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Bruce is “Taking it to the Bank”

Posted by Scott Kegley on October 20, 2009 – 4:56 PM

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Isaac Bruce is teaming up with the San Francisco Food Bank for their “Take It To the Bank” food collection day.  On Tuesday, November 3 from 4-6 p.m., Bruce will be on hand to sign autographs, take pictures and mingle with those who bring five or more food items to the Food Bank.  The food collection will take place at the San Francisco Food Bank at 900 Pennsylvania Ave. at 23rd St. in San Francisco.

Isaac Bruce is serving as the spokesman for the San Francisco Food Bank’s holiday food drive. With your help, the Food Bank can provide much-needed food to more than 79,500 low-income seniors, adults and children during the holiday season. The San Francisco Food Bank supplies meal programs like St. Anthony’s and Glide, and it also distributes free holiday groceries at 200 locations across the city. Food items needed at the collection include: rice and pasta, canned fruits and vegetables, tuna, canned meats, soups, stews and chili, peanut butter and cereal.

The Isaac Bruce Foundation focuses on health, wellness, nutrition, fitness and education.  Through his foundation, Isaac reaches out to youth and teaches them at an early age the importance of a healthy lifestyle with an emphasis on education.  For more information on the Isaac Bruce Foundation, visit www.isaacbruce.org or call 314-369-4074.

The San Francisco Food Bank is the critical link between food and people. We provide food to 22,000 households each week through 400+ community partners. Hunger impacts people in all walks of life. We reach them all – from working families to senior citizens. Together, we will distribute over 36.5 million pounds of food this year to meet an ever-growing need in our community.  For more information, visit www.sffoodbank.org.


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49ers React to Ulbrich Loss

Posted by Taylor Price on October 19, 2009 – 2:27 PM

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Last Friday, 49ers inside linebacker Jeff Ulbrich visited with neurologists to determine the severity of a concussion he sustained on October 4, against the St. Louis Rams.

And on Monday, the news from that meeting caused the 49ers to place Ulbrich on the team’s injured reserve list and sign veteran linebacker Matt Wilhelm.

“We really have a conservative approach to everything we do as it pertains to our players,” head coach Mike Singletary said on Monday. “We want to make sure that we take care of our players because taking care of the players, means we’re taking care of their families as well in the long run.”

Singletary added that Ulbrich will remain around the facility as a mentor for younger players in a similar fashion as cornerback Walt Harris, who has been around often after injuring his knee in the offseason.

“Jeff is the kind of guy that you want around. He’s good for our team,” Singletary stated. “He’s good for our linebackers. He’s good for our coaches. He’s like a coach on the field anyway. Next week he will be here and in the meetings.”

While the 49ers coaching staff might have picked up an unofficial member of their staff, the players inside the 49ers locker room felt a major loss.

“Losing him is like losing a brother. I mean, it is losing a brother to me,” linebacker Patrick Willis said with intent. “I looked up to Jeff and I still do. He’s helped me understand so many different things.”

Since Willis joined the 49ers as a first-round pick in 2007, he instantly had the support of Ulbrich.

“From day one when I stepped out here and I didn’t know anything, I asked Jeff a thousand questions,” Willis said of Ulbrich’s influence. “Not one time did he hold out on me and not answer the question for me.”

Willis was pleased to hear that Ulbrich will remain around the facility and on some road trips, but not having him in full pads in the locker room and on the sidelines will be a shocker.

“Losing him is going to be sad. He was like a warrior in the game to me, especially in the locker room,” Willis added.

The tough task of filling those shoes falls on Wilhelm, who has spent the last six seasons with the San Diego Chargers. Wilhelm was with the Philadelphia Eagles this past training camp, but was released prior to the start of the season.

What makes Wilhelm a likeable candidate is his familiarity with defensive coordinator Greg Manusky’s defense, a system he played in for four seasons in San Diego.

“The meat and potatoes of the defense I know pretty well,” Wilhelm said.

Wilhelm understands both inside linebacker positions, but will have to learn the terminology associated with the defense. Knowing that, Wilhelm wants to help the team in any way as soon as possible.

“Obviously, this is a backup role, because they have two great inside linebackers. But they need someone to come in on special teams and be one play away and learn this defense as fast as they can,” Wilhelm said.

