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.
SANTA CLARA – Safety Jimmie Ward was placed on the physically-unable-to-perform list to open training camp with a hamstring injury, the 49ers announced Friday morning.
General manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan stated on Thursday that all of their players were healthy and no players would be headed to PUP or the non-football injury list.
But that was before the 49ers were scheduled to have their conditioning test. Ward sustained the injury on Thursday during the team's conditioning test. The team lists him as "week to week."
He can be activated to begin practice at any time. Ward is also eligible to begin the regular season on the PUP list. Any player who opens the regular season on PUP is ineligible for the first six weeks of the season.
Ward is expected to be one of the key members of the 49ers' defense from the free safety position. His role is dubbed "The Eraser," fellow safety Eric Reid said, because of his role as a playmaker in the secondary. However, one of the major questions about Ward is his ability to remain healthy through the rigors of an NFL season.
Ward missed eight games as a rookie due to a foot injury. Last year, he sat out five games due to a shoulder injury.
SANTA CLARA – Carlos Hyde has been the 49ers' unchallenged starter since the organization allowed Frank Gore to leave in free agency after the 2014 season.
Finally, he has been challenged.
The 49ers drafted Joe Williams in the fourth round, signed veteran Tim Hightower and acquired Kapri Bibbs in a trade. Moreover, Hyde appears to be challenging himself, too.
“My goal is to be the No. 1 rushing running back in this league,” Hyde said. “I feel like I have the best opportunity to do that now with this new staff.”
General manager John Lynch said he has noticed Hyde “flipped a switch” in the offseason. Hyde remained in the Bay Area to use the 49ers’ facilities to work out and eat at the team’s cafeteria. At one point, he even asked coach Kyle Shanahan about being included on special teams.
Hyde reported to training camp Thursday at 228 pounds – the least he has weighed since his high-school days, he said. Hyde could be a good fit for Shanahan’s running scheme.
“It’s outside zone, which is downhill. I’m a downhill back. I feel like I fit the scheme very well,” said Hyde, who enters the final year of his contract.
Hyde had career-best totals of 988 yards and six touchdowns last season with a 4.6-yard average. Although the 49ers could use more a multi-pronged approach at running back, Hyde could be set up for a career year heading into free agency.
“I ran into him in the hall and he looks tremendous,” Lynch said. “He really has dedicated himself. He’s changed his body type this offseason and that to me at the least bit shows a commitment. There’s those stories, but we’re excited to see this whole thing as we take the next step.”