Kaepernick, defense lead 49ers to 31-21 win over Saints


Kaepernick, defense lead 49ers to 31-21 win over Saints


NEW ORLEANS -- The quarterback who made his second career start was not the one who threw two interceptions that were returned for touchdowns on Sunday at the Superdome.Colin Kaepernick produced another efficient outing, running for a touchdown and throwing for another score, in the 49ers' 31-21 victory over the New Orleans Saints."You'd never know these were his first two starts," 49ers left tackle Joe Staley said of Kaepernick.Kaepernick had plenty of help, most spectacularly from a defense that produced interception returns for touchdowns by Ahmad Brooks and Donte Whitner against record-setting quarterback Drew Brees.
Kaepernick completed 16 of 25 passes for 231 yards with one touchdown and one interception. He also gained 27 yards, including a 7-yard touchdown run, on six rushing attempts.And if you think that clears up the quarterback situation, think again. At least, that's the way coach Jim Harbaugh appears to be orchestrating things.Kaepernick said he did not find out until 10 p.m. Saturday during a team meeting that he would get the start against the Saints. Alex Smith, who was cleared to play on Sunday, said he has not been told if he'll regain his starting job.
"I got cleared yesterday," Smith said. "For me, that was the ultimate goal, to get back healthy, No. 1. But ultimately, they went with Kap today."Harbaugh claimed the only reason Smith did not start Sunday was because his concussion symptoms remained and he did not want to rush him back into action. He said Smith would have started if it weren't for the injury he sustained Nov. 11 against the St. Louis Rams."He eventually got cleared," Harbaugh said. "The thought was to rotate him back into the action, but not all the way to the front line. Give him a chance to get cleared up."As for the future, Harbaugh said, "We'll look at the game and make the best decision going forward."Harbaugh admitted on Friday that he hoped to gain even a slight competitive advantage with his decision to remain mum on the identity of the 49ers' starting quarterback.When asked if he expects to start against the Rams, Smith answered, "We'll see. I don't expect anything."Kaepernick made one glaring mistake in the game. After picking a low snap off the ground, Kaepernick threw an interception when he tried to go down the field. The coverage should have dictated a throw to an underneath receiver, Harbaugh said.
But Kaepernick's error was not costly because Brees made an even greater mistake. Brooks dropped into coverage and intercepted Brees' pass and returned it 50 yards for a touchdown with :22 remaining in the first half to pull the 49ers even at 14-14.MAIOCCO: 49ers' defense gets the best of Brees
Kaepernick gave the 49ers a lead they would never relinquish to open the second half. He hit tight end Delanie Walker on a 45-yard pass on a third-and-2 situation. After Hunter ripped off a 21-yard run, Kaepernick found Frank Gore for a 6-yard touchdown.Kaepernick's play has not been a surprise to Whitner, who provided a huge play in Sunday's victory with a 42-yard interception return for a touchdown less than a minute later.
At the beginning of the season, Harbaugh asked each of the players to write down personal goals. Whitner said he and Kaepernick shared their goals with each other."And one of his goals was to be a starting quarterback in the National Football League," Whitner said. "He wants to be a starting quarterback. He wants to win a Super Bowl. He wants to go to Pro Bowls. He wants to be one of the top guys in the National Football League. With his hard work and his skills, I think he can get there."Said tight end Vernon Davis, "When I see him play, I see a playmaker. He has so much ability and he's always helping his team out. It's a difficult situation he's in, but he's doing great. I still think Alex is the man. But it's the coaches' call, and I'm sure Coach Harbaugh will make the right decision."The situation is very odd, as Smith finds himself in limbo and the team is rallying around Kaepernick. After all, Smith was named NFC Offensive Player of the Week in the start before he sustained the concussion."It is a little weird just because me and Alex are BFFs (best friends forever), so for myself it's a little weird," Staley said. "It's football business. We all have to go out there and play our position, play well and play to win. Whatever they do is coach's decision. Whatever they do, we're down with."Kaepernick made just enough plays on Sunday, as the 49ers converted 6 of 13 third-down opportunities. Kaepernick gave the 49ers a 7-0 lead when he faked an inside handoff to Kendall Hunter and kept the ball on a read option for a 7-yard touchdown."He has a real knack for it," Harbaugh said. "He has special ability, honed it in college and has taken it to the pro level. He can cover ground real fast, and he has an eye for making the read. He came with that ability. I take no credit for that one."The 49ers had some difficulties with the crowd noise, as the offense was twice called for delay-of-game penalties."It was a little shaky at first," Staley said. "Not just him (Kaepernick), it was everybody. The tempo was slow. But he did a good job of being loud and communicate."Said right guard Alex Boone, "There were a few things we need to clean up, but to give up no sacks against a good defense, that's something you can be proud of."