More Monday News and Notes

-Singletary was asked if starting strong safety Michael Lewis could be placed on IR like Ulbrich because of a concussion, but the 49ers head coach said it was “unlikely.” He also stated that Lewis’ return has not yet been determined and that the team would continue to monitor his health.

- Last week, Singletary hinted a possible change on the offensive line. On Monday, he announced the changes.

“Right now, Chilo [Rachal] and [Adam] Snyder will alternate [at right guard], a lot like [Tony] Pashos and Snyder at the right tackle position. We want our best five on the field, and we feel like Snyder alternating with Chilo will be good for us to find out who is best at that position.”

-Singletary has been pleased with the progression he’s seen from rookie wideout Michael Crabtree in the short period of time he’s been with the team.

“Michael Crabtree’s progress is excellent. He’s working his tail off. He stays here. He’s with the coaches all the time and learning the playbook. They’re very pleased with what they’re seeing, and I’m pleased with what I’m seeing and the conversations that he and I have had. With the coaches, it’s been great. He can’t get enough of it. He wants to be out here. He wants to get better. He wants to play and make a contribution. So, that’s very exciting.”

-Quarterback Shaun Hill said he didn’t realize how big Crabtree actually was on the football field.

“He plays much bigger than he appears. When you see him, you think he’s on the short side. But when he’s out there playing, he’s a big target out there. He has very strong hands and attacks the ball out there. I think he’s going to be good for us.”

-Hill was also pleased with Crabtree’s work ethic.

“I’ve been very impressed with how much he’s learned since he’s been here. He came right in and was able to pick it up. If a question does arise, he’s not afraid to ask. I feel very comfortable that he’s going to know everything he’ll need to know for this game on Sunday.”

-Hill said the front seven of the Houston Texans defense has stood out to him the most through his film study.

“Good team. They’re playing well right now. They’re going to be a very good opponent for us. They have a very good front with a great pass rusher in Mario Williams. They just play good fundamental defense.”

-Hill will be aided this week significantly with the return of running back Frank Gore, who has missed the last two games with foot and ankle injuries. The 49ers star runner stayed in the Bay Area over the bye week to rehab his injuries and also help Crabtree get filled in.

“Over the bye week, he [Crabtree] looked very good. He was getting the plays. Now we’re fully-loaded as an offense and on Sunday we have to get going,” Gore said. “I feel like a kid right now, I can’t wait to get back out there with my team.”

-Gore said he wasn’t concerned about out-scoring the Texans’ high-powered offensive attack.

“For us, we just have be ourselves and go out there try to keep the chains moving and score points. If we do that we should have a great chance to win.”


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49ers Take Practice Indoors

Posted by Taylor Price on October 13, 2009 – 5:18 PM

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Typically on Tuesdays, the 49ers players have the day off to rest their bodies and spend time with their families.

But that wasn’t the case this week.

With the bye week on the schedule, the 49ers practiced on a Tuesday for the first time since training camp. But it wasn’t a normal practice; the team was forced to move everyone to a nearby indoor soccer training facility with heavy rain throughout the Bay Area covering the practice fields at team headquarters.

“It was like a real cool hangout spot for the kids, that’s what it was like,” cornerback Shawntae Spencer said of the 49ers practice environment. “It was like the gymnasium you would find in a church. It was a little indoor soccer facility with two different rooms. We broke up as offense and defense and went and did our position stuff.”

As professional football players, the 49ers focused on the work at hand and not their unique surroundings.

“Really at this level, you have to get past what your surrounding area looks like,” tackle Tony Pashos said. “You have to forget what the turf looks like; really it’s all about football. It’s about getting the plays right and using the proper techniques. It really didn’t matter where we were at.

“It was something we had to do to adjust to the circumstances and we were good about it. We had a pretty good practice.”

The 49ers went through their normal practice routine just in a different environment.

“We warmed up, did our individual drills, then the round boys would go away and we’d do 7-on-7 stuff while the round boys would do pass rush,” Spencer explained. “Then the round boys would come back over and we’d do the same thing.”

By “round boys,” Spencer was referring to the 49ers linemen.

“I don’t like to call them ‘fat’ and they don’t like to be called that, because they’re not,” Spencer explained. “I prefer to call them by shapes. Everyone has their own shape. You have round guys and you have square guys. For example, [Dave] Baas, he’s like a square guy.”

