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Best of 2012: Michael Zagaris

Posted by Taylor Price on February 28, 2013 – 12:47 PM

His perspective is unique and the same can be said for his photographs. Nobody takes you behind the scenes with the San Francisco 49ers quite like team photographer Michael Zagaris.

From Week 1 at historic Lambeau Field to an appearance in Super Bowl XLVII, the longtime team photographer offers a unique glimpse at the NFC Champs. Take a look at the action on the field, the postgame reaction and even some halftime adjustments in this “Best of 2012″ photo gallery from Zagaris which features 300 of his best photographs.

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Morning Tailgate: Kaepernick Stays Busy

Posted by Taylor Price on February 28, 2013 – 10:22 AM

It doesn’t seem like Colin Kaepernick is taking time to rest and relax this offseason. It’s not a shocker, either. The San Francisco 49ers starting quarterback appeared at an award show, began working out with teammates at a training facility in Atlanta and recently took part in an event hosted by the first lady, Michelle Obama.

Mrs. Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign received help this week from Kaepernick, plus Olympic athletes (Dominique Dawes, Gabby Douglas, Allyson Felix) and tennis star Serena Williams among others.

Details of the event, shared by The Washington Post, touched on Mrs. Obama’s quest to help schools become more active in saving physical education programs nation-wide. Kaepernick, an example of physical condition, has proven to be a strong force in the community, not just on the football field.

The 49ers quarterback will also appear on NFL Network on Thursday at 3 p.m. PT to join the network’s “Path to the Draft” show.

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Morning Tailgate: Combine Wrap-Up

Posted by Alex Espinoza on February 27, 2013 – 8:04 AM

The whirlwind week in Indianapolis known as the NFL Scouting Combine has wrapped up. Now all 32 teams are gearing up for Pro Days around the country and their final rounds of Draft day preparation. Before we move on to the next part of the NFL offseason, take a look back at the week that was in Indy.

Bucky Brooks of NFL.com listed SMU defensive lineman Margus Hunt as the Combine’s biggest winner. “Hunt put himself squarely on the radar of scouts after turning in sensational marks in the 40-yard dash (4.60 seconds), vertical jump (34.5 inches), broad jump (10-foot-1) and bench press (38 reps),” Brooks wrote. “He also displayed outstanding movement skills, agility and body control in positional drills, leading some scouts to believe he can develop into an immediate-impact player as a five-technique (a defensive end in a 3-4).”

The rest of today’s Morning Tailgate looks at other studs and duds from the combine and more.

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2012 Plays of the Year: Big Plays

Posted by Alex Espinoza on February 26, 2013 – 2:29 PM

We need your help in selecting the top plays from the 2012 season. We’re asking our Faithful fans to choose the top takeaway, touchdown, sack, big play and biggest hit of the season. Next, the winning five plays (one from each category), will move on to the championship round to determine 49ers.com’s “Top Play of 2012.”

Watch our “Top 5” video highlights on the best plays for each category, then vote in the poll section of the corresponding blog post to see which top play will reach the championship.

Help us crown the top play of 2012 by choosing your favorite big play from this past season. You can vote for your favorite big play up until Thursday at noon. Let’s take a look at the five nominees.

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Morning Tailgate: Honey Badger Runs the 40

Posted by Taylor Price on February 26, 2013 – 9:07 AM

He’s one of the most talked about prospects at the 2013 NFL Scouting Combine. His talent stands out, but so does his nickname. He might not want to be known by it, but as much as Tyrann Matheiu wants to be remembered for his play-making ability at LSU, he’ll always be known as the “Honey Badger.”

That’st just what happens when you become a pop culture phenomenon.

Nonetheless, the LSU cornerback put his best foot forward Tuesday at the combine with an unofficial 4.43, 40-yard dash. Mathieu was a Heisman Trophy finalist in 2011, but was kicked off the Tigers football team in 2012 for repeatedly violating the team’s substance abuse policy.

Mathieu aims to change the perception of him and looking past the nickname is part of it.

“I’m Tyrann right now but if the Honey Badger sticks, it sticks,” the 5-foot-9, 186-pound cornerback with return ability said at the combine. “Right now I’m focused on being Tyrann Matheiu.”

Teams, too, are focused on getting to know the real Matheiu. They’ve seen the highlight-worthy plays he reeled off in 2011, but also know about the issues he faced the following season.

Mathieu has time to improve his image, running a solid 40 time is a step in the right direction.

Track all the combine statistics here.

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2013 All-Combine Personality Team

Posted by Taylor Price on February 25, 2013 – 4:37 PM

It’s a tradition unlike any other. For a third consecutive year, 49ers.com has chosen 22 NFL Draft hopefuls for our “All-Combine Personality Team.”

With 333 players at the 2013 NFL Scouting Combine, 49ers.com heard from a good amount of this year’s prospects and trimmed down the players into a 22-man team.

In our first-ever AP team, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick was selected as the team’s starting quarterback. Here’s what we saw in the starting quarterback back then:

“The quarterback who can throw a baseball in the mid 90s, can toss a football 59 miles per hour (fastest of any combine QB) and makes it seem effortless. His press conference also stood out for his positive disposition. Clearly, Kaepernick enjoyed the experience. He tweets often and is a guy to root for.”

