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."

Harbaugh takes blame for 'premature celebration' during 2011 incident

Harbaugh takes blame for 'premature celebration' during 2011 incident

It was Jim Harbaugh's first season as head coach of the 49ers.

The 4-1 49ers were in Detroit and scored 10 points in the final 5:29 to beat the Lions 25-19.

An excited Harbaugh got a little too agressive during his postgame handshake with Lions coach Jim Schwartz. The two had words for each other and had to be separated.

Six years later, Harbaugh took the blame for what happened and said that he and Schwartz have patched things up.

"I went in too hard on that, too aggressive on the handshake. I've since changed that. Not doing that anymore. Can't blame him. I went in too hard. And you respect him for taking exception. We've talked, and we're good. We're back to friends. There is a protocol in a postgame handshake. I've been there as the winner. I've been there as loser. You just, 'Hey, nice game,' then go celebrate. Premature celebration there, in the wrong," Harbaugh said Tuesday on Barstool Sports' Pardon My Take podcast.

Harbaugh sounds like he's learned his lesson from that incident with Schwartz.

"The postgame handshake isn't the place for anything. If you're bitter, than change the I to an E. Don't get bitter, get better. Nothing's really changing at the postgame handshake. Just professionally shake hands and go on your way," Harbaugh said.

Harbaugh moved on from the 49ers to coach the Michigan Wolverines. Schwartz coached the Lions through the 2013 season and currently serves as the defensive coordinator for the Eagles.

 

49ers head coach Shanahan: Lynch going in the right direction

49ers head coach Shanahan: Lynch going in the right direction

SANTA CLARA -- General manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan sat down with 49ers pass-rusher Aaron Lynch shortly after assuming their new roles to give him an outline of what was expected.

Aaron Lynch entered the NFL in 2014 as a fifth-round draft pick despite having the talent worthy of a much-earlier selection. There were concerns about his commitment and character.

Lynch showed plenty of promise in his first two seasons. He tied for the club lead both seasons with six and 6.5 sacks, respectively. Last year, Lynch reported to the offseason program 30 pounds overweight. He was suspended four games for violating the league’s policy of substances of abuse. Then, he missed considerable time with an ankle injury. In seven games, Lynch recorded just 1.5 sacks.

John Lynch and Shanahan told Aaron Lynch his past transgressions would not be held against him, but he had to work hard and prove himself. As Lynch enters the final year of his original four-year contract, his spot on the 49ers' 53-man roster is anything but a certainty.

“Basically, everybody on this team, no matter what has happened before you came into the league or when you’ve been in the league, they’re not holding that against you and it’s a new clean slate,” Lynch said. “So I need to do everything I can to make sure I have a clean slate with them.”

Lynch is currently working with the second unit at the “Leo” position on the 49ers’ defensive line, behind Arik Armstead.

“’Leo’ is a lot of damn fun, so, yeah, I like it a lot,” Lynch said. “You get to set the edge and go get the quarterback.”

Lynch said he is in better physical condition than he was a year ago at this time. He said his target playing weight is in the 260-270 range. He said he is currently in the 280s.

“I came in heavy, but I’ve been working my (butt) off to get down to where my coach wants me to get down to, and where I feel I would be best to give everything I can for my team and do what I can for my team,” Lynch said.

While the 49ers did not witness any improvement in Lynch's commitment at the beginning of the offseason, things seem to be turning around. Shanahan said Lynch has missed only one day of the team's voluntary offseason program -- an excused absence to deal with a situation concerning his wife.

“There’s no doubt Aaron’s going in the right direction for us," Shanahan said. "He came in in the offseason, we challenged him hard with just the way we worked and stuff. He hasn’t shied away from any of it. He’s jumped in on all of our stuff.

"So he’s gotten better each day. He’s gotten more in shape each day and I’m seeing it on the field each day.”