NFC West: San Francisco 49ers

49ers Camp Report: Day 5

July, 29, 2014
Jul 29
9:00
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SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of San Francisco 49ers training camp:
  • San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio is an honest guy.

    Ask his opinion and he gives it. Some of the 49ers' young defensive players may not have enjoyed what Fangio had to say Tuesday in his media session, in which he mentioned things some young players have to work on.

    On linebacker Chris Borland, a third-round pick: "He's got really good instincts. And sometimes he thinks his instincts are taking him to a play and he's aborting his own assignment, and he's gotten burned on that a few times. So he's got to learn that the quarterbacks in this league can be looking here and quickly come back here. And, he's been burned on that a few times."

    On fourth-rounder Dontae Johnson: "He's doing fine. Like a lot of rookies, he's got a little tentativeness in his play right now, not always sure exactly what to do. But I think he'll get there. He's got good size. We feel he's got good enough speed. Just keep waiting for him to feel the urgency and really turn it up. And I don't think he's quite there yet. I think he's still feeling his way through knowing what to do, the NFL game, etc. But hopefully he'll kick it up a notch here in the next three weeks at some point."

    On second-year linebacker Nick Moody: "Well, he's looked a whole lot better than he did as a rookie, just from an assignments standpoint. But he's still got to fight to be more consistent. He's got to get the inconsistency out of his play."

    I wouldn't get too caught up on what Fangio is saying. It's camp and all of the above issues are correctable.
  • Cornerback Chris Cook snared an interception Tuesday. That's a good sign. He had none in his four years with the Minnesota Vikings after being a first-round pick. The coaching staff has been working with Cook on his ball skills.
  • Linebacker Ahmad Brooks restricted his contract. He got some salary converted into a signing bonus and saved the team $2 million in salary-cap room. The 49ers have about $10 million in camp room

    They have the money to extend some players. The top candidates include receiver Michael Crabtree and guards Mike Iupati and Alex Boone. Crabtree and Iupati are in the final year of their contracts and Boone is holding out for a new deal.
  • Starting cornerbacks Chris Culliver (knee) and Tramaine Brock (ankle) and defensive lineman Ray McDonald (leg) were among those not practicing Tuesday.

  • Tuesday's practice went two-and-a half hours. It was the longest of camp so far.
  • Former 49ers' standout defensive lineman Cedric Hardman was visiting camp. Defensive line coach Jim Tomsula asked him to address the unit after practice.
  • As expected, the 49ers signed former Arizona Cardinals running back Alfonso Smith because of injuries in the backfield. Johnson will help in practice and in the preseason. They waived guard Fou Fonoti, an undrafted free agent.
Examining the San Francisco 49ers' roster:

QUARTERBACKS (2)

Because of heavy competition elsewhere, the 49ers will likely only carry two quarterbacks. They finished last season that way. The competition will be to see if undrafted rookie Kory Faulkner can take McLeod Bethel-Thompson's spot on the practice squad.

RUNNING BACKS (5)

The fact that the 49ers drafted Hyde in the second round and Lattimore is healthy means some tough decisions will have to be made. Kendall Hunter tore his ACL Friday and is out for the season. That means James has a better chance of making the roster.

WIDE RECEIVERS (6)

The 49ers are so much deeper here this year than last. That means they will likely have to keep six receivers. Lloyd may look good and Patton has too much potential to give up on. That means it could be tough for Kassim Osgood to make it even though he is a special teams cog.

TIGHT ENDS (3)

I can't see the 49ers keeping more than three tight ends because of the glut at receiver. Unless Garrett Celek has a big camp, he may be in trouble. Carrier intrigues the 49ers because of his size and speed.

OFFENSIVE LINE (8)

Assuming Boone ends his holdout, this is a pretty nice group of eight players. It's improved from last year. A solid veteran like Adam Snyder and a promising youngster like Ryan Seymour will have trouble making the team.

DEFENSIVE LINE (9)

This is another power spot. It's deep. Players like Jerod-Eddie and Dial are too valuable to cut. Ramsey has looked good and I have a hunch the 49ers may like him too much to expose him to the waiver wire. That means Demarcus Dobbs could be in trouble.

LINEBACKERS (7)

Most teams carry six linebackers but the 49ers are stacked here, especially with NaVorro Bowman out for about half the season. Because fifth-round pick Lynch is promising he should make the roster. Dan Skuta is an excellent player, but there might not be any room for him. I could see him being one of those later-summer Trent Baalke trade specials because he has value.