Last year’s AP team didn’t feature any future 49ers, but that could all change in 2013.

With the 49ers expecting 14 draft selections in the 2013 NFL Draft which begins on April 25, there’s a good chance that one of the standout personalities from this year’s combine finds their way on to San Francisco’s roster. (Note: we chose a 4-3 defensive alignment to fit more of the nation’s top defensive line prospects on the roster).

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Morning Tailgate: Offseason Trade Talk

Posted by Alex Espinoza on February 25, 2013 – 11:14 AM

Alex Smith played a huge role in San Francisco’s Super Bowl run in 2012, posting a 6-2-1 record as the 49ers starter through the first 10 weeks of the season. But with the emergence of Colin Kaepernick in the second half of the season, many are wondering what the future holds for the 49ers quarterback situation.

Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com helped fuel the latest round of speculation, as he cited league sources who said the 49ers have a tentative agreement to trade Smith to another team once the league year starts on March 12.

“No trades can be official until the league year begins March 12, so nothing can be finalized now, but sources said the two teams involved have the key terms in place at this point, and will finalize it down the road,” La Canfora wrote. “At this point, I don’t know the identity of the other team involved, but the 49ers have made it clear they are moving Smith and he will not be a part of the team this year.”

The rest of today’s Morning Tailgate wraps up weekend headlines from the NFL Scouting Combine and more.

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Morning Tailgate: Read-Option to Stay

Posted by Taylor Price on February 23, 2013 – 6:04 AM

INDIANAPOLIS –579.

That’s the total number of yards the San Francisco 49ers racked up in a 45-31 Divisional Playoff Round win against the Green Bay Packers. It’s also a number that’s sticking with Packers coach Mike McCarthy all offseason.

It’s on his mind so much, McCarthy will send his defensive coaches to Texas A&M to study the best ways to defend the read-option offense from Aggies head coach Kevin Sumlin.

Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle shared McCarthy’s comments that were made Friday at the 2013 NFL Scouting Combine.

The 49ers totaled 323 yards in the playoff win over the Packers, including a 7.5 yards per carry average to go along with four rushing scores.

“San Francisco, they beat us twice last year,” McCarthy said. “You look at the difference in the first game and the second game, and obviously the glaring statistic and the information in the second game was obviously the production of their quarterback … San Francisco had a great year; like I said they beat us twice, and that’ll definitely be a focus of our offseason.”

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Morning Tailgate: Smith Undergoes Surgery

Posted by Taylor Price on February 22, 2013 – 6:50 AM

INDIANAPOLIS – All the attention this week at the NFL Scouting Combine is on the incoming prospects and the domino effect they’ll have on pending free agents. It’s deservedly so.

But one non-prospect related item from Thursday’s opening media session should not go unnoticed.

General Manager Trent Baalke revealed positive news on 49ers four-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Justin Smith. After the Super Bowl, San Francisco’s defensive co-captain underwent successful surgery on a partially torn left triceps tendon.

The comments, shared with CSN Bay Area’s Matt Maiocco, indicate Smith will have a brief rehab and will be ready for training camp.

Smith missed the final two regular season games from the triceps injury, but returned for all three postseason games. Mock drafts around the country have the 49ers taking a defensive lineman to lighten the workload on Smith’s plate, but all that will play itself out in the coming months.

For now, let’s enjoy the combine process and get to know the top talent headed to the NFL Draft. Also, Jim Harbaugh will speak with reporters at 11:30 am P.T. make sure you watch it live on 49ers.com.

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Morning Tailgate: Gore Reaches Out

Posted by Taylor Price on February 21, 2013 – 6:14 AM

INDIANAPOLIS – The 2013 NFL Scouting Combine is just about to begin. We’re all set in the media work room inside of Lucas Oil Stadium to cover the top college prospects for the next three days. First, 49ers General Manager Trent Baalke will speak with reporters as several GMs and head coaches will take turns talking to reporters this week. Jim Harbaugh will talk to the press on Friday.

As for players, it’ll be offensive linemen, tight ends and kickers talking with the press on Thursday. We’ll share some of their comments throughout the day, but first, let’s take a look at some of the top 49ers related headlines before the start of the NFL Scouting Combine.

Robert Klemko of USA TODAY Sports shared an interesting anecdote in a pre-combine story on South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore. The injured star running back was given a lot of advice after suffering a second major injury to his knee, most notably from 49ers rushing king Frank Gore.

“By his count, about 15 NFL players who have suffered similar injuries have contacted him to offer encouragement and advice,” Klemko wrote. “San Francisco 49ers cornerback Chris Culliver, a former Gamecock, asked running back Frank Gore to call Lattimore.”

Gore dealt with knee injuries in college and was drafted in the third round back in 2005. Lattimore has been pegged as a third-rounder by many draft experts before the combine. Although Lattimore won’t be able to participate in drills, getting the opportunity to meet with coaches and NFL doctors this week will be crucial for him.

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