Former 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo was among 17 finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame for the first time earlier this season. He was not inducted into the Hall of Fame, but a strong argument for his enshrinement is made during "Eddie DeBartolo: A Football Life," which airs Wednesday, 5 p.m., on the NFL Network.During DeBartolo's 23 years in control of the 49ers, the organization won five Super Bowl titles. The one-hour program highlights DeBartolo's gentle touch, as well as his combustible side, including his hot-and-cold relationship with coach Bill Walsh, who was on the sideline for four championships."I think I was ordered by Eddie to fire Bill Walsh approximately seven, maybe eight times," former 49ers executive Carmen Policy said. "And there were times when Bill deserved it."Of course, DeBartolo never went through with it. And their working relationship continued for 10 seasons.The most devastating loss of the late Walsh's career occurred when the 49ers, who had established themselves as the favorite to win the Super Bowl after the 1987 season, lost to the Minnesota Vikings in the playoffs.The next season, the 49ers won the Super Bowl, and a burnt-out Walsh stepped down. Walsh was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1993. Walsh died in 2007."I don't think, without Eddie, Bill could've done it," Dwight Clark said.Said Randy Cross, "Bill, he was a giant in the NFL. But it was Eddie behind the scenes that made a lot of those things even possible."Under DeBartolo, the 49ers paid the highest salaries, traveled in luxury and every player had his own hotel room. During a three-year span, the 49ers won an NFL record 18 consecutive road games."All of it was due to him," Ronnie Lott said. "The way we traveled was the way we played."Added Jerry Rice, "It was always first class, and it was because of him.""A Football Life" focuses on DeBartolo's personal touch with the players -- how he cared about them and their families during and even after their playing days were over."There wasn't anybody in the NFL who didn't want to be one of his guys," Joe Montana said.The program opens in February at a church in Tampa, Fla., with DeBartolo speaking at the memorial service of former 49ers receiver Freddie Solomon, who died of colon cancer."I'm grateful Freddie had Eddie through this whole ordeal," said Dee Solomon, Freddie's wife.DeBartolo built a family atmosphere around the 49ers, so it was devastating to him when then-NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue suspended him in 1999 after pleading guilty to the felony offense of failure to report an extortion attempt involving former Louisiana governor Edwin Edwards.In a messy family squabble, DeBartolo and his sister, Denise York, separated their assets. York took control of the 49ers. And DeBartolo was out of the NFL."I think it's hurt more than anything that's happened in his life, other than losing his parents," Montana said. "That was his pride and joy. So I'm sure it hurt deeply."Today, DeBartolo speaks regularly with his sister and his nephew, 49ers CEO Jed York. He was an inaugural enshrinee into the the Edwards J. DeBartolo Sr. 49ers Hall of Fame in 2009."We have a big legacy to up up to," Jed York said of his uncle.
PHOENIX – NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said Tuesday he does not believe quarterback Colin Kaepernick is being “blackballed” in his attempt to continue his career.
“I haven’t heard that from our clubs in any way that that’s an issue,” Goodell said during his press conference to conclude the NFL owners meetings.
“My experience in 35 years is that our clubs make independent evaluations of players. They work hard to try to improve their teams. But if they think a player can help improve their team, they’re going to do that.”
Kaepernick remains unsigned as an unrestricted free agent after opting out of his 49ers contract earlier this month. Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman this week was asked on ESPN’s "First Take" whether he felt Kaepernick was being blackballed.
"I'm sure he is," Sherman answered. "It's difficult to see because he's played at such a high level, and you see guys, quarterbacks, who have never played at a high level being signed by teams. So it's difficult to understand."
General manager John Lynch on Tuesday said the 49ers have not had any contact with Kaepernick since he and coach Kyle Shanahan met with Kaepernick on Feb. 22 in Santa Clara. The 49ers signed free-agent quarterbacks Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley have shown no interest in re-signing Kaepernick.
Kaepernick, 29, created a controversy last season when he opted to take a knee during the playing of the national anthem to protest racial inequality in the United States. Kaepernick has decided to stand for the national anthem this season.
Earlier in the day, Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh said it was “stupid” and “intellectually lazy” to think teams have colluded to keep Kaepernick out of the league. Last week, former 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh, John’s brother, said Kaepernick is still an outstanding player and can win championships.
“I absolutely think he’s going to get signed,” John Harbaugh said. “I agree with Jim. He can win games for people.”
PHOENIX – John Lynch’s draft preparation as a first-year NFL general manager prompted him to make a phone call Monday to Jim Harbaugh.
“I talked to an old 49ers coach yesterday,” Lynch said at the NFL owners meetings. “He was great. He has a lot of players who are draftable. (He) gave me a lot of great information, and it was entertaining, as it always is with Jim.
“He just said, ‘Fired up for you, man,’ then we started talking about his players. He had to go to a meeting and I had to go to a meeting, so it was quick.”
Before Lynch could quiz Harbaugh about some of the Wolverines’ draft-eligible prospects, Harbaugh had a brief chance to catch up with his brother, John, the Baltimore Ravens head coach.
“It was fun because right when we called, his brother was right there,” Lynch said.
“So John came over and before I could get on the phone, John and Jim were talking. I said, ‘Hey, you’re cutting into my time, give me the phone.’ We had a good time.”
Michigan’s top prospects are safety Jabrill Peppers, who won the Paul Hornung Award as the nation’s most-versatile player, and edge rusher Taco Charlton.
Lynch said he does not ask “lazy questions” of any college coach about his former players. Instead, he’s looking at specifics, such as what position a player is better suited to play at the NFL level.
Harbaugh, who was let go after the 49ers' 8-8 season of 2014, enters his third season at his alma mater after two seasons with 10-3 records.