Both offensive and defensive players were happy to get back on the practice field to work out some of the problems that came up in the team’s 45-10 loss to the Atlanta Falcons.

“It was a good opportunity to get back on the field together as a team after the loss,” defensive tackle Demetric Evans said. “It was an interesting practice, but a good practice.”

Although it wasn’t what they’ve grown accustomed to, the 49ers players were certainly glad to be indoors on a wet day.

“Practice outside, that would have been a nightmare,” Spencer explained. “Everyone is already touchy feely about practicing today, because Tuesday’s are usually our off day. You’re sore and then you throw some rain on it and you’re bound to have a fight at practice. If you fight, then you get to running. You get to running and then everything is going to be all bad.

“Today was like a normal work day without the hitting and things like that. Other than that, we did everything we usually do.”

As long as weather permits, the 49ers will be back on their own practice field Wednesday morning.


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49ers Regroup After Atlanta Loss

Posted by Taylor Price on October 12, 2009 – 3:42 PM

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The way Shaun Hill sees it, there are two ways the 49ers can deal with Sunday’s 45-10 loss to the Atlanta Falcons. They can either dwell on the loss during the bye week or they can get back on the field and work things out.

Hill and the 49ers will choose the latter.

“Generally you have another game to rebound in a week, in this case we have to sit out and have this taste in our mouth, but this is a good time to work on some things, without a doubt,” he said on Monday.

In Hill’s estimation the game came down to execution.

“By and large we didn’t execute as well as they did,” he said.

From the vantage point of head coach Mike Singletary, the 49ers didn’t respond to the Falcons solid start.

“As a team, we learned that preparation is everything and yesterday was one of those situations where on the defensive side of the ball, it felt like they had a great game plan and we had a difficult time getting on track.

“The preparation as a coaching staff, starting with me, was not great and we just did not do a good job overall. When that happens it makes it difficult.”

The players felt the same way about their performance.

“We didn’t get it done in any phase of the game,” cornerback Nate Clements said. “I always look at myself in the mirror first. I felt like I could’ve done a lot better across the board. You can’t just pinpoint one thing in this game.”

Clements will treat the next two weeks as if the 49ers won the game.

“I take the same approach win or loss. I’ll look at the film, see the corrections that need to be made and I’ll make those corrections on the practice field,” he said. “We all know we can play a lot better.”

A lot of Monday’s locker room talk went towards Dre’ Bly’s fumble on his interception return and his mid-return showboating. On Monday, Bly addressed the media alongside of Singletary.

Bly began with this statement:

“I wanted to come to you all and publicly apologize for yesterday. I apologized to coach. I’m not a selfish guy. I didn’t mean to embarrass him, my team, ownership, or the fans. I’m a prideful guy. I like to have fun and it was totally inappropriate. I got caught up in the moment and it was wrong.”

Bly’s teammates applauded him for owning up to his mistake to the media.

“That doesn’t surprise me at all, he’s a high character guy,” Hill said.

Singletary said Bly approached him early in the morning before he could talk to the veteran about his interception.

When Dre’ came in, it’s one of those things I didn’t really expect. I thought that I was going to have to go to him because I didn’t even notice all the other stuff, the hand behind the head and all of that. I didn’t even notice that yesterday. I just knew he caught the ball, and the next thing I knew, there was a fumble. But, when I saw him holding the ball the way he was holding it, I knew there was a good chance that it would come out.

“By him coming to me and saying the things that he said, it really took off a lot of the thought process, in terms of where I was going to go with it because we are – we’re not trying to – we are building something here, something that will be special, and it is going to be a process. But, yesterday, that was just something that, as a 49er, that’s just something that we won’t do. I think now he understands that.”

More Monday Notes

-Safety Michael Lewis sustained his third concussion of the season. While the news is serious, Singletary announced on Monday that the team received positive news in regards to Lewis’ latest injury.

“Afterwards, he cleared right away, meaning that he was coherent,” Singletary said. “He understood everything that was happening, which is a very good sign. So, now it’s one of those things we have to really look at and watch day-to-day and see where it goes.”

-Singletary didn’t have any new information on linebacker Jeff Ulbrich, who sat out of the Atlanta game because of a concussion he sustained against the St. Louis Rams.

