Dwight Clark recalls '80s NFL work stoppages


Dwight Clark recalls '80s NFL work stoppages

March 28, 2011MAIOCCO ARCHIVE49ERS PAGE 49ERS VIDEOMatt MaioccoCSNBayArea.comPlayers representing every position on the 49ers gathered on their own at Canada College in Redwood City. While their work had temporarily come to a halt, their preparations for the football season continued."We had organized practices, 7-on-7, with no pads, of course," said legendary 49ers receiver Dwight Clark, now 54. "We were running to stay in shape and we'd run routes vs. DBs and linebackers."
That was 1987 when the NFL players went on strike after two games. More than two decades later, there is another labor dispute at the highest level of professional football.Things are different now. The owners have imposed a lockout, but there is still plenty of time for the sides to avert the cancelation of games.RELATED: NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement Report page
In a typical offseason, the 49ers would be entering their third week of the offseason conditioning program under new coach Jim Harbaugh. Their first scheduled minicamp is a couple weeks away.VIDEO: Jim Harbaugh from the NFL Coaches Breakfast
During this work stoppage, players are not allowed at the 49ers' practice facility in Santa Clara. Coaches are prohibited from having any contact with the players until the lockout comes to an end.The 49ers players are scattered around the country. But some of them are getting together to work out on their own in the Bay Area and Atlanta. Other players are taking part in workouts at Athletes' Performance facilities in Los Angeles and Phoenix.NEWS: Takeo Spikes -- scattered 49ers remain unitedIn '87, while most of the 49ers remained in the Bay Area, the veteran-laden team was able to conduct practices on their own because everyone knew the systems that had been in place for years under coach Bill Walsh.
In contrast, with the 49ers' new coaching staff and 16 players scheduled for free agency, it's nearly impossible for the current 49ers to do much more than get together in small groups to lift, run and wait for the lockout to end.
"We stayed in good shape," Clark said. "We kept running our same plays. The intensity wasn't as great with no coaches watching, but we worked hard."During Clark's nine NFL seasons as a wide receiver, the league endured two strikes. In 1987, NFL teams recruited and signed replacement players for three games."It was a difficult and complicated time," Clark said. "It was very tough to figure out what was the right thing to do."Clark had undergone three offseason knee surgeries. Walsh, who discovered the little-known receiver out of Clemson and selected him in the 10th round of the 1979 draft, had already convinced Clark that 1987 would be his final NFL season. As much as Clark says he wanted to remain loyal to the union, there were a number of other factors he weighed during the first two weeks of the strike.Ultimately, Clark decided to be one of the nearly 150 players around the NFL to return to work. Joe Montana and Roger Craig were also among the 12 players from the 49ers to cross the picket line."The core of the team was really close to Eddie," Clark said of then-49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo. "He was more than an owner to us. He was a personal friend. He was so good and so generous to us, so to go out on strike was a tough decision for several reasons. I felt like we were striking against someone who had only done great things for us."And in the final year of his career, Clark also knew that every week he did not play was costing him 32,500 that he would never be able to regain. Clark eventually worked as an executive with the 49ers and Cleveland Browns. He now lives in San Jose, where he sells health insurance and works as a marketing consultant for the 49ers."Things may be stronger now with the players," Clark said. "But at that time, the union wasn't very strong. They couldn't deliver what they set out to do in 1982."That does not mean it was easy, though. Clark said the decision to break ranks gave him ulcers. When he joined the replacement players in the 49ers' locker room, he was warmly received and signed many autographs. But when the strike ended and all the 49ers players returned a week later, there was palpable tension."There were some hard feelings from a few of the guys," Clark said. "Ronnie (Lott) is the ultimate team guy. He always puts the team first. He was very upset we'd come in. He and I are great friends now, so eventually those feelings went by the wayside."The NFL players previously went on strike in 1982. Seven regular-season games were canceled, and the 49ers finished with a 3-6 record and missed the playoffs for the only time in a 10-year stretch.NEWS: NFL headlines
"That was pretty rough because that was the year after we won the Super Bowl and everyone wanted to get back there playing," Clark said. "We were out 57 days. So a lot of us in '87 had already been through that."In 1982, we stayed out and whole time. So we already knew in '87 what it felt like. It didn't help that whatever we were striking for in '82, we didn't get."The union decertified in 1989 after losing the 1987 strike. After the players won a court ruling years later, a new collective bargaining agreement was approved in 1993. The players were awarded unrestricted free agency, as well as improved pension and health benefits.