CORNERBACKS (5)

This unit is in flux, but I see Johnson making it. Don't be surprised if there is some in-camp jockeying as the 49ers look for the best mix.

SAFETIES (5)

Ward, the 49ers' first-round pick, will play nickel cornerback as a rookie, but projects long term as a safety. Ventrone and Spillman should stick because they are great on special teams. Craig Dahl could be in trouble.

SPECIALISTS (3):

This group is set and it's excellent.

49ers Camp Report: Day 4

July, 27, 2014
Jul 27
9:50
PM ET
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of the San Francisco 49ers training camp:
  • Running back LaMichael James' dislocated left elbow (he will likely miss a month) was the injury issue for the 49ers on Sunday. But there were minor scrapes and bruises. Special teamer Kassim Osgood was getting worked on for leg issue, but he seemed fine by the end of practice. Rookie offensive lineman Fouimalo Fonoti left practice with an undisclosed leg issue.
  • Starting cornerbacks Tramaine Brock (ankle) and Chris Culliver (recovering from a torn ACL) ended practice early Sunday. But it appears to be simply precautionary for both players. The young cornerbacks got plenty of work in the practice.
  • Second-year receiver Quinton Patton had a nice day Sunday. He was very active. Patton has a chance to develop after he finished last season strong.
  • Receiver Michael Crabtree and second-year tight end Vance McDonald continued their strong training camps Sunday.
  • 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said guard Joe Looney has had some “wow moments.” Looney is working with the first team at right guard with Alex Boone holding out. Looney will very likely start Aug. 7 at Baltimore in the first preseason game unless Boone ends his holdout soon. That, by the way, appears unlikely.
  • Harbaugh likes the way all five of his quarterbacks are looking in camp. If I had to guess I’d say McLeod Bethel-Thompson is back on the practice squad with Colin Kaepernick and Blaine Gabbert on the active roster. That would leave out Josh Johnson and Kory Faulkner. Things can change, but that’s the guess four days into training camp.
  • Harbaugh said young linebackers Shayne Skov and Chase Thomas are both looking good. That makes Harbaugh happy. He coached them both at Stanford.
  • The 49ers activated rookies, center Marcus Martin (third round) and linebacker Aaron Lynch (fifth). They are now ready to practice.
  • Nickname of the day: Osgood called massive English defensive tackle Lawrence Okoye “Big London.”

49ers Camp Report: Day 3

July, 26, 2014
Jul 26
11:20
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SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of the San Francisco 49ers training camp:
  • The 49ers practiced Saturday in full pads for the first time in camp. It was a crisp, good practice, although it wasn’t overly physical. Yet, that is by design. The 49ers lost running back Kendall Hunter for the year to a torn ACL in a non-contact drill Friday.
  • Raw defensive lineman Lawrence Okoye, who has no previous football experience, crushed Jonathan Martin in a drill. But Okoye, who is both huge and supremely athletic, showed how green he is in other drills. He’s a promising work in progress.
  • Receiver Michael Crabtree looks great. Hard to believe he had a torn Achilles last season.
  • Fellow receiver Stevie Johnson continues to make big plays.
  • Tramaine Brock is the 49ers’ top cornerback and he looks very confident and smooth. Can you believe this guy was just a special teams player a year ago?
  • Rookie running back Carlos Hyde looked very explosive in pads.
  • First-round pick, defensive back Jimmie Ward, had a reputation at North Illinois as a ballhawk. I know why. He gets his hands on everything.
  • Quarterback Colin Kaepernick had a very nice day. Accurate, crisp, in command.
  • The 49ers’ five quarterbacks did a drill in which they tried to hit inside a net from about 40 yards. Undrafted rookie Kory Faulkner got the closest. Harbaugh, an ex-NFL quarterback, even gave it a whirl. He missed.
  • Cornerback Chris Culliver said he is feeling great in his comeback from a torn ACL he suffered in training camp last year. He is a favorite to win a starting cornerback job. He was previously a nickel cornerback. He said it is an adjustment playing on both passing and running downs. Culliver is facing charges from a March hit-and-run arrest. He said Saturday he cannot speak about it because the case is pending, but he said he is focusing on the football field.
  • Fullback Bruce Miller said venerable running back Frank Gore looks to be in midseason shape. Gore is 31. General manager Trent Baalke agreed, “Father Time is having a hard time catching up to him.”
SANTA CLARA, Calif. – One of the reasons why the San Francisco 49ers should be able to withstand the season-ending ACL injury to running back Kendall Hunter is the presence of rookie Carlos Hyde.

