kind of player. Martin's addition is not-so-great news for a couple of 2013 rookies, Carter Bykowski and Luke Marquardt, who were looking to stick on the roster as swing tackles.

March 12, 2014
Tall order: 49ers interested in Vikings FA cornerback Chris Cook


It's official. For the second straight year, the 49ers are in the market for tall, long-armed cornerbacks.

They've shown interest in 6-1 Dolphins free-agent Nolan Carroll, who is visiting the Bills today, as well as Vikings free agent Chris Cook. Cook, 27, stands 6-2 and weighs 212 pounds. He was a second-round pick by the Vikings in 2010, and he's started 21 games over the last two seasons. He does not have an interception in the four years he's been in the league. Last year, the team initially was in the running for then-free agent Sean Smith and ultimately signed Nnamdi Asomugha. Both are tall for their position.

Cook had a trouble-filled stint with the Vikings. In 2012 he was acquitted of charges that he assaulted his girlfriend the year prior. He was arrested after that incident and suspended 10 games by the Vikings. Earlier in 2011, he was accused of pulling a gun on a neighbor, but was ultimately found not guilty in the incident. Cook also was ejected from a game Dec. 1 after pushing an official.

On Tuesday, the 49ers cut one of their starters, Carlos Rogers, and watched another, Tarell Brown, hit free agency. The team signed Eric Wright to a one-year deal. Wright, Tramaine Brock and Chris Culliver currently are their top players at the position with 2013 undrafted rookies Darryl Morris and Dax Swanson supplying depth.

The 49ers have shown interest in re-signing Brown. They also are expected to use one of their top picks in the May draft on a cornerback.

-- Matt Barrows

March 11, 2014
49ers sign cornerback Eric Wright; Dixon visiting Titans


The 49ers bulked up their secondary a little more today by signing cornerback Eric Wright, whom they acquired last season after he was released by the Buccaneers. Wright is a favorite of general manager Trent Baalke, who believes Wright can play both on the outside and at nickel cornerback. The 49ers will need a nickel corner if, as expected, they lose Carlos Rogers in free agency. Wright signed a one-year deal.

Another veteran cornerback, Tarell Brown, also is a free agent, as is Perrish Cox. When Rogers was hurt early in the playoffs, defensive coordinator Vic Fangio tapped Cox, not Wright, to play the nickel position. Wright, however, currently is the only cornerback on the roster with any meaningful snaps at the critical nickel position.

Wright, a San Francisco native, had several run-ins at Tampa Bay, which prompted his release. Here's a story I wrote about him during the season.

Meanwhile, running back Anthony Dixon, tweeted that he will visit the Titans and his former coach at Mississippi State, Sylvester Croom. Croom is now Tennessee's running backs coach. The Titans, of course, signed Dixon's former 49ers teammate, Delanie Walker, last year.

-- Matt Barrows

March 11, 2014
There's been a trade: 49ers deal for QB Blaine Gabbert


The 49ers, who three years ago took a look at the eventual 10th pick in the draft, Blaine Gabbert, have acquired him from Jacksonville for a sixth-round selection, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter. Gabbert presumably will take the place of free agent Colt McCoy as Colin Kaepernick's main backup.

"We thought highly of Blaine as an early entry into the 2011 NFL draft," said general manager Trent Baalke, who chose Aldon Smith seventh overall that year. "He is a high-character individual that will be given every opportunity to develop within our system and we are looking forward to working with him."

Jim Harbaugh attended Gabbert's pro day workout at Missouri in 2011. He's said on several occasions that he likes big, athletic and mobile quarterbacks. That's the case with Gabbert (6-4, 235). Harbaugh reputation as a quarterback whisperer will be put to the test by Gabbert, however. His accuracy dipped below 50 percent last season before he tore his labrum in his non-throwing shoulder and was replaced by Chad Henne. He's thrown more interceptions -- 24 to 22 -- in two and half seasons in Jacksonville, and both his average per completion -- 5.6 yards -- and his passer rating -- 66.4 -- are low. Jacksonville was 5-22 in his starts.

It's notable that Kaepernick, a second-round pick in 2011, has said that he keeps track of the quarterbacks taken ahead of him. Gabbert not only is on that list, he's now on Kaepernick's team. The only other quarterback on the roster is McLeod Bethel-Thompson. The 49ers are now expected to have 11 picks in the upcoming draft. The deal also includes a conditional draft pick next year that is contingent on how much Gabbert plays in 2014.

Gabbert has one year remaining on his original deal with the Jaguars. However, the 49ers are expected to restructure it.

-- Matt Barrows

March 11, 2014
Safety dance: 49ers to replace Whitner with Bethea


The 49ers are replacing a steady presence at safety with perhaps an even steadier one. The team has agreed to a deal with long-time Colts free agent Antoine Bethea, who has started every game for Indianapolis since 2008. The deal is for four years for $21 million, according to a league source.

Bethea, 29, is a year older than Donte Whitner, who will sign a four-year deal with Cleveland reportedly worth $28 million over four years. Whitner averaged $4 million a year for the last three years. It was the second straight season the 49ers lost a starting safety to a big-money deal elsewhere. Dashon Goldson left for Tampa Bay last year on a five-year deal that averages more than $8 million a season.

While the 49ers replaced Goldson with a draft pick, Eric Reid, the 49ers wanted to pair Reid with a veteran. Like Whitner, Bethea (5-11, 205) is an eight-year veteran, and he promises to bring experience to what could be an otherwise very young 49ers secondary. A sixth-round pick out of Howard in 2006, Bethea started 13 games his rookie season and hasn't left the lineup since. He's averaged more than 100 tackles in each of the last four seasons. He made the Pro Bowl following the 2007 and 2009 seasons and was on the Colts' Super Bowl-winning 2006 squad.

One interesting note: While Goldson and Whitner were know for hard hits and personal-foul penalties, neither Bethea nor Reid -- the team's new safety tandem -- was penalized in 2013.

-- Matt Barrows

March 11, 2014
Here's the kicker: Phil Dawson returning to the 49ers

Phil Dawson, who set a 49ers record with 27 straight field goals in 2013, is returning to the team this season after agreeing to a two-year deal. Dawson, 39, broke the news himself on Twitter: "Very excited & grateful for the opportunity to return to my team & be a part of chasing the quest for six! Go niners! #itsgood."

Dawson has been particularly steady from long range in recent years, hitting four of six tries from 50 yards and beyond last season. One of his misses was a 71-yard free-kick field goal attempt at the end of the half in St. Louis last year. Dawson also hit game-winning field goals in the regular-season finale in Arizona and in the first round of the playoffs in Green Bay.

Meanwhile, the 49ers, as expected, offered tenders to restricted free agent Demarcus Dobbs and exclusive rights free agent Michael Wilhoite. Dobbs' one-year offer would pay him $1.4 million. He can shop himself on the open market, but the 49ers can match any offers he receives. Because he went undrafted in 2011, the 49ers would not get any compensation should he sign elsewhere.

Wilhoite, meanwhile, has no bargaining ability. He will compete to fill in for NaVorro Bowman, who is expected to miss some of the season as he recovers from an ACL injury suffered in the NFC Championship game.

-- Matt Barrows

March 11, 2014
Report: Whitner to sign with hometown Browns

Donte Whitner will sign with his home-town Cleveland Browns shortly after the 1 p.m. start to free agency, according to Cleveland.com. Citing a source close to Whitner, the web site said that Whitner, who played at Cleveland's Glenville High under coach Ted Ginn, Sr., is eager to join the Browns and help turn the city around.

Whitner, 28, has been a veteran leader for the 49ers for the last three seasons. He's missed one of a possible 56 starts in that span and was instrumental in mentoring first-round pick Eric Reid last season. He's finished with more than 100 tackles in the last two seasons and has built a reputation as one of the league's most ferocious hitters.

Whitner wanted to re-sign with the 49ers and San Francisco wanted him back. However, the team has been rigid when it comes to assessing and evaluating free agents - including their own - and they evidently would not match Cleveland's offer. The Browns are more than $50 million below the salary cap; the 49ers are now a little more than $15 million after tendering Demarcus Dobbs a one-year, $1.4 million contract.

Should Whitner indeed sign with Cleveland, the 49ers would then turn their attention to signing cornerback Tarell Brown. They also have been in contact with veteran safety Mike Mitchell, who has played for both the Raiders and Panthers.

-- Matt Barrows

March 11, 2014
If Whitner goes? 49ers looking at replacements, including Mitchell


The 49ers remain in the running to retain Donte Whitner, their starting strong safety for the last three seasons, but they are looking at alternatives in case they lose him. One of the players they have called about, according to a league source, is ex-Raiders safety Mike Mitchell, who spent last season with the Panthers.

