Kaepernick: 49ers in need of a culture change

Kaepernick: 49ers in need of a culture change

ATLANTA – The 49ers entered and exited Sunday’s game against the Atlanta Falcons at completely different ends of the NFL spectrum from their last visit to the Georgia Dome in January 2013.

The 49ers fell behind by 17 points in the NFC Championship game that season before rallying for 28-24 victory over the Falcons that propelled Jim Harbaugh’s team to Super Bowl XLVII against the Baltimore Ravens.

“When I first walked in the locker room, my locker and (Joe) Staley’s locker were the same lockers we had during that championship game,” 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick said on Sunday. “So there was that little bit of a nostalgic moment.”

That victory at the Georgia Dome on Jan. 20, 2013, was the team’s last shining moment. The 49ers lost the Super Bowl, and it’s been a lot more down than up ever since. The roster has undergone a complete makeover, and Chip Kelly is the 49ers' third head coach in the past three seasons.

On Sunday, the 49ers fell behind 21-0 and simply did not have the wherewithal to make a game of it against a Falcons team that remained with at least a share of the NFC South lead with a 9-5 record.

Kaepernick and linebacker Ahmad Brooks were the only 49ers starters from the NFC title game that played in Sunday’s game, a 41-13 loss that extended the franchise-worst losing streak to 13 games. Staley was inactive for Sunday’s game due to a hamstring injury.

“You guys have all been following us over the past couple of years,” Brooks said. “You know what’s going on. With Patrick Willis retiring and Justin Smith retiring, and some other big-name guys leaving the team, we just got to rebuild. I guess we’re in a rebuilding stage right now. This year may be over, but we still have two more games left. And then we’ll see what’s going to happen next season.”

Kaepernick, whose future with the 49ers is uncertain past the final game of the season, said the club is in need of a change of culture.

When asked how long the 49ers are from rebuilding back to becoming an NFL contender, Kaepernick answered, “That’s always hard to tell. It can be pieces here and there that make a huge difference. And it can also be the culture of this team changing, which it needs to. We have to be able to create our opportunities and go out and create wins for our team.”

Kaepernick added, “We have to create a culture of winning, and winning by any means. Right now, our culture isn’t that. We have to be able to improve and create that.”

Brooks said he is at the stage in his career that the word “rebuilding” is not something he wants to embrace.

”I’m not in a rebuilding stage in my career,” Brooks said. “This is my 11th year. Next year will be my 12th year. I really have no time to be rebuilding. I want to win.”

Sherman makes his concern over Reid's free-agency status loud and clear


Sherman makes his concern over Reid's free-agency status loud and clear

Safety Eric Reid, who has 69 career starts and one Pro Bowl appearance in his five-year NFL career, remains available on the open market more than a week after the opening of free agency.

Reid has received no reported interest from NFL teams in what has been an unusually soft market for free-agent safeties. But, with Reid, there is another variable that could be playing a factor.

Reid was at the forefront of the social activism that has been a major storyline in the NFL since the beginning of the 2016 season. Reid and former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the playing of the national anthem in protest of racial inequality in America.

Reid has remained outspoken and has taken a knee as a way to “make people uncomfortable about the issues.” Reid has been clear his protest has nothing to do with the flag or the anthem.

“The anthem is just a vehicle to get us to have those conversations,” Reid told NBC Sports Bay Area last season. “It’s the platform we have. It’s the only time we have to get the eyeballs on us to do that. If we just did locker-room talks afterward, nobody would even know. Strategically, this is the only way we thought we could do it.”

Veteran cornerback Richard Sherman, who signed a three-year contract with the 49ers on March 10, had been the Seattle Seahawks’ player representative. He is a vice president of the NFL Players Association. Reid was the 49ers’ union representative.

Sherman said he is keeping a close eye on Reid’s situation.

“We are concerned, because he played at a high level for just about every year that he’s played in this league,” Sherman said on Tuesday. “He’s made enough plays to be signed with a team and to make his money. He deserves his money. Safeties make a certain amount. I would think he’s top-five, top-10 safeties in this league, so he deserves to be paid accordingly.

“So there is concern there, because you would think a player of his caliber and his quality would be picked up by now. I think great teams are still looking and people are still looking for players. I’m praying that he gets picked up. But if he doesn’t, then I think there will be a conversation with the league office and the union on potential league action.”

Kaepernick never got so much as an opportunity to compete for an NFL roster spot during training camp last season. Could Reid, 26, be heading for the same fate?

Reid addressed the issue last week on social media:

“The notion that I can be a great signing for your team for cheap, not because of my skill set but because I’ve protested systemic oppression, is ludicrous. If you think is, then your mindset is part of the problem too.”

The 49ers have not placed a priority on re-signing Reid. The club already has potential starting safeties Jimmie Ward, Jaquiski Tartt and Adrian Colbert under contract for the upcoming season.

Reid, whom the 49ers traded up to select with the No. 18 overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, has 10 career interceptions. He appeared to thrive last season in run support as a safety who played closer to the line of scrimmage.

From Eli to Jimmy G, 49ers' new center ready to protect Garoppolo


From Eli to Jimmy G, 49ers' new center ready to protect Garoppolo

New 49ers center Weston Richburg will be joining what he has heard is a good group of offensive linemen, led by six-time Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Staley, the longest-tenured 49ers player.

Richburg, 26, said he is also looking forward to working closely with quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, 26. The 49ers expect the players to be on the field a lot together over the coming seasons. Garoppolo and Richburg both signed five-year contracts through the 2022 season this offseason.

When asked on The 49ers Insider Podcast if the organization’s long-term commitment to Garoppolo had any influence on his decision to come to the Bay Area after four seasons with the New York Giants, Richburg answered, “Doesn’t hurt.”

“You look at of the teams that have a lot of success -- the team he just came from, what I just came from -- there are two quarterbacks on those teams that have been there who have had success who work extremely hard at their craft,” Richburg said. “So I think see that in Jimmy. I’m excited to be a little part of what he does.”

Richburg played out of position at left guard in his rookie season. Over the next two years, he started 31 of 32 games at center, in front of two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback Eli Manning. Garoppolo came to the 49ers in an October trade from New England after spending most of his 3 1/2 NFL seasons behind Tom Brady.

Richburg said he expects to develop a good rapport with his quarterback – a must for an offense to function at a high level.

“If it’s bad, I think it can hurt you,” Richburg said of the center-quarterback dynamic. “But if it’s good, it can help.

“I think we’re going to have a good relationship. We’re around the same age. I think we’ll be able to pick each other’s brains, feed off each other, work together. That’s part of the position of center that I like the most is kind of the cerebral part of it and working with a quarterback, getting everything situated, getting everything running.”

Richburg started just four games last season and finished the season on injured reserve with a concussion. He said it was the first concussion he has experienced and is feeling good.

“It was new territory,” Richburg said, “but I’m feeling very good right now. I’m excited. I think I got a little more itch to go play football right now since it’s been a little longer for me.”