The truth is regardless of Hunter’s health. Hyde was going to get a lot of opportunities as a rookie.

While the venerable Frank Gore will start, it appears Hyde, who the 49ers took advantage of an unexpected draft tumble by taking him with the No. 57 overall pick, will play quite a bit.

Hyde is getting extensive work in training camp. Offensive coordinator Greg Roman was highly complementary of Hyde. Roman said Hyde has done everything asked of him.

A key for playing time for running backs is in pass protection and picking up blitzes. Roman said Hyde, who played at Ohio State, is coming along well in that area. Hyde said NFL pass protection was coming “naturally” to him.

The reason, of course, why Hyde is in San Francisco is because he is a power runner who has star potential. 49ers fullback Bruce Miller is impressed what he has seen from the youngster.

“He does what we want running backs in our system to do,” Miller said. "He’s a vertical runner."
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Thursday, San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh noted the cheerful nature of his team as they began training camp.

James
It didn’t take long for the reality of an NFL camp to dampen the mood of the team. Saturday, the 49ers were coming to grips with the season-ending loss of popular and valuable reserve running back Kendall Hunter, who tore the ACL in his right knee Friday in the team’s second camp practice.

Players and coaches lamented the loss and had a similar theme.

"You've got to try to play for him,” said fellow running back LaMichael James, who counts Hunter as one of his best friends on the team. “Give a little extra.”

James will be one of the players the 49ers look to fill Hunter’s void as a valuable change-of-pace back. Like Hunter, James is a smallish player who the 49ers can do multiple things with. In 2012, when James was a rookie, he played well after Hunter was lost for the season in November with a torn left Achilles.

In the twisted world of the NFL, Hunter’s injury gives James a much better chance of making the 53-man roster in a crowded backfield.

“I know everyone is looking at me,” James said.

Earlier in the voluntary part of the year, James worked out on his own and was not adverse to the 49ers trading him. However, he started working out with the team. Had Hunter stayed healthy, there was a possibility James could have been trade-or-release material.

Now, James, who will battle rookie Bruce Ellington for return duties, has a clearer path to the field. Rookie Carlos Hyde will also have a bigger role and 2013 fourth-round pick Marcus Lattimore should also get opportunities once he starts practicing.

“Does it get any better than [Hunter] as a person or contributor? No. But next man up is not a cliché,” 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roma said. “It’s a way of life.”

 
ESPN Insider Mike Sando recently ranked the potential 2015 receiver free-agent class, which could be very strong.

After polling coaches and general managers, Sando ranked San Francisco 49ers receiver Michael Crabtree as the No. 3 potential free-agent receiver after this season. Green Bay’s Jordy Nelson was No. 4. Scratch Nelson off the list. He has reportedly agreed to a four-year, $39 million deal with an $11.5 million signing bonus.

Since Sando’s poll suggests the league prefers Crabtree to Nelson, you would have to think Crabtree will get, at least, what Nelson has agreed to.

The 49ers want to keep Crabtree and perhaps this deal will give both sides some inspiration to get a deal done now. Even if Crabtree doesn’t extend, there is a chance the 49ers could give him the franchise tag next offseason.

In other 49ers news:

There have been some reports the 49ers are concerned about the knee injury Kendall Hunter suffered Friday in practice. He left the field on his own power. But there is worry because of the way the injury occurred. He is undergoing further examinations.

 
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Vic Fangio had high praise for two of his key San Francisco 49ers defensive players, both of whom have dealt with major adversity.

The 49ers' defensive coordinator has been impressed with what he has seen from cornerback Chris Culliver and linebackers Aldon Smith in the early going of training camp. Culliver missed all of last season with a torn ACL, and Smith is trying to put a myriad of off-field issues behind him.

Fangio said Culliver, who suffered the injury in last season's training camp, looked completely recovered from his injury in Thursday's first training camp practice.

"I was really pleased with the way he looked physically," Fangio said of Culliver. "Kudos to our medical staff and everyone that's worked with him. Kudos to him for the work he's put into his rehab. He looked fine to me yesterday. I didn't see any indication that this was a guy that just came off a year-long rehab."

Fangio was also effusive about Smith's approach to the game.

"I think everything's good for him right now," Fangio said. "I think he's in a really great spot. Both physically, like he said, and I think he's in a great spot mentally, emotionally."