Behind Carolina's formidable defensive front, Mitchell, 26, had a career high four interceptions to go along with eight pass breakups. Mitchell played free safety while Quintin Mikell played strong safety for the Panthers. But at 6 feet, 210 pounds, Mitchell is big enough to help in run support and finished with more tackles -- 66 - than Mikell last season. He also played strong safety with the Raiders and would make a good interchangeable tandem with like-sized Eric Reid in the 49ers' secondary.

The Browns, Jets and Bears have shown interest in Whitner, 28. There were more reports this morning that Cleveland, Whitner's home town, would make a strong push to add him to its secondary. The 49ers continue to hold out hope that they will retain Whitner.

-- Matt Barrows

March 10, 2014
49ers to release Rogers with post-June 1 designation

That the 49ers did not release cornerback Carlos Rogers today means they have the option of making him a so-called "post-June 1" transaction, which would create more savings on this year's salary cap. To do that, the team must release Rogers, who is due to count a team-high $8.1 million against the salary cap, after 1 p.m. Tuesday, the start of the new league year.

Doing so would mean a salary-cap savings of $6.6 million in 2014, according to calculations by CSN Bay Area. That would put the 49ers about $16.5 million under the salary cap and give them more room to try to sign free agents, including safety Donte Whitner, as well as their 2013 draft class. The post-June 1 designation, however, would mean that Rogers would count $1.5 million against the 2015 salary cap. Next year's salary cap is expected to be in excess of $140 million, up from this year's $133 million figure.

Releasing him at 1 p.m. also allows Rogers, one of the veteran leaders of the defense the last three years, the benefit of the full free agency period.

-- Matt Barrows

March 10, 2014
Report: 49ers to release cornerback Carlos Rogers


The 49ers plan to release cornerback Carlos Rogers, according to a report by ESPN, raising the chances they could lose in free agency both players who have started the last three seasons at cornerback. Rogers' release is not a surprise. He is due to make $6.3 million in base salary alone and to count a team-high $8 million against the salary cap. The 49ers asked him to reduce his salary last year or risk being cut. He called their bluff and ended up making $5.5 million in base salary.

Rogers started at left cornerback the last three seasons and also moved to the increasingly critical nickel cornerback position in passing situations. Perrish Cox filled the nickel cornerback role when Rogers was injured during the team's most recent playoff run. Cox is a restricted free agent who will not be tendered. The 49ers also could lose right cornerback Tarell Brown, who becomes a free agent at 1 p.m. Tuesday.

The only sure-thing at cornerback for the 49ers in 2014 is Tramaine Brock, who signed a four-year deal during the season. Chris Culliver is returning from an ACL tear suffered in training camp. The only other cornerbacks currently on the roster are Darryl Morris and Dax Swanson. Morris was an undrafted rookie in 2013 who spent his rookie season on the team's special teams coverage units. Swanson spent part of the 2013 season on San Francisco's practice squad. The team is looking at pending free-agent cornerbacks, including Miami's Nolan Carroll.

Rogers, 32, started all 16 regular-season games for the three seasons he was with the 49ers and tied with a team-high six interceptions in 2011. Along with safety Donte Whitner, he was the veteran leader of the secondary and helped mentor Culliver and Brock among others. His release will create more than $5 million under the team's salary cap.

-- Matt Barrows

March 10, 2014
Tarell Brown drawing interest; 49ers checking out alternatives at cornerback


Cornerback Tarell Brown said today that the 49ers have remained in contact with his agent over the last few days and that he'd be more than happy to return in 2014. "I'd love to stay in the Bay," he said after just finishing a track workout Monday in his native Texas. "That's where my heart is."

Still, that won't stop Brown from checking out what seems like a robust market for cornerbacks. And it won't stop the 49ers from investigating other, perhaps less expensive alternatives on the free-agency market. For instance, a source said the team had called about Dolphins cornerback Nolan Carroll. He was a fifth-round pick for Miami in 2010. At 6-1, 205 pounds, the 27-year-old Carroll also fits the mold of the bigger, physical cornerback the 49ers and other teams are seeking.

Meanwhile, there appears to be a strong market for 49ers strong safety Donte Whitner. The Chronicle today reported that three other teams - the Browns, Jets and Bears - have called about Whitner, whom the 49ers would like to retain. Cleveland may be particularly intriguing because it is Whitner's home town and because the Browns have a lot of salary-cap room.

As with Brown, the 49ers are looking at alternatives at safety should Whitner depart. Brown would not say which teams have called but said there has been "a lot" of interest over the weekend. Teams are permitted to contact the agents of soon-to-be free agents. Visits, however, cannot be set up until 1 p.m. Tuesday, which is the official start of free agency.

- Matt Barrows

March 8, 2014
Brown to see green? CB market rising before free agency even begins


"What a difference a year makes! Free agency will be a lot better this year."

That gleeful tweet occurred midday Saturday and was courtesy of agent Drew Rosenhaus. A couple of hours later, we found out why Rosenhaus was so happy. One of his clients, cornerback Sam Shields, signed a contract with the Packers worth $39 million over four years. The contract, worth $9.75 million a year, came on the heels of the one cornerback Ben Grimes signed with the Dolphins that pays him $8 million a year.

Last year, the cornerback market was flat. Those that did sign deals made between $5 and $6 million a year. During the season, Tramaine Brock signed a four-year deal with the 49ers worth as much as $16 million.

The expanding salary cap and the suddenly robust market for cornerbacks means that 49ers free agent Tarell Brown could be more expensive to re-sign than the 49ers were hoping. It also may make Carlos Rogers more reluctant to accept a reduction -- or at least a big reduction -- to the $6.6 million salary he is due to earn in 2014.

The 49ers asked him to reduce his salary last year or risk being cut. Rogers refused. He told The Bee in February that he expected the team to approach him again this year with a similar message.

Rogers noted that he plays both left cornerback and nickel cornerback. "The last three years, I played the most snaps on this whole team, period," he said. "Why would I take less? That was our approach last year. This year? It may be something different. I know the average for a cornerback -- the average -- is still high."

It's bound to be even higher this year. Free agency begins Tuesday.

-- Matt Barrows

March 3, 2014
Boldin says he's heard nary a gripe about Jim Harbaugh


Instability at the top of the organization? A rift in the locker room? Unhappiness with Jim Harbaugh? Anquan Boldin acknowledged he doesn't pay much attention to offseason NFL news - "At this time of year, people grab at whatever," he said - but he did laugh yesterday when he read about the recent drama involving Harbaugh and the 49ers.

"I don't think anybody in our locker room has an issue with coach Harbaugh," he said. "The way our locker room is built - I mean, we have an open-door policy. If anybody has a concern or wants to voice their opinion, they're more than welcome to. There has been times when we have voiced our concerns as players, and coach Harbaugh has listened to us and taken into consideration how we felt as players. So I don't think there's any rift between players and coaches, particularly coach Harbaugh. Like I said, he has a great rapport with all the guys I know of. I heard of no griping in the locker room when it comes to coach Harbaugh. Like I said, he's a guy that wants to win. Everybody in the locker room wants to do the same thing."

Boldin didn't sound like he expected Harbaugh, who wants to re-do his contract with the 49ers, to leave anytime soon, either. In fact, he said Harbaugh had a big role in his decision to re-sign with the 49ers. Boldin agreed to a two-year, $12 million deal earlier today.

"He's a guy I had a real good relationship with," he said. "Me and him were able to talk about anything. And I just like his demeanor, the way he approaches the game. He's a guy that wants to win. I'm the exact same way. So I think we mesh pretty good."

Boldin said he and his family felt embraced by the fans, his teammates and even the media, which is why he felt comfortable in signing with San Francisco and not testing the free-agency market next week. Boldin, 33, said he felt he could play until he's 38.

"Physically, I feel fine," he said. "I feel as if I can play five more years. So that's not a problem for me. I feel great. But we'll see how it goes."

-- Matt Barrows

March 3, 2014
Lesson from 2013: 49ers offense needs two high-quality wideouts


The lesson from the 49ers' 2013 season: Colin Kaepernick and the team's offense function a lot better when he has two, high-quality wide receivers to target.

Kaepernick promises to have that dynamic for the upcoming campaign after the team on Monday agreed to a two-year deal with Anquan Boldin, who was scheduled to hit the free-agent market next week.

Boldin, 33, led the 49ers with 1,179 receiving yards last season - the team's best mark since Terrell Owens in 2002 and Boldin's highest total since 2006 - and the 49ers' coaches voted him the team's MVP. General manager Trent Baalke called Boldin the "consummate professional" in October and echoed those words on Monday.

