49ers

Postgame Q&A -- Jim Harbaugh

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Postgame Q&A -- Jim Harbaugh

SAN FRANCISCO -- After the celebration on the field for the NFC Championship, Justin Tuck walked down the tunnel to the locker rooms. As he passed me he was singing "Tony Montana", the signature song of the 49ers special teams.

Two fumbles on the 49ers special teams unit gave the Giants 10 points and the conference title. The sound coming out of the 49ers players was much different.

"I'm speechless," rookie running back Kendall Hunter told me in a post game interview. His head coach, Jim Harbaugh, offered up a few more words, but like Hunter, and the rest of the team, couldn't find the answers to what went wrong Sunday night. Here are Harbaugh's comments moments after the game:

Q: What do you tell WR Kyle Williams at a moment like that? Do you console him, what do you say to him?
HARBAUGH: Keep your chin up. We all have things that we wish could have been different and we could have done better. Congratulations to the Giants. Thought they played a heck of a ball game and found a way to win. Tip of the cap to them.

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Q: When you put him back there, what were your instructions, at least for the last punt? Did you want him to be that aggressive with the ball?
HARBAUGH: Yeah. Play football.

Q: You guys really struggled on third downs. What do you attribute that mainly to?
HARBAUGH: Yes we did. Probably a couple of things. Their coverage, their rush. Certainly you look at our execution, probably the calls at the certain times. All those things would contribute to it.

Q: You didnt throw a lot in the first half. Was it because of the conditions or why?
HARBAUGH: What do you define as a lot? Whats a lot to you?

Q: What was it, seven or eight times? Seems like not a lot, seven.
HARBAUGH: It seemed like it went pretty fast in the first half. I dont have an answer for you there. That was not part of the game plan. We were playing football.

Q: Did the conditions influence how you called this game? How you approached it?
HARBAUGH: No, it didnt. We felt like we could operate in it.

Q: Do you feel like you did?
HARBAUGH: Felt like we could.

Q: But did you feel like the weather did impact you guys at all?
HARBAUGH: It was the same both ways.

Q: What did the Giants do to take away your wide receivers in this game?
HARBAUGH: Like I just said a couple minutes ago, a combination of those four things probably.

Q: Even though you didnt reach the Super Bowl, you reached the NFC-Championship in your first year. How do you feel about that, even though you didnt get all the way?
HARBAUGH: Im proud of the way our players played. Im proud of the way they prepared, they worked. They competed. Wasnt there for us today. In a lot of ways, we played well enough to win. We dont come away with it. Itll be a tough one. Itll probably take awhile to get over. But well get over it. This teams not defeated by any stretch of the imagination. A man can be destroyed, but he cant be defeated as long as this team knows that theres hope.

Q: You had the great run by RB Kendall Hunter, remember the 18-yarder and you got into field goal range. It seemed like after that there was a lot of passing, not the last drive of regulation, but you really started to throw it and less conventional runs. What was your thinking in that?
HARBAUGH: I really dont resonate with the question. Theres a lot there. What are you asking? Why didnt we throw it more? Why didnt we throw it less?

Q: It seemed like you had some good things going in the run game, but late in the game there were a couple shot gun handoff type things but it wasnt just the typical line up and run the ball. Was there a reason for that?
HARBAUGH: Late in the game in regulation? In the two-minute drills?

Q: No, before that. The two times before that and then in OT.
HARBAUGH: Im sure its something well consider and look at. One thing doesnt work, you wish you would have done the other. Its one of the probably four or five of the things that you look at when you dont pull the game out. What could you have done differently? Yeah, something didnt work, you probably would have rather done the other. Doing our best to try to move the ball.

Q: In the fourth quarter there, you want to throw the flag for a replay. They never explained to the crowd. You couldnt throw it because the whistle had blown before the ball came out? Was that it?
HARBAUGH: They said that they had blown it dead.

Q: Did you have a chance to talk to Kyle after the game?
HARBAUGH: Yes.

Q: He seemed pretty obviously upset about what happened. What did you say to him?
HARBAUGH: Dont feel the need to share that here.

