Tomlin: Roethlisberger requires less practice time

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Tomlin: Roethlisberger requires less practice time

Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said Wednesday that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will not require a lot of practice time this week to be prepared to face the 49ers on Monday night at Candlestick Park.

Roethlisberg sustained a left ankle sprain Thursday night against the Cleveland Browns. He managed to finish the game, throwing for 280 yards and two touchdowns in a 14-3 victory. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports Roethlisberger sustained a Grade 1 high-ankle sprain (Grade 3 is the most serious). But his status is uncertain for Monday night"He can be ready to play on a limited number of snaps," Tomlin said on a conference call with reporters who cover the 49ers. "At the end of the week when we get into some situational football things, that's going to require some physical preparation in some form or fashion. But we're going to take it day by day. We're always going to be optimistic when it comes to Ben."Tomlin said Roethlisberger requires less on-field practice time to be ready for a game than, perhaps, another player at another position."I think it's different with the quarterback position, particularly when it's a veteran one," Tomlin said. "I think there's more of a chance of that happening at the quarterback position, particularly if you have a veteran one, then say some of the other position like wide receiver, running back or linebacker." What can you take from what the Ravens were able to do against the 49ers' offensive line and Alex Smith in the Thanksgiving game? (The Ravens sacked Smith nine times.)
"We don't look at that game any different than we do any of the other games that they played, from a break-down standpoint. It's just a window into some of the things, maybe, we're capable of. But, ultimately, we play our game and stay within our personality. We have great continuity on defense, and we tend to lean on that, as opposed to what we see others do."Would you think there could be any advantage gleaned from Jim Harbaugh spending a lot of time on the phone with his brother?
"He's a pretty competent and capable coach, as I'm sure (the 49ers) record indicates. So I'm sure they're talking about brotherly things when they talk. . . I really haven't thought about all that. I'm sure those brothers talk. To the level to which they talk, they're better suited to answer that than me. Why don't you guys ask them?"With the extra day before the game, the 49ers are not practicing Wednesday. The Steelers are practicing, keeping with their typical weekly routine.
"Really, it's a non-equation for us. It's a Wednesday. We do what we normally do on a Wednesday. We put base core components of our plan. In terms of how we practice, that's been prescribed by the league a little bit, in terms of whether it's padded or non-padded. We just prepare and ultimately play games and we're a pretty routine outfit. We don't look at some of those things."Do the 49ers change much defensively when Patrick Willis is out of the lineup?
"It doesn't seem that they're changing all that much schematically. Obviously, Patrick Willis is a special player, and I'm sure they prefer to have him. But, at least, schematically, they haven't changed very much at all.What kind of challenge is the 49ers' run defense on your guys up front and running back Rashard Mendenall?
"It's an enormous challenge. I think their statistics speak for themselves. They're first in the league versus the run; they haven't given up a touchdown this year on the ground; they're first in the NFL in red-zone defense; they're first in the league in turnover margin. They're a tough nut to crack, and we respect that. And that's kind of what we're doing this week, in terms of preparing ourselves for that contest. . . . They're a very good style defense, and one to be reckoned with. And we better be prepared and ultimately play well if we want to have a chance to win."How will your defensive scheme look different without James Harrison in there on Monday?
"Schematically, of course, it won't look very different at all. Of course, this isn't the first time we played without James. And this isn't even the first time we played without James this year. So we're going to try to make that a non-issue. Obviously, James is a good player and provides special plays for us, but ultimately the standard will remain the same, and we have some guys who are capable of doing the job and playing to the standard."Where do you stand on the NFL's decision to suspend him for a game?
"That's their judgment, and we have to take the necessary steps to respond to it. How we feel individually is irrelevant."Have you had a chance to look at 49ers rookie Aldon Smith?
"I have, and not only as recently as this week, but as far back as last spring in preparation for the draft. He's a special pass-rusher with unique talent. It's showing itself inside NFL stadiums. He's off to a great start. Obviously, we got to get him blocked when it comes to passing the ball, especially vertically down the field. He's got 10-plus sacks and he's not playing like a rookie."RELATED: Aldon Smith 2011 game logs
If Harrison doesn't play, who would be next in line?
"We got a couple candidates in Jason Worilds, who, of course, has been warm of late and been productive for us, getting an opportunity to play in place of LaMarr Woodley. And LaMarr Woodley appears to be ready to play, but we'll let the week dictate that for us from a practice standpoint. And of course, Lawrence Timmons, who starts for us at inside linebacker, has position flexibility and can play outside some already this year. So we're comfortable with the candidates we have ready to play outside linebacker. We'll get all of those men ready as we prepare this week and make some of those judgments as we get toward the end of the week. . . . It's not a major issue for us. It's something we can sort out as the week unfolds."What have you noticed from afar on the transformation of the 49ers with Jim Harbaugh?
"They're a good fundamental team. Some of the things I mentioned earlier are direct reasons why they're a really good team. They play good in the red zone. They make people kick field goals. They're good against the run. They're first in the league in turnover margin. They're running the ball extremely well on people. They're possessing the ball. I think they average 32 minutes a game, as far as time of possession. All of that is a good formula -- a good fundamental formula for winning, which is what they're doing. They need no endorsement from me."