Eric Reid embracing new role with 49ers: 'I was made for this position'

Eric Reid embracing new role with 49ers: 'I was made for this position'

SANTA CLARA – Despite recording seven interceptions in his first two seasons and being named to the Pro Bowl as a rookie, Eric Reid said he believes he is now in a role that best fits his skillset.

Whereas in the past, the 49ers’ safety positions were considered interchangeable, there is a clear delineation this season under first-year defensive coordinator Robert Saleh.

“Even dating back to college, this is the first time there’s a distinct strong (safety) and a distinct free (safety),” Reid said. “I’ve been used to the interchangeability type of role.

“(In) some situations, certain calls where there’s a motion, we might flip. There are a couple situations where I might be in the post in the free-safety role, but it’s not nearly as much as it has been in the past.”

Reid, who is listed at 6 foot 1, 213 pounds, said he is excited to be stationed closer to the line of scrimmage for run support while free safety Jimmie Ward patrols the deep middle of the field.

The 49ers offseason program concluded Wednesday, and Reid found himself in the middle of the action with an interception on a short Brian Hoyer pass over the middle. While he will still be counted upon for coverage, his biggest impact could come to assist a run defense that last season ranked among the worst in NFL history.

“I love it, being around the ball more,” Reid said. “I anticipate making more tackles, hopefully making more plays. I feel like I was made for this position with my body type, being a bigger safety. I’m excited about this year.

“I feel like I’m using what God has blessed me with, more, which is my size and being in the box in the run game. In the past, I felt like I could do more. And being in the post, I can’t use my size as much when it comes to the run game.”

After producing seven interceptions in his first two seasons, Reid recorded just one interception in 26 games over the past two seasons.

As a first-round pick in 2013, the 49ers picked up the fifth-year option this season for $5.676 million. He is scheduled for unrestricted free agency at the conclusion of the season. Reid said the 49ers have not spoken to his representation about a long-term extension. That will come, he believes, if he lives up to his end of the bargain in his new, streamlined role.

“I look at it from a business standpoint,” Reid said. “I majored in business. They have me under contract. They don’t have any reason to talk to right now. I imagine if I play well in the first half of the season, they’ll reach out to me. Maybe they’ll reach out to me before training camp, I don’t know. It’s whatever route they decide to take. It’s a business. I’ll treat it as a business. I have a job to do, so I’ll do it.”


Mike Shanahan's official role with 49ers: Father of head coach

Mike Shanahan's official role with 49ers: Father of head coach

SANTA CLARA – Kyle Shanahan always wanted to coach football with his father. But, first, he knew he had to prove himself without any boost from his well-known dad.

Once the son established himself as one of the NFL’s respected offensive minds, the Shanahans teamed up for four up-but-mostly-down seasons with Washington.

Mike, the two-time Super Bowl-winning head coach, hired his son to serve as his top offensive assistant in 2010.

“I thought we saw football similar, but we quickly realized after a few weeks that we saw it differently,” Kyle Shanahan told NBC Sports Bay Area in February. “We grew together. He gave me a lot of leeway while I was there. It was fun to try a bunch of different things, having to even incorporate the zone read when we got Robert (Griffin).

“We did our deal in Washington, and I wouldn’t take that back for the world, but that was pretty much the end of it.”

Kyle Shanahan broke into the coaching ranks under Karl Dorrell at UCLA. He moved onto the NFL to work with Jon Gruden on the staff of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Gary Kubiak with the Houston Texans. But nothing prepared him for the scrutiny he would face as offensive coordinator under his father.

Kyle Shanahan adjusted the Washington offense to take advantage of Griffin’s skills as a dual-threat quarterback as a rookie 2012. The club qualified for the playoffs with a 10-6 record.

But things blew up the following season as the Mike Shanahan-Griffin relationship soured. Shanahan and eight assistant coaches, including Kyle, were fired the morning after Washington’s 3-13 season concluded.

Mike Shanahan has remained out of coaching, though he was a finalist for the 49ers’ head-coaching job after the 2015 season. The 49ers hired Chip Kelly.

