Maiocco: 49ers Mailbag -- Planning for Franklin's departure


Maiocco: 49ers Mailbag -- Planning for Franklin's departure

March 10, 2011MAIOCCO ARCHIVE49ERS PAGE 49ERS VIDEOMatt MaioccoCSNBayArea.comThe 49ers are one of 15 teams in the NFL that played a 3-4 base defense last season, so nose tackles are gaining more and more league-wide popularity.When (if?) free agency opens this offseason, 49ers nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin has every expectation of cashing in. Franklin will have plenty of options. And Franklin will be free to sign with any team without any restrictions after the 49ers deemed a potential 12 million fee for a franchise tag too steep of a price.
In recent years, the 49ers have not gotten into bidding wars to retain their own free agents on the open market. But, of course, this is no typical year with the NFL's unsettled labor situation factoring into most teams' offseason plans.Let's go to the mailbag once again . . . Q: If Aubrayo Franklin leaves the team, will the 49ers trust Ricky Jean Francois to fill the void? @Kyle V.
My response: Line coach Jim Tomsula is the only holdover from last year's defensive coaching staff, so he would have a lot of input. But, based on the film of the 49ers' game against the Packers last season when Franklin left the lineup, I'm sure the 49ers would not feel comfortable with Jean Francois as the primary nose tackle. The Packers repeatedly moved Jean Francois off the ball during a 17-play game-clinching drive. Jean Francois later said he made errors with his technique, as his stance was too wide.
At the very least, the 49ers would want him to win a competition for the job. Jean Francois would not be handed the starting job. The 49ers have a list of nose tackles that they will target. So if Franklin gets away in free agency, they can set their sights on others.Also, the 49ers do have a little flexibility with Isaac Sopoaga, who started every game at left defensive end. Sopoaga did a very good job last season of playing with leverage, tying up blockers and helping the 49ers stuff the run. Sopoaga is durable. He has not missed a game due to injury in the past six seasons. He played approximately 90-percent of the team's defensive snaps last season.
Q: With regards to the lockout, how much of last year's playbook will be recycled. @Carl F.
My response: None. Coach Jim Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Greg Roman will be going with their own playbook, complete with their own West Coast terminology. Even behind closed doors, the 49ers do not know the identity of their quarterback for 2011. So there's no reason for them to have any carryover from Jimmy Raye's system. And, of course, there might be similar concepts on defense with Vic Fangio taking over for Greg Manusky, but it'll be Fangio's playbook. That's why I believe the 49ers will be at the greatest disadvantage in the entire NFL if there is a prolonged work stoppage.
Q: Do you believe the 49ers front office has been setting up a deal to trade for a quarterback that they can pull the trigger on "when" the new CBA is finalized? @Kevin C.
My response: Yes, I believe the 49ers have a strong idea of which quarterbacks be available, along with a general idea of what it would take to acquire them. I don't believe there will be any handshake deals, though. The team looking to deal a quarterback would want to keep its options open if another team were to come in late and make a better offer.

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.