OAKLAND – All eyes shifted to the Raiders sideline Saturday night when the national anthem played.
Yep, Marshawn Lynch took a seat. No shocker there. He did the same thing last week, and while he hasn’t addressed it specifically, the action is linked with other anthem protests bringing attention to mistreatment of minorities in the United States.
Bruce Irvin stood with his brethren but raised his fist, as he did several times last year.
Derek Carr stood right on the sideline, and put his arm on Khalil Mack’s left shoulder. That gesture wasn't happenstance. It carried a message. It wasn’t, Carr insists, meant to protest anything.
“We’re not doing anything like that,” Carr said after a 24-21 loss to the Los Angeles Rams at Oakland Coliseum. “We wanted to show the kids that look up to me, look up to him, white kids, black kids, brown kids, blue, green, it doesn’t matter -- all be loving to each other. We’re best friends and we’re loving to one another.
“The only reason we did that was to unify the people that look up to us because obviously you see what’s going on in the world. Obviously everyone pays attention to the national anthem nowadays. We just said that obviously this was the best time to do it while still honoring this country because I love this country. We’re free to live here and play this game but we’re also free to show that we love one another.”
Mack isn’t one to rock the boat. He and Carr wanted to make a statement without ruffling feathers, something that would remain positive while addressing racial issues prevalent in the news today.
“It’s discussed a lot,” Mack said. “It’s one of the things I feel passionately about but I just don’t like the tension that comes with it. But at the same time, just using our platform for positivity is what’s important to me.”
Offensive coordinator Todd Downing put an arm on fullback Jamize Olawale and echoed the Carr-Mack message. We’ve seen similar signs of unity across the league. Philadelphia defensive end Chris Long, son of former Raiders pass rusher Howie Long, put an arm around Malcolm Jenkins while he protested. Seattle center Justin Britt put an hand on Michael Bennett’s shoulder while he sat for the national anthem.
Those actions drew attention. Carr and Mack do the same.
Their star power increases the volume of their message. Carr’s an MVP candidate and the league’s highest-paid player. Mack is the reigning Defensive Player of the Year. When they do something, people pay attention. That was their hope on Saturday, when the cameras would be aimed at them.
Carr and Mack are good friends off the field, and want to be an example of unity despite different races and backgrounds.
“I think that’s the message, the only message we were trying to get out,” Carr said. “Any kid, any family, any adult that follows us and looks up to us we knew their eyes would be on us and we wanted to show them for a white kid and black kid that grew up in different neighborhoods can grow up and love one another and be best friends.”
SANTA CLARA – Rookie running backs Joe Williams and Matt Breida have made strong bids for roster spots. But on Saturday night, the 49ers wanted to see what the veterans could do.
Williams entered the game late and played only four snaps of offense. He carried once for 1 yard. Another designed run play was aborted when a Denver Broncos defensive lineman got into the backfield so quickly he forced a fumble before the handoff could occur.
Breida, an undrafted rookie from Georgia Southern, did not see any snaps on offense in the 49ers’ 33-14 loss to the Denver Broncos at Levi’s Stadium.
Coach Kyle Shanahan said the plan all along was for Tim Hightower and Kapri Bibbs to see a lot of action after neither played in the exhibition opener.
“We’re trying to give them a chance to compete,” Shanahan said. “We see it in practice each day, but in games you want to see what guys do breaking through those arm tackles and see how they perform.
“We have a tough competition at back. If you rotate them every series, you don’t really give anyone a chance to show what they are. We try to do it that way. I’ve really tried to do it that way my entire career. You try to select which games you’re going to try to give guys a number of carries, so you have enough when it’s all said and done after four to try to make a decision.”
The 49ers’ run game was non-existent against the Broncos. Starter Carlos Hyde gained 26 yards on eight attempts. Bibbs managed 6 yards on four carries, while Hightower was thrown for minus-1 yard on three rushes.
