Williams' words should inspire NFL culture change

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Williams' words should inspire NFL culture change

Forgive my tardiness for weighing in on the big news that broke last week while my family allowed me to tag along on a spring-break vacation . . . The report filed by Yahoo! Sports' Mike Silver on then-New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams' playoff-eve speech prior to the game against the 49ers was shocking to many.REWIND: Williams' speech instructed Saints to injure 49ers
Then I listened to film-maker Sean Pamphilon's recording of Williams' talk, which was designed to whip his guys into a frenzy. I had several reactions:--No. 1, the Saints defensive players deserve a lot of credit for not acting on Williams' words.Williams implored his players to head-hunt against Alex Smith, Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter and Kyle Williams. He instructed his guys to inflict a major knee injury on Michael Crabtree and go after Vernon Davis' ankles.REWIND: Kenny Williams reacts to Saints audio recording
But from what I could tell, the Saints players did nothing to suggest they had any intent of causing a catastrophic injury to 49ers players. It was a clean game.Ted Ginn sustained the only 49ers injury in the game. Ginn fell hard in the second quarter, injuring his right knee, upon being shoved legally by Saints linebacker Martez Wilson within the 5-yard zone. Ginn returned briefly but could not finish the game.--Gregg Williams' greater offense against the 49ers last season was how he approached the first exhibition game after the lockout. He dialed up one "cover zero" blitz after another when the 49ers, still in the early stages of installing their new system, had precious little time to iron out their protection schemes.That was reckless. And it showed no respect for the men who play the game.That carried over to his words before the NFC divisional playoff game. Williams spoke about the opponent as if they were sub-human.--Some former players, such as Randy Cross and Ross Tucker, suggested on Twitter that there was nothing unusual about Williams' speech.Many others had differing views. Cris Carter called for a lifetime ban for Williams. Warren Sapp, in comments to the Bay Area News Group, called Williams' talk "the most heinous, egregious thing in the history of this game."But even on the 49ers, there was a split. Donte Whitner described it as "disgusting." But Carlos Rogers, speaking on KNBR, supported his former coordinator, saying, "He's one of the coaches I admire and would always love to play for."REWIND: Whitner says bounty penalties not severe enough
--It is certainly not uncommon for coaches to emphasize physical points of vulnerability on the opposition. New York Giants players Jacquian Williams and Devin Thomas suggested there was a coordinated effort in the NFC championship game to target Kyle Williams' head because of his concussion history."Players are held accountable for their actions on the field," NFL spokesman Greg Aiello wrote in response to a CSNBayArea.com inquiry in the days after the 49ers-Giants game. "There were no illegal hits to the head or neck area against Kyle Williams. There was no conduct by the Giants of any kind that would suggest an effort to injure Kyle Williams in any way."The same could be said about the Saints. Words are one thing; but the Saints did not follow Williams' directives.--This kind of talk, apparently, is part of the culture of football. But it certainly does not mean that it should be accepted. And it does not mean that things will always be like this.At one point in Williams' speech he tells his defensive players, "It's a great game. It's a production business."People who play this "great game" at the highest level should be protected as much as possible. Of course, there will always be high levels of risk to those who play it. That is not going to change.But football is a sport that changes more than any other. There are significant rules changes every season. In trying to legislate in recent seasons against unnecessary hits to the head, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell deserves a lot of credit for trying to make the game better for those who play it.--It's a production business, as Gregg Williams said, and the bottom line is that Williams did not produce in that playoff game against the 49ers.Tight end Vernon Davis roasted Saints safeties Malcolm Jenkins in single coverage. (That's right, during crucial parts of the game, Williams called for single coverage on the 49ers' only weapon in the passing game.)The 49ers exploited a Gregg Williams tendency for the game-winning touchdown on Alex Smith's touchdown pass to Davis, in front of safety Roman Harper, in the closing seconds, too.--Gregg Williams stressed the importance of injuring the 49ers' best players in his night-before-game speech. Certainly, the Saints' chances of winning would've increased if the 49ers have been without some of their top playmakers.After all, the Saints were impacted when Whitner knocked out running back Pierre Thomas early in the game with a legal helmet-to-helmet hit.Injuries will always have an impact on football games. That part of the game will not change.What this Gregg Williams' episode has taught us is that it should be an unspoken -- and, definitely, unrecorded -- part of the game.

Why Shanahan chose Hoyer and Barkley over Kaepernick

Why Shanahan chose Hoyer and Barkley over Kaepernick

PHOENIX – Coach Kyle Shanahan walked into a position with the 49ers in which he had no quarterbacks on the roster.