"He is a consummate professional whose love and respect for the game provide a tremendous example for all players," Baalke said in a statement. "Anquan has been a very productive player throughout his career, and we look forward to his future contributions to our team and community."

Boldin will earn $6 million a season, precisely the salary the Baltimore Ravens determined they could not afford last year when they traded him to San Francisco for a sixth-round pick. The transaction proved crucial for the 49ers after Michael Crabtree went down with a torn Achilles' tendon in May. The injury forced Crabtree, the team's top receiver in 2012, to miss two-thirds of the season.

Boldin, however, had a near-instantaneous rapport with Kaepernick. The two looked as if they had been decade-long teammates during May practices in Santa Clara, and that chemistry was evident in their Week 1 game against the Packers as well.Boldin caught 13 passes for 208 yards, the second highest total of his 11-year career. The 49ers leaned on him heavily during the first half of the season, and he ended up catching all but one of the touchdown passes Kaepernick threw to a wideout in 2013. Crabtree caught the other.

March 3, 2014
49ers, Anquan Boldin agree on two-year deal


A week ago, 49ers officials said that re-signing receiver Anquan Boldin was a priority. Today they made good on that effort, agreeing to terms with their leading receiver from 2013 on a two-year deal that pays Boldin $6 million a season.

There had been strong hints that a deal was imminent, but Boldin broke the news himself on Twitter: "49er fans, I wanted to be the first to tell you that I'm returning to San Francisco," he wrote. "Looking forward to joining my teammates, coaching staff and fans to bring back another championship to the Bay Area. Let's go after our Quest For Six."

Boldin led the 49ers with 1,179 receiving yards during the regular season and caught seven touchdowns. He and tight end Vernon Davis caught all but one of Colin Kaepernick's touchdown passes in 2013. Michael Crabtree caught the only other one. Boldin will turn 34 later this year, which is why the 49ers did not lock him up for a long-term deal. However, his yardage total was his best since 2006 when he was with the Cardinals, and the physical wideout did not miss any time due to injury.

The 49ers also wanted Boldin back because of what he can impart to the team's younger wideouts. They drafted one of those young wideouts, Quinton Patton, in the fourth round last year. They are expected to take at least one more in May's draft, which is considered one of the deepest in recent memory when it comes to wide receivers.

Boldin had a near-instantaneous rapport with Kaepernick last offseason. That became critical when Crabtree tore his Achilles' tendon in May, an injury that would keep him out of the lineup until December. While Kaepernick did not find a rapport with the team's remaining wideouts, that was not the case with Boldin. According to Pro Football Focus, the Kaepernick threw 123 passes towards Boldin last season. Their other wideouts only saw 95 targets combined.

The Ravens traded Boldin to San Francisco for a sixth-round pick a year ago because they were unwilling to pay him the $6 million he was scheduled to earn. His new deal pays him exactly that and includes $8.5 million guaranteed.

-- Matt Barrows

February 27, 2014
Future at center? 49ers sign Daniel Kilgore through 2017


With veteran Jonathan Goodwin a pending free agent, draft prognosticators had the 49ers looking for a center in the upcoming draft. It turns out the team's future center has been on the squad all along.

The 49ers today inked Daniel Kilgore, who had been Goodwin's backup the last two seasons, to a three-year deal that locks him up through the 2017 season. Kilgore was a fifth-round pick in general manager Trent Baalke's fruitful 2011 draft. "This move is another example of our philosophy to extend the contracts of our own young players," Baalke said in a statement.

The 26-year-old Kilgore mostly has been used, alongside Adam Snyder, as an extra lineman in the team's heavy-jumbo packages. He played 20 snaps last year at center. A native of Kingsport, Tenn, Kilgore played collegiately at Appalachian State, where he appeared in 48 games (29 starts) for the Mountaineers.

He was arrested in Kingsport last month for public intoxication after he and a friend were stopped while walking outside a bar. There is no mention of unruly or dangerous behavior in the police report. Instead, the two men were arrested "for their safety and the welfare of the public."

Snyder and backup Joe Looney also are options at center this year if Goodwin is not re-signed.

-- Matt Barrows

February 27, 2014
Combine wrap: Which cornerbacks are fits for the 49ers?


The 49ers have exactly two spots in their secondary nailed down for the 2014 season. Eric Reid will play free safety while Tramaine Brock will start at one of the cornerback spots (The versatile Brock can play either side). The other positions are up in the air at this point, including the increasingly critical nickel role.

Carlos Rogers, who is due to count a team-high $8.1 million toward the salary cap, has manned the nickel spot for the last three seasons. Perrish Cox also played there. Despite what Trent Baalke said last week, Cox is a restricted free agent, which means the 49ers will be able to get him back if they want him. Two others capable of moving to nickel, Tarell Brown and Eric Wright, will be unrestricted free agents next month.

* Last week, NFL Network's Mike Mayock cited two players, TCU's Jason Verrett and Florida State's Lamarcus Joyner, he thought could play nickel at the next level. Verrett was one of the standouts of the combine, running the 40-yard dash in 4.38 seconds, leaping 39 inches in the vertical jump and otherwise looking cat-quick and fluid throughout. Verrett is feisty and a willing tackler, and in that way would make a good slot cornerback. The caveat is that at 5-9 he's a little guy.

Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio has preferred bigger-body players at the position. Rogers and Cox, for example, both are 6 feet. That goes for playing on the outside as well. The league trend (See: Seahawks, Seattle) is for bigger cornerbacks, and that's who the 49ers have drafted (Chris Culliver, Marcus Cooper) in recent years and gone after in free agency (Rogers, Nnamdi Asomugha, looked at Sean Smith). Verrett has a small, wirey frame, which when coupled with his aggressive nature could lead to injuries. Indeed he has a shoulder injury that may or may not require surgery next month. (You could argue, of course, that given the 49ers' last two drafts the prospect of surgery will vault him up GM Trent Baalke's draft list). The other caveat is that Verrett may not be around at pick No. 30. Look at the impact he makes in the above video. (Also look for LSU WR Odell Beckham, another possibility at pick No. 30).

* Joyner, who played in various spots in the Seminoles' secondary, including safety, is extremely aggressive and a very good tackler. But he also is very short, measuring in at 5-8. Donte Whitner is considered a short safety. By comparison, he was a little more than 5-10 when he went to the combine in 2006. If Joyner played nickel cornerback, you can't help but think that opponents quickly would exploit his lack of height by matching him against taller opponents.

February 26, 2014
Combine wrap: Which WRs are fits for the 49ers?


Before I get into some impressions from the scouting combine, a couple of admissions. First, while I've been poring over wide receivers and cornerbacks like a chem major cramming for the MCATs, I haven't gone far afield of those two subjects. Today's blog will be WR-centric, tomorrow's will concentrate on corners.

Second, I admit I've been a bit Brandin Cooks crazy the last week or so. But that's because he was the most prominent player local to my newspaper. That he went nuts at the combine was a bonus. Is Cooks my draft crush? No, I don't have a draft crush yet. Could he be my draft crush? Stay tuned. My HBO special, "Draft Crush '14: Race for the Rose" airs May 1 on HBO.

* I keep going back and forth between Mike Evans and Kelvin Benjamin as the No. 2 receiver in the draft. If the 49ers went up in the first round to get a receiver, I figure it will be one of those two guys. Evans had a decidedly better combine than Benjamin. He ran a 4.53-second 40, he looked smooth and fluid in the gauntlet drill and his arms? They measured 35 1/8-inches. (I heard they had to administer smelling salts to Trent Baalke after he swooned in the weigh-in room). He also said all the right things, including that he would love to jaw with and otherwise go up against Richard Sherman.

* Benjamin, on the other hand, ran his 40 in 4.61-seconds. This after telling reporters he was aiming to run in the 4.3-second range. If, before Sunday, I had bet which player would have been faster, I would have put my money on Benjamin, who consistently put pressure on the back ends of defenses. Both players are raw, but their size - and the fact that they use that size in aggressive and physical manners - make them appealing. Benjamin will get another bite of the apple at Florida State's pro day on March 18.

February 25, 2014
Who benefits from the Harbaugh-to-Browns drama? Harbaugh, of course


The Harbaugh-to-Cleveland story has taken on a he said-she said-Browns said quality. The truth usually is in the middle. But in my mind, at least, it skews toward the 49ers' side of the story. Here's why:

Jed York said an offer was made for Harbaugh and was quickly rejected. Adam Schefter's report that a first-round pick was not part of the offer supports York's version. After all, Tampa Bay once gave up two first-round picks and a second rounder for Jon Gruden. York should have hung up the phone if two first-round picks weren't included. A league source told me Sunday that the Browns' offer was "laughable." That's a far cry from the imminent deal that was painted in the original report on Friday.

