Former 49ers Boldin, Davis, Gore have reasons to be thankful

Former 49ers Boldin, Davis, Gore have reasons to be thankful

Three well-known former 49ers have reasons to be grateful on a day in which each will take the field on Thanksgiving Day.

Instead of being subjected to a 1-9 season and franchise-tying nine-game losing streak as members of the 49ers, Anquan Boldin, Vernon Davis and Frank Gore are in the playoff hunt and playing key roles with their respective teams.

WR Anquan Boldin, Detroit
Boldin was the 49ers’ leading receiver in each of his three seasons with the 49ers. He was announced as the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award during Super Bowl week in San Francisco.

But the 49ers did not have a place for him on their roster, as they committed themselves to transitioning to a younger group of wide receivers.

Bruce Ellington and Eric Rogers, a pickup from the Canadian Football League, both sustained season-ending injuries before the start of the regular season. DeAndre Smelter has never snapped back from a knee injury that ended his final college season at Georgia Tech before general manager Trent Baalke selected him in the fourth round of the 2015 draft. Smelter is currently on the 49ers’ practice squad.

“He’s been OK, but he hasn’t played better than the guys that are on the active roster right now,” 49ers coach Chip Kelly said of Smelter. “So that has not been a discussion about bringing him up.”

Meanwhile, Boldin ranks third on the Lions with 41 receptions for 323 yards and five touchdowns. Boldin’s 7.9-yard per reception is the lowest of his career. A year ago, his 11.4 average with the 49ers was the lowest since his second season in the league.

Boldin, 36, is obviously slowing down, but he is still producing more than any receiver on the 49ers. Slot receiver Jeremy Kerley has 40 catches for 424 yards and three touchdowns.

The Lions (6-4) play the Minnesota Vikings in the early game on Thanksgiving Day.

TE Vernon Davis, Washington
Davis has experienced a bit of a resurgence with his best season since 2013, when he had 850 yards receiving and 13 touchdowns for the 49ers.

When Davis fell, he fell hard. But, now, he is making some contributions for Washington, which enters Thursday’s game against the Dallas Cowboys with a 6-3-1 record.

The 49ers dealt him to the Denver Broncos at the trade deadline last year. Former 49ers GM Scot McCloughan raised some eyebrows when he signed Davis as a free agent in the offseason. But Davis, 32, has given Washington about what they expected at this stage of his career. Davis has 26 catches for 382 yards and two touchdowns.

Vance McDonald is the 49ers’ top tight end. He has 18 catches for 322 yards and four touchdowns.

RB Frank Gore, Indianapolis
The 49ers offered Gore, the 49ers’ all-time leading rusher, only a one-year contract when he became a free agent after the 2014 season. The 49ers determined it was time for Carlos Hyde to become the featured back.

The Colts, meanwhile, valued Gore with a three-year, $12 million contract. Gore has the longest current consecutive-games played streak of any NFL running back at 90 games, entering the Colts’ Thanksgiving night game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Gore, 33, has remained healthier and more productive than Hyde. Gore has 642 yards rushing and four touchdowns on 163 carries this season.

He also has 28 catches for 201 yards and a career-tying three touchdown receptions and is on pace for his best season as a receiver since 2010.

Gore ranks ninth on the NFL’s all-time rushing list with 12,682 yards. He is just 57 yards behind Hall of Famer Tony Dorsett for No. 8 on the list.

Meanwhile, Hyde has 529 yards rushing and six TDs on 141 carries. He has 16 catches for 90 yards.

The Colts (5-5) enter Thanksgiving one game behind the Houston Texans in the AFC South.

Richard Sherman envisions making contributions to 49ers on and off the field

Richard Sherman envisions making contributions to 49ers on and off the field

SANTA CLARA – Veteran cornerback Richard Sherman believes he has a lot of good football ahead of him.

But he knows he is not coming to the 49ers after seven seasons with the rival Seattle Seahawks just for how he fits into defensive coordinator Robert Saleh’s scheme. The 49ers signed Sherman to a three-year contract on March 10 -- one day after the Seahawks released him.

Sherman, who turns 30 on March 30, views his job description as being a major influence and contributor to the 49ers on and off the field.

