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Morning Tailgate: Jan. 7

Posted by Alex Espinoza on January 7, 2013 – 10:47 AM

It’s been nearly four months since the 49ers kicked off the 2012 season with a 30-22 victory against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. By virtue of their 24-10 victory over Minnesota on Saturday, the Packers are headed to Candlestick for the 5 p.m. PT Saturday kickoff against the 49ers in the NFC Divisional Round.

Aaron Rodgers led Green Bay to an 11-5 record and the NFC North title in the regular season, earning the No. 3 seed in the postseason. The 49ers and Packers and no strangers to each other in the playoffs. Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com took a look back at the rich postseason history between the two proud franchises over the years.

“When the third-seeded Green Bay Packers visit Candlestick Park on Saturday to face the No. 2 seed 49ers, it’ll be their sixth postseason meeting,” Maiocco wrote. “But it’ll be the first time Chico native Aaron Rodgers has played in San Francisco in his career. And it’ll be the first playoff appearance for Colin Kaepernick.”

The rest of today’s Morning Tailgate looks ahead to the playoff matchup with the Pack as the 49ers open their Quest for Six.

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Gameday Story: Everyone Loves Ray

Posted by Taylor Price on October 19, 2012 – 12:56 PM

The San Francisco 49ers have one of, if not the, best rush defenses in the NFL. Filled with multiple All-Pro and Pro Bowl players, it’s hard for all 11 deserving players to get recognition.

One of the most unheralded defenders is defensive tackle Ray McDonald, a hard-working lineman who’s earned the respect of his teammates and coaches with his consistent approach.

McDonald continues to be at the forefront of San Francisco’s tough defense and maintains his role as one of the locker room’s favorite players. This week’s Gameday Magazine cover story touched on McDonald’s respect amongst his peers in their words only.

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Clark Haggans is Eager to Contribute

Posted by Jacob Most on September 4, 2012 – 4:41 PM

The newest member of the San Francisco 49ers is already buying into Jim Harbaugh’s team-first philosophy.

Clark Haggans, the veteran outside linebacker signed to fill Parys Haralson’s roster spot, expressed just how much he would be willing to do to help his new team when speaking with the media for the first time since signing with the 49ers on Monday.

“If they need me to long snap, kick or fill up the water bottles I will do it,” Haggans said.

The 13-year veteran’s willingness to contribute at multiple positions is commendable, but he is expected to spend the majority of his time at outside linebacker after Haralson was placed on Injured Reserve.

After arriving in the Bay Area on Sunday, Haggans wasted little time getting into his new playbook.

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Morning Tailgate: Sept. 4

Posted by Alex Espinoza on September 4, 2012 – 10:40 AM

At long last, it’s Week 1 of the NFL regular season. The 49ers are headed to Lambeau Field for their season opener against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday, but first they have a week of practice at team headquarters in Santa Clara.

The 53-man roster is set and it features a pair of players who are expected to play offense, defense and special teams this season for San Francisco. Will Tukuafu and Demarcus Dobbs take pride in their do-it-all roles with the team and are also roommates on the road. Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com spoke to Dobbs about the new responsibilities he and Tukuafu have added to their plates this season.

“Tukuafu and Dobbs were both converted into two-way players in the offseason,” Maiocco writes. “Dobbs played both ways in all three exhibition games in which he appeared. Tukuafu did not see two-way action in training camp until after the first three weeks of camp. He concluded the exhibition season in impressive fashion.”

Today’s Morning Tailgate rounds up the best coverage from Labor Day Weekend and takes a look forward to the Week 1 matchup.

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Fangio Raises Expectations for Aldon Smith

Posted by Taylor Price on June 13, 2012 – 2:26 PM

Vic Fangio has been coaching in the NFL long before the days of free agency and is well-versed on what it takes to be a successful linebacker in the professional ranks. In the late 80s and early 90s, Fangio benefitted from working with the same set of linebackers for seven straight seasons during his time with the New Orleans Saints.

The consistency developed by those Saints defenses were seldom seen in league history as four of his Saints linebackers were once named to the Pro Bowl in the same season.

These days, however, it appears as if Fangio might be experiencing flashbacks of his days working with “The Dome Patrol,” the moniker given to his dominant linebacking crew.

While Fangio is in the midst of his first offseason working on the field in OTAs and minicamps with 49ers players, he’s doing it largely with the same personnel he had in 2011.

So how does the 49ers coordinator react to having all 11 defensive starters from one of the league’s top defensive units back for 2012?

“We should be as good or better,” Fangio said on Wednesday.

