Late-bloomer Goodwin fits in well with 49ers

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Late-bloomer Goodwin fits in well with 49ers

SANTA CLARA -- Understanding Jonathan Goodwin's past is the window to seeing the impact the center has had on the 49ers this season.His NFL career didn't start the way he expected. The fifth-round draft pick out of Michigan had grand ideas of what life in the NFL would be like. Instead, reality struck. Goodwin struggled, and what he struggled with was, well . . .

"Everything," Goodwin said. "Initially, I kind of struggled with pass blocking, and you got to learn to pass block in this league or you won't be around too long."The 6-foot-3 lineman focused on improving his technique, his hand speed and whatever it took to block the players who were bigger and faster than the ones he faced in college.Overseeing his every move was Doug Marrone, Goodwin's first offensive line coach in the league while he was with the New York Jets."In this league, it's easy for coaches to give up on guys that come in and struggle and he didn't give up on me," Goodwin said. "He kept pushing me, and when I struggled he stayed on me."RELATED: Jonathan Goodwin NFL career profile
The results of Goodwin's efforts under Marrone's watch weren't immediate, but by his third year things began to get easier. The real improvement came a few years later. While with New Orleans, Goodwin became the heart of the line."For me, when I moved to center I think it kind of improved my hand speed because I had no choice," Goodwin said. "I had to snap the ball and get my hands up quick. I think that was key for me that position change."Now with a Pro Bowl selection and a Super Bowl championship to his name from his time with the Saints, the center can look back on his early struggles and smile."I always sit back now and think Wow, I've been in this league 10 years,'" Goodwin said chuckling. "When my first two years I was thinking about what I was going to be doing after football right away."Marrone, now the head coach at Syracuse University, had his reasons for believing in Goodwin. In turn, Goodwin saw something in San Francisco, a team that didn't have a winning record or playoff appearance in nearly a decade."Playing against this team last year, I felt like the defense was really talented and Coach (Jim) Harbaugh, (general manager) Trent (Baalke) and those guys did a great job of selling me on some things," Goodwin said. "Just like when I left New York and went to New Orleans, I took a chance, and fortunately things have gone well so far and hopefully they'll stay that way for years to come."After five seasons in New Orleans, the free agent signed a three-year deal with the 49ers. This time, the veteran Goodwin knew what it took to adapt to the change that comes with joining a new team. Goodwin says it took him about two months to feel comfortable in a new offense with new linemates. That time may have been shorter if the 49ers weren't limited in training camp due to the lockout."(I) didn't want to use that as an excuse," Goodwin said, "but we've had some great stretches, and I think the second half of the Cincinnati game and the second half of the Philly game were some times we kind of got clicking and rolling. We still have a way to go but it's nice to know that we can put together some nice stretches."Goodwin anchors a line that hasn't allowed a sack in four games this season and has opened the gaps through which Frank Gore ran to his fifth 1,000-yard season. But it was the 49ers game against Seattle that Goodwin considers one of his best as he successfully handled the silent count, a big improvement from last season.As New Orleans' center during the playoffs, Goodwin experienced the challenges of the raucous stadium as the favored Saints lost to the Seahawks."I think it was big," Goodwin said. "Seattle is the only stadium that I've played in in my career where I've had problems hearing the quarterback, and I experienced that last year. I kind of controlled the count myself this year. It was big for me. It felt a lot different. Instead of me trying to struggle to hear the quarterback, even though he's right behind me, it was huge for me to not have to worry about that."And it's that kind of constant improvement Goodwin expects from himself and the entire line with San Francisco heading to the playoffs for the first time since 2002. The 49ers will open their postseason at Candlestick Park Saturday, Jan. 14, at 1:30 p.m. And there's a strong chance it will be against the Saints, Goodwin's former team.RELATED: NFL Wild Card playoff schedule
"Whenever the offensive line is clicking and has a good game, that's usually when we have a successful game," Goodwin said. "If we can get more points in the red zone that would be good for this offense with the way our defense is playing. If we can find a way to get seven points instead of three and give our defense even more points to work with, the sky's the limit for this team."

Report: 49ers UFA linebacker to visit Seahawks

Report: 49ers UFA linebacker to visit Seahawks

Gerald Hodges is in search of a new team and he's looking at a division rival of the 49ers.

The unrestricted free agent is scheduled to visit the Seahawks on Wednesday, according to ESPN.

Acquired in October of 2015 from Minnesota for a sixth-round pick, the four-year pro played in 25 games over the past two seasons with the 49ers.

In his time with San Francisco, the former fourth-round pick recorded three sacks, two interceptions and one fumble recovery.

But he was not considered a fit for the new 49ers under general manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan. Hodges was deactivated for a game late in the season at Atlanta for breaking team rules. He did not offer an explanation or apology

The 49ers have signed three linebackers through two weeks of free agency: Malcolm Smith, Brock Coyle and Dekoda Watson.

Donald Trump, Jim Harbaugh address Kaepernick's free agent status

Donald Trump, Jim Harbaugh address Kaepernick's free agent status

On the same day the FBI director announced members of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign are under investigation for colluding with Russia to influence the election, Trump turned his thoughts to Colin Kaepernick’s status as an NFL free agent.

And Jim Harbaugh, appearing on Pro Football Talk, suggested teams that are not showing interest in Kaepernick are making a mistake.

“I’ll tell you the same thing I tell them: I think he’s an outstanding player and I think he’s a great competitor who has proven it in games and has the ability to be not only an NFL starter but a great NFL player,” Harbaugh said Tuesday morning.

“He’ll have a great career and be a great quarterback, win championships.”

On Monday evening, during a rally in Kentucky, Trump made remarks about Kaepernick. In the lead-up to the November election, Kaepernick called Trump “openly racist” and said he would not vote for Hillary Clinton, either.

“And you know, your San Francisco quarterback? I’m sure nobody ever heard of him,” Trump said.

“There was an article today, it was reported that NFL owners don’t want to pick him up because they don’t want to get a nasty tweet from Donald Trump. Do you believe that? I just saw that. I just saw that. I said if I remember that one I’m gonna report it to the people of Kentucky. Because they like it when people actually stand for the American flag.”

Mike Freeman of Bleacher Report reported an AFC general manager told him there were three reasons Kaepernick has not signed. Some believe, according to the anonymous source, that Kaepernick can no longer play at a high level. Others “genuinely hate him” for kneeling during the national anthem as part of his protest of racial inequality in America.

And, “some teams fear the backlash from fans after getting him,” according to the report. “They think there might be protests or Trump will tweet about the team. I'd say that number is around 10 percent. Then there's another 10 percent that has a mix of those feelings.”

Kaepernick’s teammates voted him the winner of the Len Eshmont Award for courage and inspiration last season. It is historically the most prestigious award among 49ers players. But the 49ers have already signed veteran quarterbacks Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley.

General manager John Lynch acknowledged last week on KNBR the odds of the 49ers bringing back Kaepernick are slim.

“I think the likelihood of that happening has gone down significantly. But we’re not going to close our mind or out options on anyone, including him,” Lynch said.

Even though there has been no reported interest in Kaepernick from any team around the league, Lynch said Kaepernick nearly signed with a team earlier during the free-agent signing period.

“I don’t know what happened to that market,” Lynch said. “He was, in everyone’s mind in this league, very close to signing a deal with a team at a really good number. And it fell through, apparently.”