So why would Browns owner Jimmy Haslam say his team had an "opportunity" to get Harbaugh? It's quite possible he was led to believe by either one or two men who realized their jobs were on the line -- CEO Joe Banner and GM Mike Lombardi -- that landing Harbaugh was more realistic than it was. That sense easily could have been bolstered by Harbaugh's agent, David Dunn, who has been in the background pulling strings and trying to leverage a bigger deal for his client. It's no coincidence that Harbaugh's name came up during USC's and Texas' coaching searches even though he had no intention of taking either job.

The Browns had suffered through a humbling coaching search to that point. That also may have made Haslam, et alia more desperate to shoot the moon with a whopper of a hire and made him more willing to believe that was a possibility. Perhaps Haslam felt that by essentially saying, 'Well, we did almost land Jim Harbaugh,' it adds legitimacy to what has been a widely panned coaching search. Was Haslam unhappy with how everything turned out? The man who inquired about Harbaugh, Banner, was fired earlier this month. So was Lombardi.

Who wins in all this? Certainly not the Browns, who only have undermined their current head coach, Mike Pettine. And definitely not the 49ers, who now have to deal with all sorts of questions about tension at the top of their organization.

February 24, 2014
49ers reduce Dahl's salary; more optimistic about retaining Whitner


The 49ers have reduced the 2014 salary of safety Craig Dahl, the primary backup behind starters Donte Whitner and Eric Reid in 2013. According the the NFLPA's database, Dahl's salary dropped from $1.35 million to $825,000, a savings of $525,000. The reduction was first noted by the website, ninercaphell.com.

If Whitner, who becomes an unrestricted free agent March 11, moves on to another team, Dahl would becomes the de facto backup, at least until the draft. However, sources at the combine in Indianapolis said the 49ers are now more optimistic they can re-sign Whitner, one of the veteran leaders in the locker room, than they were before the combine when they figured they would lose the veteran to a team with more salary-cap space. Whitner still could test the free-agent market. But he wants to be back with the 49ers, and there promises to be more room under the salary cap than previously expected.

That Dahl reduced his salary is another indication the 49ers don't envision a big role for him in the upcoming season. The team signed him to a three-year, $5.25 million free-agent deal last year.

Another option is special teams ace C.J. Spillman. He is big and fast, one of the hardest hitters on the team and also is bright. He's been used as a safety in goal-line situations over the past few years but otherwise has not had a big role on defense. I've been told by multiple sources that Spillman's issue is that he's a "9-to-5 guy." That is, he doesn't put in the amount of work coaches want to see from a starter.

The 49ers reduced receiver Jon Baldwin's pay from $1.4 million to $645,000 last week.

-- Matt Barrows

February 22, 2014
Michael Sam: Positive reactions have outweighed the negative


INDIANAPOLIS -- Michael Sam today was asked if he'd thought about how he would react if he encountered harassment or slurs when he reaches the NFL. Would it lead to a fight?

"A fight?," he asked, sounding surprised at the suggestion. "If someone wants to call me a name, I would have a conversation with that guy, and hopefully it won't lead to nothing else."

The first openly gay player at the NFL scouting combine said nothing of the sort has occurred in Indianapolis, where he is trying to showcase himself as a draft-worthy defensive end or outside linebacker. Sounding confident and in command in front of a throng of reporters, Sam said none of the teams he's met with so far has asked about his sexual orientation. Teams were warned against doing so during interviews and meetings with their would-be draft picks.

Said 49ers Trent Baalke on Friday: "We're going to treat that the same way we would treat any other player. We're going to evaluate the film, take a hard look at the fit for our organization. What can he do for us on the field, within the community? His decision to come out has no bearing on where we place him on our board."

Baalke compared Sam to former 49er Parys Haralson, a fifth-round pick who, like Sam, played defensive end in college but was converted to outside linebacker.

Sam's experience so far echoes what he went through at the University of Missouri. He told teammates his secret before the season began and said he had no issues. "Everyone could be normal around me," he said. "If we wanted to, we could joke around. We're brothers. It's a brotherhood, it's a family. We could say things to each other. We don't draw blood. It's all fun and games."

After he came out earlier this month, the reaction mostly has been good. He said some people approach him and "start crying in my arms." Sam was wearing a rainbow button that said "Stand with Sam" that was given to him by a woman at a basketball game.

"The positive outweighs the negative," he said. "I'm kind of surprised, actually."

The smiling and charasmatic defender said he missed much of the media reaction to his revelation because he's been busy training for the combine. He and the rest of the defensive linemen will work out here on Monday. He said he wished reporters would treat him like the NFL teams and fellow draft prospects have so far.

"I just wish you guys would see me as Michael Sam the football player not Michael Sam the gay football player," he said.

-- Matt Barrows

February 21, 2014
Baalke says Michael Sam comparable to former 49ers fifth rounder


A good NFL comparison to Michael Sam, the Missouri defender who became a national story when he announced this month that he was gay? According to 49ers general manager Trent Baalke, Sam is a similar player to former 49er Parys Haralson.

"He's a young man that's had his hand in the dirt, that's played strong end for them for most of his career," Baalke said Friday at the NFL Scouting Combine. "So I think, yeah, I think that's a fair comparison."

Like Sam, Haralson was a defensive end in college. The 49ers selected him with a fifth-round pick in 2006 and converted him to outside linebacker. Haralson started 68 games for San Francisco in six seasons and had 21.5 sacks over that span. The 49ers traded him to the Saints last offseason for a seventh-round pick.

Baalke reiterated his stance that Sam's announcement would have no bearing on where the 49ers rank him. Baalke said he wasn't aware that Sam was gay before he came out nearly two weeks ago.

"We're going to treat that the same way we would treat any other player," Baalke said. "We're going to evaluate the film, take a hard look at the fit for our organization. What can he do for us on the field, within the community? His decision to come out has no bearing on where we place him on our board."

-- Matt Barrows

February 21, 2014
Combine notes: 49ers seeking an ILB?; an extra season for Marcus Lattimore


INDIANAPOLIS -- Trent Baalke said the 49ers have options at inside linebacker should NaVorro Bowman start the season on the physically-unable-to-perform list, but he raised the possibility of adding to the position this offseason.

"It's something we're looking at and certainly willing to address," Baalke said. "How we'll address it, we'll find that out."

In the next breath, however, the 49ers general manager - always leery of showing his cards - said he was happy with how veteran Michael Wilhoite filled in for Patrick Willis in 2013 and said the team has high hopes for Nick Moody, a sixth-round pick last year. Baalke said he was happy that Moody was training in South Florida at the same facility as notoriously hard-working quarterback Colin Kaepernick, running back Frank Gore and receiver Anquan Boldin.

"I like the fact that they're working," he said. "I like the fact that they didn't take much time off. It's a hard-working group. They came back, obviously from a disappointing loss, took a week off and then went back to work."

Wilhoite started two games last season and finished with 34 tackles. He was active for all 16 games, playing special teams in each. Moody, who converted from safety to linebacker late in his career at Florida State, only was active for four games last year.

For whom the contract tolls - With one of the deepest rosters in the league, the 49ers have shown a tendency - from Joe Looney to Tank Carradine to Marcus Lattimore - to select players who drop in the draft because of injuries. "This is not accidental," Baalke said.

February 21, 2014
Baalke: 49ers not compelled to cut Gore's pay; won't trade LaMichael James


INDIANAPOLIS - On Thursday, Jim Harbaugh assessed Frank Gore's 2013 season as "A-plus, plus." Today, general manager Trent Baalke gave Gore the same sterling grade.

"A-plus, plus. I mean, how can you argue with the statistics?" Baalke said. "And he brings so much more to the team, I think we all know that. Frank's an extremely passionate guy, loves the game of football, he loves the organization. He's everything we're looking for from a DNA standpoint, and he's an awfully good football player and he's a great teammate."

Gore is entering the final year of his contract, one that will pay him $6.45 million. The combination of that sum and his age - he turns 31 in May - has prompted speculation that the 49ers will ask him to take a pay cut in 2014.

Baalke declined to talk specifically about that prospect. "The bottom line is we're going to take a look at everything and we're going to do what's best for the organization," he said. "And that's what we're going to do with all of our decisions."

But his lofty praise of Gore, coupled with the fact the 49ers are healthy when it comes to the salary cap, were hints that no request would be made.

February 20, 2014
Seattle GM likes B.J. Daniels' "eye," likens him to Russell Wilson


Seattle general manager John Schneider said today what many suspected when the Seahawks signed one-time 49ers quarterback B.J. Daniels off of waivers in 2013 - Daniels reminded him of Seattle's starting quarterback, Russell Wilson.

