49ers vs. Seahawks: Matchups to watch


49ers vs. Seahawks: Matchups to watch

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Matt MaioccoCSNBayArea.com
The 49ers open the regular season and the Jim Harbaugh era on Sunday at Candlestick Park against the Seattle Seahawks. And here is a look at the individual matchups that will play a huge part in the outcome:Matchup to watch
49ers left defensive end Ray McDonald (91) vs. Seahawks right guard John Moffitt (74)Tale of the tape
McDonald: 6-3, 290, Florida, fifth season
Moffitt: 6-4, 319, Wisconsin, rookieRay McDonald spent every day of the lockout thinking about what would happen this week.Tired of being a role player -- a specialist -- McDonald set out to make sure he was no longer just a one-down player. So while he and his 49ers teammates were locked out of the teams practice facility, McDonald found a home at the San Jose State workout facilities.McDonald hung out daily with veteran defensive lineman Justin Smith, talking football and preparing for the rigors of the season. And McDonald's focus all along was Sunday's season opener against the Seattle Seahawks.Oh, sure, there was that other matter. McDonald first had to sign a contract to return to the 49ers. And, as it turned out, McDonald received the most-lucrative free-agent contract the 49ers doled out for a player this offseason. McDonald signed a five-year, 20 million contract.So if there are 65 snaps in Sunday's game for the 49ers on defense, how many does McDonald figure on playing?"All 65," he answered.That's because McDonald will start at left defensive end. Then, when the 49ers go to nickel situations, he'll pick up his role of last season as an inside pass-rusher on their four-man line."I've worked hard to be able to play in every situation," McDonald said. "I'm really excited about this game and this season. It's going to be pretty emotional for me. But I know I'm in good shape to be able to play every down. I'm in the best shape of my life."A year ago, he could've been known as Near-Miss McDonald. After all, McDonald was generally one of the 49ers' top pass-rushers despite failing to record a quarterback sack. McDonald was credited with 26 quarterback hits (tied for second on the team with Parys Haralson and behind leader Justin Smith). And his 56 quarterback pressures was second only to Smith's 73.This season, the 49ers' hope for an improved pass defense hinges largely on McDonald's ability to finish those plays. And he might get a few chances on Sunday.The Seahawks' offensive line is in a state of flux with starting left guard Robert Gallery expected to be out of action with a knee sprain. That means that projected starting right tackle James Carpenter, a surprise first-round draft pick, might switch to left guard with Breno Giacomini taking over at right tackle.Rookie John Moffitt, a third-round pick from Wisconsin, will remain at right guard and matched up mostly against McDonald. Moffitt and Carpenter started all four exhibition games side-by-side, and that is what McDonald has studied."They are both talented players, and they are playing better and better," McDonald said.But, now, with an expected change in the starting lineup, McDonald will have to figure things out as the game goes along. At least, he should have plenty of time to figure out what works best."You can watch all the film you want, but when you get into a game, you're able to figure out what's working and what's not," McDonald said.Other matchups worth watching
49ers QB Alex Smith (11) vs. Seahawks QB Tarvaris Jackson (7) -- Although they'll never be on the field at the same time, just compare the stat sheet at the end of the game. Smith is in his first season with the new system coach Jim Harbaugh brings from Stanford. And Jackson reunites with former Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell. This is their first game together with the Seahawks. Both quarterbacks had shaky offensive line play in front of them during the exhibition season, so it's difficult to predict how they'll perform in the regular season. In four practice games, Smith completed just 55.6 percent of his passes with no touchdowns and two interceptions. Jackson connect of 58.2 percent with one TD and two interceptions in the exhibition season.49ers MLB Patrick Willis (52) vs. Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch 24) -- Lynch and Willis can be expected to meet throughout the game, whether or not Lynch has the ball in his hands. Seattle must have success running the ball, and Willis is a sideline-to-sideline presence who'll be focused on bring down Lynch, a powerful 215-pound runner. And Willis also figures to be more of a presence as a pass-rusher this season. In those instances when Willis is blitzing, Lynch must step up and prevent him from getting to the quarterback.

Roger Goodell: 'What we are trying to stay out of is politics'


Roger Goodell: 'What we are trying to stay out of is politics'

NEW YORK — The NFL is not changing its national anthem policy to require players to stand during the national anthem.

Commissioner Roger Goodell and several owners said Wednesday at the league’s fall meetings that altering the language from “should stand” to “must stand” was not discussed.

New York Giants owner John Mara noted that Cowboys owner Jerry Jones “spoke at length” to the other owners about the anthem issue. Jones has said any Dallas player who doesn’t stand for “The Star-Spangled Banner” would not be playing.

Goodell reiterated that the league and its 32 clubs “believe everyone should stand for the national anthem. It’s an important part of our policy and the game. It’s important to honor our flag and our country and I think our fans expect that.”

Asked about any owners who threatened discipline for players who didn’t stand, Goodell said the owners didn’t discuss it.

“There was a fair amount of conversation and I think our clubs see it the same way. I can’t deal with hypotheticals,” Goodell said.

Reminded that President Donald Trump tweeted again Wednesday about the demonstrations during the anthem, Goodell said there was nothing unpatriotic about his league.

“Everyone feels strongly about our country and have pride,” he said, adding the NFL is “not afraid of tough conversations.

“What we are trying to stay out of is politics.”

Goodell noted that only six or seven players are still kneeling or are involved in protests.

“We hope we will continue to work to put that at zero,” he said.

On Tuesday, in an unprecedented move for a league meeting, a group of 11 owners and more than a dozen players met for more than two hours at NFL headquarters. Among the topics discussed was enhancing the players’ platforms for speaking out on social issues.

“I understand the way they feel about these issues,” Goodell said Wednesday. “We feel the same about patriotism and the flag and I believe our players feel that way. We have a great deal of support for the efforts of our players.”

Trump blasts NFL for not demanding players stand during national anthem


Trump blasts NFL for not demanding players stand during national anthem

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is again criticizing the NFL over players kneeling during the national anthem.

Trump said on Twitter Wednesday that the “NFL has decided that it will not force players to stand for the playing of our National Anthem.”

He adds: “Total disrespect for our great country!”

Trump appeared to be responding to the NFL annual fall meeting on Tuesday. The league invited players and representatives from their union to discuss social issues.

The topic of the national anthem was not discussed at length. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said owners did not ask players to commit to standing during the anthem.

Trump has suggested the owners should “fire” any players who knelt during “The Star-Spangled Banner.”