Fangio also has similar expectations for last season’s first-round pick, outside linebacker Aldon Smith.

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Monday’s Locker Room Talk: Dec. 5

Posted by Taylor Price on December 5, 2011 – 3:49 PM

On one of the most prominent defenses in the National Football League, Tarell Brown quietly goes about his business… and produces.

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Monday’s Locker Room Talk: Nov. 14

Posted by Taylor Price on November 14, 2011 – 4:27 PM

Much of Monday’s talk inside the locker room at 4949 Centennial Blvd. centered on Justin Smith’s latest hustle play to remember.

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Willis Returns to Defensive Huddle

Posted by Taylor Price on June 14, 2010 – 5:36 PM

You will never hear Patrick Willis question the importance of practice. Not in mid-June, or in any month for that matter.

The 49ers three-time Pro Bowl linebacker and unquestioned defensive leader has been eager to return to the practice fields ever since he underwent a minor knee surgery this offseason.

In recent weeks, Willis has been slowly working over 49ers head athletic trainer Jeff Ferguson for permission to practice, asking him what he’s allowed to do each and every day he’s been around 49ers headquarters. And while Ferguson has limited Willis to individual work in last week’s organized team activities, this week was a different story.

Willis’ self-described gnat-like behavior must have paid off as Ferguson gave him the clearance to join 11-on-11 periods during Monday’s OTA session.

The wait was difficult for Willis, but he understood Ferguson’s reasoning and respected it.

“He’s one of the best trainers in the league and with my injuries before he’s done a great job of getting me ready, preparing me,” Willis said while standing in front of his locker. “I was just going to listen to him and let him tell me what to do, but at the same time, I had to bug him a little bit to let me get back out there. He gave me the ‘OK’ to participate in some of the drills and it felt good to get my feet wet and get back on the field with the boys.”

The feeling was beyond mutual.

Once Willis stepped into the huddle, outside linebacker Parys Haralson remarked, “The X-Factor is back!” Others chimed in, “Welcome back 52!”

Willis wasted no time validating the opinions of his teammates. He instantly got involved in the action by perfectly timing a delayed blitz for a would-be sack of quarterback Alex Smith.

Several plays later, he read an inside handoff to running back Glen Coffee and was in perfect position to make a play on the second-year back.

Not bad, considering Willis told reporters how he felt slower with his eyes than his feet after Monday’s practice.

With Willis back in the fold for the remainder of the offseason, the leader of the defense only sees a better performance for the entire unit in 2010.

“I think our defense can be exceptionally good. It’s going to take a lot of hard work. It’s going to take guys continuing to grow and be hungry and want to be stronger than we were before. We want to be No. 1, but if we can get in the top-3, I feel like that’s putting us in a great spot as an overall defense.”

Notes and Quotes

With Willis amongst his teammates for team periods, safety Taylor Mays took the opportunity to stand beside head coach Mike Singletary and secondary coach Johnnie Lynn deep in the 49ers defensive backfield. That location, some 40 yards behind the play, was Willis’ destination for most of the offseason. But on Monday, Mays took mental reps and asked questions in between the plays he participated in during the team period.

The first and only turnover of the day took place in the first team period, when safety Michael Lewis intercepted Smith’s pass intended for tight end Joe Jon Finley. The deep crossing route was first deflected high in the air by cornerback Kary Paymah, which allowed Lewis time to catch the ball and run it down the right sideline for a nice return.

The best offensive play took place later in practice as third-string signal caller Nate Davis found rookie wide receiver Kyle Williams 35 yards down the field on a go route over the coverage of undrafted cornerback Tramaine Brock.

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Celebrity Winter Fest: Saturday

Posted by Scott Kegley on March 20, 2010 – 12:29 PM

Saturday will be another action-packed day here at the 49ers 10th Annual Celebrity Winter Fest.  Center Cody Wallace and guard Tony Wragge got things started, participating in a Cardiogolf session taught by Karen Jansen.

Jansen walked the two offensive linemen, guests and Gold Rush cheerleaders through a series of warm-up movements and then broke down the golf swing step by step.

“It was a lot of fun,” Wragge said.  “Karen taught me that the basic principles of the swing haven’t changed, but they need to be perfected.  That’s one of the things I really need to work on as a big guy.  I need to work on my flexibility, core strength and the basics.  I need to focus on following through properly.  I don’t always get out enough since I’m focused on football, but I always like to improve my game.”

With a golf club not much more than two feet long, Wragge did feel somewhat awkward while receiving the instruction.