49ers offense: Top competitions entering training camp

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AP

49ers offense: Top competitions entering training camp

The 49ers open training camp next week in Santa Clara with a number of competitions going on simultaneously on both sides of the ball.

Coach Kyle Shanahan did not hire an offensive coordinator. He will assume the role of running the offense, as he atempts to remake the 49ers' offense to his specifications.

Brian Hoyer is set at quarterback. Joe Staley will line up at left tackle. Kyle Juszcyzk was signed as the highest-priced fullback in the NFL, and the starting wide receivers figure to be Pierre Garçon and Marquise Goodwin.

After that, things are a lot less certain.

Here is a look at the 49ers’ top four training camp battles on offense...

INTERIOR O-LINE
The tackle positions appear straight-forward with Staley and Trent Brown – though Brown will have to hold off Garry Gilliam to retain his starting job.

But there are a lot of options for the 49ers at the three interior positions. Zane Beadles started all 16 games last season at three different positions. He enters camp as the front-runner to start at left guard.

Jeremy Zuttah, who was added to the Pro Bowl roster at center last season, came to the 49ers in an offseason trade with the Baltimore Ravens. Zuttah and Daniel Kilgore will compete for the starting job. Tim Barnes, who started 32 games the past two seasons with the Los Angeles Rams, is in the mix, too.

If Zuttah is not the starting center, he can transition to either guard position to compete with Beadles on the left side or, more likely, the right side.

Joshua Garnett, whom former 49ers general manager Trent Baalke traded up to select in the first round of the 2016 draft, will have to show dramatic improvement over his rookie season to return as the starter at right guard.

Brandon Fusco, who spent his first six NFL seasons with the Minnesota Vikings, started 16 games at left guard in 2015 and 14 games last season at right guard.

TIGHT END
It is within the realm of possibility the 49ers could have a complete overhaul at tight end, as none of the five players who finished the season with the team is a lock to win a roster spot.

The 49ers selected George Kittle in the fifth round. He showed a lot of promise with the best showing of any tight end during the team’s offseason program. The 49ers this offseason also added blocking tight end Logan Paulsen, who has experience in Kyle Shanahan’s scheme, and undrafted rookie pass-catcher Cole Hikutini.

Vance McDonald was the subject of trade talks during the draft – just months after signing a contract extension with $9.1 million in guaranteed money. Garrett Celek and Blake Bell also face stiff competition in order to be back on the 53-man roster.

RUNNING BACK
Carlos Hyde is entering the final year of his original four-year contract, and he has competition for the first time since Frank Gore’s exit cleared the way for him to be the featured back.

Shanahan and running backs coach Bobby Turner handpicked former Utah running back Joe Williams for their scheme. Williams got off to a slow start after joining the offseason program, but he eventually put himself into a position to compete for a significant role in training camp.

Veteran additions Tim Hightower and Kapri Bibbs will be competing for roles in the backfield, as well. Undrafted rookie Matt Breida had an impressive offseason during the non-padded practices.