 “The biggest thing about Jeff, as in Mike, we are continuing to evaluate there and we want to do all the testing we can just to make sure everything is right because everything is about them. When it comes to injuries, I want to make sure that there’s not a player on the field – practice field or playing field – that has some type of injury that could harm them going forward.”

-Singletary said there were a couple of factors in why Vernon Davis and Hill looked out of rhythm on Sunday.

“Vernon had to turn right now, but it was one of those things where the blitz was there and it didn’t get picked up and Shaun either got picked up, but Vernon didn’t have his head turned around. Or it didn’t get picked up and he had to let the ball go.”

­-Asked what the team’s biggest concern was headed into the bye week, Singletary said it was to make sure the team had the best 53 guys available.

“Whatever changes we need to make, that we make them now. Whatever things we need to clean up, we clean up then begin to go forward with that. I think that is the most important thing, to make sure we have the 53 guys that are going to be with us these next 11-plus games going forward.”

-Singletary said first-round draft pick Michael Crabtree will remain close to the facility during the bye week so he can better prepare himself for his NFL debut in two weeks.

-Singletary had a special guest at his press conference in his former college defensive coordinator at Baylor University, Corky Nelson. Singletary introduced Nelson at the end of his presser and praised him for teaching him “everything he knows about linebacking.”

“As a matter of fact, he about killed me in college and I hated him in college because he hurt me. He’s the best coach that I know to teach the fundamentals of linebacking. I can honestly say that everything that I know about linebacking, I learned from him. He wanted to come out and I’m very thankful, I’m very blessed by him, his wife, and some other friends from Baylor. I wanted to allow him to come in and listen to this. He said he wanted to it, I don’t know why, but he said he wanted to listen to it.”

-Singletary finished his press conference by leaving a message to the 49ers Faithful:

 “The last thing that I want to say is this – I’m not going to apologize to the fans again, but the one thing that I want you to know after a game like yesterday it’s a situation in where you kind of sit back and go ‘Wow, I didn’t really know that could happen again.’ And the thing I will say is this, this team will be a special team, this year will be a special year. It’s unfortunate as to what happened yesterday. As a staff, we did not do a good job preparing for a team [coming off of] a bye week, but going forward, we will come back and we will get better and we will be a team for our fans to be proud of.”


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Week Five Blog: 49ers vs. Falcons

Posted by Scott Kegley on October 11, 2009 – 10:39 AM

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It’s a cold overcast day at Candlestick as the 49ers (3-1) face the Falcons (2-1).  The Falcons are coming off a bye weeks so they’ve essentially had two weeks to prepare for this game against their former NFC West rivals.  Take a look at the injury report for both teams.  The inactives will be posted roughly 90 minutes prior to the game.

Inactives:

Atlanta: CB Tye Hill, FB Verron Hayes, S Antoine Harris, LB Spencer Adkins, T Garrett Reynolds, G Quinn Ojinnaka, DT Vance Walker, QB John Park Wilson (3rd QB).

49ers: CB Allen Rossum, RB Frank Gore, S Reggie Smith, LB Jeff Ulbrich, OLB Marques Harris, C Cody Wallace, DT Ricky Jean Francois, QB Nate Davis (3rd QB).

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FIRST QUARTER:

The 49ers defense started strong by forcing a 3 and out on Atlanta’s first drive.  On 3rd and 4, Ryan’s pass fell incomplete intended for Marty Booker.

Arnaz Battle fielded the kick and the 49ers drive began at the 13-yard line.  Glen Coffee got the carry on 1st down but was stopped for no gain.  Coffee picked up6 on 2nd down straight up the middle.  On 3rd down, Mike Peterson tipped the ball and it was then intercepted by Brian Williams.  Falcons ball at the SF 21.

Haralson and Franklin swarmed Turner on 1st down after a gain of 2.  Ryan’s 2nd down pass was thrown behind Tony Gonzalez. Ryan had all the time in the world to throw on 3rd down and hit Roddy White on a hitch for the 1st down.  On 1st and goal from the 7, Turner ran straight up the middle, breaking a few tackles for the touchdown.

Falcons 7 – 49ers 0

Delanie Walker was back deep for the kick, but the ball went out of the end zone for a touchback.   Lofton and Abraham combined to stop Coffee for a gain of 1 on 1st down.  Hill hit Morgan on a screen, but it was read well for no gain.  Hill was hit as he threw on 3rd down and his pass for Davis fell incomplete.  Lee’s punt was low, but Robinson closed quickly and made a nice tackle.  Atlanta will take over at their own 34.

