Harbaugh touts Justin Smith as MVP candidate

587672.jpg

Harbaugh touts Justin Smith as MVP candidate

SAN FRANCISCO -- Defensive end Justin Smith has turned into the 49ers' closer.Smith batted down Eli Manning's fourth-down pass from the 49ers 10-yard line with 34 seconds remaining Sunday to preserve a 27-20 victory over the New York Giants at Candlestick Park.And 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh made a case for Smith as a candidate for NFL Most Valuable Player.

"He's a great player," Harbaugh said of Smith, who has earned back-to-back trips to the Pro Bowl. "He's having a great year. He should be in the MVP category, conversation. He's having that kind of a year for us."He's got a huge heart. That guy is just a big, strong, mighty man and we had a lot of them today."Smith and teammate Patrick Willis are legitimate candidates for NFL Defensive Player of the Year, as the 49ers have forged an 8-1 record with seven games remaining.Smith has 4.5 sacks to go along with his two game-clinching plays this season. In Week 4, he wrapped up a 24-23 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles when he chased down speedy wide receiver Jeremy Maclin and forced a fumble that ended the Eagles' final threat.On Sunday, Smith rushed against Giants left guard David Diehl on the final play after playing every defensive snap in the game. He knocked down Manning's fourth-down pass with his right arm."No. 1, I was tired," Smith said. "No. 2, they (the coaches) were telling us to get our hands up. They were throwing pretty quick on rhythm. I just put my hand there. Luckily, it was where the ball went. It was just blind luck."Said Willis, "Justin's a consummate team player. I told him on the sidelines, series after series, how much I respect him. I think he'll be one of the best players I'll have ever played with in my life and it's been a pleasure playing with him."Week-in and week-out he comes to play. He practices hard in practice and goes hard on Sundays. He's a tremendous player."Willis isn't too shabby, either.Smith finished with six tackles in the game. NaVorro Bowman led the 49ers with 14 tackles, but Willis has also placed himself into the conversation for NFL Defensive Player of the Year. Willis recorded 11 tackles, a sack and two tackles for losses.The 49ers hold a five-game lead in the NFC West. The victory over the Giants might have been their most impressive all-around performance of the season."They're a heck of a team," Justin Smith said. "We were talking about them with our coaches. The schemes they run and the way they attack had me guessing out there. Hats off to them. Keeping an offense of that quality out of the end zone bodes well for us."The 49ers own a two-game lead for the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoffs. The top two seed earn a first-round bye in the playoffs. But this victory also sent a message, Willis said."It's a big statement across the board, however you look at it," he said. "There was a bunch of people that doubted us this week, have been doubting us the whole season and will still doubt us.
"They have so many excuses as to why the Giants didn't win this game, whether it'll be, 'Eli wasn't having his day,' or whether it was the receiver wasn't this or the line wasn't this.' They're going to have something to say to try and take away from us winning this game, but at the end of the day we let them say what they want to say. We let the record speak for itself. For us, we're humble but we're still hungry."

49ers release Coffee after reinstating RB off retired list

49ers release Coffee after reinstating RB off retired list

Running back Glen Coffee, who walked away from the 49ers during training camp before his second NFL season, was reinstated Friday off the reserve-retired list.

As part of the same transaction wire released by the NFL office, the 49ers released Coffee, making him a free agent.

After seven seasons away from the game, Coffee is attempting a comeback, his agent told NBC Sports Bay Area on Saturday.

“I can tell you, he’s in great shape,” agent Ray Oubre said. “The man doesn’t have a six-pack, he’s got a 12-pack. He’s been waiting for the right time to hopefully get a workout with someone and show what he can do.

“He had a calling, and right now he feels like it’s his time to show what he can do. He explained to me, ‘I can do things now that I couldn’t do when I was initially with the 49ers.’ That’s the kind of shape he’s in.”

Coffee, who turns 30 on May 1, was a third-round draft pick (No. 74 overall) of the 49ers in 2009. He was the sixth running back selected in that year's draft. Coffee appeared in 14 games as a rookie and carried 83 times for 226 yards and one touchdown. He also caught 11 passes for 78 yards.

During training camp the next year as his teammates were exiting the locker room for the practice field in August 2010, Coffee cut the tape from his shoes and left the team's Santa Clara practice facility. He later informed then-coach Mike Singletary of his decision to stop playing football. Coffee said he believed God had a bigger plan for him.

Coffee was a specialist in the Sixth Battalion of the Army Rangers after enlisting in 2013. He is no longer active, Oubre said.

“He’s been training several months,” Oubre said. “The rigors of the Army Rangers, he was already in shape. He’s taking it to another level now. He’s been training for more than four months.

“He feels like he served and now the time is right. He’s in a good place. He understands, you can’t play football forever and you can’t do any one thing forever. He’s in a place right now that he wants to use his God-given ability as a football player.”

Coffee turned pro after his junior season at Alabama. In his final college season, Coffee rushed for 1,383 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Coffee has been training under Johnny Jackson at JDPI Sports Performance in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Oubre said he will be in contact with all 32 NFL teams to see if there’s any interest in bringing in Coffee for workouts. He might also hold an open workout for any interested teams.

Sponsored by Harbaugh, Kap named one of Top 100 most influential people

Sponsored by Harbaugh, Kap named one of Top 100 most influential people

Former 49ers quarterback and current free agent Colin Kaepernick has been named one of TIME's 100 Most Influential People on Thursday. 

Each person named to the list is represented by a sponsor who then writes on why they are worthy of the honor. For Kaepernick, his former coach Jim Harbaugh wrote on him. 

Harbaugh coached Kaepernick for four seasons from 2011-2014. The two reached the Super Bowl together in the 2012 season. 

Other sports figures named to the list include Conor McGregor, Theo Epstein, LeBron James, Tom Brady, Simone Biles, and Neymar.

Kaepernick made national headlines this past season for his decision to first sit and then kneel during the national anthem as a fight against social injustices. 

Below is what Harbaugh wrote on Kaepernick's influence: 

Colin Kaepernick was alone in his early protests last year when he boldly and courageously confronted perceived inequalities in our social-justice system by refusing to stand for the national anthem. At times in our nation's history, we have been all too quick to judge and oppose our fellow Americans for exercising their First Amendment right to address things they believe unjust.

Rather than besmirch their character, we must celebrate their act. For we cannot pioneer and invent if we are fearful of deviating from the norm, damaging our public perception or—most important—harming our own personal interests.

I thank Colin for all he has contributed to the game of football as an outstanding player and trusted teammate. I also applaud Colin for the courage he has demonstrated in exercising his guaranteed right of free speech. His willingness to take a position at personal cost is now part of our American story.

How lucky for us all and for our country to have among our citizens someone as remarkable as Colin Kaepernick.