The 49ers will return to Candlestick Park in four days to kick off their preseason schedule with a Friday night (6 p.m.) matchup against the Minnesota Vikings. The reigning NFC Champs have put together a productive first two weeks of training camp and are eager to see some other jerseys out on the field.
Heading into 2012, the 49ers boast one of the league’s most talented and complete group of linebackers. Outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks is a key part to the San Francisco defense both in the run game and the pass rush, as evidenced by the six-year extension he signed with the team in February. Despite starting all 16 games during his career year in 2011 (50 tackles and 7.0 sacks) and his new contract, Brooks is more motivated than ever entering his seventh NFL season.
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee spoke to Brooks about his offseason, which included some trips to the local pilates class. “As a result Brooks enters the 2012 season with a changed physique,” Barrows wrote. “He weighs just as much as he has in previous training camps – 266 pounds – but it’s a different, more muscular type of weight, he said.”
Today’s Morning Tailgate features a variety of news, including the latest training camp headlines, a heart-warming story about 49ers great Jesse Sapolu, an inspiring video of Alex Smith’s career and more.
Kevin Lynch of the San Francisco Chronicle spoke to former offense lineman and four-time Super Bowl champion Jesse Sapolu, who revealed he played his NFL career with a serious heart condition. Lynch: “Sapolu played with a torn aortic heart valve that left him dangerously short of breath at times. Because of his condition, he also played with an enlarged heart that required two surgeries, including one during his playing days.”
Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle shares a video from local film student Matt Ware, who put together a 26-minute project chronicling Alex Smith’s NFL career. Branch: “Among those who have given his film a click is Smith’s wife, Elizabeth, who said, via Twitter, that it inspired tears.”
Branch also spoke to former Illinois coach Ron Zook about his former player and current 49ers rookie A.J. Jenkins, discussed Mario Manningham’s team-first attitude and talked to special teams ace Rock Cartwright about his expected role in 2012.
Monte Poole of the Bay Area News Group writes that Smith is entering the prime of his career with his supporting cast on offense and coach Jim Harbaugh. Poole: “Not until Jim Harbaugh became head coach in 2011 did Smith start settling into his skin. A former NFL quarterback with superb theories on coaching the position, Harbaugh immediately recognized Smith’s strengths and weaknesses.”
Cam Inman of the Bay Area News Group takes a look at Tarell Brown’s heightened expectations in 2012. Inman: “Brown made a bold vow in May: He will lead the league in interceptions this season, and he’ll donate a game check to one of his charitable foundations if he fails to make the Pro Bowl.”
Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com stayed up until the wee hours of Monday morning to answer fans’ questions in an informative mailbag session. Maiocco: “The one player I’m most curious to watch is LaMichael James. I’m very interested to see how his style translates to the NFL. I don’t expect the 49ers to disclose any specialty packages for James — that’ll have to wait until the regular season. But I want to see how his quickness looks at this level.”
Barrows examines the nickel position in Vic Fangio’s defense and the unique responsibilities of the job. Barrows: “Fangio has one excellent option in Carlos Rogers, whose six interceptions tied for the team lead last season and who was voted to his first Pro Bowl.”
Former 49ers defensive lineman Chris Doleman was the 21st member of the 49ers to be enshrined to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, writes Inman. You can also watch the best of Doleman’s induction speech on NFL.com
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Tags: Ahmad Brooks, Alex Smith, Carlos Rogers, Chris Doleman, Jesse Sapolu, Mario Manningham, Rock Cartwright
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