Ryan found Gonzalez on 1st down out near midfield.  After the play, Atlanta was called for a late hit so it will essentially be 1st and 10 again.  Justin Smith got into the backfield quick and stopped Turner for a loss of 1.  Ryan hit Gonzalez against the coverage of Spikes for a gain of about 5.  3rd and 6 for the ATL 36, Ryan hit Finneran who managed to get just enough for the 1st down.  Big run by Turner on 1st down as he picked up 9 yards straight up the middle.   Ryan hit Roddy White down to the SF 31.  Touchdown as Ryan hit White who had a ton of room in the right side of the end zone.

Falcons 14 – 49ers 0

Hill got the 49ers drive off to a good start, scrambling up the middle for a gain of 15.  Hill’s pass fell incomplete for Vernon Davis on 1st down.  Hill tried his other tight end on 2nd down, but couldn’t connect with Walker.  Hill hit Morgan who broke the tackle for the first down and then some as he raced down the right sideline and was tripped up inside the 2.  It was a gain of 61 on the play.  The 49ers went with a play action on 1st down, but Coffee was covered in the end zone so Hill threw it away.  Coffee ran the ball for no gain on 2nd down.  Hill tossed to Coffee who out ran the defenders to the left and got in the end zone.

Falcons 14 – 49ers 7

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Eric Weems took the kick for the Atlanta but was swarmed at the 19-yard line.  Norwood took the toss to the left on 1st down, cutting it back inside for a gain of 7.  Tuner ran to the right on 2nd down, but couldn’t outrun Willis, picking up 2.  On 3rd and 1, Norwood took the direct snap, but was stopped for a minimal gain so the chain gang had to come out and measure.  It was very close, but the Falcons were given the 1st down.

*** Injury update: RT Adam snyder has a thigh contusion and his return is questionable.

On 2nd and 10. Turner bounced the ball out right, but was stopped for a short gain.  3rd and 9, Ryan found White again to pick up the 1st down after a gain of 12.  A false start by the Falcons will make it 1st and 15.  Ryan’s pass was too high for Gonzalez and it will be 2nd and 15 from the ATL 37.  After a run for about 5 yards, ATL was flagged for holding and will back up to their own 27-yard line.  On 2nd and 25, Smith hit Ryan forcing the errant throw intended for Gonzalez.  Atlanta went with the draw on 3rd down, but Norwood slipped after picking up just one and they’ll have to punt.  That will bring on end to the first quarter.

SECOND QUARTER:

Coffee starts the drive with a nice 12-yard run up the middle out by midfield.

*** Injury update:  Ray McDonald has an ankle sprain and his return is questionable.

Coffee had another nice carry, bouncing it out to the left for a gain of 5.  On 3rd and 5, Hill scrambled left and lowered his shoulder into the defender and will be very close to a 1st down.  The 49ers will go for it on 4th and short.  Hill faked the handoff and hit Davis for a nice gain of 18 yards.  Coffee picked up just 2 on 1st down as there really wasn’t much of a hole in the middle.  On 3rd down, Hill floated it for Bruce near the right pylon, but the pass was out of bounds.  Nedney came in and drilled the 39-yard field goal.

Falcons 14 – 49ers 10

The Falcons will start their drive at the SF 23.  On 2nd down, Lawson knocked the ball away from Norwood and Michael Lewis recovered it by the left sideline.  Atlanta will challenge the play.  After the review, the ruling on the field will stand.

On 1st, Hill hit Davis for a gain of 3.  On 3rd and 7, Hill was sacked and the 49ers couldn’t do anything with the great field position as Lee comes in to punt.  Lee’s punt though was downed at the 4 by Jason Hill.

Turner was swarmed on 1st down for a gain of 2.  On 3rd and 4, Ryan hit White who ran away from Nate Clements.  90 yards later and the Falcons go up 21-10.

Falcons 21 – 49ers 10

Delanie Walker took the kick out near the 40-yard line.  The ball came loose and Atlanta recovered.  It looked as if the ball came out after Walker’s arm hit the ground.  The 49ers would have won the challenge but were out of timeouts.

Tuner made the 49ers pay, taking the first down handoff down to the SF 5.  Turner punched it in from three yards out and the Falcons now have a commanding lead.

