49ers

49ers family pledges support for Dwight Clark in battle with ALS

clark-dwight-rice-jerry.jpg
AP

49ers family pledges support for Dwight Clark in battle with ALS

Dwight Clark’s public announcement of his diagnosis of ALS came as no surprise to many of his former 49ers teammates and friends.

Clark’s battle with the degenerative disease has been suspected as far back as when former 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in August.

On Sunday, Clark released an open letter to confirm he has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

“Dwight has been an integral part of my family’s life for almost four decades,” DeBartolo wrote in a statement. “We are absolutely devastated. We vow to do everything in our power to support Dwight and (wife) Kelly and help them fight this horrible disease.”

Clark has shown support for ALS charities for several months, as former New Orleans Saints defensive back Steve Gleason wages his battle. Gleason’s eyes are the only body parts he is capable of moving on his own.

In November, the NFL announced it teamed up with Steve Gleason to fight ALS. A marketing campaign was created, "Game-Changing Moment," which featured a series of commercials. Clark’s “The Catch” was featured. The message: "The NFL has had 1,000's of game-changers. ALS needs 1."

Two months earlier, Clark was among the former and current NFL players who donated memorabilia for a Gleason-supported auction to raise funds for Answer ALS, a nonprofit organization for research toward a cure.

Clark has lost strength in both hands -- making opening a pack of sugar or buttoning his shirt impossible, he said. He can no longer run, play golf or walk for an extended period.

“There is nothing tougher than watching a great friend go through a serious health challenge,” former 49ers teammate Brent Jones said in a statement. “Dwight is handling this adversity with uncommon strength and the heart of a courageous champion, and our family’s thoughts and prayers are constantly with Dwight and Kelly.

“I know that they are fully aware that we will continue to walk alongside them, and do anything and everything possible to help them through this tough time.”

Many of Clark’s teammates expressed support and a commitment to do anything possible to assist him in the difficult times ahead.

“Dwight is like a brother to me,” Roger Craig said. “This news crushed me. I’ve vowed to him to be here for whatever he needs from me. Whenever or wherever. He deserves all our heartfelt support.”

“To live with another of my best friends struggling with a disease like ALS is devastating,” Ronnie Lott said.

Eric Scoggins, a member of USC’s 1978 national championship team and friend of Lott, died from ALS in January 2009.

“I’m asking all of us to not only send their prayers but I’m asking you to do whatever you can to fight this disease,” Lott said. “Dwight will be a champion, which he has been able to show since I met him, since the first time he’s hugged me and to this day moving forward.”

Said former 49ers linebacker Keena Turner, “We are here for Dwight. We are teammates for life and we will not allow him to go through this challenge alone. I am proud of the courageous way he is approaching this challenge. I will be here for him and with him.”

Clark, who turned 60 in January, played nine season for the 49ers from 1979 to ’87. The 49ers retired his jersey No. 87 in 1988.

“D.C. has done so much for me as a player and friend,” Jerry Rice said in a statement. “My rookie year he showed me how to run that out route! We know him for the catch but he’s a great individual who cares about people. Please pray for him Faithful through this adversity!!! I love the guy!!!!”

Said Joe Montana, “Jennifer and I are saddened by the diagnosis of Dwight. This is a difficult time for Dwight, Kelly and all of us who love him. He is family, and in our continual thoughts and prayers. We hope the public will be cognizant of Dwight’s desire for privacy.”

Clark is responsible for the most iconic play in 49ers history – his leaping 6-yard touchdown catch of a Joe Montana pass in the NFC Championship game against the Dallas Cowboys in January 1982. “The Catch” sent the 49ers to their first Super Bowl title.

“Dwight Clark is one of those guys that lights up the room – always smiling and making you feel great,” Harris Barton said. “When I heard the news, I like others in the 49er family, was devastated. D.C. changed the course of the 49ers with ‘The Catch.’ Don’t be surprised if he changes the course of this disease as well.”

49ers' head coach Kyle Shanahan takes pride in speed of offense

49ers' head coach Kyle Shanahan takes pride in speed of offense

SANTA CLARA – If there is any validity to Matt Ryan’s complaint that former Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan struggled getting play calls to his quarterback in a timely fashion, it is difficult to find much evidence.

The past two seasons, only three teams went through an entire season without the play clock expiring on offense. The Falcons under Shanahan went without a delay-of-game penalty both of the past two seasons. The Denver Broncos of last season were the only other offensive unit in the NFL that was not penalized for the play clock hitting :00.

“Any play-caller that you talk to that’s usually one of the most important things and something I pride myself on a lot, is how quick can you get a play call into a quarterback,” said Shanahan, who will remain the playcaller for the 49ers while also serving as head coach.

"And the quicker you do the more comfortable it is, not just for him but the entire offense. They’re not panicked. They’re being able to move to the line. And with me as a coordinator personally, I try almost every situation to get it in as fast as possible. And I can be honest, there’s sometimes I do better than others. There are sometimes I don’t do it as good. There’s sometimes I do it real good.”