Smith could face suspension from the NFL because of his off-field issues. The 49ers are already likely to play without star inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman for about half the season, as he recovers from a torn ACL he suffered in January.

Fangio said it will be "challenging" if the 49ers have to play a stretch without both key linebackers. But he noted the 49ers were 5-0 when Smith missed five games when he was in a substance abuse treatment center and star linebackers Patrick Willis missed two games due to an injury.

"We will find a way," Fangio said.

Fangio is completely flexible when it comes to who replaces Bowman during the first half of the season. Michael Wilhoite, who played for Willis last year, and rookies Chris Borland and Shayne Skov are all vying for the job. Fangio said the 49ers could even use a platoon system.

The team will likely decide after the preseason on what approach to take.
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- This is what Colin Kaepernick had to say about his limited offseason work with new receiver Stevie Johnson: "It was pretty easy. He's another guy that's easy to throw to because he creates so much separation. Very quick, very deceptive, and I'm happy he's on our side of the ball."

Johnson
Thursday, in the 49ers' first training camp practice, we could see why Kaepernick was so pleased that the 49ers' traded a mid-round pick next year to Buffalo for Johnson. He was all over the field and he was one of the bright lights of Day 1 of the 49ers' training camp.

Johnson was limited in the offseason by a minor injury. He looked in mid-season form Thursday.

Johnson could be a huge key for the 49ers as Kaepernick tries to take their offense to the next level in 2014. Johnson is set to be the No. 3 receiver behind Anquan Boldin and Michael Crabtree. We recently looked how Johnson's addition could change the 49ers' offense.

No matter what Johnson's effect will be on this offense, this receiver group is much deeper in 2014. And the depth starts with Johnson. That is already obvious.
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Jimmie Ward didn't waste any time making his presence felt as a San Francisco 49er.

The 49ers' first-round pick intercepted a pass from standout quarterback Colin Kaepernick on the third play of 7-on-7 scrimmage in the team's first practice Thursday. Ward took a tipped ball easily into his hands.

"If I keep making plays like that I will be seen (by the coaches,)" Ward said after practice.

He already has been. Earlier Thursday, 49ers' coach Jim Harbaugh said this of Ward: "Good player, good football player. Lots of things that we saw on tape."

One of the reasons why the 49ers took Ward with the No. 30 overall pick was his playmaking ability. It had to be encouraging to the coaches and front office that the kid was in the right place so early in his first practice.

Ward's strong first impression is also important because he missed much of the offseason work with a broken foot he suffered while preparing for the draft. Ward seems like a humble kid, who is hungry to learn. He seems like a player who knows he belongs where he is. Thursday's events didn't hurt his confidence.

In other notes from the 49ers' first day of training camp:
  • The 49ers want to see strides from second-year tight end Vance McDonald. Thursday was a good sign. He made a nice sideline catch on a deep ball. The 2013 second-round pick had trouble catching the ball at times as a rookie. If he makes improvements there, it will bode well for the 49ers now and in the future.
  • Defensive lineman Justin Smith and offensive tackle Anthony Davis didn't practice. They are coming back from offseason shoulder surgeries. It doesn't appear either player will miss much time. Newly acquired Jonathan Martin worked at right tackle for Davis.
  • Cornerback Chris Culliver looked fluid in his first practice since tearing his ACL last August. Culliver is expected to start this season.
  • In addition to Ward, linebacker Aldon Smith had an interception of a Kaepernick pass.
  • Second-year cornerback Darryl Morris looked strong. He is trying to make an impact on defense after playing well on special teams as a rookie.
  • Backup quarterback Blaine Gabbert hit reserve receiver Brandon Lloyd on a long pass. These two key backups will be fun to watch this summer.
  • Rookie running back Carlos Hyde, a second-round pick, had two dropped passes Thursday. His hands out of the backfield were a highlight in the offseason workouts.
SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Linebacker NaVorro Bowman has started running and soon hopes to beginning making cuts during his the rehabilitation from a torn ACL in in January, coach Jim Harbaugh said Thursday.

Bowman
In February, Harbaugh estimated that Bowman could return at about midseason. That is more than three months away. Harbaugh doesn’t have a more clear estimate now, but he is not pessimistic about Bowman’s return. Bowman suffered the knee injury in the fourth quarter of the 49ers' NFC title game loss at Seattle on Jan. 19.

