Projected 49ers' 53-man roster and practice squad


Projected 49ers' 53-man roster and practice squad

The 49ers are halfway through their exhibition season. After their game Sunday at the Denver Broncos, they must trim 37 players off their roster over a period of five days.NFL teams must cut from 90-man rosters to a maximum of 75 prior to Monday, 1 p.m. Then, they must arrive at 53 players before Friday, Aug. 31, 6 p.m.Injuries can still play a role in several of the final decisions, but here's my projected 53-man roster:Quarterbacks (4)
Alex Smith
Colin Kaepernick
Josh Johnson
Scott Tolzien
(Yes, that's right, four quarterbacks. It's a difficult call between Johnson and Tolzien, so the 49ers keep both of them. Let's face it, GM Trent Baalke would love to find a trade partner to pick up a late-round draft pick for Johnson or Tolzien. It might not seem likely the 49ers keep four QBs, but I don't believe it's so far-fetched, either. Tolzien has practice-squad eligibility. If the 49ers were to cut Tolzien, would they bring him back to the practice squad? If the answer is yes, then there's really no difference in just keeping him on the 53-man roster. The final seven players on the 53-man roster are just better-paid members of the practice squad, anyway. The only difference is that players retained on the 53-man roster never become available for any team to pluck off the waiver wire. Injuries happen, and at some point early in the season, a team with a need at quarterback might come calling. If I were to choose between Johnson and Tolzien at this point, I'd lean toward Tolzien.)Running backs (6)
Frank Gore
Bruce Miller
Kendall Hunter
Brandon Jacobs
LaMichael James
Rock Cartwright
(Cartwright's spot is the most tenuous. But the 49ers kept three players in addition to the specialists a year ago just for the sole purpose of their contributions on special teams. That decision paid off a year ago with outstanding coverage units. Cartwright would take the place of Blake Costanzo, now with the Chicago Bears. Anthony Dixon had a good camp, but there does not appear to be any room for him. If healthy, each of these players would be active on game days.)Wide receivers (6)
Michael Crabtree
Randy Moss
Mario Manningham
Ted Ginn
Kyle Williams
A.J. Jenkins
(This group looks solid. Williams sticks around after a good camp as a wideout. He also showed to be the second-best option on punt returns. Jenkins and Williams would probably not suit up for games unless there is an injury at this position.)Tight ends (3)
Vernon Davis
Delanie Walker
Demarcus Dobbs
(Dobbs' ability as a two-way player gives the 49ers position flexibility when it comes to their 53-man roster. He can also serve roles at tight end and on the defensive line as one of the 46 players to suit up.)Offensive line (9)
Joe Staley
Mike Iupati
Jonathan Goodwin
Alex Boone
Anthony Davis
Leonard Davis
Daniel Kilgore
Mike Person
Joe Looney
(If any of the guards or tackles had to be removed in the course of a game, Davis would enter and, if needed, Boone would shift to tackle. Kilgore would be the other offensive lineman to suit up based on his status as the team's backup center.)Defensive line (5)
Ray McDonald
Isaac Sopoaga
Justin Smith
Ricky Jean Francois
Will Tukuafu
(Dobbs, listed as a tight end, is also a backup here. So that means Tukuafu could be one of the team's inactive players. The big dilemma is Ian Williams, who was much-improved over a year ago. But the 49ers want all the backup linemen to play every position. Williams has worked primarily at nose tackle, while the other players are more versatile. If Williams is cut, there's a chance he could get claimed off waivers. If not, he'd be back on the practice squad.)Linebackers (7)
Ahmad Brooks
NaVorro Bowman
Patrick Willis
Aldon Smith
Parys Haralson
Larry Grant
Tavares Gooden
(Right now, the best guess is the 49ers will again keep three outside linebackers. That could change, of course, based on how Ikaika Alama-Francis fares in these two exhibition games. Eric Bakhtiari also has to be considered in the mix. Don't sleep on Michael Wilhoite, who has a chance to earn one of the backup roles with strong play on special teams.)Cornerbacks (5)
Carlos Rogers
Tarell Brown
Chris Culliver
Perrish Cox
Tramaine Brock
(There shouldn't be many questions about this group. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio says the 49ers need to find a role for Cox. Might Culliver's late-camp knee injury open the door for Cox to replace him? Brock could be inactive for games.)Safeties (5)
Dashon Goldson
Donte Whitner
C.J. Spillman
Trenton Robinson
Colin Jones
(Spillman appears to be in line as the No. 3 safety, but Fangio was up-front when he said none of the safeties behind the starters has stepped up and played up to expectations. Jones wins a roster spot for his special-teams coverage skills. Robinson is a developmental player, and likely might not suit up early in the season.)Specialists (3)
David Akers
Andy Lee
Brian Jennings
(The Pro Bowl trio is going nowhere.) Eight-player practice squad
WR Chris Owusu
TE Konrad Reuland
OL Jason Slowey
OL Derek Hall
DL Ian Williams
OLB Kourtnei Brown
ILB Michael Wilhoite
S Michael Thomas
(Again, another tough call with Owusu, Nathan Palmer and Brian Tyms at wideout. Chase Beeler is definitely in the mix, and Slowey is not a sure thing, despite being a sixth-round draft pick. Cory Nelms is also a serious option because he can serve a number of different scout-team roles on offense and as a defensive back.) Where does your opinion differ? Tell me where I'll be wrong and, if you're correct, you'll receive a shout-out for your incredible ability to project the 49ers' 53-man roster. Three conditions: 1) Your projection must be made before Sunday's game; 2) The first person in the comments section to correctly state any one roster adjustment wins; and 3) You can't be incorrect with any of your other guesses. (In other words, you can't take a whole bunch of shots in the dark and get lucky with one.)

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.