Falcons 28 – 49ers 10.

On 1st down, Coffee ran for a gain of 2.  Hill’s pass on 2nd down was thrown to Davis who wasn’t looking and the ball was nearly picked off.  Hill’s pass was way off the mark on 3rd down and Lee will come in to punt.

Delanie Walker was called for a personal foul, giving Atlanta an additional 15 yards.  Atlanta will have the ball at the 46.  Atlanta gave 5 of those yard back after a false start on 1st down.  On 2nd down, Ryan hit Justin Peelle for the 1st down.  Ryan then picked up another first down, hitting Gonzalez for a gain of 10.   Tuner broke a tackle and picked up 5 yards on 1st down.  The 49ers really have no answer for Roddy White who grabbed Ryan’s pass at the 1.  Turner punches it in and this game is getting away very quickly.

Falcons 35 – 49ers 10

Hill picked up the first down after a gain of 12 on a scramble.  Hill was sacked by Abraham.  Davis was called for holding on the next play.  With just 3 seconds left in the half, they’ll hand the ball to Coffee and run out the clock.

THIRD QUARTER:

The 49ers started their drive from 17 and Hill hit Morgan for a gain out to the 29.  Hill then hit Walker who made a nice adjustment to the ball and got some more yards after the catch and SF will have a 1st down at the ATL 32.  Hill’s 3rd down pass sailed over the head of Morgan and Nedney will come in to attempt the 48-yard field goal.  The field goal missed and Atlanta will have great field position at the 38-yard line

White continues to kill the 49ers, hauling in Ryan’s pass in 49ers territory.  Haralson got in the backfield and tackled Turner for a loss of 3.  Turner then broke several tackles, picking up the 1st down.  Turner was then stopped for no gain and Michael Lewis was injured on the play.  Roman has come on to replace Lewis after he was helped to the sideline.  Ryan hit Gonzalez on 3rd down.  Dre’ Bly made the tackle but picked up a face mask penalty.  The infraction gives the Falcons a 1st down.  Turner coughed up the ball but recovered it himself.  Dre’ Bly picked off Ryan on the next play and proceeded to showboat and high step.  White tracked him down from behind and Bly coughed up the ball himself.  Falcons maintain possession at the SF 44.  Ryan hits Gonzalez for the first down after a gain of 9.

*** Injury update: Lewis has a concussion and is out for the game.

Spikes had good coverage on Gonzalez on 3rd down and Elam will come on to attempt the field goal.  The 40-yard kick is good.

Falcons 38 – 49ers 10

The 49ers drive will begin from the 24-yard line.  Hill took a shot deep for Brandon Jones on 1st down, but it was well overthrown.  Hill threw deep for Morgan, but it was way off the mark once again.  Hill hit his check down to Coffee who could not pick up the first down.  Lee came in to punt and after good coverage, the Falcons will have the ball at the 29.

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Turner was stopped for a minimal gain on first down.  The Falcons were called for offensive PI on 3rd down and will back up, making it 3rd and 13 from the 26.  Ryan’s pass was well of the mark and the 49ers forced the punt.

After two incompletions, Hill hit Coffee for a gain of 5. Lee will have to punt.

On 3rd and short, Ryan picked up the first down on a QB sneak.

FOURTH QUARTER:

Jason Snelling moved the chains again on 3rd and short, fighting for extra yardage.  The 49ers continue not to get any pressure on Ryan.  The QB play faked and found Jenkins for a gain of 20.  Turner nearly got another 1st down on the very next play.  Spikes and Willis mad the tackle.  Snelling though came on and picked up the 1st.  A nice run by Norwood and the Falcons have a 1st and goal at the 6.

*** Injury update: Tarell Brown has a groin injury and will not return.

Goldson was called for PI and since it happened in the end zone, the ball will be placed at the 1.  Ryan scrambled for the touchdown.

Falcons 45 – 49ers 10

On 2nd down, Hill hit Davis for a gain of 6.  Hill hit Battle for the 3rd down conversion.  I have to run down to the field now.  We’ll have reaction from Singletary and some of the players after the game.


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McDonald and Roman’s Thoughts on UF vs LSU

Posted by Scott Kegley on October 10, 2009 – 8:04 AM

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We continue our weekly college football rivalry series with the high profile matchup between the No. 1 Florida Gators and the No. 4 LSU Tigers.  Defensive end Ray McDonald will be rooting for his Gators while there may be no bigger LSU supporter in the world than safety Mark Roman.

