49ers

Late-bloomer Goodwin fits in well with 49ers

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Late-bloomer Goodwin fits in well with 49ers

SANTA CLARA -- Understanding Jonathan Goodwin's past is the window to seeing the impact the center has had on the 49ers this season.His NFL career didn't start the way he expected. The fifth-round draft pick out of Michigan had grand ideas of what life in the NFL would be like. Instead, reality struck. Goodwin struggled, and what he struggled with was, well . . .

"Everything," Goodwin said. "Initially, I kind of struggled with pass blocking, and you got to learn to pass block in this league or you won't be around too long."The 6-foot-3 lineman focused on improving his technique, his hand speed and whatever it took to block the players who were bigger and faster than the ones he faced in college.Overseeing his every move was Doug Marrone, Goodwin's first offensive line coach in the league while he was with the New York Jets."In this league, it's easy for coaches to give up on guys that come in and struggle and he didn't give up on me," Goodwin said. "He kept pushing me, and when I struggled he stayed on me."RELATED: Jonathan Goodwin NFL career profile
The results of Goodwin's efforts under Marrone's watch weren't immediate, but by his third year things began to get easier. The real improvement came a few years later. While with New Orleans, Goodwin became the heart of the line."For me, when I moved to center I think it kind of improved my hand speed because I had no choice," Goodwin said. "I had to snap the ball and get my hands up quick. I think that was key for me that position change."Now with a Pro Bowl selection and a Super Bowl championship to his name from his time with the Saints, the center can look back on his early struggles and smile."I always sit back now and think Wow, I've been in this league 10 years,'" Goodwin said chuckling. "When my first two years I was thinking about what I was going to be doing after football right away."Marrone, now the head coach at Syracuse University, had his reasons for believing in Goodwin. In turn, Goodwin saw something in San Francisco, a team that didn't have a winning record or playoff appearance in nearly a decade."Playing against this team last year, I felt like the defense was really talented and Coach (Jim) Harbaugh, (general manager) Trent (Baalke) and those guys did a great job of selling me on some things," Goodwin said. "Just like when I left New York and went to New Orleans, I took a chance, and fortunately things have gone well so far and hopefully they'll stay that way for years to come."After five seasons in New Orleans, the free agent signed a three-year deal with the 49ers. This time, the veteran Goodwin knew what it took to adapt to the change that comes with joining a new team. Goodwin says it took him about two months to feel comfortable in a new offense with new linemates. That time may have been shorter if the 49ers weren't limited in training camp due to the lockout."(I) didn't want to use that as an excuse," Goodwin said, "but we've had some great stretches, and I think the second half of the Cincinnati game and the second half of the Philly game were some times we kind of got clicking and rolling. We still have a way to go but it's nice to know that we can put together some nice stretches."Goodwin anchors a line that hasn't allowed a sack in four games this season and has opened the gaps through which Frank Gore ran to his fifth 1,000-yard season. But it was the 49ers game against Seattle that Goodwin considers one of his best as he successfully handled the silent count, a big improvement from last season.As New Orleans' center during the playoffs, Goodwin experienced the challenges of the raucous stadium as the favored Saints lost to the Seahawks."I think it was big," Goodwin said. "Seattle is the only stadium that I've played in in my career where I've had problems hearing the quarterback, and I experienced that last year. I kind of controlled the count myself this year. It was big for me. It felt a lot different. Instead of me trying to struggle to hear the quarterback, even though he's right behind me, it was huge for me to not have to worry about that."And it's that kind of constant improvement Goodwin expects from himself and the entire line with San Francisco heading to the playoffs for the first time since 2002. The 49ers will open their postseason at Candlestick Park Saturday, Jan. 14, at 1:30 p.m. And there's a strong chance it will be against the Saints, Goodwin's former team.RELATED: NFL Wild Card playoff schedule
"Whenever the offensive line is clicking and has a good game, that's usually when we have a successful game," Goodwin said. "If we can get more points in the red zone that would be good for this offense with the way our defense is playing. If we can find a way to get seven points instead of three and give our defense even more points to work with, the sky's the limit for this team."

Montana, Clark scheduled to address crowd at Levi's Stadium

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AP

Montana, Clark scheduled to address crowd at Levi's Stadium

SANTA CLARA -- Dwight Clark and Joe Montana are scheduled to address the crowd Sunday at Levi’s Stadium at halftime of the 49ers’ game against the Dallas Cowboys.

It should be an emotional day, as 36 members from the team that defeated Dallas in the NFC Championship Game and went on to the franchise’s first Super Bowl title are expected to attend.

Montana is scheduled to be surrounded by his former teammates and speak from the field at halftime. Clark is likely to be situated in a suite, where he is expected to make some remarks. Clark, 60, announced in March he was diagnosed with ALS.

Former 49ers offensive lineman Randy Cross, appearing on the 49ers Insider Podcast, said he is looking forward to seeing so many of his teammates from the squad that served as a springboard for five Super Bowl titles under the ownership of Hall of Famer Eddie DeBartolo.

“I can’t wait to see (Clark),” Cross said. “I can’t wait to see Eddie. I can’t wait to see Joe. There is a core group of guys I’ve gotten to see a few times a year since we all went our separate ways. There are guys I’ll get a chance to see, in some cases, (for the first time) since almost around the time we parted ways in the early-‘80s.”

The NFC Championship Game on Jan. 10, 1982, is best-remembered for “The Catch” – Clark’s leaping, finger-tip grab of a Montana pass for a 6-yard touchdown with 51 seconds remaining.

The 49ers defeated the Cowboys 28-27 at Candlestick Park. Coach Bill Walsh’s team went on to defeat the Cincinnati Bengals, 26-21, in Super Bowl XVI.

“For those of us who played on the Niners charity basketball team with both Joe and Dwight, and knowing their hoop skills and the way they could jump, we weren’t terribly surprised at: A, how high he threw it; and, B, how high Dwight got,” said Cross, who was blocking from his right guard position near the sideline and had an unobstructed view of the play.

“If Dwight got his fingers on it, it was going to be a catch. That was the thing about D.C., you won’t find too many instances in which he had a ball on him or near him that he dropped. There wasn’t much doubt.”

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.”