Q: What did you say to the defense that was on the field a lot, really did a pretty good job of trying to hold this team down? What do you say about their effort and their performance tonight?
HARBAUGH: Great job. I say that to a lot of our players, all of our players. I said that to them after the game. Did a great job competing. They laid it out there. They played their hearts out. Disappointed that you dont come away with the satisfaction of the win.

Q: On the would-be fumble down in your end. What did you see from where you were? You were pretty close to it.
HARBAUGH: It looked like a fumble. Every play that happened in the game except that one was played out to the conclusion of the play.

Day after retiring, Anquan Boldin challenges owners, execs to help protesting players

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AP

Day after retiring, Anquan Boldin challenges owners, execs to help protesting players

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Anquan Boldin didn't decide overnight he was going to quit football in order to speak out against longstanding concerns over inequality in America.

The recent deadly and racially charged conflict in Charlottesville, Virginia, did, however, become the tipping point that caused Boldin to reassess his priorities and led to the Buffalo Bills receiver's decision to retire after 14 NFL seasons.

"I think anybody with any sense can see how divided we are as a country, and Charlottesville only magnified what we were already seeing," Boldin told The Associated Press by phone Monday.

He was disturbed by the hateful messages directed at African-Americans, Jewish people and the LGBT community during a rally involving neo-Nazis and other right-wing groups in which a counter-protester was killed and two Virginia state police officers died on Aug. 13.

"That's not the America that I want to live in," he said. "And I think the only way that this America changes is that we as a people stand up and change it."

Boldin spoke a day after abruptly informing the Bills he was retiring some two weeks after signing a one-year contract with a base salary of $1.75 million.

The NFL's 2015 Walter Payton Man of the Year, Boldin is no stranger to activism and humanitarian causes. He oversees the South Florida-based Q81 Foundation, which offers educational support for underprivileged children.

He has lobbied for criminal justice reform at the state and federal levels since his cousin was killed by a plain-clothes police officer along the side of a Florida highway in October 2015.

Difficult as it was to walk away from football, Boldin felt he could no longer stand silent on the sideline.

"There's not enough money in this world for me to continue to allow the things that are going on to continue to spread," the 36-year-old father of two boys said.

"I will not feel safe leaving this earth and having my kids have to live in the America that we have today."

Boldin then challenged NFL owners and executives to use their clout to demand change and back many of their players who are already doing so by protesting during the anthem.

"You have your players crying out for help. That's the reason why guys are taking knees during the anthem," he said.

"Just because we're professional athletes doesn't mean we're exempt from the things that go on in society," Boldin said, noting his position as an athlete couldn't save his cousin from being shot.

"If I'm an owner and I see one of my family members - players - hurting, I'd do whatever I can to make sure that my family is OK."

Boldin's decision to retire coincides with what he witnessed during the anthem before Buffalo's preseason game at Philadelphia on Thursday. Eagles defensive end Chris Long showed his support by putting his arm around cornerback Malcolm Jenkins, who stood in silent protest with a raised fist. Bills backup lineman Cameron Jefferson was so inspired by what he saw that he also raised his fist on Buffalo's sideline.

Boldin ranks in the top four among active receivers with 1,076 catches, 13,779 yards receiving and 82 touchdowns receiving.

He spent last season with Detroit, where he had 67 catches for 584 yards and eight touchdowns in 16 games.

The former Florida State star spent his first seven NFL seasons with Arizona, then played three years with Baltimore and three with San Francisco. He helped the Ravens win the Super Bowl in February 2013.

Lions safety Glover Quin credited his former teammate for having the courage for ending his career while knowing he can "have a bigger impact to do something else."

"I tip my hat to him," said Quin, one of several NFL players who joined Boldin in addressing Congress last year. "One day, we'll be able to look back on it and say, `That was the start of something great.'"

A day later, Boldin feels he made the right choice and pays no mind to those who suggest he simply stick to sports.

"I think it's absurd to tell a person to stick to playing football when the issues that he's talking about are affecting him," he said.