SLOT RECEIVER
Jeremy Kerley was one of the few free agents from last year’s team that the 49ers had any interest in re-signing. Kerley was the best receiver on the team a year ago -- and it wasn’t even close. He caught 64 passes for 667 yards for the league's least-productive passing game.

The 49ers selected Trent Taylor in the fifth round, and he made an immediate impact during the offseason program after catching 136 passes for 1,803 yards and 12 touchdowns as a senior at Louisiana Tech.

A year ago, Bruce Ellington was the 49ers’ best receiver during training camp before his season came to an abrupt end with a torn hamstring in an exhibition game. The onus is on Ellington to remain healthy and prove himself to the new coaching staff.

O.J. Simpson a free man, granted parole in Nevada

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AP

O.J. Simpson a free man, granted parole in Nevada

UPDATE (11am on Thursday) -- O.J. Simpson is a free man. The San Francisco native was granted his parole on Thursday by the Nevada Parole Board with a unanimous 4-0 decision. 

Simpson, who turned 70 this month, can be released from prison as early as Oct. 1 after armed robery charges put him away for almost nine years -- the minimum of a 33-year sentence. 

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LOVELOCK, Nev. -- O.J. Simpson once thrilled crowds as he ran for touchdowns and hurdled airport seats in car rental ads to achieve Hollywood celebrity before he was acquitted of murder in the 1995 "trial of the century" in Los Angeles.

Now, an aging Simpson will appear as inmate No. 1027820 in a starkly plain hearing room in a remote Nevada prison Thursday to plead for his freedom. He's spent more than eight years behind bars for armed robbery and assault with a weapon after trying to take back sports memorabilia in a budget hotel room in Las Vegas.

Simpson, 70, will ask four parole board members who sided with him once before to release him in October, a likely possibility with his clean prison record.

It will be a stunning scene for a charismatic star once known as "The Juice" who won the Heisman Trophy as the best U.S. college football player in 1968 and was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1985.

He appeared to have it all.

He went on to star in Hertz commercials and movies like the "Naked Gun" comedies and do sideline reporting for "Monday Night Football" before his wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald Goldman were slain in 1994.

Simpson is expected to reiterate that he has kept a promise to stay out of trouble, coaches in the prison gym where he works and counsels other inmates.

"I guess, my age, guys come to me," Simpson told parole officials four years ago.

The same commissioners granted him parole on some of his 12 charges in 2013, leaving him with four years to serve before reaching his minimum term.

At Simpson's side in his bid for freedom will be lawyer Malcolm LaVergne, close friend Tom Scotto, sister Shirley Baker and daughter Arnelle Simpson.

O.J. Simpson is expected to explain what he would do and where he would live if he is granted parole after reaching the nine-year minimum of his 33-year sentence.

He was convicted in 2008 after enlisting some men he barely knew, including two with guns, to retrieve from two sports collectibles sellers some items that Simpson said were stolen from him a decade earlier.

"My crime was trying to retrieve for my family my own property," Simpson told the parole officials in 2013 before apologizing.

"Make no mistake, I would give it all back," he said, "to get these last five years back."

The items disappeared after Simpson was found not guilty in the 1994 killings of his ex-wife and her friend and before he was found liable in 1997 in civil court for the deaths.

He was ordered to pay $33.5 million to survivors including his children and the Goldman family.

A Goldman family spokesman said Ron Goldman's father and sister, Fred and Kim, won't be part of Simpson's parole hearing but that they felt apprehensive about "how this will change their lives again should Simpson be released."

"They will remain patient and optimistic that the system will do what is necessary to ensure the public's safety remains a priority and that proper justice will be served," spokesman Michael Wright said this week.

The Goldmans believe Simpson got away with murder in Los Angeles, and many people felt the stiff sentence handed down in 2008 in Las Vegas wasn't just about the robbery.

Now, even the retired district attorney who prosecuted Simpson for the heist acknowledges that Simpson has a good chance to go free. But David Roger denied Simpson's sentence was "payback" for his acquittal in the Los Angeles slayings.

The former prosecutor said Simpson took a gamble when he rejected an offer to avoid trial by pleading guilty to a felony that could have gotten him 2½ years in prison.

"He thought he was invincible, and he rolled the dice," Roger said.