Ginn hopeful for Sunday, Harbaugh happily cryptic


Ginn hopeful for Sunday, Harbaugh happily cryptic

SANTA CLARA -- 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh is demonstrating that his team's success is blind to the names on his players' jerseys. The 49ers have two wins without the man they expected to anchor their return game, and without the man acquired to ensure third-and-short conversions.San Francisco is beating the NFL's best, bereft of their depth chart champions.Ted Ginn and Brandon Jacobs are still inactive, but their replacements have stepped up in such a major way that head coach Jim Harbaugh is having reservations about plugging in his veterans when they're healthy.

Ted Ginn and Brandon Jacobs are yet to be active, but their replacements have stepped up in such a major way, that head coach Jim Harbaugh is having reservations about plugging in his veterans when they're healthy.

MAIOCCO: Roles for Ginn, Jacobs

Ginn and Jacobs were in the locker room on Tuesday, and they looked healthy. While Jacobs and his knee are less than likely to be ready by Sunday, Ginn's ankle is progressing.

"It's better." Ginn said. "I'm taking it day by day."

Asked if it was realistic to hope he'll play in the team's Week 3 assignment in Minnesota, Ginn responded, "I hope so."

Kyle Williams has handled the lion's share of the return duties in Ginn's stead, and he has handled them admirably. Williams safely returned one punt Sunday for eight yards, and handled one kickoff. His only Week 1 punt return went for 20 yards and set up David Akers' record-tying 63-yard field goal at halftime.

While a contingent of the 49ers fan base did not want to see Williams back deep after his performance in the 2011 NFC Championship, neither Harbaugh nor Williams have let it affect their plans or preparations.

It is unclear how the responsibility will be handled after Ginn's return.

Behind Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter is averaging 4.6 yards per carry, going for 64 yards on 14 rushes. Without a third-down bruiser like Jacobs, the 49ers have converted six of 20 third downs so far.

"We're going to play the guys you feel each week that give us the best chance to win and are practicing better and who ultimately are going to play better in the game," Harbaugh said, "You also need to see that on the practice field."

Ginn and Jacobs have not been seen practicing, and Harbaugh is enamored with the idea that his opponents know as much as the rest of us with regard to who will be on the field Sunday.

"There are a lot of possibilities there," Harbaugh said. "And you like to have your opponent think about all those possibilities."

Large report finds CTE in 110 of 111 brains from former NFL players


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


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.