49ers

Q&A with 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh

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Q&A with 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh

49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh met the media in Santa Clara on Wednesday to touch on the New York Giants, Frank Gore's ailing ankle, Alex Smith's place among the NFL's best QBs and make a pick in this weekend's Oregon-Stanford matchup on The Farm:

Q: Do you place any added significance on this game because there could be playoff implications down the road as far as seeding?Jim Harbaugh: Theres great significance to this game. The biggest thing is its the next game. That always makes it the most important game.
Q: What was impressive to you about their win on Sunday against the Patriots?JH: So many things. What a good football team they have. How well they play on the defensive front, same with the offensive line. Just a really good team in the lines. Very good, elite quarterback and the skill position at receivers and backs, outstanding. Just across the board, linebackers, secondary, its an outstanding football team. Very good at special teams, very disciplined team, very physical team. They play well together.Q: How does it affect your preparation not knowing whether Giants WR Hakeem Nicks or Giants RB Ahmad Bradshaw will play?JH: Well prepare like theyll play. Well prepare like their backups will play as well, you can only do it that way.Q: David Baas, their center, took part in a player workout that QB Alex Smith ran in June, had exposure to the playbook that you had given Alex at that point. Is that a concern at this point? Would that give him any extra insight that they couldnt get from watching game film and things like that?JH: I dont think so. There are eight games on tape that Im sure they have a good idea of what we do offensively.Q: Verbiage in that wouldnt be a factor, just knowing what he called plays and things like that?JH: David wont be in the huddle prior to the snap. I really dont think that would be. I think they have what they have on tape and thats the bulk of what theyll go off of.
Q: You spoke of the progress that Alex has made. Youve obviously done what a coach should do, blocking schemes and everything. Before this year, did you ever have any contact with him when you were still in the NFL and did you know much about him or just watching films and just reading and listening to people?JH: No, I had not met Alex Smith until I got the job here.Q: So all the stuff floating through the air, you dont pay any attention to that do you? The stuff like he cant play etc.JH: I was looking in through the keyhole, so to speak. I respected him as a player. I think people that know football and understand the game appreciate Alex Smith as a very talented quarterback. Hes every bit the elite quarterback as there is playing in the game right now. Appreciate all the talent that he has and what he brings to our team.Q: By saying that he is one of the elite quarterbacks, if you look at his fourth quarter performances this season is that part of the evidence? Why?JH: Again, its a whole body of work. Theres evidence really however you want to pick his performance apart. Hes playing at a very high level.Q: Is RB Frank Gores ankle at a point where you feel like he wont be limited this week? Has he shown some improvement on it?JH: Im not in Franks skin, never am, and thats always the hard thing when everybody asks me, How Frank is going to be this afternoon at practice? Hows he going to be on Sunday? Its just hard to predict how somebody else is going to feel exactly with any accuracy.Q: Has the training staff given you an update on Franks ankle that gives you any kind of feeling of where hes at?JH: I feel good. I feel good from what Frank has said and that he should be healthy to practice today, we anticipate that, and well go from there.Q: I think hes on pace for the most carries hes ever had in his career. As we go into the second half of the season, are you more cognoscente or careful of giving him fewer carries as the year goes on?JH: Cognoscente of it? Yes.Q: Are the additional carries more a factor of you guys having leads late in the game and your salting out games?JH: That has been a factor. Its an obvious one. Weve had some leads in the fourth quarter, third quarter where you have to run the ball more. Throwing it every down when youre down two or three scores.Q: K David Akers, how impressive has he been over his first eight games?JH: David has been darn near perfect, thats how impressive hes been. I cant imagine theres any kicker thats bringing more to their team than David Akers is this year. Look at the touchbacks, look at the field goals, the degree of difficulty on these field goals, 50-plus, 40-plus. Hes dealt with the wind here in Candlestick, hes kicked such a straight, true ball that the elements havent been a factor. Hes been rock solid on pressure kicks. You factor that degree of difficulty in and hes been darn near perfect.Q: Did you know his leg was this strong? Hes nailed four field goals over 50 and hes gotten all these touchbacks. Did you know he was coming with that much power?JH: We felt like he was the best kicker in the game and hes delivered on that.Q: In the game Sunday, there were several times where you guys had late shifts in the play clock and it seemed sort of rushed. Was it rushed or was that by design to have those shifts so late?
JH: Sometimes theyre designed that way, sometimes you get the look late and make the adjustment.Q: Is there ever a downside to having such a good kicker or a kicker you trust so implicitly that once you get in between the 40 and the 25 yard lines, subconsciously youre not as aggressive as you would be if you didnt trust him as much?JH: No. I dont think theres a downside to having a good kicker.Q: TG Chilo Rachal and CB Shawntae Spencer, those are guys who were regular starters here the past couple of years. Obviously, theyre not in those roles this season. From your point or perspective, how have they handled their new roles this season?JH: Theyve really been team guys, especially Chilo. I really have to take my hat off to him. He is really chomping at the bit to be in there, after practice, before practice. Really on point. His time will come again and he plays and contributes for us in our extra O-linemen package, hes on field goal, hes on kickoff return. Hes preparing like a starter and thats how we think of him. Especially pleased with him.Q: You had said on the radio the other day that you have a new play this week. When you unveiled the name of that play to your offensive team, what was the reaction?JH: They knew. Got a chuckle from the fellas.Q: Was that your idea to institute that name?JH: When we were at Arlington (National Cemetery) and Sergeant Skywalker just finished up talking to the team, he shared about 10 minutes worth of comments with the team. On the history of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. When he was done, Wide Receivers Coach Johnnie Morton and I looked at each other and go we need a skywalker and its got to be good, its got to be a good one, a good play.
Q: Hell be on the sideline for the Baltimore game?JH: Yes.Q: Will you have a chance to watch Stanford vs. Oregon on Saturday night?JH: Should be able to. We have meetings on Saturday night, but well have the TV on.Q: Who do you like?JH: I like Stanford.Q: It seems like the offense, other than the one 30-yard touchdown pass to Bruce Miller, hasnt had that quick strike ability that we saw in Philadelphia or Tampa Bay. Game plan can determine that. Is there anything in particular as to why over these past two games (inaudible)?JH: No, not one thing. Well just keep working on our quick strike ability and see if we cant get that better.Q: But has it been not a concern or something youve been looking at?JH: Yeah were trying to improve in all areas, see where the heck we can get a mile an hour faster and a percent better each day. Thats the way we go about things, thats the way our players go about them.
Q: Whats the challenges of facing the Giants front four? What makes them so good?JH: They are just fast, physical, up-field, strong men. Just strong people, that are very athletic. Thats a formidable combination. Our line is good, too. Weve got a good offensive line. Thats going to be two opposing wills that are going to be meeting each other in this ball game and it will be outstanding to watch our guys compete in that kind of environment.Q: Are they the most talented team youve played thus far?JH: Dont make a lot of comparisons from one team to the other. This is the most important game because its the next game. Expectations are well have a great day of meetings and practice in preparation for this big game.

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.”