49ers

49ers GM John Lynch shows he still has soft spot for Broncos

49ers GM John Lynch shows he still has soft spot for Broncos

DENVER — Sporting an orange tie and a blue shirt, John Lynch made it clear he hasn't severed his ties to the Denver community after joining the San Francisco 49ers' front office.

"We want to keep this going, that's the plan," Lynch said Friday following the 19th annual John Lynch Salute The Stars awards luncheon at Sports Authority Field.

Lynch said there was never any thought of shuttering his foundation's connection to the greater Denver area after he left the broadcast booth to join the 49ers in a surprise move over the winter.

Nor did he have a problem hosting his event, with Denver coach Vance Joseph as the featured speaker, at the Broncos' stadium, where he played from 2004-07 and where he joined the teams' Ring of Fame last October.

"Not from my side. I think it was raised at some point through someone at the Broncos but, as usual, John Elway stepped in and Joe Ellis and said, 'Listen, this is silly. This is about the kids in this community.' And anything that was awkward, hopefully we've gotten rid of that," Lynch said. "Because I think you see what it is: it's about these kids and much more than where I'm working.

"Like I said there (on stage), I'm wearing orange because ... the Broncos will always hold a special place in my heart and in my family's heart. So, I think in life you can do more than one thing at once and we plan to do that."

Lynch counts Elway, a fellow Stanford alum, as one of his best friends and following his hiring in San Francisco, he sought Elway's permission to hire Adam Peters, who was the Broncos' director of college scouting, as his vice president of player personnel.

In 2013, Lynch served a sort of apprenticeship under Elway, attending the NFL combine with him and sitting in with the Broncos' GM during the draft.

"Yeah, he's been awesome. He's a great friend and he exposed me to the business," Lynch said. "I think the biggest thing, when I had this opportunity presented to me really quickly and had a short, finite time to give them an answer, he kind of gave me the confidence: 'You know what, you can do this, just like anything else. You can be great at it.' And hearing that from him kind of emboldened me to feel that way.

"He helped me out in the beginning but now it's like anything else, we're competing. Fortunately, we're not in the same division and all, but he's been great. He's one of my best friends in life and we understand that we both have to serve our organizations well but we can also continue to be great friends and that's what we are."

The Broncos and 49ers face each other in the preseason on Aug. 19 and the teams will hold joint practices for the second straight summer leading up to that game.

"That's where relationships come in handy and we're looking forward to the work," Lynch said.

The John Lynch Foundation, which honors student-athletes and students with special needs, awarded more than $118,000 in scholarships at the luncheon, bringing to $1.1 million what Lynch and his wife, Linda, have awarded in Colorado and Tampa Bay, where he spent the first 11 seasons of his 15-year playing career.

DRAFT GRADE: Lynch got high grades for his first draft , which included a half dozen trades, none bigger than when he swapped the second- and third-overall picks with the Chicago Bears, then got the player he wanted in Solomon Thomas along with three extra picks.

"When the Bears kept expressing interest and the deal kept getting better, I thought it either was for Myles Garrett or Solomon Thomas," Lynch said. "And people in the building who have been around for a while said you don't make that big a move unless it's a quarterback. And so we started thinking particularly draft day when the deal really got better that this was for a quarterback. We thought (Mitch) Trubisky would be the guy.

"And so ultimately a lot of people have given Ryan Pace and the Bears a hard time about that. My perspective is they got what they wanted; we got what we wanted. And if Mitchell Trubisky becomes that franchise quarterback, I think it's worth a 3 and a 4 and another 3."

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.