When I asked Roman on Thursday for his analysis of the game, he said he wanted to wait a while in order to do some homework on the matchup.

“I did a little bit of research.” Roman said.  “The Tigers are going to win, but it’s going to be a close, hard-fought game.  I got to thinking about the last time Florida came in and they were ranked no. 1 and we beat them up pretty good.  I was on that team and we pretty much routed them.  I don’t think this game is going to be a rout, but we’ll definitely come through.”

The main storyline from the game is whether Gators quarterback Tim Tebow will play after suffering a concussion against Kentucky.  If Tebow does not go, sophomore John Brantley will get the nod.

“Tebow’s an impact player and he makes that offense go,” McDonald said.  “They recruit well and the backup quarterback [Brantley] is pretty good.  I have faith in all of those guys.  He’s a good player with a Heisman Trophy guy in front of him.”

Brantley went 4 of 6 with a touchdown after he replaced Tebow in the game against Kentucky.  A former Gatorade Player of the Year for the state of Florida, Brantley’s teammate say he has a very strong arm.  However, Brantley is more of a pocket passer than Tebow and will go up against a very talented LSU secondary.

“Their whole defense is very good because they returned almost everybody,” Roman said.

Roman was quick to point out that the veteran Tigers defense will still have a tough task against the Gators, no matter who is at quarterback.

“It doesn’t really matter if it’s Tebow or Brantley,” Roman said.  “Florida is a really good team, but I think a lot of times, their speed can be very overwhelming for their opponents.  LSU has a whole lot of speed back there so I think that evens it out.  Their quarterback is a great player and he can make a lot of plays.  I just don’t see the Tigers losing this game, especially at home.”

LSU enjoys one of the best home field advantages in college football and playing night games at Tiger Stadium has always been tough on the visiting teams.

“That was really loud, one of the loudest stadiums I’ve ever played at in my life,” McDonald said.  “All the fans scream and it gets noisy, but it’s not like playing in the swamp.”

Roman begged to differ.

“There ain’t no place better to play on Saturday nights than Death Valley,” Roman said.  “The atmosphere’s going to be set for a really good game.  Hopefully both teams come ready to play.  Down the road, I’m sure they think whoever wins this game has a good chance to go on and play for the national championship.”

Roman’s prediction: “It’s going to be tight, but if I had to pick I would say 24-17 in favor of the Tigers.  As long as we don’t give the ball up on offense, it should be a pretty good game.”

McDonald’s prediction:  “24-7, Gators.  It’ll be a rout.”

So stay tuned on Saturday as one of these two SEC alumni will have bragging rights come Sunday.


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Tailgating Tips from Tyler Florence

Posted by Taylor Price on October 9, 2009 – 4:02 PM

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A few weeks back at the 49ers Hall of Fame enshrinement dinner to honor Eddie DeBartolo Jr., there were several prominent people in the room in attendance to honor the former 49ers owner. One of those people happened to be famous chef and TV personality Tyler Florence, who hosts “Tyler’s Ultimate” on the Food Network.

Florence was at the event as a guest of the DeBartolo Family, who he’s become friends with over the years. After interviewing several former 49ers players and coaches, we caught up with Florence to find out about his connection with the DeBartolo’s and to see what kind of tailgating tips he could provide to the 49ers Faithful.

So without further ado, here’s a great tailgating tip from Florence that should come in handy this Sunday when the 49ers host the Atlanta Falcons at Candlestick Park.


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Bruce and Staley Up For Public Service Award

Posted by Taylor Price on October 9, 2009 – 3:25 PM

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Ever wondered what wide receiver Isaac Bruce and tackle Joe Staley have in common?

Besides playing for the 49ers, they’ve both been named semi-finalists for the Jefferson Awards for Public Service – Outstanding Athletes in Service.  Please click on the links below to vote to support their nomination.  As two of the 49ers most prolific volunteer service providers, they are certainly deserving of the recognition and it would be wonderful to see them win!

Click here to vote for Isaac!

Click here to vote for Joe!


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Singletary Serenaded For 51st Birthday

Posted by Taylor Price on October 9, 2009 – 2:51 PM

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At the start of team meetings this morning, Mike Singletary received an extra special birthday gift – all of his players singing happy birthday to him in unison.

