49ers going to Pro Bowl in pairs

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49ers going to Pro Bowl in pairs

SANTA CLARA -- The 49ers had nine players selected to the NFC Pro Bowl team on Wednesday. Interestingly, the contingent included four pairs with a first-time invitee joining a player who already has Pro Bowl experience.

Right outside linebacker Aldon Smith joins right defensive end Justin Smith.

Inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman will make his first Pro Bowl trip, along with inside linebacker Patrick Willis, who was selected for the sixth time in six seasons.

Strong safety Donte Whitner, a Pro Bowl alternate twice in the past, joins free safety Dashon Goldson, a two-time invitee.

Left guard Mike Iupati made it for the first time. Left tackle Joe Staley, who lines up next to Iupati, will go for the second time in two seasons.

And then there's running back Frank Gore, who benefitted from Iupati, Staley and the rest of the 49ers' offensive linemen, each of whom was selected as an alternate.

--Outside linebacker Aldon Smith, who lines up on the right side next to defensive tackle Justin Smith, is going to his first Pro Bowl after not making the team a year ago despite recording 14 regular-season sacks.

Aldon Smith said there's an adjustment to playing without Justin Smith, whose status is in question due to an undisclosed left arm/elbow injury that has kept him out of the lineup the past six quarters. Aldon Smith, who ranks second in the NFL with 19.5 sacks, has not tossed a quarterback for a loss since Justin Smith left the lineup. He said his mind will not be on the Michael Strahan's sack record of 22.5 on Sunday when the 49ers finish the regular season against the Arizona Cardinals.

When asked if he likes his chances of getting the record, Aldon Smith answered, "I like our chances of getting a win."

Will he be thinking about getting the record?

"I'm going to be thinking about getting a win," he said.

--Bowman was selected as a first-team All-Pro last season, along with Willis. In other words, he and Willis were chosen by a panel of national media as the two best inside linebackers in the entire NFL. Yet, Bowman was not named to the NFC Pro Bowl team.

This time, Bowman and Willis are scheduled to go to Hawaii together.

"We know we play similar, we do some of the same things, so we don't have to switch positions or assignments too much," Bowman said. "That's benefitted us as a team.

"It's a great thing having so many guys from the same team in the Pro Bowl. That recognizes how great your team was. It's my first time. I'm just going to tag along and I'm looking forward to it."

--As Whitner pointed out, both he and Goldson were twisting in the wind when the lockout concluded in the summer of 2011. Whitner knew he would not return to play for the Buffalo Bills. And when Whitner signed with the 49ers, Goldson thought his career with the 49ers was over.

Eventually, they ended up together and made a pact to become the best safety tandem in the NFL. Whitner and Goldson were named Pro Bowl starters -- the first time teammates have started in the all-star game since 2005, when Philadelphia's Brian Dawkins and Michael Lewis were honored.

"He makes my job a lot easier and I'm sure I make his job easier, too," said Whitner, who entered the NFL as the No. 8 overall pick of the Bills in 2006.

He also credited secondary coach George Catavolos, coach Dick Jauren and executive Marv Levy from his days in Buffalo, along with 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh and defensive backs coach Ed Donatell.

"When you make it to the Pro Bowl, you have to recognize that you don't make it by yourself," Whitner said.

--Iupati was equally grateful for those who contributed to his improvement since he came to the 49ers as a raw but talented small-college player from Idaho.

"I'm very grateful, and very blessed," Iupati said. "It's a credit to my teammates, especially the front line, their sacrifice, too. Credit to our coaching staff, coach (Mike) Solari, coach (Paul) Wulff and coach (Tim) Drevno for preparing us every day to go out and execute our plays."

Iupati benefitted from playing next to Staley, who was already entrenched on the left side when Iupati came along.

"He's such a great player, great teammate to play next to," Iupati said. "We work well together. It's a good thing."

49ers visit with free-agent defensive end

49ers visit with free-agent defensive end

PHOENIX – The 49ers had a recent visit with Tampa Bay free-agent defensive end Jacquies Smith, general manager John Lynch confirmed on Sunday.

Smith, 27, sustained a torn right ACL in the Buccaneers’ season opener in September while running down the field on punt coverage against the Atlanta Falcons. The 49ers gave Smith a physical during his visit to Santa Clara. The club has yet to make a contract offer, Lynch said.

"We wanted to get him checked out medically, and we’ll see," Lynch said at the NFL owners meetings.

Smith (6-foot-2, 260 pounds) recorded 6.5 sacks in 2014 and seven sacks in 2015 for the Buccaneers.

After going undrafted in 2012 out of Missouri, Smith signed with Miami. He spent time with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the Canadian Football League before landing on the New York Jets’ practice squad. Smith worked his way into the Buccaneers’ defensive-line rotation in ’14 after being claimed off waivers from the Buffalo Bills.

The Buccaneers gave Smith the low tender of $1.797 million as a restricted free agent. Any team can sign Smith to an offer sheet. Tampa Bay would have the right of first refusal but would get no compensation if the team chooses not to match the contract.

With 71 players under contract, the 49ers have $74.5 million in cap space, according to the NFL Players Association.

Former 49ers OL/DE Clay Matthews Sr dies at 88 years old

Former 49ers OL/DE Clay Matthews Sr dies at 88 years old

Former San Francisco 49ers offensive lineman/defensive end Clay Matthews Sr. passed away on Thursday, March 23rd at the age of 88. 

Matthews originally entered the NFL as a 25th round (247th overall) draft choice by the Los Angeles Rams in the 1949 NFL Draft. He spent four seasons with San Francisco (1950, 1953-55), appearing in 45 games and registering one interception. After spending his rookie season of 1950 with the 49ers, he went on to spend two years (1951-52) in the United States Army where he served in the Korean War.

A native of Charleston, SC, Matthews attended Georgia Tech where he played guard, tackle and end while earning All-Southeastern Conference honors in 1948. In 1949, Matthews was the All-Southeastern Conference heavyweight wrestling and boxing champion at Georgia Tech.

Matthews was the first of three generations to play in the National Football League. His two oldest sons, Bruce and Clay Jr., each spent 19 seasons in the NFL. Originally selected by the Houston Oilers in the first round (9th overall) of the 1983 NFL Draft, Bruce was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2007 after 14 Pro Bowl and seven First-Team All-Pro selections. Clay Jr. was selected by the Cleveland Browns in the 1st round (12th overall) in the 1978 draft and was a four-time Pro Bowl selection.

Three of Bruce’s sons, Jake, Kevin and Mike, and two of Clay Jr.’s sons, Clay III and Casey, either have spent time or currently play in the NFL. Clay III is currently a member of the Green Bay Packers and a six-time Pro Bowl selection at linebacker while Jake is currently an offensive lineman for the Atlanta Falcons after being selected in the first round (6th overall) by the team in 2014. 

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