49ers

York's first call was to Uncle Eddie

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York's first call was to Uncle Eddie

The first call Jed York made upon departing Candlestick Park last Saturday in the wake of the 49ers' divisional playoff win over New Orleans?To his uncle and godfather Eddie DeBartolo."To see if he'd be the honorary captain," York, the 49ers President and CEO, said on a conference call with reporters Thursday afternoon. "Without the hard work my uncle put in, the brand would not be what it is."
DeBartolo may have been shamed with his connection to gambling and corruption in Louisiana and forced to give up his ownership stake in the 49ers at the turn of the century, but those are not the memories coursing through the veins of the 49ers Faithful this week, as the team prepares to play host to the New York Giants Sunday in the NFC title game.No wonder the 30-year-old York, who was some 10 months old when The Catch went down and the dynasty was born, has been having so many flashbacks this week. York grew up in the 49ers dynasty of the 80's and was 13 when the 49ers won their fifth, and most recent Super Bowl, in 1995."I am a balding guy, though" he said with a laugh, "so it might make me look old."Driving around San Francisco, York has seen "people wearing Niners gear they busted out of their closet they haven't worn in 10 years."People are walking around in Frank Gore and Patrick Willis (jerseys) just as much as Joe Montana, Jerry Rice and Roger Craig. It's pretty cool to see."A year ago, York was lambasted for predicting the 49ers would win the NFC West after starting the season 0-5. Now, he is one step away from the biggest sporting event in the country."Our internal expectations and external expectations are always different," he said. "We expect to compete for a Super Bowl every year. I realize this wasn't on everybody's radar screen."York was also asked about a variety of other topics on the callOn if the plan is still to be in a new stadium in Santa Clara in 2014: "I don't know if that's possible. I think 2015 is achievable."On the visiting fans who reported being harassed at the game last week: "That was a very small segment from Saints fans. And I apologize for any rudeness that might have happenedthat type of behavior is not tolerated." (York also said there would be more undercover police in the stadium this week.)On what appeals to him about coach Jim Harbaugh: "He's very enthusiastic but it's a very focused enthusiasm. You know what you're going to get with Jim and I just think it's very consistentJim has a great work ethic and a competitive spirit."On why Harbaugh connects with QB Alex Smith: "You need somebody that understands the most important position on the field."On when the players bought into Harbaugh: "The guys know when people are BS'ing them, because they see it all the time. They feel Jim's just-genuine spiritit's real and that means a lot to these guys." (York said Harbaugh and Kyle Williams were discussing in the lunch room today who they thought was the best baseball player of all time.)On Alex Smith's development: "I'm so happy for Alex. He's battled a lot in his career herequarterbacking in this league is so much aboutdeveloping a guy.your need to have somebody who can bring out those thingsit would have been easy (for Alex) to say, 'Let's find a different place.' He wanted to be here because he's a 49er."On Smith's future with the 49ers: "It's a two-way street and we'll get to that when the season's over. I'm very glad he is our quarterback. I hope he wants to stay here."On this year's team developing its own tradition: "It's not Joe Montana, it's not Steve Young, it's not Jerry Rice, and that's O.K.try to be something you're not, you most likely fail."

Large report finds CTE in 110 of 111 brains from former NFL players

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AP

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

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AP

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.