“You make a prediction and that’s basically based on these guys, these athletes, these super-fit, almost super-human the way they rehabilitate themselves, and they come back from injury, it’s not the normal guy by any means,” Harbaugh said. “NaVorro is a cream of the crop of the athletes, professional athletes on a football team. So, hard to say where it’s going to fall. My prediction would be, I’ve seen other guys … I’m very hopeful. Very optimistic. Knowing NaVorro the way I do, nothing would surprise me if it’s sooner than that. I would not be surprised when you’re talking about NaVorro.”

Harbaugh reiterated that the 49ers will not rush Bowman, one of the NFL’s elite inside linebackers. In the meantime, the 49ers will try to find his beginning-of-the-season replacement. Veteran Michael Wilhoite will try to hold off third-round pick Chris Borland. Wilhoite played well as a short-term injury replacement for Patrick Willis last season, but Borland has looked good in offseason workouts.
Seeing tight end Vernon Davis report to the San Francisco 49ers on time Wednesday only heightened Colin Kaepernick's excitement as the team tries to make another Super Bowl run.

In his second full season as the starting quarterback and fresh off a long contract extension, Kaepernick loves what his team's offense looks like. The team is much deeper on offense, particularly after the trade for receiver Stevie Johnson and the drafting of running back Carlos Hyde in the second round.

"I think we're further along than last year," Kaepernick told reporters Wednesday. "Going into camp, we have a lot more weapons and a lot more health on offense. So, something I'm excited about and I think this team is excited about."

As for seeing Davis report -- the star tight end held out of the mandatory minicamp last month -- Kaepernick said: "Always great to have Vernon on the field. Looks good. Excited to have him back out here."

In other 49ers notes:
  • As expected, the 49ers placed inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman on the PUP list. He is recovering from a torn ACL he suffered in the NFC title game at Seattle in January. He is expected to be back around midseason.
  • Also, cornerback Chris Culliver has been cleared to practice. Culliver, who is expected to start, missed all of last season with a torn ACL he suffered in training camp.
  • Defensive end Justin Smith told reporters he had offseason shoulder surgery to repair a 2013 training camp injury he played through. Smith, 34, said he feels good now.
  • Davis is scheduled to meet with the media Thursday, the first day of training camp.
  • The 49ers put tight end Garrett Celek on the PUP as well. Even if healthy, he is not a sure thing to make the roster.
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The Vernon Davis holdout ended Wednesday just as I envisioned -- with him being welcomed jubilantly by his teammates.

Davis, the San Francisco 49ers' star tight end, loves the spotlight. I just couldn’t see him staying away from the 49ers once players started reporting to training camp.

So, any worry of his absence affecting the team’s run at the Super Bowl has been averted. Sure, Davis likely isn’t happy with his contract. But that really is secondary.

The point is that Davis knows the best approach to get a new deal is to go to camp (and save $30,000 a day in fines if he didn't show up) and prove to the 49ers he deserves a new contract.

The reality is that it may take a while for Davis to get a new deal. The 49ers have already made the 30-year-old a top-paid tight end, and there are other priorities.

Davis may have to wait a year or even until his deal expires after the 2015 season to get a new contract. But he can earn it by remaining a top player in the 49ers’ offense and helping them win the Super Bowl.

The only way that can happen is if he is fully invested in the team. He proved that Wednesday by showing up.

Meanwhile, don’t expect Davis' approach to affect the team’s other holdout, guard Alex Boone. Unlike Davis, Boone is just 27, and he is the 43rd-highest-paid guard in the NFL. He is entrenched in his holdout. He is not showing up on time. The two sides are not close.

While the 49ers saw one crisis end, there is still one brewing as the team gears up for the 2014 season.
Frank Gore will report for his 10th training camp with the San Francisco 49ers this week.

Gore
This milestone accomplishment needs to be celebrated in San Francisco. There are no guarantees Gore will be in a 49ers’ uniform next season. If not, he has already has staked his claim as one of the best skill-position players in the team’s rich offensive history.

In today’s NFL running backs rarely make it to their 10th season, especially with one team. But Gore is not your typical running back. At a time when the running back is being devalued in many systems, the 49ers still rely heavily on the run game. In fact, they are one of the few teams that are still a run-first offense.

But that doesn’t mean Gore will be around for the long haul. Looking at the cold facts, there are some signs that Gore could be entering his final season with the 49ers.

He is 31, which is ancient for a running back, and entering the final season of his contract. The 49ers clearly are looking toward the future at the position. They took the injured but talented Marcus Lattimore in the fourth round of last year’s draft. They selected a falling Carlos Hyde -- the Ohio State product widely considered the best running back available in the draft -- with the No. 57 overall pick in May. While Lattimore will be eased back to health, Hyde, who looked terrific in the offseason, has a chance to get carries right away.