"He's got an ability to find passing lanes," said Schneider at the scouting combine. "He's got a very good eye. These guys that are undersized, they've got to be able to move. So that stands out right away. Yeah, absolutely. Similar traits."

The Seahawks signed Daniels, who originally was a seventh-round pick for the 49ers, to their 53-man roster when the 49ers released him in October. They later moved him to the practice squad. Earlier this month, Seattle signed Daniels to a reserve/future deal, which means the former South Florida quarterback will compete for a spot on the Seahawks roster this offseason.

Daniels and Wilson have similar profiles - both are listed at 5-11 - and they are the only Seahawks quarterbacks signed for next season.

Schneider was asked what he looks for when scouting quarterbacks. "He has to have the locker room," he said. "He's got to walk into the team meeting room and the players know, 'Hey, this guy's got it. He's got it.' ... Russell's very much like that, very confident guy."

- Matt Barrows

February 20, 2014
Harbaugh: Anquan Boldin negotiations "going in a positive direction."


INDIANAPOLIS -- The 49ers coaching staff sent a strong signal they wanted receiver Anquan Boldin back in 2014 when they voted him the team's MVP. Today, Jim Harbaugh articulated that desire even more, saying that Boldin, who becomes a free agent next month, is their "No. 1" priority to re-sign.

"There's angst, and there's work to be done," Harbaugh said. "... The direction it's going is very positive because we're unanimous. It's not just me who wants Anquan Boldin back. We feel there's a process. It could be days, weeks, but there's a process, and it's going in a positive direction from the standpoint of the San Francisco 49ers. ... We're all in lockstep with how we feel about him."

Boldin, 33, led the 49ers in receptions and receiving yards last season and was virtually the only wide receiver Colin Kaepernick would target when Michael Crabtree was returning from an Achilles' injury in the first half of the season. The 49ers can negotiate exclusively with Boldin until March 8.

The team recently renegotiated the contract of another wideout, Jon Baldwin. Harbaugh said that Baldwin will get an opportunity to compete for a spot in 2014. "I talked about Jon before and how I feel about him, his competitive heart, his ability," Harbaugh said. "I'm very excited about Jonathan."

-- Matt Barrows

February 20, 2014
Harbaugh: Midseason return most realistic scenario for Bowman


INDIANAPOLIS -- Recent footage of NaVorro Bowman's rehabilitation from a torn ACL shows the 49ers' inside linebacker hard at work in the early stages of his recovery. Is it possible he can return in time for the first game of the season?

"I wouldn't count NaVorro Bowman out of anything," Jim Harbaugh said today. "He's a supreme athlete, a world-class athlete among world-class athletes. The way he moves, his strength, his powers of healing. I wouldn't count him out of anything."

Still, Harbaugh said the most realistic scenario for Bowman's recovery may be to put him on the physically-unable-to-perform list, as was the case with Michael Crabtree last year, and bring him back at some point during the season.

"Realistically, halfway through the season (or) something like that would be more realistic," he said. "But I never underestimate NaVorro Bowman."

If the 49ers are eying a midseason return, they promise to have a good training-camp competition among Michael Wilhoite, 2013 draft pick Nick Moody and whoever else they bring in this offseason at inside linebacker. Wilhoite filled in well for another inside linebacker, Patrick Willis, when he was injured early in 2013.

Bowman suffered a gruesome tear to his left ACL and MCL when, while stripping the ball from Seahawks receiver Jermaine Kearse in the NFC Championship game, Kearse was driven into Bowman's leg. The knee was bent at an awkward angle and he had surgery to repair it earlier this month. The prognosis for such an injury is 6-8 months, but Harbaugh said the 49ers might take their time with Bowman, their best defensive player in 2013, even when he's medically cleared to play.

"We'll take good care of NaVorro Bowman," he said. "That would be the smart thing, wouldn't it?"

Harbaugh said a number of people - from fans to fellow coaches - have approached him in recent weeks to say how heroic it was for Bowman to hang onto the football while suffering the grisly injury. His brother in law, Tom Crean, even showed the footage to his Indiana basketball team for inspiration.

Said Harbaugh: "People were saying he knew he got hit, you could see his face grimace and he wasn't going to let his team down and let the ball come loose."

-- Matt Barrows

February 20, 2014
Harbaugh: Tank Carradine had recent procedure on injured knee


INDIANAPOLIS --Jim Harbaugh today said that defensive end Tank Carradine, who did not play a snap his rookie season, had a procedure to remove a "mass of scar tissue" from his surgically repaired knee.

"He wasn't able to straighten out his leg before that," Harbaugh said. "Then they took that out and his leg went straight. He looks like a different guy now, since that procedure. Just what we saw when he did practice with our football team and now this procedure that's been done, I'm even more excited. I think he's going to have a great offseason and look forward to his progress very, very much."

Harbaugh said later that he expected Carradine would be able to take part in the team's offseason program that begins April 21. Carradine suffered an ACL tear at the end of the 2012 season when he was at Florida State. The 49ers used a high second-round pick on him in April with the hope that he would be able to contribute late in his rookie season.

During November practices, however, coaches did not think he was getting maximum power from his knee and decided to shut him down for the rest of the year. He is expected to part of a rotation at defensive line in the upcoming season and the hope remains is that he eventually can take over a starting role from Justin Smith.

-- Matt Barrows

February 20, 2014
Report: WR Baldwin takes pay cut, will compete for job


INDIANAPOLIS -- Wide receiver Jon Baldwin, who had three catches for the 49ers in 2013, has agreed to take a pay cut. According to a report by ESPN Boston, the wideout has reduced his salary from $1.4 million to $645,000. He can make up the difference in incentives he came no where close to achieving during his first year with the 49ers.

If he plays 80 percent of the team's offensive snaps, finishes with 65 catches and has more than 800 yards, he will earn back the $755,000 difference. Last year, however, Baldwin had only 28 receiving yards and was a healthy scratch at the end of the season. Despite an opening for a big, downfield receiver - especially early on when Michael Crabtree was dealing with an Achilles' tear - Baldwin never made an impact.

The reduced contract, however, points to Baldwin at least beginning the offseason with the 49ers. That was unlikely to happen on his previous contract. Still, the 49ers are expected to add more receivers to the roster this offseason, especially during a draft that is particularly deep at the position.

Baldwin was the third receiver selected in the 2011 draft. The 49ers traded their own disappointing first-round wide receiver, A.J. Jenkins, to the Chiefs in August in order to acquire Baldwin. Jenkins, who had no catches for the 49ers in 2012, finished with eight catches for 130 yards for the Chiefs last season.

The 49ers routinely ask a handful of high-priced veterans to take pay cuts in the offseason or risk being cut. Center Jonathan Goodwin and linebacker Parys Haralson agreed to reduce their salaries last year. The 49ers approached cornerback Carlos Rogers about a pay cut, but he refused and was one of the team's highest paid players in 2013.

The 49ers likely will approach Rogers again this offseason. They also could approach running back Frank Gore, who stands to earn $6.45 million in 2014, far more than any other 30-something running back. However, Gore's production has not fallen off and the 49ers do not have a sure-fire replacement in their power-running scheme.

- Matt Barrows

February 18, 2014
Nickel for your thoughts: Mayock lists top slot cornerbacks


Mike Mayock says the upcoming draft class is the best - both at the top of the draft and throughout it - he's seen in the last decade. The top positions, according to the NFL Network analyst: wide receiver, offensive tackle and cornerback.

That works out well for the 49ers, who not only have 12 picks, including at least five in the first three rounds, but who have big needs at wide receiver and cornerback. One of the team's long-time starters at cornerback, Tarell Brown, will test the free-agent market next month. Another, Carlos Rogers, will be asked to take a pay cut, something he refused to do last season.

Rogers not only started on the outside, he moved inside to the nickel cornerback position when opponents lined up three receivers. The 49ers have options at the ever-more-critical nickel spot. Perrish Cox and Eric Wright are capable of playing there. Both are free agents but should be easy to re-sign if the 49ers want them back.

And if the 49ers wanted a nickel option in the draft? I asked Mayock which prospects were the best options to play the slot position. He had two options, TCU's Jason Verrett and Florida State's Lamarcus Joyner.

On Verrett: "The only reason I wouldn't say he's a top 20 pick is because of his size. He's 5-9. He's probably a buck 85. But he's ideal for the slot because he's quick-footed, he's tough. And remember, the slot guys - what gets overlooked - is that you've got to tackle also. And this kid's a tough kid even though he's undersized."

On Joyner: "I think he's a little bit like (Cardinals defensive back) Tyrann Mathieu in that he was a corner in college, but I think he's going to have to kick inside and either be a safety or nickel or both. ... He's an explosive, quick-twitch athlete. He can play safety or nickel. He played mostly corner at Florida State and has some special team ability also. I like him a lot."

