Jim Harbaugh will hug Detroit coach Jim Schwartz on Sunday. It will not be a long, lingering embrace, and they will not exchange long meaningful sentences on the value of living for the moment.It will be theatre, though, and Jim Harbaugh is not above using theatre for tactical reasons.This tactical reason will be just a sidelight, though, to the greater goals of winning a second consecutive game and establishing a personal to the outside world that the 49ers have moved well into the realm of You-Will-Adjust-Constantly-To-Us.It is a place few teams achieve for any long period of time, a place that puts the other team on the outside edges of their feet from the second quarter on. It is Harbaughs contribution to what is still a players game placing them in positions that confound the opposition and make the game easier to master.This state of being, though, isnt a perpetual state of intellectual bliss. It has much to do with beating a team backward first, and there is where Harbaughs essential coaching philosophy rests.He runs the ball to get and keep your attention, and once he gets the lead he runs to finish the job. Only two teams in Week 1 ran the ball a greater percentage of the time than the 49ers Tampa Bay (38.7 percent on 24 throws in 62 plays) and Washington (26 throws in 71 plays, 36.6 percent). Tampa doesnt really have a running game, and Washington was carefully breaking on a rookie quarterback with an almost game-long lead.The 49ers, though, have a track record of running this exact plan, and though the wide receiver upgrades make them more dangerous when they pass, they still would rather pass to counterpunch than punch.As a result, we still get people not understanding Alex Smith. He serves at the pleasure of his coach and offensive coordinator, as he did when saddled with defensive head coaches Mike Nolan and Mike Singletary. The first wanted Smith to save him from himself, the second wanted Smith to be just like himself. Harbaugh found what Smith does best (prepare) and honed that skill (prepared him). Smiths mistakes are mistakes of the body rather than the mind, and even though Harbaugh would cheerfully replace him if something better came along, the list of quarterbacks who are better continues to shrink.And though Harbaugh pretends not to care, he wants you all to notice this rather than whether he forgets the postgame niceties with Jim Schwartz or takes him for dinner and dancing. Since he cant have that, hell contrive a hug, or a slow waltz, or a genuflection.The message for his players is, This is showbiz, but it isnt what were here for. The message for the media and the outside world is, Oh, shut up. They are his two favorite messages, like using the run to set up surrender is his favorite in-game message.But if you must know how Sunday is going to play out on Tuesday, keep your eye on him in the final moments of Sundays game. If the Lions win, he will shake Schwartz hand perfunctorily and run off the field. If the 49ers win, he will reach for a breath mint. You know, so as not to offend. Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.comAP Images
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.
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.
#Bills are hosting veteran FA Anquan Boldin today on a visit. He’d hoped to remain close to his home in Florida if he was going to play, tho— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) July 24, 2017
Veteran receiver Anquan Boldin is visiting the Buffalo Bills today— Aaron Wilson (@AaronWilson_NFL) July 24, 2017