Aldon Smith worked over Patriots tackle in college

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Aldon Smith worked over Patriots tackle in college

SANTA CLARA -- Aldon Smith's finest game in college -- the one that started to draw national attention his way -- came against an offensive lineman who would later become a first-round draft pick.

On Sunday night, Smith again matches up against left tackle Nate Solder. In 2009, Smith, as a redshirt freshman, recorded three sacks against the highly touted Solder in Missouri's 36-17 victory over Colorado.

The combination of speed and power that Smith demonstrated in making life difficult for Solder helped convince the 49ers last year to select the pass-rusher with the No. 7 overall pick. In the same draft, the New England Patriots chose Solder at No. 17 overall.

"I'm sure he's improved," Smith said Thursday. "He made it this far. He's starting, so I assume so. I haven't watched that game in a long time, but I was able to get past him and create pressure back there."

Smith has been creating pressure ever since, too. Smith has 19.5 sacks in his second NFL season to set the 49ers' franchise record. He is just three sacks shy of Michael Strahan's NFL single-season record, which was set in 2001.

In that meeting in 2009, Smith had four total tackles for loss, in addition to taking down the Colorado quarterback three times.

"I was very impressed with Aldon Smith," Solder said afterward. "He's big, tall, athletic, strong and has real long arms. We had a real tough time with him."

Patriots coach Bill Belichick has confidence in Solder, who stepped in to protect Brady's blind side after the retirement of Matt Light. Solder will face one of his biggest assignments of the season against the NFL's top sack artist.

"Sure, big challenge, but at that position, those guys see them every week," Belichick said on a conference call this week with Bay Area reporters. "Smith has a good combination of skills. He's strong. He can power rush. He can rush the edge. He's quick. He's got a good up-and-under move. He's got an outside move. He's got an inside move. And he can run over those guys.

"That's three pretty good pitches right there. It's hard to block them all. Nate's a good player in his own right. He's competed against a lot of good rushers this year and last year."

The Patriots top-ranked offense offers a big challenge for the 49ers on Sunday night in Foxboro, Mass. But Smith said he is confident that the 49ers' strength will make things rough on New England, too. The 49ers already have compiled road victories against Aaron Rodgers' Green Bay Packers and Drew Brees' New Orleans Saints.

"We can stop them," Smith said. "We've played good offenses before. This isn't our first offense we've played that has talent. Tape shows what happened. So we'll just put it back on tape again."

Smith has quickly emerged as one of the 49ers' marquee players. When NBC promoted the 49ers-Patriots game last week, they showed pictures of Tom Brady and Smith together on a graphic for Sunday Night Football.

"My friend sent me that picture, and I had just one word: 'Wow,'" Smith said. "It's Tom Brady. He's won Super Bowls. He's been in the league for 13-some years. And me. I just got here."

Report: 49ers UFA linebacker to visit Seahawks

Report: 49ers UFA linebacker to visit Seahawks

Gerald Hodges is in search of a new team and he's looking at a division rival of the 49ers.

The unrestricted free agent is scheduled to visit the Seahawks on Wednesday, according to ESPN.

Acquired in October of 2015 from Minnesota for a sixth-round pick, the four-year pro played in 25 games over the past two seasons with the 49ers.

In his time with San Francisco, the former fourth-round pick recorded three sacks, two interceptions and one fumble recovery.

But he was not considered a fit for the new 49ers under general manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan. Hodges was deactivated for a game late in the season at Atlanta for breaking team rules. He did not offer an explanation or apology

The 49ers have signed three linebackers through two weeks of free agency: Malcolm Smith, Brock Coyle and Dekoda Watson.

Donald Trump, Jim Harbaugh address Kaepernick's free agent status

Donald Trump, Jim Harbaugh address Kaepernick's free agent status

On the same day the FBI director announced members of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign are under investigation for colluding with Russia to influence the election, Trump turned his thoughts to Colin Kaepernick’s status as an NFL free agent.

And Jim Harbaugh, appearing on Pro Football Talk, suggested teams that are not showing interest in Kaepernick are making a mistake.

“I’ll tell you the same thing I tell them: I think he’s an outstanding player and I think he’s a great competitor who has proven it in games and has the ability to be not only an NFL starter but a great NFL player,” Harbaugh said Tuesday morning.

“He’ll have a great career and be a great quarterback, win championships.”

On Monday evening, during a rally in Kentucky, Trump made remarks about Kaepernick. In the lead-up to the November election, Kaepernick called Trump “openly racist” and said he would not vote for Hillary Clinton, either.

“And you know, your San Francisco quarterback? I’m sure nobody ever heard of him,” Trump said.

“There was an article today, it was reported that NFL owners don’t want to pick him up because they don’t want to get a nasty tweet from Donald Trump. Do you believe that? I just saw that. I just saw that. I said if I remember that one I’m gonna report it to the people of Kentucky. Because they like it when people actually stand for the American flag.”

Mike Freeman of Bleacher Report reported an AFC general manager told him there were three reasons Kaepernick has not signed. Some believe, according to the anonymous source, that Kaepernick can no longer play at a high level. Others “genuinely hate him” for kneeling during the national anthem as part of his protest of racial inequality in America.

And, “some teams fear the backlash from fans after getting him,” according to the report. “They think there might be protests or Trump will tweet about the team. I'd say that number is around 10 percent. Then there's another 10 percent that has a mix of those feelings.”

Kaepernick’s teammates voted him the winner of the Len Eshmont Award for courage and inspiration last season. It is historically the most prestigious award among 49ers players. But the 49ers have already signed veteran quarterbacks Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley.

General manager John Lynch acknowledged last week on KNBR the odds of the 49ers bringing back Kaepernick are slim.

“I think the likelihood of that happening has gone down significantly. But we’re not going to close our mind or out options on anyone, including him,” Lynch said.

Even though there has been no reported interest in Kaepernick from any team around the league, Lynch said Kaepernick nearly signed with a team earlier during the free-agent signing period.

“I don’t know what happened to that market,” Lynch said. “He was, in everyone’s mind in this league, very close to signing a deal with a team at a really good number. And it fell through, apparently.”