Baalke leading candidate for NFL Exec of Year


Baalke leading candidate for NFL Exec of Year

SANTA CLARA -- The 49ers are cleaning up in the win-loss column. And, when that time comes, they figure to clean up in postseason awards, too.Jim Harbaugh is the leading candidate for NFL Coach of the Year. Really, he's the only candidate.
And I'm not sure voters need to look outside the 49ers for another legitimate candidate for NFL Executive of the Year, either.Obviously, team president Jed York played a huge role in hiring Harbaugh. But York made it clear that the general manager would hire the head coach. And that general manager, Trent Baalke, has pushed all the right buttons in his first year with his new title.The 49ers already had a strong nucleus of players. But beginning with the hiring of Harbaugh to a five-year, 25 million contract, Baalke was spot-on with his moves.Harbaugh was the 49ers' most lucrative and flashy offseason acquisition. But Baalke was also the point man during the draft, which netted pass-rusher Aldon Smith, third cornerback Chris Culliver, backup running back Kendall Hunter and starting fullback Bruce Miller.And during the frenetic free-agent signing period, the 49ers made several key moves to upgrade some key positions:--The club signed cornerback Carlos Rogers to replace released veteran Nate Clements.--The 49ers signed veteran Donte Whitner and re-signed Dashon Goldson to fill the safety positions.
--Kicker David Akers was signed to replace Joe Nedney.--The 49ers did not overpay to retain center David Baas. Then, they brought in respected veteran Jonathan Goodwin to take his spot. And they wisely spent the money left over.
--The most money the 49ers spent on a player contract went to defensive end Ray McDonald, who has upgraded the pass rush as an every down player. The 49ers have not felt the loss of nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin, as Isaac Sopoaga moved over to fill the position in the middle of the defense.--The 49ers also locked up running back Frank Gore to a reasonable, three-year contract that eased Gore's concerns before the start of the regular season.--The 49ers also picked up receiver Braylon Edwards from the NFL bargain bin. He has yet to make a major impact, but he is a starter who still might factor prominently in the offense.
Here are some of the other postseason awards in which 49ers are on the "watch list" with seven games remaining in the regular season:Defensive Player of the Year: The 49ers have two strong candidates with linebacker Patrick Willis and defensive lineman Justin Smith. Both players would be logical selections for the award. Defensive backs Darrelle Revis (New York Jets) and Charles Woodson (Green Bay), and sack artists Jared Allen (Minnesota) and DeMarcus Ware (Dallas) are also strong candidates.Comeback Player: Quarterback Alex Smith. Some players, such as Tony Romo (Dallas), Matthew Stafford (Detroit) and Jermichael Finley (Green Bay), are playing at high levels after returning from injuries that wiped out their 2010 seasons. Carolina receiver Steve Smith has already blown away the numbers he put up last season in 14 games. Alex Smith missed a couple games last year due to an injury. But he is merely returning from an average season, as he threw 14 touchdowns and 10 interceptions a year ago. But perception is everything, so Smith has a chance.Defensive Rookie of the Year: Aldon Smith has fallen behind in the race as his sack totals have slowed. He is not an every-down player, so that does not help his case. Von Miller (Denver), Ryan Kerrigan (Washington), and Brooks Reed (Houston) probably rank ahead of Smith on most ballots right now. But Smith can win the award with a strong conclusion to the season.

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.”