AMA Motocross storms into Northern California


AMA Motocross storms into Northern California


SACRAMENTO (AP) The massive golden-domed California capitol building looming above, four of motocross' biggest names sat at a table with microphones on a pleasant spring afternoon.

As they talked about the upcoming outdoor season in front of more than 100 fans and a handful of politicians in black suits, Ryan Dungey, Ryan Villopoto, Chad Reed and Trey Canard were nearly close enough to touch shoulders.

If the wild Supercross season is any indication, there probably won't be much separation once they hit the throttle when AMA Motocross kicks off its 40th season at historic Hangtown on Saturday.

"Supercross was a little surprising at moments, some weird things happened," said Dungey, the defending outdoor champion. "Outdoor is going to be another tough championship."

Dungey became the first rider to sweep the Supercross and motocross titles as a rookie a year ago, completing a rapid rise to the top of his sport. He did it, though, with former champions James Stewart and Chad Reed, along with Villopoto, out with injuries.

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With those three back for Supercross this year, the sport had one of its closest finishes ever, a wild 18-race ride that included five riders winning races and five lead changes in the season points standings.

Villopoto closed it out by finishing third at Las Vegas two weeks ago, capturing his first 450-class title just a year after a horrific crash left his right leg mangled and the cartilage in his sternum scrambled.

Reed, a two-time Supercross champion, finished second in the points, just four points back, and Dungey was right behind him in third. Stewart, a two-time champion himself, finished fourth and Canard, a rising star on the circuit, was fifth despite breaking his leg during testing last month.

Canard will be out until later in the season, but the rest of the champions are revved up and ready to go as motocross moves from the stadiums to the massive outdoor tracks.

It starts with Hangtown, an AMA original hosting its 43rd race near the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas. One of the most demanding courses on the circuit, Hangtown will give the riders a tough initial test with just one weekend off after finishing Supercross.

"It's a track where starts are important," Reed said. "It's choppy, it's fast, it's a difficult race track to master. I think we all come in as prepared as best we can, but it's the first race of the season, we're straight off Supercross and throughout the weekend we're all going to struggle at some point in time."

Villopoto will be considered the favorite coming off his impressive Supercross run.

The 22-year-old from Fontana, Calif., opened up the 2010 Supercross season strong, winning seven races, but suffered a horrific crash at St. Louis that broke two bones in his right leg and knocked him out of the outdoor season.

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Determined to finish his climb to the top, Villopoto put in grueling hours of rehabilitation to get back in shape, work that paid off with wins in his first two races back, at Anaheim, Calif., and Phoenix to open the Supercross season. He finished with a series-high six wins, capping it with his first title not far from the glitz of The Strip.

"The Supercross season is so long and we have one week off and roll right into the outdoor season, so there's not much time off," Villopoto said. "But I think we're all ready, we're all prepared and will have the same goal."

Getting to that goal won't be easy, as the Supercross season showed.

With everyone healthy and Canard up from the 250 class, the Supercross season was a tight race from the start, one where a single gaffe was enough to put riders in a deep hole.

Villopoto had one in Jacksonville, where he inexplicably missed qualifying for the main event. Dungey was derailed by a slipped chain at the second Anaheim race.

Reed, running his own team for the first time, had trouble at the two Texas races. Stewart, known for either crashing or winning, did both, getting five wins to go with three crashes, not to mention an arrest for impersonating a police officer.

The move outdoors is the start of new season, but the premium on staying consistent will continue.

"You throw away a race or 25 points, you're going to have your work cut out to get it back," Dungey said. "You try to make it easy on yourself. The goal is to win races and try to win a championship, and you can't do that if you're in the back, getting bad starts, losing points here and there. There's a lot of great guys out there, so you can't throw away points like that."

Shanahan expects 'everyone in our building to be pissed off' after loss to Denver

Shanahan expects 'everyone in our building to be pissed off' after loss to Denver

After a couple of practices and one exhibition game against the Denver Broncos, 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan once again came to the realization things are often not as good or bad as they seem.

That was his takeaway a day after the 49ers provided the Broncos with five giveaways to go along with 11 penalties in a 33-14 loss at Levi’s Stadium.

“But when I get in and watch the tape, it wasn’t quite as bad as it felt,” Shanahan said Sunday on a conference call with Bay Area reporters. “When you look at each situation, especially when you talk about the ones on offense, it takes 11 guys to execute a play, and if you have one guy off a little bit, it breaks down.”

A couple of passes that could have been caught, a ball that slipped out of quarterback Brian Hoyer’s hand and some other correctable errors gives Shanahan reason to be optimistic.