“The club probably goes up to my mid-thigh so it was kind of goofy but the principles were still the same,” Wragge said.  “It makes a lot of sense when you use the club, but it started to feel like kiddie golf for since I’m so big.”

Tony Wragge doing Cardiogolf at the 49ers Celebrity Winter Fest

Cody Wallace doing Cardiogolf at the 49ers Celebrity Winter Fest

Gold Rush cheerleader Lauren doing Cardiogolf at the 49ers Celebrity Winter Fest

There will be an ice sculpting demonstration and competition at 1:00, followed by a Chalk Talk session with the players and coached at 3:00.  Stay tuned!

UPDATE: 2:00

We just got finished with the ice carving competition where teams were asked to carve 49ers helmets.  Each team of two went with their own creative touches, including everything from hollowing out the face mask as well as adding eyes and cracks from game play.

“We have fractures in the top of the helmet,” said Seth Gersch, 49ers Foundation board member.  “We have a bad, bad bruise in the front of the helmet.  We have a very abstract look to our helmet and we’re very pleased with the result.”

“This is the helmet after the Super Bowl game,” added James Kyson-Lee, the actor who play’s Ando from Heroes.  “It’s a true work of art.  It represents the journey of an athlete through the Super Bowl after an NFL season.”

Seth Gersch and James Kyson-Lee at the 49ers Celebrity Winter Fest

Pictured: Seth Gersch and James Kyson-Lee

While Kyson-Lee and Gersch were thrilled with their final product, linebacker Parys Haralson was left frustrated after experiencing technical difficulties when his drill bit broke.

“Our drill bit was a little short,” Haralson said.  “I told [the instructor] my bit wouldn’t get deep enough because we were trying to get up in there.”

Josh Morgan also had some hardware problems after giving his carving took to the neighboring Takeo Spikes.  Morgan’s team still managed to finish with a very nice looking helmet.

“I was the inspiration, but my partner did most of the work,” Morgan said.  “We carved it to perfection.  We were doing fine until we tried to share [with Spikes] and be good sports and they broke our tool so that put us back a little bit.  We’re going to win.  We have the eyes, my umber in the back and the S-F.  If it wasn’t melting so bad, it would look perfect.”

The teams will have to wait until the dinner reception tonight to find out who won.

Josh Morgan at the 49ers Celebrity Winter Fest

Parys Haralson at the 49ers Celebrity Winter Fest

Cody Wallace and Takeo Spikes at the 49ers Celebrity Winter Fest


The Chalk Talk this afternoon was a huge success.  Head coach Mike Singletary started the event by stating the team’s philosophy and mission heading into the 2010 season.

Then, running backs coach Tom Rathman demonstrated the four points of pressure in order to ensure ball security, the key component of Rathman’s coaching philosophy.   It was evident that Rathman had given his daughter Samantha the same instruction as his players as the coach enlisted her help to go over proper ball carrying technique.

Tom Rathman at the 49ers Celebrity Winter Fest

Mike Singletary and Tom Rathman at the 49ers Celebrity Winter Fest

Each of the players also walked the audience through several plays in a film session similar to what the they might go through in one of their team  meetings.

Adam Snyder at the 49ers Celebrity Winter Fest

One of the most interesting moments came in the Q&A session that followed, when quarterback Alex Smith broke down offensive play calls, describing what each part of the call means and the many options he has  to change a play after it has been called in the huddle.  Having played in several different offensive systems, he described the different ways of calling plays in the digit system the team uses currently and the West Coast offense which Smith ran during his first year in the NFL.

Alex Smith, Josh Morgan and Adam Snyder at the 49ers Celebrity Winter Fest

“It was incredible,” Eileen Goodwin said after the conclusion of the Chalk Talk.  “As a person who watches football but has never played, they really made it understandable.  Every one of them has a terrific personality and it really came through in their answers.”

Goodwin was also the winner of the raffle for an autographed football.  However, since Rathman drew her number, the coach pulled a pop quiz and made her recite the four points of pressure he taught earlier.  Being put on the spot, Goodwin passed and was able to receive her reward.

“I remember when he played and I can see why he’s a great coach,” Goodwin said about Rathman.  “It stuck in my head.  Having his daughter come up and demonstrate made it easier for me to perform it later.”

Tom Rathman and Eileen Goodwin at the 49ers Celebrity Winter fest

The evening schedule is the same as Friday night.  There is a reception and silent auction at 5:30 followed by dinner and a live auction at 6:30.

UPDATE: John Rzeznik of the Goo Goo Dolls closed the event with an exclusive concert for all the guests at the Celebrity Winter Fest.  Here are a few photos from the final night.