Mayock's rankings:

1. Darqueze Dennard, Michigan State 
2. Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State 
3. Kyle Fuller, Virginia Tech 
4. Jason Verrett, TCU 
5. Bradley Roby, Ohio State

1. Calvin Pryor, Louisville 
2. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Alabama 
3. Lamarcus Joyner, Florida State 
4. Jimmie Ward, Northern Illinois 
5. Deone Bucannon, Washington State

Wide receiver 
1. Sammy Watkins, Clemson 
2. Marqise Lee, USC 
3. Mike Evans, Texas A&M 
4. Kelvin Benjamin, Florida State 
5. Jarvis Landry, LSU

-- Matt Barrows

February 17, 2014
Think big: A ranking of WRs who fit 49ers' physical style


NFL Films' Greg Cosell says there hasn't been a wide receiver as good as Clemson's Sammy Watkins since A.J. Green and Julio Jones were drafted fourth and sixth overall in the 2011 draft. Watkins has nice size, nice speed and is ferocious when the ball is in the air - precisely the type of receiver the 49ers have had success with in recent years and what they would want for the future.

Would the 49ers trade up - likely into the Top 10 and perhaps the Top 5 - to get Watkins? With 12 picks, they certainly have the ammunition. But they have needs at cornerback and safety among other positions. Also, the lesson the Falcons learned when they traded away five draft picks in order to leap from the end of the first round to get Jones is that, after giving a big-money deal to their quarterback, they didn't have a lot of means to rebuild other areas of their roster.

Finally, this draft not only has good wideouts at the top of the draft, it has intriguing ones throughout. (That's opposed to the 2011 draft; the next wideout taken after Jones that year was Jonathan Baldwin). Because there are so many this year, I asked Cosell about big, physical wide receivers - the type of receiver Colin Kaepernick has been comfortable targeting in recent seasons and the type that fit well in a power-based offense. There will be plenty of time to write about other types of receivers - LSU's Odell Beckham and Oregon State's Brandin Cooks, for example - between now and May.

Here are Cosell's initial thoughts on big, physical receivers. He differs from most draft prospect watchers by putting Kelvin Benjamin ahead of Mike Evans. For what it's worth, I agree with him. Watch the Florida State-Florida game this year when Benjamin is matched against NFL-caliber cornerback Louchiez Purifoy and you'll see why. The heights and weights are from the players' respective colleges. That means they are bound to drop by a few pounds and an inch or so when the players are officially measured in Indianapolis later this week.

Kelvin Benjamin
Florida State
6-5, 234
Cosell said he liked Benjamin a bit more than Evans because he's a little more athletic and moves better than the Texas A&M product. "I thought he was pretty fluid for a big kid," Cosell said. "He can turn his hips and adjust for the ball, something a lot of big guys don't do." He comes from the same part of Florida as Anquan Boldin, and like Boldin played at Florida State.

February 17, 2014
Kaepernick on having a gay teammate: No one cares


If you can help us win, you'll be accepted. That was the message delivered by a pair of quarterbacks, Colin Kaepernick and Cam Newton, when they were asked about the prospect of a gay player, Missouri defensive end Michael Sam, joining their locker room.

"I think when he steps into that locker room, everyone's going to know he's there to help us win games," said Kaepernick on ESPN's SportsCenter on Sunday. "That's why you're in the NFL: to help us win games. No one cares if you're black, white, straight, gay, Christian, Jewish, whatever it may be. When you step on that field, you're a member of, in my case, the 49ers. Or the Carolina Panthers. That's your job. That's your occupation."

Sam, who came out last week, likely will be converted into a 3-4 outside linebacker in the NFL and is expected to be a mid-round selection in May. Said Newton: "The main focus with football players is we're here in this organization for one reason and one reason only, and if you're helping us attain that winning success, your personal life is your personal life."

The quarterbacks are co-hosting the Cartoon Network's "Hall of Game" awards tonight. Kaepernick was a presenter last year. Kaepernick and Newton were roommates at the scouting combine in Indianapolis three years ago and both are eligible for contract extensions this offseason. Both will become the highest-paid players on their teams when those deals are signed.

Kaepernick was also was asked about the allegations of bullying and psychological abuse among the Dolphins offensive linemen and whether that had an impact on what happened inside the 49ers' locker room in 2013. "Nothing on our team changed," Kaepernick said. "I think we have a very tight-knit group in our locker room. We joke around. We have a good time. We'll mess with each other here and there. But it's all in good fun. At the end of the day, we know that when we step on the field, they're on our side and they're helping us win games."

One of the key figures in the Dolphins story, one-time Stanford tackle Jonathan Martin, is currently taking classes at Stanford. He remains under contract with the Dolphins but is unlikely to return to the team. His agent will meet with Dolphins officials this week in Indianapolis. One scenario is that another squad trades for Martin. The 49ers have 12 picks in the upcoming draft.

Coach Jim Harbaugh, who recruited Martin, said during an investigation into the bullying charges that Martin functioned well when he played for Harbaugh at Stanford, that the 49ers' locker-room atmosphere was not all that different than Stanford's and that he expects Martin will be able to resume his NFL career.

- Matt Barrows

February 14, 2014
Harbaugh: Jonathan Martin can resume successful NFL career


The Ted Wells report, which details "a pattern of harassment" among Dolphins offensive linemen, included an interview with Jonathan Martin's former coach at Stanford, Jim Harbaugh. Both Harbaugh and current Stanford coach David Shaw said that Martin fit in well inside the Stanford locker room.

"(Harbaugh), told us that he had never doubted Martin's tenacity, work ethic and dedication to the game, and that he had never seen Martin exhibit problems with social adjustment," the independent report says. "Coach Harbaugh told us he believed that Martin likely could continue to have a successful career in the NFL. It appears that Martin was up to the challenge of dealing with physical or verbal intimidation by opposing players during NFL games, but fell victim, at least in part, to persistent taunting from his own teammates."

The full report can be read here.

It says that while there was ribbing inside the Stanford locker room and that Martin dealt with bouts of mild depression, he felt comfortable there. Furthermore, Harbaugh told Wells that he didn't think the 49ers' locker room was all that different than Stanford's.

"Although initially quiet, he became a vocal leader on the team by his final year," the report reads. "Coach Harbaugh emphasized that he never doubted Martin's physical or mental toughness, and he believes that Martin can continue to have a successful career in the NFL. Coach Harbaugh also said that the atmosphere in the Stanford locker room, in his view, was not materially different from that of the San Francisco 49ers' locker room."

This, of course, makes San Francisco a possible landing spot should Martin return to the NFL. Martin played left tackle at Stanford and was a second-round pick by the Dolphins in 2012. As I wrote earlier this month, however, the 49ers do not have a big need along the offensive line. Still, they could use a young, backup tackle who can play both the right and left sides, which Martin has done. Furthermore, Martin currently is taking classes at Stanford.

Martin left the Dolphins during the 2013 season but is still under contract with them. For another team to acquire him, the Dolphins would have to release Martin or work out a trade with that team.

When allegations of bullying inside the Dolphins locker room first broke in November, Harbaugh called Martin a "personal friend."

"As far as that situation, there's only one thing I can intelligently comment on and that's knowing Jonathan Martin," Harbaugh said on Nov. 6. "I know him to be a fine person and his family. (He was a) great contributor as a student and an athlete at Stanford, epitomizes the student-athlete model and a personal friend. I support Jonathan."

-- Matt Barrows

February 13, 2014
Look ahead: wide receiver should top 49ers' offseason priority list


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 wide receiver.

Signed for 2014: Michael Crabtree, Quinton Patton, Jon Baldwin, Chuck Jacobs, Devon Wylie, Brandon Carswell, David Reed, DeMarco Sampson

Pending free agents: Anquan Boldin, Mario Manningham, Kassim Osgood.

Outlook: The 49ers' first order of business is re-signing Anquan Boldin, who led the team in receiving in 2013 and who was voted - by the coaching staff - as the team's MVP. Even if that occurs, however, the 49ers must start planning for the future at the position. To me, the question isn't whether they should draft a wide receiver early in the upcoming draft. It's whether they should take two receivers over the first two days.

Boldin isn't showing any signs of slowing down. Indeed, his 1,179 yards last year were his best mark since 2006 when he was with Kurt Warner and the Cardinals. But he'll turn 34 during the upcoming season. Crabtree, meanwhile, is going into the final year of his contract and has dealt with three serious foot/lower leg injuries since entering the league in 2009. That is, as potent as the Boldin-Crabtree duo was at the end of the season, you have to wonder how long it will be together.

