49ers Mailbag: Who sees more action with Manningham out?

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49ers Mailbag: Who sees more action with Manningham out?

On the eve of an ultra-intriguing regular-season game in Foxboro, Mass., we go to the 49ers Mailbag to answer some questions:

Mario Manningham is almost definitely out right? (@jmike4949blvd)
Yes.

In fact, while I was in the air Saturday on the trip from San Francisco to Boston, the 49ers made it official: Manningham will not play Sunday against the New England Patriots due to his shoulder injury.

What this means is more playing time for No. 2 tight end Delanie Walker, more playing time for fullback Bruce Miller, and more playing time for Randy Moss in two-receiver formations.

The 49ers do not figure to use three-receiver sets too often -- maybe a dozen times through the course of the game. When the 49ers go with that formation, mostly on third downs, you can expect to see rookie A.J. Jenkins get on the field. He played eight snaps last week with Manningham sidelined. He'll probably see at least that much playing time on Sunday, too.

Will LaMichael James see more carries this week? (@bjdpaskeland)
James suited up last week for the first time this season. He is taking over for Kendall Hunter, who sustained a season-ending Achilles injury in the 49ers' 11th game.

Hunter had 72 rushing attempts this season or approximately seven carries per game as Frank Gore's backup. James carried eight times for 30 yards in the 49ers' victory last week over the Miami Dolphins.

That seems about right. So, no, I do not expect James to account for a dramatically higher share of the carries. After all, Gore is still the man who makes the 49ers' offense click.

Do you think Brandon Jacobs will be on playoff roster? ‏ (@sachibub10)
Jacobs does not want to play for the 49ers, and the 49ers do not want him around. The 49ers cleared out his locker and gave it to newly re-signed outside linebacker Eric Bakhtiari.

I do not foresee any situation in which the 49ers would want Jacobs in their locker room ever again.

Jacobs will not play for any team this season. There were reports Jacobs would file a grievance against the 49ers. It might eventually come to that, but that has not happened and it would not occur until after the season.

Any grievance Jacobs might file would be all about money. It would have nothing to do with releasing Jacobs so he could sign with another team.

With the three-game suspension to end the regular season, Jacobs stands to lose $167,000 in base salary. In all likelihood, Jacobs' camp will attempt to reach some financial settlement with the 49ers to avoid filing a grievance.

What are the chances that the 49ers play a lot of nickel against the Brady led O? (‏@RichBonsall)
It's a given. Expect to see a lot of Chris Culliver and very little -- if any -- of nose tackle Isaac Sopoago, the starter in the 49ers' base defense who heads to the sideline when the 49ers go with five defensive backs.

The big question is whether the 49ers will play a lot of their dime defense. That would require fourth cornerback Perrish Cox to enter the game and send inside linebacker Patrick Willis to the sideline.

Cox played more than Willis in the first game of the season against the Green Bay Packers. Cox also played a lot against the Detroit Lions in Week 2, but he has not seen much action since that time.

The 49ers will certainly play some dime. But how much? The key is how they choose to account for tight end Aaron Hernandez. Some teams tag Hernandez as a wide receiver and use defensive backs to cover him. The Patriots also feature such pass-catching targets as Wes Welker, Brandon Lloyd, Danny Woodhead and Julian Edelman.

Bill Belichick and Co. might want to force the hand of 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, who must make the decision to keep Willis on the sideline or take his chances with a possible mismatch with Willis covering a smaller, quicker Patriots receiver.

Is Alex Boone the long-term answer at guard? (@JimKralik)
If the club remains healthy, and he's not needed elsewhere, Boone figures to be the 49ers' starting right guard through at least the 2014 season.

Right tackle Anthony Davis is signed through 2014, and he'll remain at right tackle through that time. If Davis does not sign an extension before then, the 49ers would move Boone to right tackle. Left tackle seems out of the question for a while with Joe Staley signed through 2017.

In addition to being the 49ers' starting guard, Boone also serves as the team's top backup at both tackle positions.

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

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AP

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

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AP

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.