Singletary turned 51 on Friday, but said he would not do anything out of the ordinary to celebrate the day.

“I was telling somebody earlier, every day for me is like my birthday. I’m the most blessed man in the world. To be able to come out here and work with these guys every day, then to go home to my family –it can’t get much better than that. I’m good.”

Other Friday Notes

-The topic of Singletary’s press conference quickly turned to how focused his team would be for Sunday after the signing of first-round pick Michael Crabtree.

“I think our team is very focused, very mature and at this point, we’re not going to let anything take our attention off what’s really important,” Singletary said. “Crabtree is in here, fantastic, great, glad we got him. But, we got Atlanta this weekend. That’s been the focus all week. I’m very thankful our guys see it that way as well.”

-Singletary said the only players out of action will be running back Frank Gore, safety Reggie Smith and linebacker Jeff Ulbrich. (Click here to read both team’s injury reports).

-Asked about his comment from earlier in the week in regards to his defense being the least selfish group he’s been around, Singletary elaborated on his previous statement:

“I’ve been a part of some great defenses and too often what happens is this guy is saying, ‘Wait a minute, I got that sack!’ or ‘Give me a chance to make a sack!’ None of these guys ever talk about. They’re always talking about what is the best way to get to the quarterback. Who’s supposed to be here or there – we never talk about that.

“To me – that’s truly amazing. I think that’s one of the No. 1 reasons we’ve been effective. That’s something we have to continue to do because week in and week out it’s all about gap integrity. If you’re doing your job, forget about everything else, just make sure you do your job first then go ahead and try to do something extra.”

-Earlier in the week Singletary said his offensive line would have to pick up their play, and on Friday he re-visited those comments.

“I had a conversation with them letting them know how much I appreciate their ability to work at it. They’re trying to get where they need to go and that’s a great thing to see and it’s going to pay huge dividends down the road. I’m just excited about their perseverance. They’ve been through a lot. I have to remember that at times and make sure I appreciate the small things they’re trying to do to get big results.”

-Lastly Singletary said he has not made plans for the bye week in regards to practice. “I don’t know, I have a couple of surprises for that. I don’t know just yet, but we’ll talk more about it after the game,” he said.


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49ers Introduce Special Guest on Punt Team

Posted by Scott Kegley on October 7, 2009 – 5:52 PM

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Outside linebackers coach Jason Tarver usually works with the gunners on punt team during the special teams portions of practice.  Tarver will hold a blocking pad, playing the role of the opposing jammer as the gunners try to release off the line of scrimmage.

Tarver gave way though to a “special guest” as head coach Mike Singletary walked over and picked up the blocking pad to the chagrin of the gunners.

“I was scared to death,” said cornerback Shawntae Spencer.  “His eyes got big with the ‘Eye of the Tiger’ and everything.  I’m like, ‘It’s Mike Singletary!’  And he was serious too.”

Singletary was definitely making the players work hard.  In fact, some of the gunners started joking with their coach for hitting them after they were already out of bounds.  During a game, such a play would result in a penalty.

“I think he hit me a little late,” said wide receiver Jason Hill.  “A couple of times I was out of bounds and he hit me a little late.  I told him, ‘I’m going to have to talk to the refs about that one.’”

The players don’t usually go one-on-one with their coach, so some of the players tried to take advantage of the situation.  With Singletary shading towards the outside to prevent a good outside release, Spencer stepped outside before cutting back to the middle untouched, faking out his coach.

100709-sing-jammer-sub“I saw him cheat!” Spencer exclaimed.  “He was cheating because he knew we had to go outside.  So I released outside and then cut under him and then he got mad and threw the bag!”

Regardless of the friendly competition or the penalties that went unnoticed (there were zero refereed on the field), the gunners enjoyed the spirited session.

“I’ll tell you what, he really got us going today,” Spencer said.  It was a very, very funny moment.  It was one of the funniest moments of this season.  He just really showed his lighter side at the same time he gave us a good workout.  He showed us that he still likes to hit!”

For Hill, it was a great opportunity to go up against one of the game’s all-time greats.

“That’s a dream come true to line up against him,” Hill said.  “I’ll remember this day.  Hopefully when it’s all said and done we’ll look back on it and laugh and say that he got us better.”


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