On the first two days of free agency, the 49ers added Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley. He determined they were better fits for the offense he would be installing over Colin Kaepernick, who started 64 regular-season and postseason games for the 49ers over the past 4 ½ seasons.

Shanahan appeared to be looking for quarterbacks who are more proficient at going through progressions and making plays from the pocket. Kaepernick was not deemed as a good fit for Shanahan's offense.

“Colin’s had a great career, and he’s done some really good things,” Shanahan said on Wednesday at the NFL owners meetings. “I think Colin has a certain skillset that you can put a specific offense to it that he can be very successful in.

“When we first looked at it, you got to look at each quarterback and what type of offense you want to put in. That wasn’t necessarily the direction I wanted to go. I wanted to put in a different type of offense.”

Kaepernick opted out of his contract to become an unrestricted free agent. General manager John Lynch has confirmed the 49ers would have released Kaepernick if he had not opted out of his deal.

“The type of offense I wanted to run was somewhat different and that’s why we went that type of direction,” Shanahan said.

The 49ers’ top target in free agency was Hoyer, who enters his ninth NFL season with his sixth different team. Shanahan was offensive coordinator with the Cleveland Browns in 2014 in Hoyer’s second and final season with the club.

Hoyer started five games with Chicago in 2016 before getting sidelined with broken left arm. Hoyer completed 67 percent of his passes with six touchdowns and no interceptions in 200 attempts.

“All these questions about what I like in a quarterback, Brian is like that,” Shanahan said. “He’s obsessed with the game. He will learn your offense. He’ll be able to execute and run it. That gives other guys a chance to perform in your offense. If your quarterback can’t execute it and go through it, it doesn’t always matter what the O-line or the receivers are doing.

“With Brian, you have a very smart guy who works at it, will hang in the pocket and is fearless, will keep his eyes down the field and deliver the ball to the right spots. It gives people a chance to be successful.”

The 49ers also reached a contract agreement with Barkley, who started six games with the Bears due to injuries to Jay Cutler and Hoyer. Barkley saw the most extensive playing time of his career. He completed 59.7 percent of his passes with eight touchdowns and 14 interceptions.

“Just watching Matt since college, Matt’s always been a solid player, even coming out and playing at an early age at (USC),” Shanahan said. “He’s battle-tested in that way. He’s gone through the pressure of college, the pressure of the draft, being in the NFL, being with some different teams. Even watching Matt in Chicago this year, I think he played better this year than he has throughout his career. That means the guy is continuing to work at it.”

The 49ers figure to go to training camp with four quarterbacks, so the team is not finished at the quarterback position.

“We’ll look to add anyone who can really help us,” Shanahan said. “I’m very happy with the two we got. You know we’re not only going to take two to camp. So we got to see how the draft works out and then you see what else is out there.”

Goodell reacts to suggestion Kaepernick is being 'blackballed'

Goodell reacts to suggestion Kaepernick is being 'blackballed'

PHOENIX – NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said Tuesday he does not believe quarterback Colin Kaepernick is being “blackballed” in his attempt to continue his career.

“I haven’t heard that from our clubs in any way that that’s an issue,” Goodell said during his press conference to conclude the NFL owners meetings.

“My experience in 35 years is that our clubs make independent evaluations of players. They work hard to try to improve their teams. But if they think a player can help improve their team, they’re going to do that.”

Kaepernick remains unsigned as an unrestricted free agent after opting out of his 49ers contract earlier this month. Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman this week was asked on ESPN’s "First Take" whether he felt Kaepernick was being blackballed.

"I'm sure he is," Sherman answered. "It's difficult to see because he's played at such a high level, and you see guys, quarterbacks, who have never played at a high level being signed by teams. So it's difficult to understand."

General manager John Lynch on Tuesday said the 49ers have not had any contact with Kaepernick since he and coach Kyle Shanahan met with Kaepernick on Feb. 22 in Santa Clara. The 49ers signed free-agent quarterbacks Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley have shown no interest in re-signing Kaepernick.

Kaepernick, 29, created a controversy last season when he opted to take a knee during the playing of the national anthem to protest racial inequality in the United States. Kaepernick has decided to stand for the national anthem this season.

Earlier in the day, Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh said it was “stupid” and “intellectually lazy” to think teams have colluded to keep Kaepernick out of the league. Last week, former 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh, John’s brother, said Kaepernick is still an outstanding player and can win championships.

“I absolutely think he’s going to get signed,” John Harbaugh said. “I agree with Jim. He can win games for people.”