49ers

Nolan: 49ers chose 'safe' Smith over 'cocky, arrogant' Rodgers

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Nolan: 49ers chose 'safe' Smith over 'cocky, arrogant' Rodgers

Former 49ers coach Mike Nolan said the decision was made to go with the safe pick in quarterback Alex Smith over “cocky” and “arrogant” Aaron Rodgers with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2005 NFL draft.

Nolan revisited the thinking of the 49ers’ decision-makers, including general manager Scot McCloughan, during a guest appearance Tuesday morning on the NFL Network.

“Basically, we thought in the long term that Alex Smith would be the better choice than Aaron,” Nolan said. “It was one of those, maybe, paralysis by analysis. We had so much time to think about it.

“We put a lot of stock in changing Aaron’s throwing style. We also got caught up a little bit in that Alex was so mobile. That was a good thing. But in the end, we felt Alex would be the better long-time guy. Obviously, we were wrong in that thought process.”

The personality of the two players also played a part in swaying the decision, Nolan said.

“The other thing as Alex at the time was a good kid – a very good person, a safe choice, always trying to please,” Nolan said. “On the other hand, Aaron was very cocky, very confident, arrogant. So you can say, ‘Why didn’t you take him to begin with?’ Because that’s really what your best quarterbacks look like. They aren’t very pleasing. They aren’t very safe.

“And as time has showed, that’s really how Alex plays. He doesn’t turn the ball over. He’s very secure with the ball. And on the other hand, Aaron is a slinger. He’s all over the place and makes great, big plays. Obviously, he’ll be a Hall of Fame player one day.”

The 49ers were not the only team to miss on Rodgers, who went undrafted in 23 slots before the Green Bay Packers selected him. Rodgers is a five-time Pro Bowl selection and two-time league MVP, to go along with one Super Bowl MVP. One of the 49ers coaches with a voice in the decision was then-coordinator Mike McCarthy, who has thrived in 10 seasons as Packers coach with Rodgers.

When asked what he would do differently, Nolan stated the obvious.

“We would’ve chosen Aaron,” Nolan said.

Smith has forged a good career after a rough start with the 49ers. A shoulder injury limited him to seven games in 2007 and he missed the entire 2008 season. Smith had six different coordinators in his first six NFL seasons. After experiencing success under Jim Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Greg Roman for 1 1/2 seasons, Smith was traded to the Kansas City Chiefs in 2013.

“But I will say in all fairness to Alex, what he’s doing today, it would’ve been nice if we’d done that,” Nolan said. “What they do at Kansas City with Andy Reid, running the zone read, using his legs as well as his arm, having a very strong defense, if we’d built it that way, we’ would’ve had a better chance to be successful.

“As it was, we put him into a prototypical offense, tried to make him into a pocket quarterback. That’s really not what Alex is. He’s doing what he’s doing best right now, and that’s why he plays well right now. He helps their football team win. Obviously, Aaron has greatness in him. Alex is a good, solid performer.”

Large report finds CTE in 110 of 111 brains from former NFL players

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AP

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

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AP

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.