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Morning Tailgate: NFC West Outlook

Posted by Taylor Price on July 19, 2013 – 11:05 AM

The wait for 49ers football is almost over.

As of Friday morning, the rookies have reported for training camp. The veterans will make their way in town next week.

But before the grind of camp begins on Thursday, July 24, the biggest question surrounding all four teams in the NFC West was examined by Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com.

For the 49ers, finding a No. 2 wideout to start opposite of Anquan Boldin stands as the biggest storyline to track according to the NFL scribe.

In addition to wide receiver, intense competitions are set to take place at nose tackle and free safety. Camp is right around the corner, but for now, previewing the depth of the various position groups seems to be the common thread in today’s Morning Tailgate.

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MT: Bowman Hosts Football Camp

Posted by Taylor Price on July 1, 2013 – 9:34 AM

All-Pro linebacker NaVorro Bowman hosted his first annual football camp last week. He also did it with a little help from his friends.

San Francisco 49ers teammates Patrick Willis, Vernon Davis and Anthony Dixon all joined Bowman to teach football fundamentals to children in Bowman’s hometown of District Heights, Md.

Bowman shared photos and videos from the event on his social media accounts.

Today’s Morning Tailgate features some of the top 49ers-related headlines to close out the month of June.

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MT: 49ers Minicamp Preview

Posted by Taylor Price on June 10, 2013 – 9:53 AM

Starting Tuesday, the San Francisco 49ers 90-man roster will get together for three days this week for a mandatory minicamp. The three practice sessions will conclude the 2013 offseason program.

The mandatory minicamp will be open all three days for the media to learn more about the progress being made by the defending NFC Champs.

Numerous storylines will be examined.

In the passing game, the 49ers will look to identify emerging performers to showcase in 2013.

Which wide receiver is stepping up to start opposite of Anquan Boldin? Will Vernon Davis and Vance McDonald be utilized more in the passing game to account for the loss of Michael Crabtree?

How is Colin Kaepernick developing as the team’s full-time starting quarterback? Will Colt McCoy continue to solidify himself as the No. 2 signal-caller? How will Scott Tolzien and B.J. Daniels perform with their opportunities?

Then there are questions to be resolved with the team’s newcomers.

Which rookie has made the biggest leap in a short time this offseason? Will Eric Reid insert himself into the conversation to start Week 1? How is undrafted defensive lineman Lawrence Okoye performing in his first offseason playing football in his entire life?

Defensively, the 49ers appear to have less unresolved situations. But those questions will mostly be decided in training camp where physicality stands out. When the players put pads on, we’ll learn which member of the team deserves to start at nose tackle. We’ll also learn the pecking order for the team’s cornerback roles.

In the short term, the 49ers will hold three days of practice to get ready for training camp and showcase the improvements they’ve made through “Football School” workouts and Organized Team Activities.

We’ll watch it unfold and report back on 49ers.com.  Jim Harbaugh, plus coordinators Greg Roman and Vic Fangio, will all speak to the media this week. Several players will talk as well.

But until then, more 49ers headlines can be found in today’s Morning Tailgate.

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Justin Smith ‘Indispensable’ on Defense

Posted by Taylor Price on June 3, 2013 – 9:45 AM

He’s absolutely essential to San Francisco’s overall success. Without Justin Smith in the lineup, it wouldn’t be the same 49ers defense. Smith leads by example, inspires teammates and dominates in the trenches.

The four-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle means that much to the 49ers defense, as noted by Adam Schein of NFL.com.

When compiling nine of the most indispensable players in the NFL today, San Francisco’s stout defensive tackle was placed at No. 4 on the list.

“Both NaVorro Bowman and Patrick Willis, the best linebacker combination in the league, have told me Smith is the most important player on the Niners’ defense,” Schein wrote. “He’s tough. He’s clutch. He takes on blockers and frees up other players.

“Smith sets the tone in practice and in games. He’s the Energizer Bunny on one of the truly elite defenses in the league.”

Smith is on the mend this offseason. He hasn’t taken part in Organized Team Activities, but has been around to help out younger teammates on the defensive line. Currently, Smith’s working his way back from offseason triceps surgery. Smith, however, is back in the weight room getting himself ready for his 13th season.

In regards to the offensive side of the ball, Schein placed 49ers tight end Vernon Davis at No. 5 on the key offensive figures list.

Today’s Morning Tailgate features additional 49ers-related headlines and the latest on Levi’s® Stadium.