In the exhibition opener last week against the Kansas City Chiefs, Williams gained 60 yards on seven carries, while Breida rushed for 40 yards on 11 tries. Raheem Mostert, the 49ers' leading rusher (15 carries, 89 yards) in the exhibition opener, was limited to just four plays on special teams.
Here is a look at the 49ers’ playing time on offense, defense and special teams:
Quarterback – *Brian Hoyer 24, C.J. Beathard 20, Matt Barkley 4
Running back – *Carlos Hyde 20, Tim Hightower 14, Kapri Bibbs 10, *Kyle Juszczyk 6, Tyler McCloskey 5, Joe Williams 4
Wide receiver – Louis Murphy 23, *Marquise Goodwin 18, Kendrick Bourne 15, Jeremy Kerley 13, Aldrick Robinson 13, Victor Bolden 12, Trent Taylor 11, *Pierre Garçon 10, DeAndre Carter 5
Tight end – George Kittle 22, Garrett Celek 12, Logan Paulsen 10, *Vance McDonald 9, Blake Bell 5, Cole Hikutini 3
Offensive line – Erik Magnuson 25, *Trent Brown 24, *Zane Beadles 23, *Daniel Kilgore 23, *Brandon Fusco 23, *Joe Staley 23, JP Flynn 21, Tim Barnes 21, Garry Gilliam 21, John Theus 20, Darrell Williams 4, Norman Price 4, Andrew Lauderdale 4, Andrew Gardner 4
Defensive line – D.J. Jones 38, Leger Douzable 36, Pita Taumoepenu 31, *Chris Jones 30, Quinton Dial 23, *Arik Armstead 23, *Earl Mitchell 19, Solomon Thomas 16, *Tank Carradine 15, Noble Nwachukwu 15, Elvis Dumervil 8
Linebacker – Dekoda Watson 33, Brock Coyle 30, Ray-Ray Armstrong 30, Ahmad Brooks 30, *Eli Harold 23, *Reuben Foster 23, *NaVorro Bowman 23, Shayne Skov 22, Alex Calitro 21
Cornerback – Asa Jackson 40, Ahkello Witherspoon 39, Keith Reaser 30, Will Davis 22, *Dontae Johnson 20, *Rashard Robinson 20, K’Waun Williams 11
Safety – *Lorenzo Jerome 37, Jaquiski Tartt 33, *Eric Reid 23, Don Jones 22, Vinnie Sunseri 19, Adrian Colbert 19
* -- Starter
D.Jones 18, Bell 17, Taumoepenu 17, DeAndre Smelter 16, Jerome 16, Celek 11, Watson 11, Coyle 10, Sunseri 10, Armstrong 10, Skov 9, C.Jones 9, Tartt 9, Bradley Pinion 8, Calitro 8, Colbert 8, Paulsen 8, Jackson 8, Kyle Nelson 7, Bolden 7, Bibbs 6, Witherspoon 6, Reaser 5, Dial 5, Davis 5, Raheem Mostert 4, Harold 4, Carter 4, Johnson 4, D.Williams 4, D.J. Jones 4, Robbie Gould 3, Robinson 3, J.Williams 3, Flynn 3, Douzable 3, Carradine 3, Nwachukwu 2, Price 2, Taylor 2, Kerley 2, Barnes 2, Theus 2, Magnuson 2, McCloskey 2, Armstrong 2, Foster 2, Reid 2, Bowman 2, Mitchell 2, Nick Rose 1, Matt Breida 1, Tim Patrick 1, Thomas 1, Bourne 1, Lauderdale 1, Brooks 1
DID NOT PLAY
QB Nick Mullens, WR Aaron Burbridge, DB Will Redmond, DB Jimmie Ward, DB Prince Charles Iworah, LB Sean Porter, LB Aaron Lynch, G Joshua Garnett, DL Ronald Blair, DL DeForest Buckner