J. Smith, Lee, Willis tops in Pro Bowl fan balloting


J. Smith, Lee, Willis tops in Pro Bowl fan balloting

Three 49ers players lead their positions in fan votes in balloting for the 2012 Pro Bowl, NFL.com announced Wednesday.

Justin Smith, Patrick Willis and Andy Lee are the three 49ers that earned the most fan votes at their respective positions.

The fan voting, which counts for one third of the total to determine the Pro Bowl rosters, ended on Dec. 19 after a record 100.64 million votes were cast this year.

The players and coaches voting, each worth one third of the total, has yet to be announced. The final rosters will be released at 4:00 p.m. on Dec. 27 on NFL Network.

Justin Smith, who has 50 tackles, 6.5 sacks, and three forced fumbles, leads all NFC defensive tackles with 525,578 fan votes. Patrick Willis, with 93 tackles, 2.0 sacks, four forced fumbles and an interception on the season, has 417,923 votes. And punter Andy Lee, who is averaging 50.4 yards per punt, received 161,812 votes.

The 49ers have 13 other players listed in the Top 5 in the fan voting as well. The complete list of 49ers is below:

Frank Gore 4th among NFC running backs with 613,821 votes
Bruce Miller 2nd among NFC fullbacks with 82,378 votes
Vernon Davis 5th among NFC tight ends with 179,423 votes
Joe Staley 4th among NFC tackles with 209,130 votes
Anthony Davis 5th among NFC tackles with 173,718 votes
Mike Iupati 4th among NFC guards with 221,766 votes
Jonathan Goodwin 2nd among NFC centers with 190,939 votes
Justin Smith 1st among NFC defensive tackles with 525,578 votes
Patrick Willis 1st among NFC inside linebackers with 417,923 votes
Carlos Rogers 2nd among NFC cornerbacks with 282,409 votes
Donte Whitner 5th among NFC strong safeties with 62,626 votes
Dashon Goldson 2nd among NFC free safeties with 95,403 votes
David Akers 2nd among NFC kickers with 160,235 votes
Andy Lee 1st among NFC punters with 161,812 votes
Ted Ginn 3rd among NFC kick returners with 103,991 votes
Blake Costanzo 2nd among NFC special teamers with 71,477 votes

Rael Enteen is a web producer for Comcast SportsNet Bay Area. Follow him on Twitter @RaelEnteenCSN

Shanahan showed patience with Beathard; Will now have to show more

Shanahan showed patience with Beathard; Will now have to show more

Kyle Shanahan is, self admittedly, not a patient person. As he watched quarterback C.J. Beathard run the scout team over the last couple of weeks -- how he visualized an unfamiliar play, went through his progressions and handled the defensive coverages -- the head coach saw rapid improvement every day. But he suppressed any urge to play the rookie before he was ready.

“I tried to wait for the right time for him and the right time for the team,” Shanahan explained.

Down 14-0 to Washington halfway through the second quarter with starter Brian Hoyer struggling, Shanahan knew Beathard’s time had come.

“I felt the team needed it right then,” Shanahan said. “It also made me more confident to do it because I thought he was ready for it, also.”

Moments after the game was over, Shanahan named Beathard the starter. Watching the game tape on the flight home only bolstered his decision.

“By no means was he perfect, missed a couple of things, but that always happens,” Shanahan said. “I thought he came in there, didn’t hesitate, competed. The moment was not too big for him. Made a few plays in rhythm, made a few off schedule plays and was a big reason we got back in that game.”

Beathard led the 49ers on two scoring drives and finished 19-of-36 with 245 passing yards, a touchdown and an interception, though it came on fourth-and-20 on his final pass attempt of the game. On his 45-yard touchdown pass to Aldrick Robinson, Beathard extended the play when the fifth year receiver wasn’t where he expected him to be.

“He was supposed to go to the post for a certain coverage, and they had a busted coverage, so he just hung out there which is why C.J. didn’t see it right away,” Shanahan explained. “We had enough protection where he could take a couple more hitches. He drove the pocket and saw where Aldrick was, and he didn’t hesitate. Made that throw with that arm strength.”

Shanahan smirked at his not-so-subtle dig at those who questioned Beathard’s arm strength during the draft process. He sees a quarterback who can make all the throws, and make them from the pocket, and scramble when he needs to. All he needs now, Shanahan contends, is experience.

“It’s about playing in the game and reacting to defenses, reacting to coverages, reacting to adjustments. He’s going to see a lot of things he hasn’t seen before, and that will change each week. It will probably change each quarter.”

Helping Beathard continue to grow through those experiences will require patience, but in this situation, it’s the kind the head coach can handle.

“You’re never going to get a quick answer. You see over time, but he’s got the ability to do it. He’s got the mental toughness to do it. I think he will get better the more he plays.”

Armstead to undergo surgery on broken hand, out indefinitely


Armstead to undergo surgery on broken hand, out indefinitely

Defensive lineman Arik Armstead will be out indefinitely with a broken hand, 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan announced Monday.

“He’s going to need surgery, so it’s going to be some time,” Shanahan said of Armstead, the 49ers' first-round pick in the 2015 draft.

The 49ers will discuss placing Armstead of injured reserve, which would rule him out for at least eight weeks. The 49ers will also be without defensive end Aaron Lynch this week against the Dallas Cowboys. Lynch is week-to-week with a calf strain.

“The more guys you lose, the less you like that depth,” Shanahan said. “Losing Arik, which could be some time. We’ll have to discuss IR. We have to do that over the next couple of days. We know we’re going to have Lynch out, too, for at least a week or most likely more. That takes away two guys who were helping.”

The 49ers might make a roster move to add a defensive lineman to their 53-man roster. The 49ers also expect outside linebacker/defensive end Dekoda Watson to return to action this week after missing two weeks with a groin strain.