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Morning Tailgate: Madden Cover Vote

Posted by Taylor Price on April 2, 2013 – 9:09 AM

It’s voting season.

NFL.com is asking fans to choose the best play in NFL history and two of San Francisco’s Hall of Fame quarterbacks, Joe Montana and Steve Young, are among the great eight remaining plays. Montana delivered “The Catch,” while Young seemingly broke 49 tackles on his way to a 49-yard game-winning touchdown run against the Minnesota Vikings back in 1988. Fifth round voting ends on April 3.

Another important offseason vote involves 49ers past and present.

Montana, along with Hall of Fame teammate Jerry Rice and current 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, still remain in the Madden Cover Vote for the game’s 25 anniversary edition.

Kaepernick, a No. 1 seed, faces Houston Texans running back Arian Foster in the “New School” side of the bracket.

Montana, a No. 1 seed, faces Super Bowl XIX opponent and Kaepernick fan, Dan Marino, a No. 4 seed, in the “Old School” bracket. Meanwhile, Rice, another No. 1 seed, will match up against Michael Strahan (No. 5 seed) as one of the other throwback pairings.

It’s worth noting that no other team has more than one representative in the Madden tournament.

That’s important if you subscribe to the “Madden Curse” theory. Detroit Lions mega-star wideout Calvin Johnson didn’t fall for it in 2013. Johnson, the most recent player to grace the Madden cover, broke Rice’s single-season receiving record with 1,964 yards for the Lions. Rice’s old record was set in 1995.

Meanwhile, Kaepernick’s Twitter feed has recently been filled with retweets of fans supporting his quest to be on the Madden cover.

If you don’t want to vote for the current 49ers quarterback, Montana and Rice are long removed from their playing careers and will surely accept placement on the Madden cover. Both stars have joined Twitter, too. Connect with them here: @JoeMontana & @JerryRice.

Round three of the Madden vote ends on April 3. Vote often for any three of the 49ers representatives.

Check out additional 49ers headlines in the Morning Tailgate, including reports of a new quarterback joining the team in 2013.

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Postgame Analysis: 49ers vs. Raiders

Posted by Scott Kegley on October 17, 2010 – 6:48 PM

Shawntae Spencer summed it up the best following the 49ers 17-9 win over the Oakland Raiders.

“The mentality in practice, the locker room and throughout our building is that we can’t lose any more games,” the seven-year veteran cornerback said. “We have 10 left and we’re behind. We take them one at a time, but it’s a different sense of urgency that we have to continue to have.”

That urgency showed in the second half of Sunday’s win over Oakland as Alex Smith connected with Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis on touchdown passes that helped the 49ers win their first game of 2010.

Here’s a closer look at some of the highlights from the win.

Highlight Reel: The offensive play of the game was Smith’s 32-yard touchdown to Michael Crabtree. The unit had just been hit with an intentional grounding penalty, but Smith responded with a perfect pass to Crabtree on second-and-20.

“I feel like the sky’s the limit for us,” Crabtree said. “All we have to do is take one step at a time and that game right there is evidence. I’m looking forward to next week.”

Linebacker Manny Lawson deserves the honors for best defensive highlight for his diving interception in front of tight end Zach Miller. Lawson made a great play to turn and defend the deep route and laid out to prevent the long completion and give the ball back to the 49ers offense.

Standout Stat: In two red zone possessions, the 49ers defense was able to hold the Raiders to two field goals. The missed opportunities to score touchdowns proved costly as the Raiders failed to visit the end zone at any point of a game they lost by eight points.

“That’s something that we pride ourselves on,” Spencer said. “If we can continue to do that, we’ll always be in the ballgame.”

Put it in Perspective: Getting the first win under their belts has given the 49ers even more confidence. It is also encouraging to see Frank Gore have his best game of the season with 149 yards rushing on 25 carries after he fumbled twice against Philadelphia.

After last week’s game against the Eagles, Mike Singletary said the toughest opponent for his team was the San Francisco 49ers. The 49ers didn’t beat themselves on Sunday as they were able to protect the football and forced two turnovers on defense.

“If you don’t turn the ball over, you’re going to give yourself a chance to win,” linebacker Takeo Spikes said on a day in which he led the 49ers with six tackles.

“We’re going to have a 24-hour rule with the win as well as we had with the losses. We ain’t looking back. There’s no looking back, none.”


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On the Phone with Reid and Jackson

Posted by Sam Good on October 6, 2010 – 4:33 PM

When the 49ers traveled to Philadelphia to face the Eagles last December, coach Andy Reid knew he was matched up against a good team.

And as his squad prepares to come to San Francisco this weekend, Reid believes the 49ers team they will play Sunday is even better than the one they saw nearly 10 months ago.

