Staley feels badly for Smith but supports Kaepernick

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Staley feels badly for Smith but supports Kaepernick

SANTA CLARA -- Left tackle Joe Staley feels badly for a benched teammate who had already gone through so much during his eight-year career with the 49ers.

But Staley strongly objects to any suggestion that he is evidence of a divided 49ers locker room after coach Jim Harbaugh's decision last week to bench veteran quarterback Alex Smith in favor of Colin Kaepernick.

"If people are thinking stuff about division in the locker room, it's not that at all," Staley told CSNBayArea.com on Wednesday.

"In my job, all I want to do is win. When Kaepernick is out there, he's my quarterback and I'm going to do everything I can to help him and support him."

Staley said he and Harbaugh spoke during practice last week, during which time Staley expressed his personal emotions about Harbaugh's quarterback decision.

"I was down for Alex," Staley said. "But it was never to the point where I was acting out. We just had a conversation. It was during a practice. We've had a lot of conversations. I've always had the relationship with Harbaugh that I can come to him with anything, regardless."

Staley said he wanted Harbaugh to know how he was feeling.

"I feel as one of the leaders on the team, I can go to the head coach and talk about anything," Staley said. "We've done that many times about a lot of things. It was not out of the ordinary for us to talk."

Staley compared his emotions to something that anybody would feel when something negative happens to a friend in the workplace.

"It's one of those situations where, as a friend, I feel for Alex, personally," Staley said. "But it was never a situation where I was distraught and had a grudge against anybody or I was pissed and I wasn't going to do my job.

"I'm 100-percent supportive of whatever the coaches' decisions are. I'll do whatever I can to help this team win games. But like anybody who has a co-worker that they're close to, and something happens, and you see him go through it, you feel for him as a friend."

Staley, a six-year pro, has been close friends with Smith since he broke into the league. He said he also has a "great relationship" with Kaepernick, a second-year player.

"I back him 100 percent," Staley said.

When asked about the potential for a divisive 49ers locker room, Staley said that has never been a concern -- even on a topic that has become a hot-button issue locally and nationally.

"There's none of that at all," Staley said. "It couldn't be further from the truth. I want to see Kap do the best he can. I want to see him lead us to a Super Bowl. That's what the goal is.

"But as a friend, I feel for Alex. But I'm not going to apologize for feeling sorry for my friend. But it's a business. And I understand that, and I'll go 100-percent with Kaepernick."

Report: 49ers UFA linebacker to visit Seahawks

Report: 49ers UFA linebacker to visit Seahawks

Gerald Hodges is in search of a new team and he's looking at a division rival of the 49ers.

The unrestricted free agent is scheduled to visit the Seahawks on Wednesday, according to ESPN.

Acquired in October of 2015 from Minnesota for a sixth-round pick, the four-year pro played in 25 games over the past two seasons with the 49ers.

In his time with San Francisco, the former fourth-round pick recorded three sacks, two interceptions and one fumble recovery.

But he was not considered a fit for the new 49ers under general manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan. Hodges was deactivated for a game late in the season at Atlanta for breaking team rules. He did not offer an explanation or apology

The 49ers have signed three linebackers through two weeks of free agency: Malcolm Smith, Brock Coyle and Dekoda Watson.

Donald Trump, Jim Harbaugh address Kaepernick's free agent status

Donald Trump, Jim Harbaugh address Kaepernick's free agent status

On the same day the FBI director announced members of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign are under investigation for colluding with Russia to influence the election, Trump turned his thoughts to Colin Kaepernick’s status as an NFL free agent.

And Jim Harbaugh, appearing on Pro Football Talk, suggested teams that are not showing interest in Kaepernick are making a mistake.

“I’ll tell you the same thing I tell them: I think he’s an outstanding player and I think he’s a great competitor who has proven it in games and has the ability to be not only an NFL starter but a great NFL player,” Harbaugh said Tuesday morning.

“He’ll have a great career and be a great quarterback, win championships.”

On Monday evening, during a rally in Kentucky, Trump made remarks about Kaepernick. In the lead-up to the November election, Kaepernick called Trump “openly racist” and said he would not vote for Hillary Clinton, either.

“And you know, your San Francisco quarterback? I’m sure nobody ever heard of him,” Trump said.

“There was an article today, it was reported that NFL owners don’t want to pick him up because they don’t want to get a nasty tweet from Donald Trump. Do you believe that? I just saw that. I just saw that. I said if I remember that one I’m gonna report it to the people of Kentucky. Because they like it when people actually stand for the American flag.”

Mike Freeman of Bleacher Report reported an AFC general manager told him there were three reasons Kaepernick has not signed. Some believe, according to the anonymous source, that Kaepernick can no longer play at a high level. Others “genuinely hate him” for kneeling during the national anthem as part of his protest of racial inequality in America.

And, “some teams fear the backlash from fans after getting him,” according to the report. “They think there might be protests or Trump will tweet about the team. I'd say that number is around 10 percent. Then there's another 10 percent that has a mix of those feelings.”

Kaepernick’s teammates voted him the winner of the Len Eshmont Award for courage and inspiration last season. It is historically the most prestigious award among 49ers players. But the 49ers have already signed veteran quarterbacks Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley.

General manager John Lynch acknowledged last week on KNBR the odds of the 49ers bringing back Kaepernick are slim.

“I think the likelihood of that happening has gone down significantly. But we’re not going to close our mind or out options on anyone, including him,” Lynch said.

Even though there has been no reported interest in Kaepernick from any team around the league, Lynch said Kaepernick nearly signed with a team earlier during the free-agent signing period.

“I don’t know what happened to that market,” Lynch said. “He was, in everyone’s mind in this league, very close to signing a deal with a team at a really good number. And it fell through, apparently.”