Kyle Shanahan rebuilt his career with one season as offensive coordinator with the Cleveland Browns and two successful seasons with the Atlanta Falcons to enable him to become CEO Jed York’s choice to replace Kelly.

There is no official role for Mike Shanahan, 64, on his son’s staff with the 49ers. But the father has attended several of the team’s practices this offseason, including both days of the 49ers’ mandatory minicamp this week. Mike has been issued his own iPad that gives him access to the 49ers playbook and coach's film. He will likely visit for an extended stay during training camp. But Kyle said he believes his dad will mostly remain home -- only a phone call away -- during the regular season.

“He’s enjoying life right now,” said Kyle, 37. “He’s got a pretty good deal in Denver, where he lives. He can help me out in other ways anyways without having to be here every day.”

Mike Shanahan does not need to be in the building every day to counsel and have influence on his son as he tries to navigate his first season as the head coach while also maintaining the responsibilities of running the team’s offense.

“You’re going 1,000 miles an hour,” Kyle Shanahan said. “Sometimes to see everything you’ve got to really slow things down and take your time to look at stuff and you don’t always have that time as a head coach.

“It’s nice when someone you know who thinks similar to you has a similar background and he just sits in a room all day and watches stuff. He doesn’t have any other responsibilities. He can see some things that I’m not always seeing and just to bring things to light that maybe I missed or other people have missed.”

Mike Shanahan was a successful NFL offensive coordinator for seven seasons. He won a Super Bowl on George Seifert’s staff with the 49ers in January 1995. His dad believes his time around the 49ers has a lasting impact.

“When I was with San Francisco, Kyle was at the 49ers training camps in Rocklin,” Mike Shanahan told Fangirl Sports Network. “He stayed with me at camp and we talked about football every night.

“He had the opportunity to experience an organization that had won four Super Bowls in nine years. He also had the opportunity to be around some great people and leaders. He still tells stories and talks about people like Steve Young, Joe Montana, Harris Barton, Tom Rathman, Jerry Rice, John Taylor, Deion Sanders, and many others. What a great experience to see how these men handled themselves on and off the field.”

The Denver Broncos hired him to become head coach shortly after the 49ers’ 49-26 victory over the San Diego Chargers in Super Bowl XXIX. Shanahan went on to win two Super Bowls in his 14 seasons with the Broncos.

Kyle Shanahan was a wide receiver at Duke before finishing college at Texas, where he caught 14 passes for 127 yards in two seasons. He figured he would have a career in football and it would not be as a player.

“I’ve wanted to coach my whole life,” Kyle Shanahan said. “This is all I’ve known, just growing up around football. It’s almost all I’ve been into, too. Since I was little, it’s distracted me from everything I’ve done, especially school. I always tried to tell my mom, ‘Just be patient, it’ll play out for us in the long run.’ Fortunately, it did.

“Once I realized my genes were a little bit better as a coach than as a player, I pretty much locked into that – and that was about halfway through college. I haven’t looked back.”

During his short time with the 49ers, players on both sides of the ball have expressed amazement at how knowledgeable Kyle Shanahan is about the game of football. His dad told Fangirl Sports Network to succeed as a head coach he must always be dedicated to stuyding, learning and teaching the sport.

“He loves the game and knows it inside and out,” Mike Shanahan said. “My advice to him is to never lose the drive to study the game as he’s done over the last 13 years. To stay in the NFL as a head coach and have success for any length of time, you must never lose your drive to teach and stay abreast of what the top teams are doing every year: offense, defense, special teams. You must be able to coach all positions to really understand the whole game.”

Former 49ers president Carmen Policy said he remembers young Kyle serving as a ball boy during 49ers training camp in the early 1990s. Policy, who remains close to Mike Shanahan, has followed Kyle’s rise in the coaching ranks while playfully questioning the sanity of the family business.

Said Policy: “I used to tease Mike, ‘What kind of father are you to let your kid go into coaching?’ I said, ‘You should be charged with dereliction of parental duty.’ And he’d laugh and say, ‘Yeah, I tried talking to him and then my wife tried talking to him, but that’s his passion, and that’s what he wants to do, so I’m not going to dissuade him from it.’

“And, then, look at what happened. Here he is. He’s the head coach of the 49ers, and that’s just incredible.”