“I think it’s probably 50-50,” Sherman said Tuesday in an interview with NBC Sports Bay Area. “Obviously, I’m going to be asked to play at a high level, and that’s what I expect from myself and that’s what I expect to bring to this team. But outside of that, I think I bring an aspect of culture and a winning mentality.”

Sherman is a four-time Pro Bowl performer and three-time first-team All-Pro. He said the commitment to winning is all-consuming. It is a mindset he helps to share with his new teammates.

“It’s about waking up and doing things that will contribute to winning later, whether it’s your diet, your sleep habits, how you treat your teammates, how you converse,” Sherman said. “Do you go out tonight or do you stay in and get some extra studying? What are you doing to help us win the game on Sunday? Just that mentality will help a lot of these people.”

There might be no young player on the 49ers in need of a good role model more than Reuben Foster, who is set to enter his second NFL season. Foster was arrested this offseason for possession of marijuana in Alabama. A month later, he was arrested in Los Gatos for alleged domestic violence, threats and possession of an assault weapon.

On Tuesday, the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office said no decision has yet been reached whether to pursue criminal charges against Foster.

Sherman said he has not spoken to Foster but he will be willing to be a mentor to Foster and provide him with support. Sherman said he has heard a lot of great things about Foster.

“If I can help him, I’ll do my best,” Sherman said. “I look forward to meeting him and being a teammate of his, and helping him in any way I can. To think I can change everything he does, I’d be foolish to say I could. But am I going to try my best to help him and put him in positions to be more successful in the future? Yes, I am.”

The NFL changed the definition of the 'catch rule' again and it won't be the last time


The NFL changed the definition of the 'catch rule' again and it won't be the last time

I’m going to miss “surviving the ground.” I’m going to miss “completing the process,” too. But I won’t miss the way the NFL rules committee likes to use words to refine officials’ training. That, fortunately, will never end.

After all, I believe the NFL has been marching boldly toward creating a sport that the people who are paid to play it and pay to watch it do not understand, and that’s a level of chaos I can enjoy because if we know anything at all about the NFL, it is that it has three levels of problem-solving.

#1 -- Denying that a problem exists, and calling people who say it does know-nothings, morons and potentially liable in a lawsuit.

#2 -- Admitting a problem exists only after years of careful study in which it starts with the desired result and then tailors any fact-finding to reach that result.

#3 -- Implementing a solution that solves nothing, and in doing so either makes the original problem worse or replaces it with a more vexing problem.

In fact, vice president of football operations Troy Vincent said that very thing in explaining the plan to the Washington Post’s Mark Maske. “We worked backward,” he said. “We looked at plays and said: Do you want that to be a catch? And then we applied that to the rule. Slight movement of the ball, it looks like we’ll reverse that. Going to the ground, it looks like that’s going to be eliminated. And we’ll go back to the old replay standard of reverse the call on the field only when it’s indisputable.”

Of course, Vincent was also required to explain why “surviving the ground” and “completing the process” made sense when those were introduced, so let’s move past all that to the real issue here.

Football is essentially ungovernable, and becoming more so with each additional year. Part of it is the dichotomy between making a violent game less violent without making it sufficiently less violent. Part of it is large, fast people being asked to play at full speed to strike smaller targets. Part of it is taking simple common sense as a judgment tool away from officials because at its heart, the decision-makers hate its officials and give them increasingly absurd things to adjudicate on the fly and then punish them when it can’t be done.

And part of it is old football coaches being asked to tailor their sport to meet the entertainment demands of a younger demographic that isn’t sitting still for a convoluted game that lasts three hours. This is another way of saying that football is slowly but surely being viewed by the younger generation as “your dad’s game,” and are going to basketball or e-sports or even no sports at all for their fun.

In other words, the league is trying to change a rule to address a rule that was introduced to change a rule to take judgment from people who are supposed to apply structure to a game that already had plenty of it.

So the catch rule will be changed yet again, and in two years the complaints about that rule will overwhelm the league again. We will go from "surviving the ground" to "mastering the air space" or someone equally nonsensical verbiage, and the idea of simplifying a rule book that is beating the game it explains across our skulls is simply beyond these guys.