Aldon Smith a nominee for NFL Rookie of the Year

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Aldon Smith a nominee for NFL Rookie of the Year

The NFL announced the nominees for the 2011 Pepsi Rookie of the Year award today. The list includes 49ers stand-out linebacker Aldon Smith, Cincinnati's Andy Dalton, Von Miller from the Broncos, Cam Newton of the Panthers and Arizona's Patrick Peterson.Voting begins today, and runs through January 31st. The winner will be presented with the honor in a nationally televised primetime awards special, airing on NBC on February 4th.And now, a closer look at the finalists. We have a pretty good idea of the answer, but have to ask - who will get your vote?ALDON SMITH (San Francisco 49ers) Smith, the seventh overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft out of Missouri, played in all 16 games for the 49ers. Smith tallied 14 sacks on the season, placing him in a tie for fifth among all NFL defenders. He finished the season just a half sack short of the single season rookie record. On the year, he also added 37 stops, including 31 solo tackles, four passes defensed, two fumbles forced, one fumble recovered and a safety. Smith was nominated for Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Week three times, winning the award twice.
ANDY DALTON (Cincinnati Bengals) Dalton started all 16 games for the Bengals and led Cincinnati to a 9-7 record and a Wild Card berth in the AFC playoffs. Dalton completed 58.1 percent of his passes for 3,398 yards and 20 touchdowns. Dalton is one of only five rookie quarterbacks to throw for 20 touchdowns in a season, and is also one of only five rookie quarterbacks to throw for 3,000 yards or more in a season. Dalton, who attended Texas Christian University, was nominated for Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Week six times, winning twice.VON MILLER (Denver Broncos) Miller, a Texas A&M product, started all 15 games he played and tied Denvers single-season rookie sack record with a team-high 11.5 sacks, placing him second among all rookies in 2011 and tied for third overall in the AFC. He was one of six NFL players to record a half sack in at least 10 games. He totaled 64 tackles (50 solo) and led the team with 19 tackles for a loss in addition to ranking second on the club with two forced fumbles. He was selected as a starting outside linebacker for the AFC squad for the 2012 Pro Bowl. The second overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, Miller was nominated for Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Week three times.CAM NEWTON (Carolina Panthers) Newton set the record for most passing yards by a rookie in a season (4,051), surpassing PEYTON MANNINGs previous record of 3,739 in 1998. He set the single-season quarterback rushing touchdown record with 14. He is the first rookie to throw and rush for 10 touchdowns in the same season, and only the second player to pass for more than 20 touchdowns and rush for more than 10 touchdowns in a season. He is the first player in NFL history with more than 4,000 passing yards, 500 rushing yards and 10 rushing touchdowns in the same year. Newton, who started all 16 games, finished his first season with a 60.0 completion percentage and 21 touchdowns. He amassed an additional 706 yards and 14 touchdowns on the ground. The Auburn product was the first overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft and was nominated for Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Week 11 times, winning three times.PATRICK PETERSON (Arizona Cardinals) Peterson started all 16 games for the Cardinals in 2011. He finished first in the NFL in punt return yards and second in punt return average. His four punt return touchdowns are tied for the most in a single season in NFL history. As a cornerback, Peterson recorded 64 tackles, including 59 solo stops. He tallied 13 passes defensed, two interceptions and one sack. Peterson was named to the NFCs Pro Bowl squad as the teams kick returner. Peterson, who played collegiately at Louisiana State University, was nominated three times for Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Week.

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.