“They play aggressive football, very similar to the personality of their head coach” Reid said during his Wednesday conference call with the Bay Area media. “They’re tough. They fly around on defense and make plays.”

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49ers Arrive in Monterey

Posted by Taylor Price on August 5, 2010 – 10:18 AM

SEASIDE, Calif. – We’ve just arrived on the campus of Cal-State Monterey and the players are getting ready for practice. It’s much cooler down here and the field looks to be in great shape. There’s even red stripes painted to replicate the nutcracker drills back in Santa Clara.

Practice was pushed back to a 10:15 a.m. PT start time. Players are getting taped up outside and a couple are already out on the field warming up.

I’ll post a couple of updates as we go and we’ll have more from practice later in the day on 49ers.com.

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Monday’s Locker Room Talk

Posted by Taylor Price on December 28, 2009 – 3:42 PM

If Vernon Davis catches one more touchdown pass this week against the St. Louis Rams, he’ll tie Antonio Gates’ single-season record of 13 touchdown catches set back in 2004.

But the 49ers aren’t looking at it like it’s a one-man accomplishment for their starting tight end. It’s really more of a team feat.

“It’s a credit to the guys around him. We all depend on each other. But we’re happy for him, he’s worked really hard,” quarterback Alex Smith said.

In Davis’ first three seasons, the No. 6 overall pick in the 2005 draft had 103 catches for 1,132 yards (11 yards per catch) and nine touchdowns. To put his breakout year into further perspective, already this season Davis has 72 catches for 876 yards (12.2 yards per catch) and 12 touchdowns.

With numbers like that, Davis has the support of all his teammates in being a strong candidate to make the 2010 Pro Bowl.

“I’d love to see him on that list,” Smith said. “I’d love to see as many guys as possible, but especially him. He’s worked hard and had a lot of the stats this year to back it up.”

Davis and the rest of the 49ers will have to wait until 4:15 PM PT on Tuesday when Pro Bowl rosters are announced.

And while Smith was unaware of what Davis needed to pass the league milestone, the 49ers signal caller said he wouldn’t press the issue in St. Louis.

“I don’t think we’re going to force anything. We’re just going to let it happen. We’re going to try and win the game,” Smith said. “I think there’s something to be said about him and the work he’s put in over the last few years as well as this season.”

According to Smith, Davis’ development has forced opposing defenses to game plan for the 49ers versatile tight end.

“Definitely his speed up the field is something that causes problems,” Smith said. “I think you can see in these last few weeks defenses have acknowledged [that] and are making adjustments too.  I think they’re more conscious of him.”

Smith was pretty aware of Davis on a 2-yard rollout touchdown pass in which the quarterback could have kept the ball for a touchdown run. Ultimately, Smith decided to throw his 17th touchdown pass of the season.

“It looked better on film than what it looked like in my head,” Smith said. “It definitely would have been a bang-bang play at the goal line. I don’t think it would have been a walk in like I kind of had in my mind. Either way, it turned out the way it did.”

Asked if he’d taken up Davis on his offer to pick up a dinner tab this week, Smith replied, “Not yet, I’ll hit him up on that.”

More Monday Notes

-Mike Singletary opened his press conference by announcing the 49ers injury report following the Lions game. Right guard Chilo Rachal will undergo an MRI later on Monday on his knee, left tackle Joe Staley is day-to-day with a knee contusion, Glen Coffee remains questionable with a hamstring injury and cornerback Shawntae Spencer has a wrist sprain. “Should be fine,” Singletary said of Spencer’s injury.

-Later, Singletary said kicker Joe Nedney and cornerback Nate Clements will not return to action this season. Ricky Schmitt will get another chance to kick for the 49ers. He made 2-of-3 field goals against Detroit.

-Singletary said the offense planned on getting the ball early and often to running back Frank Gore, but Detroit countered by stacking the box with eight defenders. Singletary said the 49ers played a “cat and mouse” game early on and that’s why Gore only had seven carries in the first half.

-Singletary wasn’t happy that his offense struggled to convert the Lions six turnovers into points of their own. “It’s not acceptable. It’s never acceptable,” he said.

-The head coach also has reservations about continuing to use starting wide receiver Josh Morgan as a kick returner. It’s not just offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye who feels that way. “That’s a priority for us this offseason, to find a return guy,” Singletary revealed.

-The 49ers are the only team in the league to force five or more turnovers in three games this season. Singletary said the credit goes to the team maturing on defense. In particular, he highlighted the growth of free safety Dashon Goldson and outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks. This season, both players are playing the most they ever had in any points of their career. Goldson leads the team with four interceptions while Brooks leads the team with 6.0 sacks.