The 49ers also are likely to extend quarterback Colin Kaepernick's contract this offseason and would be wise to protect that investment by surrounding him with good, young pass catchers. This year's draft is considered one of the best in recent memory and is particularly deep at the wide receiver position. Having a young receiver learn the position next to Boldin for two or three years also would be ideal.

Three of those receivers fit the team's mold for big, physical pass catchers who will fight defensive backs for the ball - Clemson's Sammy Watkins, Texas A&M's Mike Evans and Florida State's Kelvin Benjamin. If the 49ers wanted any of those three, however, they probably would trade up in the first round, perhaps farther than they did last year when they jumped from pick 31 to pick 18 to grab safety Eric Reid.

February 12, 2014
Look ahead: One more year for the 49ers' bell-cow runner


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 running back.

Signed for 2014: Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter, Marcus Lattimore, LaMichael James, Jewel Hampton, Bruce Miller, Will Tukuafu

Pending free agents: Anthony Dixon.

Outlook: No, Gore is not the same runner he was when he ran for 1,695 yards in 2006 and out-sprinted safeties and cornerbacks - notably, the Seahawks' safeties and cornerbacks - to the end zone. He gets caught from behind now and averaged 4.1 yards a carry in 2013, down from 4.7 yards the year prior and the lowest average of his career. That average dropped to 3.4 yards in the playoffs, and the 49ers running game - outside of Colin Kaepernick - was abysmal in the championship game against Seattle.

But it wasn't Gore's fault. Perhaps with the aid of their noisy crowd, the Seahawks defenders were far quicker than the 49ers blockers, and Gore hardly could get out of his own backfield. It's notable that backup running back Hunter, young legs and all, also averaged 3.4 yards per carry in the playoffs. Like Gore, Hunter's overall yards-per-carry average dipped in 2013, from 5.2 yards a carry to 4.7.

To me, the overarching issue in 2013 was that without Michael Crabtree and Delanie Walker the 49ers' passing game struggled for much of the season, which allowed defenses to tee off on Gore and the running game. Walker's blocking - and at the end of the season, fullback Bruce Miller's -- also was missed.

February 11, 2014
Look ahead: Vernon Davis needs wing man at tight end


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 tight end.

Signed for 2014: Vernon Davis, Vance McDonald, Garrett Celek, Derek Carrier

Pending free agents: none

Outlook: The 49ers have the most explosive tight end in the NFL. Davis averaged 16.3 yards per catch in 2013, which was higher than Jimmy Graham's, Rob Gronkowski's and Jordan Cameron's averages -- higher, in fact, than any full-time tight end's in the league.

The problem for the 49ers is that Davis was alone. He was the only deep threat in the 49ers' pass-catching arsenal, and the teams that faced San Francisco in the playoffs adjusted accordingly. Davis caught two touchdowns in the three contests, but he averaged just 18 receiving yards a game as defenses made sure to keep a safety on top of him throughout. By contrast, Davis averaged 85 receiving yards a game in the 2012 playoffs and 146 yards a game in the 2011 playoffs.

In previous seasons, if a defense concentrated on Davis, the 49ers quarterback had a trusty secondary target to which to throw, Delanie Walker. He was on the field for 529 snaps through the NFC Championship game in 2012 and finished with 429 yards and three touchdowns through that game. Walker is in Tennessee now. (He finished 10th in the league among tight ends with 60 receptions in the regular season, eight more than Davis. However, the latter had more receiving yards - 850 to 571 - and touchdowns - 13 to 6).

February 10, 2014
Baalke, 49ers "commend" Missouri's Michael Sam for courage

Trent Baalke joined a chorus of NFL owners and top evaluators today in commending Missouri defensive end Michael Sam for revealing he is gay. The 49ers general manager said the 49ers would use the same criteria in evaluating Sam they do every prospective rookie.

"The 49ers commend Michael for the courage he has displayed as he continues to pursue his NFL career," Baalke said in a statement. "We have and will continue to evaluate him as we do every eligible player, which is always based on their projected contribution to our team on and off the field."

The 255-260-pound Sam led the Tigers with 11 1/2 sacks last season. He told teammates in August he was gay, and in December they voted him their MVP. He projects to outside linebacker in the 49ers' scheme.

Baalke and the 49ers last year used a third-round pick on Corey Lemonier, who along with Dan Skuta provided good depth at outside linebacker in 2013. They don't have a pressing need at the position and likely would not use a high draft pick there unless they were sure that player was an upgrade over Lemonier.

-- Matt Barrows

February 10, 2014
Openly gay player to the 49ers? First measure his arms ...


Would the 49ers draft Michael Sam, the Missouri defensive end who over the weekend announced he was gay? When contemplating whether the 49ers would be interested in any college player, particularly a defensive player, one of the first things to do is examine his arm length. General manager Trent Baalke's opinions regarding gay athletes are unknown. His opinions regarding long-armed defenders, on the other hand, are well documented.

Baalke loves long levers. Sam's measured 33 ¼ inches at the Senior Bowl last month, which gave him some of the most impressive guns at that game, certainly so for someone who stands just 6-1 and change. In fact, no one Sam's height or shorter had longer arms at the Senior Bowl.

By comparison, 49ers linebacker Aldon Smith's famously long arms measure 35 3/8 inches, but he stands nearly 6-5. Last year's first-round draft pick, safety Eric Reid, also is known for his wing span. Reid is similar in height to Sam (about 6-1) and has slightly longer arms, 33 5/8 inches.

Sam led the No. 4-ranked Tigers in sacks in 2013, and he was named the SEC's co-defensive player of the year. For the 49ers, he would project more to outside linebacker than to a 3-4 defensive end, which calls for a player closer to 300 pounds. Scouts and pundits appear to be criticizing Sam's speed and agility off the edge, which is something that undersized linebackers - think: Von Miller whose arms, incidentally, also are 33 1/2 inches -- must possess.

It's possible that a team like the 49ers would move Sam to inside linebacker like they did last year with Darius Fleming, who played outside linebacker in college and who has similar dimensions to Sam. One of defensive coordinator Vic Fangio's strengths is figuring out how to best utilize a player. He and the 49ers have been successful with so-called 'tweeners in the past, whether it's been Smith or Chris Culliver, who played both cornerback and safety in college, or Dan Skuta, who played inside linebacker before moving outside in 2013.

From a scheme standpoint, the 49ers are able to accommodate a lot of different types of players (as long as they have long arms). In in that way, at least, it's easy to see Sam fitting in.

-- Matt Barrows

February 7, 2014
Look ahead: 49ers likely to tap depth, not draft, on offensive line


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 the offensive line.

Signed for 2014: Joe Staley, Mike Iupati, Alex Boone, Anthony Davis, Adam Snyder, Daniel Kilgore, Joe Looney, Ryan Seymour, Al Netter, Carter Bykowski, Luke Marquardt

Pending free agents: Jonathan Goodwin

Outlook: Many mock drafts and offseason prognostications have the 49ers acquiring a center -- often in the first or second round -- because Goodwin, 35, is not expected back. The 49ers, however, absolutely teem with heretofore underutilized young players on the offensive line, including former draft picks Kilgore and Looney. Kilgore has been filling in at times for Goodwin - in training camp, in preseason games, in garbage time - for the last two seasons, and my sense is that he will step into the starting center position in 2014.

Looney, meanwhile, was a virtual unknown heading into the 2013 season but had to step in at right guard due to injuries on Dec. 1 against the Rams. He played well in his first-ever extended regular-season action. He also has received repetitions at center since being drafted in 2012, and the future scenario could have Kilgore starting at center with Looney the backup at center or guard. In addition, Snyder has experience at center while Seymour, a 2013 draft pick the 49ers signed off the Seahawks' practice squad, played virtually every position along the line at Vanderbilt.

February 6, 2014
Seahawks sign ex-49er QB B.J. Daniels to new deal


After the 49ers and Seahawks signed several of the other squad's former players in 2013, it was seen as form of psychological warfare between the bitter rivals. That is, what better way to learn about the enemy than by capturing one or two of the former soldiers?

A less sexy - but perhaps more accurate - way of explaining the back-and-forth transactions is that the Seahawks and 49ers simply like the same types of players. After all, former 49ers general manager Scot McCloughan is now a senior personnel executive with Seattle. That concept was corroborated in September by Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, who said the Seahawks were hoping to land quarterback B.J. Daniels, whom the 49ers drafted in the seventh round.

"We thought he was a nice player and interesting guy to get on the team, and thought a lot of him," Carroll said at the time. "We feel like we know him, and if he has a chance to play at least we have some background in him. We studied him very carefully and all that. But we think a lot of his ability."

When the 49ers released Daniels in October to make room for John Skelton, the Seahawks snapped him up. They later moved him to their practice squad, and today they signed Daniels to a reserve/future deal, which means the former South Florida quarterback will compete for a spot on the Seahawks roster this offseason.