When he spoke to the media on Saturday night after the game, Shanahan was clearly upset with how his 90-man team performed. He was asked a day later if it was a relief to watch the film and come to the conclusion that not everything was a total disaster.

“It’s not really relief,” Shanahan quipped. “It’s kind of my life story.

“We put a lot into it. It doesn’t matter if it’s a scrimmage, practice or preseason. I try to compose myself by the time I talk to you guys (the media) after practice. But I’m pretty pissed after practice when it doesn’t go well. We’re competitive guys and we want everything to be perfect. That’s why most of the time I’m not that happy.”

Shanahan said he expects everyone in the organization to hold themselves to the same high standard.

“Whenever you go out to a game like that, you want to win, you want to play well,” he said. “And you turn the ball over like that and you have the penalties that we did, I’m definitely going to be pissed off and I expect everyone in our building to be pissed off. If they’re not, that’s when I would be worried.”

Shanahan said he had the opposite feeling after the practice Wednesday against the Broncos that looked like a decisive win for the 49ers. Upon review, Shanahan said he felt there was still a lot of room for improvement.

“I thought things seemed real good at practice our first day versus them,” he said. “Then, I go in and watch the film and it was good but not quite as good as I felt when I was out there.”

49ers could get presumptive starting free safety back soon


49ers could get presumptive starting free safety back soon

The 49ers could get their presumptive starting free safety back on the field this week.

Jimmie Ward, who has been on the physically-unable-to-perform list since sustaining a hamstring injury during a conditioning test on the eve of training camp, will go through strenuous workouts Monday and Tuesday.

Ward could be cleared to return to practice as early as Wednesday, when the club is scheduled to hold its next practice.

Coach Kyle Shanahan said Sunday in a conference call with reporters that defensive backs coach Jeff Hafley will will pace him through a football-related workout on Monday and Tuesday.

"Hopefully, we'll get him ready to go by Wednesday," Shanahan said.

The 49ers envision Ward, a first-round draft pick in 2014, as a major contributor in the team’s new 4-3 scheme, which is based on Seattle’s defense. With strong safety Eric Reid playing close to the line of scrimmage, Ward will play the deep safety – a role that Earl Thomas has played for the Seahawks.

In Ward’s absence, undrafted rookie safety Lorenzo Jerome started the 49ers’ first two exhibition games and appears to have played his way into solid position for a spot on the 53-man roster.

"Lorenzo has done a good job," Shanahan said. "I think a couple of times he's ran around and been a ballhawk for us and made some tackles. I thought they caught him a few times out of position last night on a few play-action looks because he's been so aggressive. He's going to have to learn from those, but they never made him pay for those by going outside."

--The 49ers will have days off on Monday and Tuesday as they settle into their regular-season routine.

--Shanahan said he has been formulating ideas for the game plan against Carolina in Week 1 of the regular season. So as the 49ers play the exhibition games, they are mindful of not showing too much.

"I never get too far away from that," Shanahan said. "Everything we put into a preseason game, you always try to take into account what you’re going to be doing in the regular season."

--Shanahan said he thought No. 1 quarterback Brian Hoyer "did a good job." He said the first throw intended for Vance McDonald over the middle was thrown a little late.

"Besides that, I thought he did a good job with his reads and went to the right spots," Shanahan said.

Rookie quarterback C.J. Beathard also was on-point with his reads, Shanahan said.

--Eli Harold got the start Saturday night at outside linebacker position, as he competes with Ahmad Brooks for a job.

"I try to go off what I see in practice," Shanahan said. "You want to know who has more upside, things like that. Who's going to get better throughout the year if given the opportunity? But you also want to know, when it's all said and done, who is going to affect your win-loss record the most. Those are the things I look at personally."

--Former 49ers receiver Anquan Boldin announced his retirement on Sunday. Shanahan never coached him, but he was obviously a big fan.

"I've personally met Anquan or talked to him before, but he has been one of my favorites of all time," Shanahan said. "I love Anquan. I don't know him at all, but I feel like I do because I've always studied how he plays. I remember watching him in college when he came into Florida State as a quarterback and moved quickly to receiver his freshman year.

"And I remember him coming into the league and people thinking he wouldn't be as great because he didn't have a fast 40 time. And watching him play over the years. That's my definition of a football player. He's as violent of a receiver as there is, and I've always truly believed that receivers can really set the mentality of an offense. I feel lineman have no choice, they have to be tough. Running backs, if you're not tough, you're not going to make it in this league because you get hit every play. Quarterbacks got to hang in there. Receivers are the guys who can pick and choose a little bit. And when you have guys who play like Anquan, that just brings a whole different mentality to your offense that I think usually leads to teams that have chances to win Super Bowls."