49ers key matchup No. 2: Brown vs. Fitzgerald


49ers key matchup No. 2: Brown vs. Fitzgerald

This is the second part in a series that spotlights three 49ers-Cardinals matchups to watch Monday, 5:30 p.m. (ESPNCBS, Ch. 5), at University of Phoenix Stadium49ers CB Tarell Brown vs. Cardinals WR Larry FitzgeraldTale of the tape
Brown (25): 5-foot-10, 193 pounds, sixth season, Texas
Fitzgerald (11): 6-foot-3, 218 pounds, ninth season, PittsburghThe Arizona Cardinals do not feature a one-man offense.But, certainly, sometimes it seems that way. And the fact of the matter is the Cardinals' offense is geared around wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald."He's one of those guys that's a big part of that offense even when the ball's not being thrown to him because the defense is always aware of where he's going to be," 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said."He draws a lot of attention from everybody they play. So even when other guys are catching the ball, he has an indirect effect on that. So he's a huge part of their offense, even if it's not getting thrown to him."Covering Fitzgerald is not a one-man chore, but 49ers cornerback Tarell Brown figures to be matched up on him more than anyone else Monday night."He's the X receiver, so I think I'll get him most of the game," Brown said.MAIOCCO's MATCHUP NO. 3: Iupati vs. Campbell
Brown plays solely on the right side. Carlos Rogers is the cornerback on the left side. When the opposition goes with three receivers, Rogers covers the slot, with Chris Culliver playing left cornerback. The Cardinals will be able to dictate which cornerback Fitzgerald faces.Brown is giving up 5 inches to Fitzgerald, who has 40 receptions for 459 yards and three touchdowns this season. Brown knows from experience Fitzgerald offers a unique challenge."He has great body control and he uses his hands well," Brown said. "He gets in and out of breaks, and he always competes for the ball, regardless of whether it's a well-thrown ball or an average-thrown ball."There are likely to be many average-thrown passes on Monday, as Cardinals quarterback John Skelton is a 55-percent passer who has thrown three interceptions on 74 attempts this season after taking over for injured Kevin Kolb.The 49ers own the No. 1-ranked pass defense in the NFL, which begins with a pass rush that forces opposing quarterbacks to get rid of the ball quickly. How the 49ers defend Fitzgerald should go a long way in determining who wins on Monday.The 49ers held Fitzgerald to three catches for 41 yards in a 23-7 victory over Arizona last November. Three weeks later, Fitzgerald caught seven passes for 149 yards as the Cardinals defeated the 49ers 21-19."We have to keep the deep balls off us and concentrate on our open-field tackling," Brown said.Free safety Dashon Goldson will also have a busy day, as he will often supply help against Fitzgerald over the top.
"No 1, when you think of the Cardinals you're going to think of Larry Fitzgerald, obviously. He's one of the top receivers in our league, if not the best receiver in the league," Fangio said. "(He's a future) Hall of Famer and justifiably so. He's a tough guy to handle. He's big. He's fast. He's strong. He's tough to tackle after he catches it. So, him in and of himself is a tough chore."

Large report finds CTE in 110 of 111 brains from former NFL players


Large report finds CTE in 110 of 111 brains from former NFL players

CHICAGO -- Research on 202 former football players found evidence of a brain disease linked to repeated head blows in nearly all of them, from athletes in the National Football League, college and even high school.

It's the largest update on chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, a debilitating brain disease that can cause a range of symptoms including memory loss.

The report doesn't confirm that the condition is common in all football players; it reflects high occurrence in samples at a Boston brain bank that studies CTE. Many donors or their families contributed because of the players' repeated concussions and troubling symptoms before they died.

"There are many questions that remain unanswered," said lead author Dr. Ann McKee, a Boston University neuroscientist. "How common is this" in the general population and all football players?

"How many years of football is too many?" and "What is the genetic risk? Some players do not have evidence of this disease despite long playing years," she noted.

It's also uncertain if some players' lifestyle habits - alcohol, drugs, steroids, diet - might somehow contribute, McKee said.

Dr. Munro Cullum, a neuropsychologist at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, emphasized that the report is based on a selective sample of men who were not necessarily representative of all football players. He said problems other than CTE might explain some of their most common symptoms before death - depression, impulsivity and behavior changes. He was not involved in the report.

McKee said research from the brain bank may lead to answers and an understanding of how to detect the disease in life, "while there's still a chance to do something about it." Currently, there's no known treatment.

The strongest scientific evidence says CTE can only be diagnosed by examining brains after death, although some researchers are experimenting with tests performed on the living. Many scientists believe that repeated blows to the head increase risks for developing CTE, leading to progressive loss of normal brain matter and an abnormal buildup of a protein called tau. Combat veterans and athletes in rough contact sports like football and boxing are among those thought to be most at risk.

The new report was published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

CTE was diagnosed in 177 former players or nearly 90 percent of brains studied. That includes 110 of 111 brains from former NFL players; 48 of 53 college players; nine of 14 semi-professional players, seven of eight Canadian Football league players and three of 14 high school players. The disease was not found in brains from two younger players.

A panel of neuropathologists made the diagnosis by examining brain tissue, using recent criteria from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, McKee said.

The NFL issued a statement saying these reports are important for advancing science related to head trauma and said the league "will continue to work with a wide range of experts to improve the health of current and former NFL athletes."

After years of denials, the NFL acknowledged a link between head blows and brain disease and agreed in a $1 billion settlement to compensate former players who had accused the league of hiding the risks.

The journal update includes many previously reported cases, including former NFL players Bubba Smith, Ken Stabler, Dave Duerson and Ralph Wenzel.

New ones include retired tight end Frank Wainright, whose 10-year NFL career included stints with the Miami Dolphins, New Orleans Saints and Baltimore Ravens. Wainright died in April 2016 at age 48 from a heart attack triggered by bleeding in the brain, said his wife, Stacie. She said he had struggled almost eight years with frightening symptoms including confusion, memory loss and behavior changes.

Wainright played before the league adopted stricter safety rules and had many concussions, she said. He feared CTE and was adamant about donating his brain, she said.

"A lot of families are really tragically affected by it - not even mentioning what these men are going through and they're really not sure what is happening to them. It's like a storm that you can't quite get out of," his wife said.

Frank Wycheck, another former NFL tight end, said he worries that concussions during his nine-year career - the last seven with the Tennessee Titans - have left him with CTE and he plans to donate his brain to research.

"Some people have heads made of concrete, and it doesn't really affect some of those guys," he said. "But CTE is real."

"I know I'm suffering through it, and it's been a struggle and I feel for all the guys out there that are going through this," said Wycheck, 45.

In the new report, McKee and colleagues found the most severe disease in former professional players; mild disease was found in all three former high school players diagnosed with the disease. Brain bank researchers previously reported that the earliest known evidence of CTE was found in a high school athlete who played football and other sports who died at age 18. He was not included in the current report.

The average age of death among all players studied was 66. There were 18 suicides among the 177 diagnosed.

Reports: Former 49ers wide receiver to visit Bills


Reports: Former 49ers wide receiver to visit Bills

Aquan Boldin is looking for a new football home.

And the former 49ers wide receiver is visiting with the Bills on Monday, according to multiple reports.

Boldin started all 16 games with the Lions last season, recording 67 catches for 584 yards and eight touchdowns.

From 2013 to 2015 with the 49ers, he racked up 237 receptions, 3030 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns.

The three-time Pro Bowler will turn 37 years old in October.

Boldin entered the NFL as the 54th overall pick in the 2003 draft.