Jed York at the 49ers Celebrity Winter Fest

Mike Singletary at the 49ers Celebrity Winter Fest

John Rzeznik at the 49ers Celebrity Winter Fest

John Rzeznik of the Goo Goo Dolls at the 49ers Celebrity Winter Fest

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Faithful Vote: Best Sack of 2009

Posted by Taylor Price on January 26, 2010 – 11:57 AM

February 2, 2010 Update:

Congratulations to Justin Smith who won with 40% of the vote. Ahmad Brooks finished a close second with 38% of the vote. Aubrayo Franklin (12%) and Parys Haralson (9%) rounded out the top four sacks of the season in the polls.

This week’s 49ers.com poll asks our Faithful fans to decide which sack was the best in 2009.

The 49ers totaled 44 sacks this past season, tied for third most in the NFL and tied for second most in the NFC. It was the best sack totals the team has posted since 1998 in which they racked up 51.

Picking the top four sacks was no easy task.

Manny Lawson led the team with 6.5 sacks and 13 other 49ers registered at least one sack in 2009. But without further delay, let’s take a look at your choices for best 49ers sack of 2009.

Our first nominee is matchup nightmare Justin Smith’s game-ending sack of Kurt Warner.

Smith out-worked and dominated the Arizona Cardinals offensive line in the 49ers Week 1 road victory over the division champs. The defensive tackle totaled an amazing 13 quarterback pressures and nine hits on Kurt Warner.

Smith hit Warner so many times, I’m not even sure this is the picture of the sack that closed Arizona’s chances for a comeback in the season opener. But it just might be the image of Smith sacking Warner with less than 10 seconds at midfield.

The man referred to as “Cowboy” inside the 49ers locker room, lassoed Warner and through him to the ground in a decisive manner. It was the perfect exclamation mark to a solid win.

Our next hopeful is last week’s 49ers.com poll winner, nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin.

Franklin gets the nod this week for his sack of four-time NFL MVP quarterback Peyton Manning. Franklin was one three 49ers to take down the never-sacked signal caller. Manning was only brought down 13 times during the regular season.

Franklin’s sack was impressive on a number of fronts. It showed all the tools that gave him a breakout season in 2009. First, he beat a double team of center Jeff Saturday and left guard Ryan Lilja to get to Manning which demonstrated Franklin’s non-stop motor. It also displayed his amazing hands as he swatted away Lilja’s block and broke through the two blockers to get to Manning.

Franklin picked up honors for best interception in 2009, will he get another award for best sack? It’s up to you to make the call.

Our third nominee is more of a group nominee, but really since one of the primary participants was already nominated (Smith), outside linebacker Parys Haralson will get the call as our third choice.

Out of the 49ers six sacks against David Garrard and the visiting Jacksonville Jaguars on Nov. 29, Haralson’s was easily the most memorable, and perhaps the most violent.

On the first play of the fourth quarter with the 49ers leading 20-3, Haralson made sure those numbers remained as the final score with a devastating sack on Garrard with the help of some friends.

Jaguars rookie left tackle Eugene Monroe decided it would be better to leave Haralson unblocked even though he was lined up directly across from him. Instead of disrupting Haralson’s route to his quarterback, Monroe looked outwards to kick out 5-10, 188-pound cornerback Dre’ Bly.

From there, Haralson corralled Garrard by the shoulder pads until Smith came over to finish the play off, knocking the ball out in the process. Defensive tackle Ray McDonald rallied to the ball and fell right on top, giving possession and momentum back to the 49ers.

Our final nominee is another outside linebacker, Ahmad Brooks, who also turned in another sack-forced fumble play.

One of Brooks’ three sacks of Warner on “Monday Night Football” took the air right from under the Cardinals’ wings.

Brooks’ performance added to the 49ers 27 sacks in the final eight games of the season which led the NFL.

The outside linebacker was also a matchup nightmare for all of Arizona’s tackles, especially left tackle Wayne Gandy.

The athletic edge rusher closed out the first half with a sack and forced fumble on Warner that silenced Arizona’s comeback bid. He did it in style by blowing past Gandy and knocking the ball out of Warner’s right arm at the top of the pocket. Smith again was involved in another one of our nominees, as he recovered the fumble.

The turnover enabled the 49ers to keep their 17-point lead intact as they head into the locker rooms for halftime. They went on to keep that lead and finish the season sweep of the Cardinals.

You can vote as many times as you’d like all week long by finding the poll on the bottom left corner of the 49ers.com home page. The winner will be announced next Monday, along with a new “Faithful Vote” for 49ers fans to debate on.

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