Shanahan said he took a lot of pride in the fact that the Falcons avoided any delay-of-game penalties the past two seasons. He said Ryan deserves credit, too.

“I was really proud of those guys on offense, which is a lot of credit to Matt and the rest of the guys, that regardless when we did get it in, two years straight without a delay of game and being the only team to even do that one year I think was a pretty impressive task,” Shanahan said. “We did a good job of that as a whole.”

In a recent interview with Pete Prisco of CBS Sports, Ryan was critical of Shanahan’s timeliness in delivering the play calls in the Falcons' collapse in Super Bowl 51. (It did not appear the Falcons' offense was scrambling to get to the line of scrimmage and get the ball snapped after the built a 28-3 lead.)

“Kyle's play calls -- he would take time to get stuff in," Ryan told Prisco. "As I was getting it, you're looking at the clock and you're talking 16 seconds before it cuts out. You don't have a lot of time to say, 'There's 16 seconds, no, no, no, we're not going to do that. Hey, guys, we're going to line up and run this.' You're talking about breaking the huddle at seven seconds if you do something along the lines.”

Shanahan said on Thursday that he wants his offense to play fast. Shanahan said he sets his offense so there is no need to audible out of a play if the defense is geared to stop the primary option on a particular call.

“If it’s not the perfect play, there’s usually four other options that you’ve just got to adjust to and either get an incompletion or get a smaller gain,” Shanahan said. “But, it’s not, ‘Hey, if I don’t call the perfect play, you check and get us into the perfect play.’

"I’ve been in systems like that and it’s just what your opinion is, and there’s really no right answer, but I was pretty happy with how our system worked in Atlanta. And I’ve been confident with players playing fast and not putting so much pressure on them to fix every play that the coordinator calls. I like to put a little more on myself and I want them when I do call a bad play, we’ll give you an answer."

Shanahan will continue to call the plays from the sideline. Quarterback Brian Hoyer said he insisted on working on the radio communication during the offseason program. Hoyer played in Shanahan's offense in 2014 with the Cleveland Browns, and he said that experience should help him relay the calls more smoothly to his teammates in the huddle.

"I kind of have a method of I want to be just outside the huddle when the play is coming out," Hoyer said. "I don’t want to be in the huddle trying to give the play while he’s talking to me. I want to hear him say the play in my helmet, take a second, get in the huddle and then call the play.

"Back in Cleveland when I was just learning the system I was just trying to repeat what he was saying, get it to the team and then as I’m walking to the line of scrimmage think of the play. Whereas now, I hear the play coming in and I can paint a picture of what Kyle is trying to emphasize on that play, and then relay it to the rest of the offense and break the huddle and go. We’ve been doing that I think pretty much since day one is using that coach-to-quarterback communication.”

49ers receive early vindication on selection of Reuben Foster

49ers receive early vindication on selection of Reuben Foster

SANTA CLARA – General manager John Lynch received the text message Wednesday from Dr. Tim McAdams that might have come as a surprise to many of the teams that passed on linebacker Reuben Foster during the draft.

The 49ers’ team physician declared Foster’s surgically repaired right shoulder is ready to play football. The 49ers are scheduled for their first practice of training camp on Friday, and Foster will be a full participant.

“We feel great about our doctors, our medical program here,” Lynch said on Thursday, as the 49ers reported to training camp. “Our trainer, Jeff Ferguson, is as good as there is in the league. Dr. McAdams, world-renowned. He has the Stanford name behind him.

“We challenged him numerous times. From his observation, the shoulder was good.”

Foster’s tumble to the back end of the first round was widely blamed on his shoulder condition. The 49ers traded with the Seattle Seahawks to select Foster with the No. 31 overall pick. Almost immediately, the 49ers were scrutinized for making the selection.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported some teams did not even consider drafting Foster. One “well-placed source with knowledge of the injury” told Schefter that Foster’s surgery “didn’t take.”

The 49ers’ willingness to clear Foster for the first day of camp is a reality that appears to be in stark contrast to the opinions around the league that Foster’s shoulder would require additional surgery. The 49ers expect Foster to be ready Sunday for the first padded, contact practice of training camp.

“We pride ourselves in doing all of our due diligence, not afterward, but before we make the decisions,” Lynch said. “We’d done exhaustive research on Reuben Foster in a lot of different areas. Medically was one area.”

Coach Kyle Shanahan said he the nature of Foster’s injury convinced him that even the worst-case scenario, in the big picture, was not so bad. Foster sustained a torn rotator cuff in Alabama’s national semifinal game against Washington and played the championship game against Clemson with the injury.

“I was proud of our doctors for putting themselves out there and giving their honest opinion about what they felt,” Shanahan said. “They feel it is healed, and it’s going to be good. I respect them for doing that. They went against the norm on that, and that isn’t always easy.

“(I’m) pretty confident when it is a shoulder injury, if it doesn’t heal the right way or it’s done wrong, you have to re-do a surgery, yes, it’s time, but it’s not going to affect the guy we saw on tape.”