The 49ers, meanwhile, have two quarterbacks signed for the upcoming season - Colin Kaepernick and McLeod Bethel-Thompson. Colt McCoy is a pending free agent, and the 49ers could bring in another passer - free agent or through the draft - in the offseason.

While the Seahawks landed Daniels, the 49ers signed two Seahawks 2013 draft picks, receiver Chris Harper and guard Ryan Seymour. Harper was eventually released and picked up by the Packers. Seymour is expected to compete for a spot on the interior of the offensive line this offseason.

-- Matt Barrows

February 6, 2014
Alex Smith at Pebble Beach. But where's his caddy?


Jim Harbaugh will not be carrying Alex Smith's bags in the rain this weekend. Two years ago, the quarterback caddied for his head coach at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am with Harbaugh saying he would reciprocate for Smith at a future event.

Smith today, however, confirmed on KNBR radio that a couple of buddies, not Harbaugh, would perform caddie duties for him at the famous course. Reminded of Harbaugh's pledge, Smith said, "There was some talk of something like that, that's right."

Smith's and Harbaugh's golf partnership two years ago was interpreted as a sign of a tight bond between the two. Smith was a pending free agent at the time, but Harbaugh said at the event that the 49ers decision makers were "in lockstep" that "Alex Smith is our guy." A month later, however, Harbaugh was in North Carolina checking out another free agent quarterback, Peyton Manning. And several months after that, Harbaugh decided that Colin Kaepernick, not Smith, was the 49ers' "guy" for the future.

Smith was traded to the Chiefs in a deal that was agreed upon last February.

Smith today was his usual gracious self. Later in the interview, he was asked to compare his current coach, Andy Reid, with Harbaugh and said that they were both great coaches. He also took part in a 49ers- vs.-San Francisco Giants charity event at Pebble Beach earlier this week. Was that weird, host Brian Murphy asked?

February 5, 2014
Look ahead at safety: Goldson left last year. Will Whitner follow?


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 safety.

Signed for 2014: Eric Reid, Craig Dahl, C.J. Spillman, D.J. Campbell, Ray Ventrone

Pending free agents: Donte Whitner

Outlook: The 49ers signed Craig Dahl in free agency last year with two positions in mind. The first, of course, was the free-safety spot that had belonged to Dashon Goldson, who left via free agency to Tampa Bay. But they also had an eye on Whitner's future strong safety spot. Whitner becomes a free agent next month, and like Goldson, he could be someone the 49ers want back but have decided they cannot afford to bring back.

So they have Dahl, who isn't known as a playmaker, but who has started 42 games over his career, as a fallback if Whitner indeed moves on like Goldson did a year ago. Would there be a drop off from Whitner, a team leader, a vicious hitter and someone who improved his coverage skills in 2013, to Dahl? Absolutely. But the 49ers may be forced to make tough, unpopular decisions in an offseason in which they want to re-sign receiver Anquan Boldin and give multiple young players, perhaps the starting quarterback, contract extensions.

They also might be encouraged by how easily they were able to replace Goldson. The team traded ahead 13 spots to select Reid in the first round. He had an excellent rookie season in which he finished with 77 tackles and four interceptions. By comparison, Goldson had 69 tackles and three interceptions for the 49ers the year prior. The one caveat is that Reid sustained two concussions, which has to be a concern moving forward for the team.

February 4, 2014
NaVorro Bowman: Time for surgery


Wearing a hospital gown, a surgical cap and a defiant look on his face, NaVorro Bowman today took a cell-phone selfie of himself with the caption, "Time for surgery." The 49ers inside linebacker, who tore his ACL and MCL during the NFC Championship game two weeks ago, will have a procedure to repair at least the ACL ligament today.

The injury, in which Seahawks receiver Jermaine Kearse, was forced into Bowman's planted left leg, was gruesome to watch. But in talking to multiple orthopedic surgeons, the linebacker's prognosis is still very good. The MCL promises to heal well because it has a good supply of blood. Most MCL injuries -- such as the ones suffered by Joe Staley, Mike Iupati and Will Tukuafu -- heal on their own.

Allowing the MCL to heal is one of the reasons to wait two weeks before surgery. Another is to allow the swelling and stiffness in the knee joint to dissipate so that the patient does not have a permanently stiff knee. Bowman has been rehabbing at the team facility -- keeping the knee loose and as flexible as possible -- since the injury occurred

The ACL has a poorer blood supply, which is why it always has been a difficult injury from which to return. Several 49ers, from Darius Fleming to Kyle Williams to Mario Manningham, have suffered it in recent years. All of them either have had another tear to the same knee or, in Manningham's case, did not return to full strength. Bowman's surgery will be performed by renown surgeon James Andrews in Florida, according to a league source. Andrews, who has a good relationship with the 49ers' team doctors, has worked on a number of high-profile clients, including Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III (knee) and Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith (shoulder).

Doctors believe that Bowman, who won the 49ers' most prestigious team award this year, has a very good chance to make a full recovery and they place his prognosis at six to eight months. The 2014 season kicks off in seven months. If Bowman is not ready at the start of the season, Michael Wilhoite, who is an exclusive rights free agent, is a likely candidate to start next to Patrick Willis at inside linebacker.

-- Matt Barrows

February 2, 2014
Super Bowl observations ... with a 49ers twist


A lot of comments on social media during the Super Bowl noted that it was a throwback to the 1980s and 90s when the games were routinely blowouts. Back then, the NFC -- with teams like the Redskins, Giants, Cowboys and Bears -- was decidedly more physical than the AFC. The 49ers were known more for precision than power but were physical in their own way. The bottom line is that by the time the Super Bowl arrived, teams from the NFC were more battle-tested than their AFC counterparts, and it showed.

History repeated itself this year. It can safely be said that the Broncos were not the second-best team in the NFL this year. The 49ers get that honor. Heck, the Broncos might even be behind the Panthers and Saints after their anemic effort against Seattle. The 49ers' fans won't be happy that their arch rivals are Super Bowl champions. One of the bottom lines, however, is that three games against the 49ers made the Seahawks better.

The other take-away is that the 49ers are built very much like the Seahawks. Which is to say, power still trumps finesse in the National Football League, and the 49ers are one of the league's two most powerful teams.


Colin Kaepernick and Greg Roman, who took their lumps in the media and from the fan base two weeks ago, don't look so bad right now. Seattle's defense -- in a neutral site, mind you - thoroughly throttled the league's No. 1 offense and the league's MVP, Peyton Manning. The Denver quarterback, not known for his mobility, was a sitting duck for the Seahawks' wolfish defense, and he threw ducks all evening. Kaepernick and the 49ers, meanwhile, beat the Seahawks in San Francisco, and Kaepernick -- thanks to his athleticism and his running ability -- was one throw away from doing it in Seattle, too. I imagine that Manning and the Broncos added value to Kaepernick's contract, if it is indeed extended this offseason.

February 1, 2014
No Haley or DeBartolo in 2014 hall-of-fame; Bowman gets no DPOY votes


The vote for the Pro Football Hall of Fame is starting to sound like a broken record for a couple of ex 49ers: Charles Haley and Eddie DeBartolo, Jr. came close, but neither will be enshrined this year. Haley, the one-time sack master, made the final 10 nominees. DeBartolo, the team's successful former owner, did not. Both had made the cut to 15 modern-era semifinalists.

Meanwhile, the NFL's awards show also did not yield any accolades for San Francisco. The player with the best shot at an award was team tackle leader NaVorro Bowman for defensive player of the year. The honor, however, instead went to another inside linebacker, Carolina's Luke Kuechly, who was the defensive rookie of the year in 2012. Both Kuechly and Bowman were named to the Associated Press All-Pro team. The AP also votes on defensive player of the year. Bowman, however, received no votes for the end-of-year award.

DPOY final tally:
Luke Kuechly 19
Robert Mathis 11½
Earl Thomas 7½
Robert Quinn 6
Richard Sherman 4
J.J. Watt 2

This year's hall-of-fame class is: cornerback Aeneas Willliams, defensive end Michael Strahan, linebacker Derrick Brooks, offensive tackle Walter Jones and receiver Andre Reed as well as punter Ray Guy and defensive lineman Claude Humphrey.

Here were my should win/will win projections for tonight's awards show.

-- Matt Barrows

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


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


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"


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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
Keeping up with Carroll: 49ers needs in the upcoming draft


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


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.

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


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


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
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


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


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'


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
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


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


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


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
Halftime: Kaepernick running wild on Seattle defense


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
49ers pregame: Carlos Rogers, Will Tukuafu to play


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


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."

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)

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


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.

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)

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


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"


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.

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)

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