It’s only natural for the 49ers to think about the future. Of course, that doesn’t mean Gore’s future is dead with the 49ers.

[+] EnlargeSan Francisco's Frank Gore
Ezra Shaw/Getty ImagesFrank Gore didn't look over-the-hill last season, as he ran for 1,128 yards and nine touchdowns on 276 carries at age 30.
They clearly are interested in Gore being a key member of the team in 2014. The 49ers are scheduled to pay him $6.4 million this season. They could have asked Gore to take a pay cut. They didn’t. Teams don’t give away that kind of money to players in today's salary cap-dominated NFL. Gore is being paid well because the 49ers have plans for him.

And if you listen to 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh -- an unabashed Gore follower -- this season might not necessarily be the end of the line for Gore in San Francisco. When asked last month if he talked to Gore about his future plans, Harbaugh said: “You know how I feel about it. I feel like Frank is still at the top of his game. I have even made the comment very clearly, that I think he has three great years of football left in him. That’s his mindset as well.”

In keeping with his low-prolife approach, Gore has been mostly quiet this offseason. The 49ers have kept him out of most of the offseason, but that's not a signal they don't plan on featuring him. It’s all about saving one of their best veteran players. Also, the 49ers know they can count on Gore. There’s no doubting that.

“People always ask me (if Gore surprises him). There’s nothing Frank does that surprises me,” San Francisco general manager Trent Baalke said this offseason. “I’ve never met an individual -- a player, a coach, anybody -- that’s been around the game of football that is as passionate about the game as Frank Gore. That’s what drives him. So nothing he does surprises us.”

Look for Gore in Year 10 to still be the guy the 49ers look for in the clutch, the guy who seems to punch through the hole when the 49ers need it most. But I can also see Gore's load being reduced, even if its done subtly.

Think of what the Broncos did with Knowshon Moreno last year. He had the first 1,000-yard rushing campaign of his career, but by the end of the season, Denver was consistently working in second-year back Montee Ball. Now, Moreno is with the Dolphins and Ball is the starter in the Broncos' backfield.

Gore, like Moreno, didn’t show signs of slowing down at the age of 30 last season. He had 276 carries, third most in his career. If Hyde and Lattimore are factors this season (and the 49ers can utilize their new receiving weapons), perhaps Gore’s load will drop to the 200-carry range.

He can still be effective. He’s Frank Gore. He’s always effective.

“Frank is the best, it’s that simple,” Lattimore said. “He is so good at so many different things, and that will not change. Of course, I want to be a factor, but Frank is always going to be a factor as long as he is here. He’s Frank.”
I have returned from taking two weeks off. Here are some thoughts on some San Francisco 49ers' news that transpired while I was away:

Sherman blasts Crabtree again: Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman continued to take verbal shots at 49ers receiver Michael Crabtree. Sherman famously took shots at Crabtree after deflecting a Colin Kaepernick pass in the end zone intended for Crabtree in the final seconds of the NFC title game in January. It was intercepted, sealing the game for Seattle. As he did the first time, Crabtree took the high road after Sherman's recent comments. Crabtree is taking the right approach. He will get a chance to shut up Sherman on the field. If he succeeds, I get the feeling the football-watching world, outside of the Pacific Northwest, will celebrate along with him.

49ers look at young linebacker: The 49ers worked out linebacker Darius Lipford. The North Carolina product went undrafted in the supplemental draft. He reportedly is going to work out for three more teams. The fact the 49ers haven't signed him likely means they aren't overly interested. Although things can always change. So, until Lipford signs elsewhere, it is always a possibility he ends up with the 49ers.

Staley signs deal: Before I went on vacation, I reported that a new deal for Joe Staley was still in the works. He is now signed through 2019 with impact on this year's salary cap. Staley turns 30 this year and is set to be a 49er for life. Of course, the extension from Staley could be looked at as a message to guard Alex Boone and tight end Vernon Davis. They are holding out for more money. The 49ers rewarded Staley after he spent the offseason with the team despite being underpaid.

Aldon Smith sentenced: The star pass-rusher was sentenced to 11 days work release and had three felony gun charges knocked down to misdemeanors. His legal issues are now out of the way. The big question remains if the NFL will suspend Smith. With training camp starting this week, it is reasonable to think the 49ers will learn about any league discipline fairly soon.

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