Maiocco: Production matters in 49ers' captains vote

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Maiocco: Production matters in 49ers' captains vote

Sept. 6, 2011MAIOCCO ARCHIVE
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Matt MaioccoCSNBayArea.com

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.

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.”

 

 

Injury report: Staley's streak of 92 consecutive starts in serious jeopardy

Injury report: Staley's streak of 92 consecutive starts in serious jeopardy

Five-time Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Staley is listed as doubtful for Sunday’s game due to a hamstring injury, the 49ers announced on Friday.

Staley has the third-longest active streak among offensive tackles with 92 consecutive starts. Only Cleveland's Joe Thomas (156) and Oakland's Donald Penn (153) rank ahead of him on the list. Staley has not missed a game since the beginning of the 2011 season.

Coach Chip Kelly said Friday morning on his weekly show on KNBR that the 49ers have two more days of training “and then we’ll see what Joe’s status is going into the game on Sunday.”

Kelly added, “That’s kind of what we normally do with everybody. The best thing to say with Joe is he’s day-to-day. We’re hopeful, but we have two more days out on the field.”

With Staley not expected to play, the 49ers will likely shift left guard Zane Beadles to left tackle. Andrew Tiller, who started the first five games of the season at right guard, would likely start at left guard.

The 49ers expect outside linebacker Aaron Lynch to return to action on Sunday after missing five games with a high-ankle sprain, Kelly said on KNBR. Lynch is listed as questionable, along with defensive tackle Quinton Dial, who has a left elbow injury

The Jets will be without at least one starter. Right tackle Breno Giacomini was ruled out due to injuries. Brent Qvale, a third-year player from Nebraska, is scheduled to make his fifth NFL start.

Defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson is listed as questionable with an ankle injury.

49ERS
Doubtful
T Joe Staley (hamstring)
Questionable
DT Quinton Dial (elbow)
LB Aaron Lynch (ankle)

JETS
Out
RB Khiry Robinson (lower leg)
DT Steve McLendon (hamstring)
T Breno Giacomini (back, calf, shoulder)
LB Lorenzo Mauldin (ankle)
S Antonio Allen (concussion)
WR Jalin Marshall (concussion)
Questionable
DE Muhammad Wilkerson (ankle)