49ers-Browns: Matchups to watch

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49ers-Browns: Matchups to watch

Aldon Smith leads the 49ers and ranks second among NFL rookies with 5.5 sacks. And on Sunday at Candlestick Park, he'll go up against Joe Thomas, whom many consider to be the top offensive lineman in the league.
Tale of the tape
Smith (99): 6-4, 258, Missouri, Rookie
Thomas (73): 6-6, 312, Wisconsin, Fifth seasonIn six games, Thomas has surrendered 1.5 sacks. In 16 games a year ago, he surrendered four sacks. Thomas has been outstanding since entering the NFL as the No. 3 overall pick of the 2007 draft.Thomas has not missed an offensive snap in 70 games since coming into the NFL. In August, Thomas signed a seven-year, 84 million contract extension. With the strength throughout the 49ers' front seven, Thomas will likely be left alone to handle Smith in Sunday's game. It's important that the Browns provide ample protection for quarterback Colt McCoy, who has been sacked 13 times this season.McCoy is averaging a lowly 5.46 yards per passing attempt, and the Browns might need to hit on some big plays down the field to stay in the game. The Browns will rely on Thomas to keep the rookie away from McCoy.
"He's a good pass protector," Browns coach Pat Shurmur said of Thomas. "Obviously, he's a good run-blocker. He's what you're looking for from a left tackle. You don't tend to worry about him so much because he's such a good player."Now, we're going to get challenged this week for sure. So I think we're counting on him to have one of his better games against an opponent that's going to be a big challenge."Smith does not start for the 49ers, but he will enter the game in place of Parys Haralson at right defensive end in nickel situations. Other matchups worth watching
49ers left guard Mike Iupati (77) vs. Browns defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin (71): The 49ers like to run to the left side behind 331-pound Iupati, and he'll have perhaps his stiffest challenge of the season. Rubin, a 330-pounder, might be the best player on the Browns' defense. The club signed him to a three-year, 27 million extension in the offseason with 18 million guaranteed. Rubin rarely comes off the field, as he stuffs the run and also adds quickness off the snap to get up the field as a pass-rusher. Rubin leads the Browns with three sacks on the season.49ers punter Andy Lee (4)kicker David Akers (2) vs. Browns return man Joshua Cribbs: The Browns have struggled on special teams, while the 49ers have excelled. That switch in fortunes has coincided with special-teams coordinator Brad Seely's move from Cleveland to the 49ers this season. Cribbs will be in the starting lineup at wide receiver, replacing Mohamed Massoquoi, who will miss the game with a concussion. Cribbs, the all-time NFL career leader with eight touchdown kickoff returns for touchdowns, will still be asked to make a healthy contribution in the return game, He ranks 12th in kickoff returns with a 25.0 average. Cribbs is also 12th in punt returns with a 10.8 average. Akers has done a good job of limiting the chances for the opposing kick returner. Twenty-two of his 37 kickoffs have been touchbacks. And the average start point for the opposition is the 21-yard line. Likewise, Lee's 44.4 net average is tied for the best in the league.

Kaepernick's parents defend his anthem protests: 'Very proud of our son'

Kaepernick's parents defend his anthem protests: 'Very proud of our son'

Colin Kaepernick began his silent National Anthem protests in late August.

For almost four months, his parents have remained quiet.

But after reports that Kaepernick did not have the support of his parents, Teresa and Rick Kaepernick reached out to ESPN's The Undefeated on Friday to set the record straight.

"Colin is carrying a heavy load and following a difficult path that he truly believes in. He is putting his entire future and possibly his life on the line for those beliefs. As his parents, it pains us to read articles and tweets saying that his family does not support him; this could not be further from the truth. We want people to know that we are very proud of our son and admire his strength and courage in kneeling for the rights of others," the couple said in a statement to the publication.

Kaepernick's parents also commented on those you have called their son un-American or labeled his protests as anti-Military.

"Colin has chosen to kneel for the national anthem as a protest to the continuing racial inequality in this country. He has explained his reasons for this in multiple interviews, yet it seems some people still do not understand his point. For whatever reason, there are some who want to view this as an anti-military protest or an un-American stance. These views could not be further from the truth, but we know that people will believe what they wish to believe. The recent remarks (attacks) by Admiral Harris supported by the Pentagon are over the top, and we feel the desire to make a public statement in support of our son," The Kaepernicks said in their statement.

They concluded their statement by discussing the reaction the family received due to Kaepernick's protest, including detailing the hate mail that has been sent to them.

"When Colin first 'took a knee', his family was as surprised as anyone. We did not understand why he was doing this and were overwhelmed with the public reaction and hate. Colin not only received terrible racist tweets, but also received letters directly to our home similar to that recently received by [Denver Broncos linebacker] Brandon Marshall. We were truly shocked at the amount of racist hatred out there! Until this had occurred, we had naively believed that the racial atmosphere in this country was far better than it actually is. Prayer and talks with our son gave us a much better understanding of the reason for his protest and how we should view it."

The Undefeated's Martenzie Johnson also spoke to Teresa Kaepernick by phone on Friday and she threw her family's support behind her son.

"I just want to be on the record that we absolutely do support him," she said.

49ers, McDonald agree to five-year extension

49ers, McDonald agree to five-year extension

The 49ers signed tight end Vance McDonald to a five-year contract extension through the 2021 season, the team announced late Friday.

The deal is worth $35 million, including $16 million in guaranteed money, ESPN reported. The actual contract terms and amount of fully guaranteed money is expected to be less than the reported figures.

McDonald ranks third on the 49ers with 24 catches for 391 yards and four touchdowns. He has touchdown receptions this season of 75 and 65 yards.

"Vance has shown consistent growth throughout his four-year career and his production this season is the result of his dedication and hard work,” 49ers general manager Trent Baalke said in a statement. “We believe he has only scratched the surface of what he will be able to accomplish in his career. Vance is a tremendous ambassador for the 49ers, and his passion for helping others provides a wonderful example for this organization. We look forward to his continued contributions to this organization, both on and off the field.”

McDonald is in the final season of his original four-year, $3.99 million contract he signed as a second-round draft pick in 2013.

In McDonald’s three previous seasons, he caught just 40 passes for 475 yards and three touchdowns.

McDonald spoke last week about the greater chances he's gotten to prove himself since the 49ers traded Vernon Davis last season.

“I just always look back at the opportunity when Vernon went to (Denver),” McDonald said. “Just being able to have the trust and the opportunity to start games and play every down.”

Said 49ers coach Chip Kelly, "He’s one of our weapons on the offensive side of the ball and he runs better than most tight ends in this league. So really depends on week to week what people have available at the safety spot to kind of match up with him. But he’s certainly someone that I think people defensively have to game plan for.”