49ers

Football costly to ex-49er, Napa standout Hendrickson

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Football costly to ex-49er, Napa standout Hendrickson

Some Bay Area sports fans remember Steve Hendrickson as a two-sport standout at Napa High in the early 1980s, a player who was inducted into the school's Hall of Fame in 2000 for his all-league exploits in football and wrestling.

RELATED: Click to watch Steve Hendrickson video interview

Others know him as a standout linebacker with the Cal Bears, where he was a member of the 1988 Pac-10 All-Academic team and the MVP of the 1988 Blue Gray All-Star game before graduating with a history degree.

He was also a member of the 1990 Super Bowl champion 49ers, then faced them as a member of the Chargers in the 1995 title game.

But today Hendrickson is a reminder of the game's potential toll. He is one of an increasing number of football players suffering from rapidly declining physical health and short-term memory loss. The effects of seven pro seasons and the amateur days that preceded them have left him appearing much older than his 45 years.

Twenty years ago seems so clear to me, but yesterday seems just ... far away, foggy, he said recently.

Hendrickson was the subject of a stirring profile in the Napa Valley Register, the interview conducted during a visit to his mother and sister, who still live in the wine country, and 19-year-old daughter, Courtney,a field hockey player at Cal.

"He was full-speed all the time, said Les Franco, who coached the Napa football team throughout the 1980s.

Another quality of the 5-foot-10, 250-pounder that stands out to Franco: "His tolerance for pain was off the map."
Hendrickson told the paper that he sustained an estimated 20 concussions during more than a decade in college and pro ball.

I remember one time when I realized Bill Bates (of the Dallas Cowboys) was holding me up, so I asked Hey Billy, whats up? he said. And he said, You got knocked out.
Im holding you up so you dont fall over.

His toughness was once a point of pride. But now it is tinged with regret.

They called my brother Brunswick, said Linda J. Lewis, Hendrickson's older sister. He was like a bowling ball. He had no fear. And he got hurt a lot.

Ronnie Lott: Chance to show Dwight Clark how much we care

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AP

Ronnie Lott: Chance to show Dwight Clark how much we care

SANTA CLARA – In less than a year since a group of former 49ers players came together to form the Golden Heart Fund, the non-profit organization has provided valuable assistance.

“We’ve made some progress with the idea of knowing there are some people in need, so we’ve been able to make some grants to some of the ex-Niners,” Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott told NBC Sports Bay Area.

“We’ve been able to respond. This is more about us being able to give guys the ability to know they can have, as (former 49ers linebacker and Golden Heart Fund board member) Ron Ferrari says, a hand up not a hand out.”

The organization is in the midst of a fund-raising drive this week in conjunction with "Dwight Clark Day" on Sunday. The 49ers face the Dallas Cowboys at Levi’s Stadium, and Clark will be the guest of honor. More than 35 players from the 49ers' first Super Bowl championship team are expected to be in attendance.

Clark played nine seasons for the 49ers and provided the most memorable play in franchise history with “The Catch” against Dallas in the 1981 NFC Championship game, which propelled the organization to its first Super Bowl. Clark served as a front-office executive for a decade after his playing days.

In March, Clark announced he was diagnosed with ALS. He is scheduled to attend Sunday’s game and make some remarks at halftime from a suite.

“It’s unbelievable we are having an opportunity to celebrate an incredible day for this gentleman,” Lott said. “We can all say there was a moment in time in which we stood on his shoulders after making that catch. Now, we get a chance to lift him up a little bit and let him know how much we all care.”

Lott said Clark has been a champion of the Golden Heart Fund from its inception. Past and current 49ers ownership has supported the organization, which provides financial support for former 49ers players in times of physical, emotional and financial need.

“It’s the spirit of Dwight,” Lott said. “It’s more about the funds going in through his efforts. He’s paying it forward.”

--The public can made a direct contribution to the fund at GoldenHeartFund.org.

--Proceeds from the 50/50 raffle at Sunday’s game will benefit the Golden Heart Fund.

--Twenty-five percent of proceeds from the sales of Dwight Clark apparel purchased on game day will go to the fund.

--Half of all proceeds from admission to the 49ers Museum at Levi’s Stadium throughout the year will go to the charity.

-- On Sunday, Nov. 19, Levi’s Stadium and race grand marshal Roger Craig will host the first Golden Heart 4.9K Run with all proceeds from the event going to the Golden Heart Fund. Runners can register GoldenHeartRun.com.

Reuben Foster ready for leadership role with 49ers

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AP

Reuben Foster ready for leadership role with 49ers

SANTA CLARA – The 49ers’ pass coverage from their linebackers has been a disaster this season.

But help is on the way, as rookie Reuben Foster is expected to return to action Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys after sustaining a high right ankle sprain just 11 plays into the season opener against the Carolina Panthers on Sept. 10.

“He’s been battling to get back,” 49ers Kyle Shanahan said on “49ers Game Plan,” which airs Saturday at 9 p.m. on NBC Bay Area.

“He’s been hitting the rehab hard. We’ve had him out here for two weeks of practice, and I think he had his best week of practice. This week was much better than last week. I’m excited to get him out there.”

Last week, the 49ers cut veteran NaVorro Bowman, leaving Ray-Ray Armstrong and Brock Coyle as the starting inside linebackers. They were overmatched in the 49ers' 26-24 loss at Washington.

Quarterback Kirk Cousins looked no further than his running backs in the passing game, as Chris Thompson caught four passes for 105 yards and Samaje Perine had three receptions for 24 yards and a touchdown.

The 49ers expect Foster to provide an immediate upgrade with no expectations of perfection.

“It’s going to be his first time playing in a while,” Shanahan said. “I know there are going to be some bumps in the road. But I think he’ll have a big impact on our defense and our team overall.”

Foster will take over at Bowman’s middle linebacker position and be responsible for communicating the play calls and adjustments to the rest of the defense. Shanahan said Foster is ready to handle the important role.

“That’s the one thing that’s been the most impressive about him,” Shanahan said. “Everyone can see stuff on tape that’s impressive. But we didn’t know how much command he’d have until he got here. And from the first day of OTAs through training camp -- even walk-throughs when he was hurt -- when he gets in there, he speaks that language. He takes control and people listen to him.”