-“Goldson has gotten more comfortable back there. He’s really doing a good job of reading the quarterback better,” Singletary said. “Ahmad has really stepped up in the second half of the season.”

-Singletary was asked if other linebacker had more range than 49ers two-time Pro Bowl linebacker Patrick Willis, he responded, “No.”

-Singletary made a great point to close out his press conference when fielding a question on the importance of finishing the season 8-8. The head coach reminded the media that beating the Rams is not a foregone conclusion. “You have to go earn 8-8,” he stated.


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49ers Make World Series Picks

Posted by Taylor Price on October 28, 2009 – 3:47 PM

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There’s only so many times you can get asked the same question during an open locker room period. But I know our guys enjoy an occasional question out of left field.

Having said that, today I asked a question about left field, well sort of.

I asked a handful of guys who they were picking to win the World Series which kicks off tonight between the New York Yankees and the defending World Champion Philadelphia Phillies.

And for fun, I asked which players in the locker room would make up the best 49ers baseball team. The answers I got were somewhat surprising:

-“I would definitely have B. Jones [Brandon] as my center fielder,” cornerback Tarell Brown said of his wide receiver teammate, who was a one-time draft pick of the Yankees organization. “I would be a shortstop because I have good range. All the quarterbacks would be our pitchers.”

-“Put me at catcher, I swear I’d be a great catcher. I’d be amazing,” cornerback Marcus Hudson explained. “I’d cover the plate and nobody would steal on me. I would gun them out if they tried to steal on me!”

-“I think Arnaz [Battle] might be a second baseman because he has quick feet and quick hands,” Jones said of the players who would play beside him. “I see Alex [Smith] and our other quarterbacks as our pitchers. We’ll go with a three-man rotation. And on offense, our cleanup hitter would probably be big Mo, Moran Norris.”

-“I don’t know about that – I don’t think Mo has any bat speed!” Battle joked in response to Jones’ opinion.

-“I think Justin Smith would be our first baseman. He seems like he’d be a power hitter,” long snapper Brian Jennings said.

-“Ooh, that’s a pretty good question! I don’t know if Justin could be our first baseman though. He’s a slugger, maybe a DH,” Shawntae Spencer said. “I’m not putting him on the field. I’d put guys with really good ball skills in my infield. Dre’ Bly, Nate Clements they both have good ball skills, the receivers do too.

-“Then, I would go with the coordinators as our bench coaches, because they are good with hand signals. Our base coaches could be special teams coordinator Al Everest and secondary coach Vance Joseph because they send in signals too.”

-“I would be a pitcher, because I’d want to throw the ball. In football I love hitting people and in baseball if I was mad at someone – I could throw the ball at them,” defensive tackle Isaac Sopoaga joked.

Here are some of the picks from the 49ers locker room, note that only one player [Spencer] chose the defending champs:

Josh Morgan: Yankees in five games.

“I think it’s the Yankees year.”

Tarell Brown: Yankees in five games.

“Really to be honest with you, it doesn’t mean a whole lot that the Phillies won it all last year. At the end of the day the Yankees are playing great baseball and they have solid pitching. Really, that’s what it’s going to come down to – pitching. Pitching and defense. The Yankees have always been a great offensive team, but their pitching is amazing this year. I’ve been a Yankees fan forever though….”

Shawntae Spencer: Phillies in six games.

“I don’t really like either one of these teams. If the Pirates aren’t in it – I don’t really care! But I guess I got a little bit of love for Philly, but then again, I don’t want them to win because if they do I won’t see the end of it. I have a lot of friends from Philadelphia, so I don’t really want to hear that. I’m just going to watch as a fan. I think it’s going to be a great series, I’ll take the Phillies, since nobody else has.”

Brandon Jones: Yankees in six games.

“You have to figure the Phillies can get a couple of games. They can hit. And, they might even wear Andy Pettitte out in game three. C.C. [Sabathia] might have to come back on short rest and get another win for them. It might go to six, if that happens.”

Barry Sims: Yankees in six games.

“A-Rod is hitting this year and they’re getting good pitching – I think it’s their year.”

Brian Jennings: Yankees in six games.

“If I played baseball I’d for sure want to play for the Yankees.”

Isaac Sopoaga: Yankees in six games.

“I want it to be less games, but I think it would be more exciting if it goes to six or seven games. Then, you’d have more games to watch on TV.”

Andy Lee: Yankees in six games.


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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 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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Singletary: ‘Today was one of our better practices’

Posted by Scott Kegley on August 5, 2009 – 12:55 PM

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Vernon Davis, Isaac Bruce and Delanie Walker all hauled in long touchdown passes during the first of two practices on Wednesday, prompting head coach Mike Singletary to praise his team’s effort and tempo.