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MT: Joe Staley Temporarily Sidelined

Posted by Taylor Price on May 29, 2013 – 11:25 AM

The 49ers starting left tackle was not practicing at Organized Team Activities on Tuesday. Joe Staley was in attendance, but not participating in the two-hour workout.

After the open OTA session, Jim Harbaugh informed reporters that Staley had a minor procedure done this offseason.

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com reported it was a minor meniscus tear in Staley’s left knee.

Staley went to Twitter to alleviate any concerns from the team’s fan base.

“Procedure I had this offseason was very minor but necessary,” Staley wrote. “I will be 100 percent and better than ever by training camp.”

More 49ers headlines can be found in today’s Morning Tailgate.

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MT: Replacing Michael Crabtree

Posted by Taylor Price on May 24, 2013 – 10:45 AM

It won’t be a one man job.

To replace Michael Crabtree’s production on the San Francisco 49ers (85 catches, 1,105 receiving yards and nine touchdowns in 2012) it’s going to take a collective effort from the team, the team, the team.

Jim Harbaugh is eager to see which young wide receiver will emerge to fill Crabtree’s shoes as San Francisco’s starting wideout opposite of Anquan Boldin. So far, the young wideouts have been letting their work on the practice field make their case. Players like A.J. Jenkins and Ricardo Lockette are intriguing prospects to line up with Boldin. Mario Manningham and Kyle Williams are also close to returning from late-season injuries.

It should also be noted that the 49ers can still continue their power-running approach in 2013. They also have the unique running threat of Colin Kaepernick. In the backfield, Kendall Hunter is working his way back from a season-ending injury. Plus, Frank Gore is Frank Gore.

Receivers are key in any offense, but the 49ers have shown the ability to be creative in personnel groupings. Not to be forgotten, Vernon Davis, one of the game’s most dangerous tight ends, still figures to be heavily involved in the passing game.

More on the team’s options to fill in for Crabtree can be found in today’s Morning Tailgate.

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MT: Harbaugh Trades Khakis for Denim

Posted by Taylor Price on May 9, 2013 – 11:38 AM

Jim Harbaugh and Trent Baalke showed a sign of solidarity on Wednesday at the 49ers, Levi’s Brand pep rally.

Both of the key figures wore Levi’s jeans at the rally, so did their players (Patrick Willis, Frank Gore, Vernon Davis, Justin Smith and Colin Kaepernick).

It was especially unique to see the 49ers head coach wearing an all-denim outfit. Harbaugh is known for his everyday attire of khaki pants and a black microfleece top.

This day, however, was a special one for two iconic Bay Area brands.

Having the 49ers coach celebrate the moment with a fashion statement made it even more unique.

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MT: Kendall Hunter Back Sprinting

Posted by Taylor Price on April 18, 2013 – 10:07 AM

The San Francisco 49ers enjoy a bevy of talented running backs who can run Greg Roman’s complex offensive system. One of them, third-year runner Kendall Hunter, is back running sprints this offseason. He’s doing so five months removed from a torn left Achilles. Perhaps, Kobe Bryant might want rehab notes from the 49ers running back.

Hunter shared details of his progress with Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle.

“I’m just doing what the trainers want me to do,” Hunter told Branch. “That’s the process. I feel and know I can do more, but I’m not going to rush whatever the coaches and trainers want.”

Hunter rushed for 371 yards in 2012, good for 5.2 yards per carry. Hunter also scored two rushing touchdowns before injuring himself on Nov. 25 against the New Orleans Saints.

Hunter told Branch he’d like to participate in OTAs in May or San Francisco’s mandatory minicamp in June, but the talented running back understands the importance of a patient rehab process and expects to be held out of action until training camp.

More 49ers headlines can be found in today’s Morning Tailgate.

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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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Morning Tailgate: Bowman Visits Uganda

Posted by Alex Espinoza on March 4, 2013 – 11:35 AM

Following in the footsteps of his teammate Vernon Davis, NaVorro Bowman is in Africa to help fit local, underprivileged residents with hearing aids. Davis made the trip in 2011 with his brother, Colts cornerback Vontae Davis, and several other players. Comcast SportsNet Bay Area shared a four-part video series. (Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3 / Part 4)

On Monday, Bowman tweeted out a picture of himself helping the Pros For Africa Foundation in Uganda. For more information, visit ProsForAfrica.com.

The rest of today’s Morning Tailgate looks at the franchise tag situation on the verge of Monday’s deadline and more.

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