Earlier in the day in an interview on SiriusXM NFL Radio, Boldin said his decision to retire had nothing to do with the Bills trading their top receiving threat, Sammy Watkins, in a pair of blockbuster deals on Aug. 11 , or how the team's offense struggled in a 20-16 preseason loss at Philadelphia.

He also discounted the notion he might reconsider retirement and choose to play for a contender later this season.

"Do I feel like I can still play? Of course," Boldin said. "My passion for the advocacy work that I do outweighs football at this point, so I'm not coming back to play for a contender or to do anything else. I'm done with the game of football."

49ers rookie QB Beathard turns VR into reality

49ers rookie QB Beathard turns VR into reality

The 49ers made a late-night trade in April to move back into the end of the third round to select an unheralded quarterback from Iowa.

The deal did not come without some second-guessing. After all, why trade away a seventh-round pick for C.J. Beathard, when he was likely to be available five picks later with the 49ers’ next scheduled draft pick?

Beathard has done everything right since his arrival, seemingly justifying the 49ers' decision to make sure they secured him when they did. And a solid showing during training camp has placed him in position to overtake veteran Matt Barkley as the team’s No. 2 quarterback.

“That’s for the coaches to decide on and evaluate,” Beathard said. “I’m critical of myself and I feel like there were plays that I can improve on and get better at. That’s part of football. You’re never going to play a perfect game. I’m always trying to get better.”

Brian Hoyer strengthened his grasp on the 49ers’ starting job with an impressive training camp with his arm strength, accuracy, and knowledge and execution of Kyle Shanahan’s offense.

Beathard has saved his best performances for the two exhibition games with and against backup players. Beathard has completed 14 of 23 passes (60.9 percent) for 211 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. His passer rating is 130.6.

“There were a couple third downs I thought he missed, but it was hard to get anyone in a rhythm that game,” Shanahan said after the 49ers’ 33-14 loss to the Denver Broncos on Saturday. “I think under the circumstances, he did solid.”

Beathard, the grandson of long-time NFL executive Bobby Beathard, led Iowa to a 12-2 record as a junior. His production dropped as a senior, as he completed 56.5 percent of his attempts with 17 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in the Hawkeyes' pro-style offense.

He entered training camp at No. 3 on the depth chart. He and Barkley have been assigned the same number of practice snaps since the team reported to Santa Clara in late-July.

But Beathard has taken advantage of technology to get more and more comfortable in the 49ers’ offense. The 49ers are one of six NFL teams that use STRIVR Labs as an aide in training players via virtual reality. The tool is especially useful for quarterbacks with the camera stationed approximately 10 yards behind the quarterback.

The 49ers have two stations inside Levi’s Stadium with VR headsets, and Beathard has taken full advantage of the resource to train his eyes to read defenses and route progressions. One source told NBC Sports Bay Area that Beathard recently reviewed more than 1,000 practice plays in a week with the technology on his own time.

“You only get limited reps in practice, but you’re able to watch through virtual reality, essentially every rep in practice – all of Brian’s and Matt’s and go back and watch mine, and kind of play things out in your head as you watch practice,” Beathard said.

Beathard's pedigree, football smarts and toughness are what originally drew Shanahan to him before the draft.

Beathard’s toughness was on display in the first exhibition game, when he hung in to deliver a pass down the field to Kendrick Bourne just moments before taking a hit from a Kansas City defensive lineman. Bourne turned it into a 46-yard touchdown.

On Saturday, Beathard executed a convincing play-fake to running back Kapri Bibbs before rolling to his left and tossing to tight end George Kittle, his Iowa teammate. Kittle turned upfield, ran over one would-be tackler, stiff-armed another and managed to stay in-bounds en route to a 29-yard touchdown.

Kittle, who caught two touchdowns passes from Beathard against Nebraska in their final game together at Iowa’s Kinnick Stadium, is not surprised with how quickly Beathard has adapted in his first NFL training camp.

“He is the most competitive person I’ve ever met in my life,” Kittle said. “You’ve got a guy who just cares about football.”