“I thought that today was one of our better practices,” Singletary said.  “I think that this is a practice that we can build on.  If we can get this much better each day, I think that puts us where we need to be.  I just complimented the guys; I thought they did a nice job.  We’re excited about today.”

But the morning session wasn’t all about flashy passes and solid play by the defense as Singletary and special teams coordinator Al Everest began practice by demonstrating and expressing the importance of a few football fundamentals – ball security and form tackling.

The players were first split into groups based on body size where one player would try to strip the ball while the other held the ball “high and tight.”

“It serves both sides of the ball,” cornerback Shawntae Spencer said.  “For us, our objective is to get the ball back for the offense.  When the ball carrier is running, you have to strip the ball and we work on a few different techniques.  On the other end were the receivers, who we worked with, and their job is to protect the ball.  To be honest with you, they did a better job because you didn’t see too many balls on the ground.”

The next drill lined up two players with a five yards between them, forcing the defender not to bite on the juke and secure the open field tackle.  Such basic skills are second nature to defenders, but offensive players must also know how to wrap up.

“We’re used to that on the defensive end,” Spencer said, “But it was interesting to see the wide receivers do it.  It was kind of funny.  A lot of those guys did pretty well, but they don’t practice that a lot, so that was entertaining.  I heard [secondary coach] Johnnie Lynn coaching up Brandon Jones, telling him to stay low, but Ziggy [Dominique Zeigler] was the funniest I think.  It just didn’t look right.”

Cornerback Dre’ Bly, who’s locker is next to Spencer’s, laughed in agreement with that assesment.

Tackling did not look foreign for all of the offensive players however.  Linebacker Jeff Ulbrich even noted that Zeigler and a lot of the receivers do well tackling when they are on kickoff or punt teams.  In fact, it was one of the running backs that caught Ulbrich’s eye in the drill.

“I thought Frank looked like a pretty good tackler,” Ulbrich said.  “He’s just one of those old school football players who can do it all.”

The 49ers have one more practice this afternoon that will focus solely on special teams.


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Saturday Morning Practice Update

Posted by Taylor Price on August 1, 2009 – 3:46 PM

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Earlier in the week, Mike Singletary promised his team would be in pads come Saturday. And he meant it.

Once the 49ers wrapped up stretches and individual position drills at their first training camp practice of the 2009 season at team headquarters in Santa Clara, it was time to put the pads to use.

Singletary did so, by introducing a drill he dubbed “The nutcracker.”

His pad-thumbing drill featured seven groups of players pitted at different stations. Some of which saw cornerbacks vs. receivers, offensive linemen vs. defensive linemen, running backs vs. linebackers and tight ends vs. linebackers.

Only quarterbacks and specialists were spared from the drill.

“I think we got some good work out of that (drill),” Singletary said after the first of two Saturday practices. “The fundamental part of what we’re trying to achieve, I think we took a step today in that area. And we’re going to do that a few times. I just think it’s important we understand contact, but even more importantly, it’s not just coming out here and hitting people. It’s coming out here and learning how to engage and win in a competitive environment. And that’s really what we did in that drill.”

The players got more out of than just fundamentals. They understand that it’s a mentality that their head coach is trying to instill.

“There is just a mindset Coach Sing wanted us to get out of that (drill),” Pro Bowl linebacker Patrick Willis said. “Not only is it about being tough, but it’s about the mindset he wants our team to have – and that is we are going to go through people. No matter who stands in our way, we are going to go through them. That drill helps with that mentality.”

After the leverage drill, the team went on to work on special teams drills. The rest of the morning practice rounded out with various team work: 11-on-11, 9-on-7 and 7-on-7 scrimmages.

Some quick highlights of the first practice:

romofan-A fan wearing a Tony Romo jersey was escorted out of the bleachers by 49ers mascot Sourdough Sam.

-Wide receiver Arnaz Battle, cornerback Shawntae Spencer and tackle Marvel Smith practiced for the first time this offseason.

-Alex Smith completed a deep pass to wide receiver Dominique Zeigler over the middle on a seam route after Smith faked a reverse handoff to wide receiver Brandon Jones.

-Seventh-round draft pick Curtis Taylor intercepted a pass from fellow rookie Nate Davis to end the morning practice.

MVP of the morning practice honors goes to defensive lineman Isaac Sopoaga, who made several plays behind the line of scrimmage. The best was when he batted down a pass from Smith.

Stay tuned to our Twitter page for more updates and photos from the practice field. The players are just about to head back on the field for the second practice which will begin a little after 4pm.


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