49ers

49ers brace for key practices with Broncos

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USATI

49ers brace for key practices with Broncos

SANTA CLARA – The 49ers return to padded work on Wednesday with the team’s best opportunity to evaluate their own players.

The Denver Broncos will arrive in the South Bay for two days of practices with the 49ers. After a fully padded practice on Wednesday, the teams will be in shells on Thursday.

The second exhibition game for both teams will take place Saturday night at Levi’s Stadium.

“Almost throughout the preseason, I see practice as more important (than the games),” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. “It’s not just in the scrimmages. You never know what’s going to happen in a game. You never know what the coverages are going to be. You want to see someone, but someone misses a block, so you don’t see that person.

“In practice you can control it a little bit. You can put players in certain situations that allow you to evaluate them.”

Shanahan and Broncos first-year coach Vance Joseph spoke on Sunday to organize the practice schedule for Wednesday. They will likely get together after practice the first day to arrange the format for Thursday’s practice.

The teams will go through a variety of situational drills, including third downs and red zone.

QUICK SLANTS
--The 49ers held their second non-padded practice in a row on Tuesday. The practice session was a low-key affair. DeAndre Smelter had the best catch of the day with a leaping grab of a high C.J. Beathard pass over the middle. Safety Vinnie Sunseri intercepted a Matt Barkley throw intended for Victor Bolden.

--Defensive end Aaron Lynch sat out with an ankle sprain. He is listed as day to day.

--Safety Jimmie Ward, who remains on physically unable to perform with a hamstring injury, is close to returning to the active list after undergoing strenuous workouts Sunday and Monday.

“ I feel real good about Jimmie,” Shanahan said. “We were hoping to get him back this week and I feel like we could if we really wanted to. But we’re trying to play it smart with him.”

--Rookie Reuben Foster is the 49ers’ starting weakside linebacker, Shanahan said. But he also left plenty of wiggle room.

“He started last game and he’s been starting out in these practices and getting most of the reps,” Shanahan said. “He could get beaten out at any time. If (a backup) starts performing at a higher level than him, that would be the case.”

--Veteran wide receiver Louis Murphy had a good connection with Barkley going. Murphy and Barkley teamed on a 5-yard touchdown in a red-zone drill. Murphy then caught three passes within a five-plan span at the end of practice.

LeBron James: Colin Kaepernick ‘had a vision like Martin Luther King’

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USATSI/AP

LeBron James: Colin Kaepernick ‘had a vision like Martin Luther King’

LeBron James is an avid football fan. He's now an even bigger Colin Kaepernick fan than the sport. Following the Cavaliers' practice on Sunday, James opened up on Kaepernick and his absence from the NFL. 

"I've commended Kap, and for him to sacrifice everything for the greater good for everyone, for what he truly believed in, the utmost respect to him," James said to ESPN. "Obviously he had a vision like Martin Luther King and like some of our all-time greats that people couldn't see further than what they were doing at the point and time. And Muhammad Ali and things of that nature."

James believes the masses don't truly understand what Kaepernick was doing when he first took a knee as a protest against social and racial injustices in America. For his actions, James respects Kaepernick choosing his beliefs over his sport.

"When it's something that's new and it's something that people are not educated about or don't understand what your beliefs are all about, people are so quick to judge and people are so quick to say that what you're doing is wrong," James said. "For him to sacrifice the sport that he plays and to sacrifice the things he's done his whole life because he knew what he believed in, I salute him. I salute and respect that."

Add James to the list of those who believe Kaepernick is being blackballed by the NFL for taking a knee last season. The more games he watches, the more James sees the evidence on the wall. 

"I don't represent the NFL. I don't know their rules and regulations. But I do know Kap is getting a wrong doing, I do know that," James believes. "Just watching, he's an NFL player. He's an NFL player and you see all these other quarterbacks out there and players out there that get all these second and third chances that are nowhere near as talented as him. It just feels like he's been blackballed out of the NFL. So, I definitely do not respect that."

Kaepernick, who recently turned 30 years old, appeared in 12 games for the 49ers in the 2016-17 season. Through the air he completed 59.2 percent of his passes and ended the year with 2,241 yards, 16 touchdowns and four interceptions. Kaepernick also added 468 yards and two more scores on the ground. 

"The only reason I could say he's not on a team is because the way he took a knee," James said. "That's the only reason. I watch football every Sunday, every Thursday, every Monday night. I see all these quarterbacks -- first-string, second-team, third-team quarterbacks -- that play sometimes when the starter gets hurt or are starters that play. Kap is better than a lot of those guys. Let's just be honest."

For his career, Kaepernick has thrown for 12,271 yards and 72 touchdowns to 30 interceptions. With his speed as a dual-threat quarterback, Kaepernick has also gained 2,300 yards rushing and 13 more touchdowns. 

Former 49ers quarterback takes over under center for Cardinals

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AP

Former 49ers quarterback takes over under center for Cardinals

TEMPE, Ariz. — Blaine Gabbert will get his first start for the Arizona Cardinals when they play the Texans in Houston on Sunday.

Coach Bruce Arians announced the decision after Friday's practice.

Drew Stanton, the starter the last two games, bruised his knee early in the Thursday night loss to Seattle last week. He stayed in the game but has been limited in practice all week.

Arians said it will be a game-time decision as to whether Stanton or recently signed Matt Barkley would be Gabbert's backup.

Gabbert will be making his 41st NFL start. He has a 9-31 record. He signed with Arizona last offseason and was the third quarterback until Carson Palmer broke his arm against the Los Angeles Rams in London and was lost for the season.