Maiocco: 49ers Road Trip To London, Via Carolina


Maiocco: 49ers Road Trip To London, Via Carolina


CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- This is an honest-to-goodness football road trip for the 49ers ... and those who cover them.

The 49ers took players on their active roster, as well as all eight players on the practice squad, on the charter Friday afternoon. Each person was allowed one piece of luggage and a carry-on for the 10-night, two-game road trip.

The 49ers will leave for London immediately after their game Sunday against the Carolina Panthers. Meanwhile, the Broncos play a home game against the Raiders. They will have a normal work week in Denver, and make the flight Friday to the U.K.

"I'm not sure that anyone has gone to London as late as Denver has," said 49ers owner John York, the chair of the NFL's international committee. "But there have been a number of teams that have gone over on Wednesday or Thursday, and there have been an equal number of teams that have gone over after they have played the week before.

"I don't think at this point we have enough games under our belt to tell whether or not one gives you an advantage over the other. Denver took one extreme, and we took the other. It was our choice, and it was Denver's choice."

A long time ago, my former employer asked me to go ahead and price a flight to London for this game, which the league announced in mid-January. The 49ers asked the NFL for a game in the Eastern time zone the week before the London trip.

It figured to be either Atlanta or Carolina. I guessed Atlanta. I guessed wrong.

So I kept my San Francisco-to-Atlanta-to-London flight. And I added a car rental and 265-mile drive to my itinerary. So this morning, I left my home at 4 a.m. for a 6 a.m. flight out of SFO. Scribes Dan Brown and Matt Barrows were also on the flight to Atlanta, but they had flights from Atlanta to Charlotte.

I arrived at my uptown Charlotte hotel around 6:30 p.m. (ET). If my math is correct, from house to hotel, it took me 11 hours, 30 minutes.

The main priority this evening is to find a place to watch the Giants-Phillies game. Then, tomorrow it's a short walk to the stadium for the 49ers-Panthers game.

Then, I'll try to talk Brown and Barrows into ditching their Monday flights and accompanying me on a leisurely drive from Charlotte to Atlanta, where we'll be on the same plane with the destination of London.

McDonald toasts Shanahan for communication of trade talks

McDonald toasts Shanahan for communication of trade talks

SANTA CLARA -- Tight end Vance McDonald became aware of a report the 49ers had engaged in trade talks involving him at his brother’s wedding in Austin, Texas.

But McDonald said he did not give it much thought because he had another immediate priority.

“I still had my best man’s speech to do,” McDonald said.

Later that evening during last month's draft, 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan called McDonald to keep him in the loop. There was no trade, and McDonald returned to Santa Clara on Monday to continue participation in the 49ers’ offseason program.

“The first thing I told him was, ‘Man, there aren’t a lot of coaches that would do this,’” McDonald said of his talk with Shanahan. “He just wanted to fill me in.”

Nearly four weeks later, it is as if nothing ever happened.

“The only trade discussions we had was when another team asked us about Vance on draft day,” Shanahan said this week. “And after a team asked us about Vance then we asked other teams if they’d be interested in that same thing.”

McDonald said he completely understood why the 49ers would check with other teams around the league to see what they could acquire in a trade.

“Basically, it’s just like any other team in the NFL would do,” McDonald said. “If you’re a 2-14 team, obviously, there are a lot of things you can improve on, a lot of spots that need to be filled. There are a lot of things you need to improve upon in the offseason. So if teams are going to call and inquire about you, then obviously the next step is to … call around to every other team.

“So that’s exactly what happened to me. It isn’t like they don’t want me here. There was never a lack of communication on any level.”

Even before he knew his immediate future with the 49ers, McDonald said he tried to maintain the proper state of mind.

“I had the mindset this isn’t going to change anything,” McDonald said. “I’m going to end up where I end up and I’m just going to continue doing what I’m doing, which is do everything to be a better football player.”

McDonald enters the fifth year of his NFL career after signing a new deal in December that amounts to a three-year, $19.7 million extension. Three days later, the 49ers placed McDonald on injured reserve with a shoulder injury.

McDonald was on pace for his best season as a pass-catcher. In 11 games, he had 24 receptions for 391 yards and four touchdowns.

Now, he is competition for a spot in the 49ers’ offense, along with fifth-round draft pick George Kittle, undrafted rookie Cole Hikutini, and veterans Logan Paulsen, Garrett Celek and Blake Bell.

McDonald said he likes what Shanahan has brought to the 49ers, including added responsibilities of the tight end position.

“Last year, all we talked about was how fast our pace was,” McDonald said. “With Kyle, it’s insanely quick. He’s a very detailed guy. It’s interesting to hear him present information. You try to apply it and play with the same mindset that he has. It’s a task that we all enjoy doing.

“We (tight ends) are the end of the line. There’s communication with us and the wide receivers and running backs. We’re also in command with receiving corps. There are a lot of things on our plate. Hopefully, this doesn’t get back to the wide receivers, but we’re supposed to be smarter than them. It’s a fun job to have. We don’t try to rub it in too much.”

Chip Kelly returns to college football -- as analyst

Chip Kelly returns to college football -- as analyst

Chip Kelly is back in college football.

The former Oregon coach, who served as 49ers head coach last season, signed a multiyear deal as an ESPN analyst, the network announced Friday morning. He will work predominantly on pre-games, halftimes and in studio wraps each Saturday on ESPN2.

“Over the last 30 years, I have experienced football from one perspective – as a coach,” Kelly said in a statement. “Working in television will allow me to see the game from a different angle; simultaneously, I‘ll provide viewers an insight to the mindset of a coach and team while offering alternative views of various situations.

“Once I decided to make the move to TV, my familiarity with ESPN, combined with their high-quality production and vital role in college football, it was easily the best network suited for me.”

Kelly, 53, was fired on the evening of the 49ers’ season finale. The 49ers went 2-14 under Kelly and set the franchise record with 13 consecutive losses. Their only victories came against the Los Angeles Rams. Kelly also auditioned with FOX for the analyst job vacated when John Lynch became 49ers general manager, sources told NBC Sports Bay Area.

Kelly served as Oregon’s head coach from 2009 to ’12. His teams compiled a record of 46-7. Under Kelly, the Ducks advanced to the 2011 national championship game, losing to Auburn 22-19.

Kelly won the AP College Football Coach of the Year. He twice won the Pac-10 coach of the year. He left Oregon to become head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles in 2013. After his first two NFL teams went 10-6, Kelly was fired in 2015 with one game remaining in the season. The Eagles were 6-9 at the time of Kelly's firing.

“Chip is one of the most innovative football minds of our generation,” ESPN senior coordinating producer Lee Fitting said. “As a coach, he saw the game from a unique perspective, never afraid to take an unconventional approach. We want him to bring that mentality to our college football coverage each week, offering fans a varying viewpoint outside of the conventional thought process.”