49ers Mailbag: Rest comes with playoff bye


49ers Mailbag: Rest comes with playoff bye

The 49ers have clinched the NFC West, but that is not good enough.In order for the 49ers to have a reasonable chance to make a playoff run, they also have to clinch a first-round bye in the playoffs. That's why the 49ers can't afford to slow down in the regular season until they accomplish that goal.
Linebacker Patrick Willis is not expected to play Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals due to a right hamstring strain. But all other healthy 49ers players must be ready to go for the remainder of the regular season.
With an eye on the playoffs, we open today's 49ers Mailbag . . . Q: How will the Niners treat their starters the rest of the way? Full go or rest them? @aharris916
My response: The 49ers can't afford to rest anyone who might be able to help them win football games. The difference between finishing second and third in the NFC could make a huge difference during the playoffs.That is why the 49ers must play their best players until, at least, they have clinched the No. 2 seed in the NFC behind the Green Bay Packers.
If the 49ers finish with the No. 2 seed, they'll be able to rest their starters during the wild-card round of the playoffs. That's because the top two seeds in each conference is assured a first-round bye. That's the rest the 49ers are eyeing at this point.If the 49ers finish with the No. 2 seed, they can spend two weeks to get ready for a potential divisional playoff game against the New Orleans Saints at Candlestick.If the 49ers are the third seed, they would not get any break. They'd have to beat a wild-card team at Candlestick for the right to play the Saints at New Orleans. And that's a tall order. Q: If Saints win out and 49ers win out (except for Pitt), who gets the bye? @Arkhams_Razor
My response: If the 49ers and Saints finish with the same record, the 49ers would win any tie-breaker. That's because the 49ers would have a better conference record than the Saints.With four games remaining, the 49ers essentially have a two-game lead over the Saints for the No. 2 seed. Any combination of three 49ers victories and Saints defeats clinches the No. 2 seed for the 49ers.And, then, maybe they can talk about resting some of their players.

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.”