49ers linebacker Foster named to NFL All-Rookie team


49ers linebacker Foster named to NFL All-Rookie team

Linebacker Reuben Foster was named to the NFL All-Rookie Team in voting conducted by the Professional Football Writers of America.

Foster started all 10 games in which he appeared for the 49ers after being selected with the No. 31 overall pick out of Alabama. Foster finished second on the 49ers with 72 tackles. He had seven tackles for loss, ranking No. 2 on the team behind rookie defensive lineman Solomon Thomas.

Foster was one of three linebackers selected as an all-rookie performer. Thomas, the No. 3 overall draft pick, was not among the four defensive linemen honored.

[MAIOCCO: Ex-agent says Reuben Foster's arrest could void salary guarantees]

Foster was selected as the winner of the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Month for November. He missed five games early in the season with a high ankle sprain and another game with a ribs injury.

The NFL’s top defensive rookie was New Orleans Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore, who recorded five interceptions and scored a touchdown while making 13 starts.

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: RB Kareem Hunt, Kansas City Chiefs
CO-OFFENSIVE ROOKIES OF THE YEAR: RB Kareem Hunt, Kansas City Chiefs and RB Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints
DEFENSIVE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: CB Marshon Lattimore, New Orleans Saints

QB – Deshaun Watson, Houston Texans
RB – Kareem Hunt, Kansas City Chiefs; Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints
WR – Cooper Kupp, Los Angeles Rams; Juju Smith-Schuster, Pittsburgh Steelers
TE – Evan Engram, New York Giants
C – Pat Elflein, Minnesota Vikings
G – Dan Feeney, Los Angeles Chargers; Jermaine Eluemunor, Baltimore Ravens, and Ethan Pocic, Seattle Seahawks (tie)
T – Garett Bolles, Denver Broncos; Ryan Ramczyk, New Orleans Saints

DL – Derek Barnett, Philadelphia Eagles; Myles Garrett, Cleveland Browns; Carl Lawson, Cincinnati Bengals; Dalvin Tomlinson, New York Giants
LB – Jarrad Davis, Detroit Lions; Reuben Foster, San Francisco 49ers; T.J. Watt, Pittsburgh Steelers
CB – Marshon Lattimore, New Orleans Saints; Tre'Davious White, Buffalo Bills
S – Jamal Adams, New York Jets; Marcus Williams, New Orleans Saints

Special Teams
PK – Harrison Butker, Kansas City Chiefs
P – Rigoberto Sanchez, Indianapolis Colts
KR – Ryan Switzer, Dallas Cowboys
PR – Jamal Agnew, Detroit Lions
ST – Budda Baker, Arizona Cardinals

Ex-agent says Reuben Foster's arrest could void salary guarantees


Ex-agent says Reuben Foster's arrest could void salary guarantees

Reuben Foster’s arrest Friday night on marijuana charges in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, is likely to void $2.5 million in salary guarantees, according to a former NFL agent.

Joel Corry, appearing on the 49ers Insider Podcast, said there is language in Foster’s contract that voids the salary guarantees if he is fined under the NFL’s Policy on Substances of Abuse.

“Typically with veteran contracts, you must be suspended . . . in order to have contract guarantees void,” said Corry, whose work appears on CBS Sports. “What we’ve seen in rookie deals is they’ve extended that to getting fined, as well.”

According to a league source familiar with the 49ers’ structure on rookie contracts, the team’s standard practice is to void guarantees with fines. The 49ers were not harder on Foster because of a failed drug test at the NFL Scouting Combine due to a diluted sample.

Foster was released on $2,500 bond on Friday evening after being booked on second-degree marijuana possession, according to the Tuscaloosa County Sheriff's Office.

Under the NFL’s Policy on Substances of Abuse, the first offense for a violation of Stage Two, if marijuana, includes a fine equivalent to the pay of two game checks.

In Foster’s original contract, his entire scheduled salaries of $875,708 in 2018 and $1.286 million in 2019 were fully guaranteed. In addition, $339,000 of his scheduled $1.697 salary in 2020 was guaranteed.

“What that means is,” Corry said, “he doesn’t get the money, no matter what, any more. But he can still make the same money that’s in the contract on a non-guaranteed basis, but you don’t have the same security as you did before.

“So if his rookie year turns out to be an anomaly or off-the-field issues end up being problematic, it gives the 49ers more latitude to either ask him a pay cut or to release him.”

Foster started all 10 games in which he appeared for the 49ers as a rookie. The first-round draft pick from Alabama recorded 72 tackles.