Maiocco: Production matters in 49ers' captains vote


Maiocco: Production matters in 49ers' captains vote

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On the day that cuts were made to 53 players, the 49ers held a vote to select their two captains for the season.

The result of the vote was interesting. It spoke to what the players value from a teammate.

Leadership might be great, but the quality that swayed the 49ers players was production.The defensive captain is Patrick Willis, an understated tackling machine who has been named to the Pro Bowl each of his first four NFL seasons. He is on pace for a Hall-of-Fame career. Willis is the 49ers' best defensive player.

The captain on offense is running back Frank Gore. His team-record streak of four consecutive 1,000-plus-yard rushing seasons ended last year when he still gained 853 yards despite missing the final five games with a fractured hip. Gore is the 49ers' best offensive player.

When coach Jim Harbaugh announced Saturday which players were voted as 49ers captains, it was only natural to begin to think about which players were not chosen.

Of course, there was one name that immediately came to mind . . . Alex Smith.

Smith was the leader for the 49ers during the five months when the 49ers needed somebody to step up and take charge during the lockout.

Smith was the point person with San Jose State officials to arrange for his teammates to use the Spartans' weight room and fields. The players were not allowed to have any communication with the 49ers' coaches and were banned from the team's property. Smith served as director of football operations, head coach, offensive coordinator and, yes, starting quarterback during that time.

Harbaugh handed Smith a copy of the 49ers' playbook when a judge ordered the lockout lifted for one day in late-April. The next day, the lockout was back in effect after the NFL appealed to a federal court.

Smith spent a month studying the playbook and perusing the PowerPoint material and film he collected from the 49ers' coaching staff. Then, he got in touch with every 49ers offensive player to arrange two weeks of playbook study sessions and on-field work.

The result was "Camp Alex," which gave the offense a head start they would not have otherwise been afforded. Smith's work was commendable -- especially considering he had yet to sign his one-year, $4.9 million contract. Gore and right guard Chilo Rachal were the only 49ers offensive players under contract, then and now, who did not attend any of the sessions.

Smith has done everything in his power to give himself the best chance of having a successful season. And, sure enough, Harbaugh named Smith the starting quarterback for the season opener after he outplayed rookie Colin Kaepernick in practices and in the four exhibition games.

Beyond that, Smith has a lot to prove in his seventh NFL season after being the No. 1 overall pick in 2005.

Coach Mike Singletary named Smith a captain prior to last season. But when Smith did not produce as well as Singletary had hoped, the coach lost faith in Smith and gambled his future on the play of Troy Smith. Singletary was fired, landing a job as Minnesota Vikings linebackers coach, and Troy Smith is still waiting for the phone to ring.

Alex Smith is the 49ers' quarterback and, thus, he must be viewed in the locker room as a leader.

There is little doubt he is one of the most-liked players on the 49ers. His teammates recognize Smith's perseverance, conscientiousness and commitment. All those qualities are great. If Smith did not do all the right things off the field, there is no chance he would still be suiting up for the 49ers.

But it's also clear that leadership by example -- performance on game days -- is what ultimately wins the respect of the locker room.

Anthem singer at Heat-76ers game kneels during performance

Anthem singer at Heat-76ers game kneels during performance

MIAMI -- A woman performing the national anthem before an NBA preseason game in Miami did so while kneeling at midcourt.

Denasia Lawrence opened her jacket just before she started to sing, revealing a "Black Lives Matter" shirt, then dropped to her left knee and performed the song. She said it was her way of protesting racial oppression.

"We're being unjustly killed and overly criminalized," Lawrence wrote early Saturday in a Facebook post. "I took the opportunity to sing and kneel to show that we belong in this country and that we have the right to respectfully protest injustices against us."

Miami Heat officials said they had no advance knowledge of Lawrence's plan to protest. Lawrence, a social worker, kept the shirt hidden until her performance.

"I didn't get paid to sing the national anthem nor was this moment about any sort of fame," Lawrence wrote. "Black Lives Matter is far larger than a hashtag, it's a rallying cry."

The anthem issue has been a major topic in the sports world in recent months, starting with the decision by San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick to not stand while it is played. Kaepernick cited racial injustice and police brutality among the reasons for his protest, and athletes from many sports - and many levels, from youth all the way to professional - have followed his lead in various ways.

Heat players and coaches stood side by side for the anthem before their game with Philadelphia, all with their arms linked as has been their custom during the preseason. The team plans to continue standing that way for the anthem this season as a show of unity.

"Throughout all of this, I think the most important thing that has come out is the very poignant, thoughtful dialogue," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "We've had great dialogue within our walls here and hopefully this will lead to action."

The NBA has a rule calling for players and coaches to stand during the anthem.

"All I can say is what we've seen in multiple preseason games so far is our players standing for the national anthem," NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said Friday in New York. "It would be my hope that they would continue to stand for the national anthem. I think that is the appropriate thing to do."

Heat guard Wayne Ellington often speaks about the need to curb gun violence, after his father was shot and killed two years ago. He had his eyes closed for most of the anthem Friday, as per his own custom, though he was aware of Lawrence's actions.

"At the end of the day, to each his own," Ellington said. "If she feels like that's the way she wants to stand for it, then more power to her."

Making a statement in the manner that Lawrence did Friday is rare, but not unheard of in recent weeks.

When the Sacramento Kings played their first home preseason game earlier this month, anthem singer Leah Tysse dropped to one knee as she finished singing the song.

Tysse is white. Lawrence is black.

"I love and honor my country as deeply as anyone yet it is my responsibility as an American to speak up against injustice as it affects my fellow Americans," Tysse wrote on Facebook. "I have sung the anthem before but this time taking a knee felt like the most patriotic thing I could do. I cannot idly stand by as black people are unlawfully profiled, harassed and killed by our law enforcement over and over and without a drop of accountability."

49ers promote RB to active roster ahead of game vs Bucs

49ers promote RB to active roster ahead of game vs Bucs

The 49ers on Saturday promoted running back DuJuan Harris to the active roster to be eligible to play Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Levi’s Stadium.

The team waived defensive lineman Taylor Hart to make room for Harris on the 53-man roster. Hart, originally a fifth-round draft pick of the Philadelphia Eagles in 2014, was claimed by the 49ers off waivers on Sept. 5. He appeared in one game and recorded two tackles.

Running back Carlos Hyde has been ruled out of Sunday’s game due to a right shoulder injury. Mike Davis and Shaun Draughn have served as the 49ers’ backup running backs through the first six games of the season.

Harris (5 foot 7, 206 pounds) has bounced between the 49ers’ 53-man roster and practice squad this season. He has yet to appear in a game. Last season, he played in two games, rushing for 140 yards on 27 carries. He also caught nine passes for 97 yards.

Draughn and Davis are the 49ers’ fourth- and fifth-leading rushers this season behind Hyde and quarterbacks Blaine Gabbert and Colin Kaepernick. Draughn has 55 yards rushing on 18 attempts, while Davis has 18 yards on 10 carries.