NFL owners may finally get something right when it comes to politics

NFL owners may finally get something right when it comes to politics

At the risk of failing to point out that the San Francisco 49ers managed to create four turnovers Sunday in Arizona and still only score two touchdowns and (need we add) lose their eighth game in a row, we’re going to do something you all enjoy -- mix politics and sports.
And yes, I hear you sniveling hyenas out there yelling, “Stick to politics. Nobody comes to you for sports.”
But a report from Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network indicates that some owners and miscellaneous big shots are interested in revisiting the marijuana issue in light of Tuesday’s election results.
And with CTE pun fully intended, ain’t that a kick in the head?
NFL owners have been adamant that players (a) should be tougher, (b) shouldn’t be whining about things like medical treatment, (c) should trust the owners on things like pain management because of the owners’ historical interest in their employees’ well-being, and (d) can’t use things like marijuana because they still think Reefer Madness was jobbed out of the Oscar for best Picture in favor of Mutiny on the Bounty . . . which they also enjoyed because it served as a useful primer for labor-management relations.
But now, according to that noted rouser of rabble Rapaport, some of the suits are seeing finally that they are on the wrong side of pharmacology, medicine and history, and are tired of the NFL serving as the model for popular scorn.
From the Rapoport story:
“Based on conversations with 10 NFL team owners and executives over the past few months, marijuana usage could emerge as a key issue when the collective bargaining agreement is renegotiated over the next few years. Each of the owners support additional study and discussion regarding what the league's stance should be on medical and recreational pot use for players. The majority of the sample size supports a decriminalization of marijuana that would make it more difficult for players to be suspended. Two of the principals involved in the issue said they are open to getting rid of marijuana-related suspensions and only issuing fines. Two others said they are worried about sending the message that drug use is tolerated and believe suspensions must remain.”
Voters in Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, California and Nevada have legalized the recreational use of pot in some form or fashion. Florida, North Dakota, Montana and Arkansas have also passed medical cannabis referendums recently. Seven NFL teams are in states that allow recreational marijuana use and 16 teams are in states with approved medical use. As a result, according to Rapoport, “Several league executives said the NFL should ‘follow the country’ in the changing attitudes about marijuana use. In addition, the high-profile suspensions of Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon and Cowboys defensive end Randy Gregory also has raised more awareness about the issue."
In addition, one of Rapoport’s sources said that potential competitive imbalance issues exist stemming from conflicts between state laws and the league drug policy. For example, if a Tennessee Titan was arrested for marijuana possession, he faces the possibility of an NFL suspension for the arrest, while a Seattle Seahawk or Denver Bronco could legally possess the same amount of marijuana and never be cited.
Rapoport also wrote that one executive questioned the fairness of a four-game suspension for testing positive because of second-hand smoke, and another wondered why the NFL is so stringent about marijuana testing compared to other sports leagues.
Of course, getting the NFL’s 32 billionaires to agree to something that might serve the players, meet their medical needs better than the harder narcotics prescribed by team physicians or even something that would give players more discretion in general has been a traditionally difficult sell. Moreover, any change in policy would surely be tied to a giveback to management in any CBA negotiation, because nobody gets anything for free in the NFL. Ask any network.
Still, the idea that a few rogues are considering it, and that they are considering it enough to mention it to a journalist working for the league’s prime media organ, and that said journalist could post it, indicates that a few owners are considering something that would make them less like district attorneys who need conviction numbers and more like . . . okay, let’s just stop at “less like district attorneys who need conviction numbers.”
Wonder how this will play in Washing . . . oops, but there I go, mixing sports and politics again. Evidently I’m too ignorant to be taught. Then again, my parents knew that way before any of you, so shove off. You came too late.

Deepest position in the NFL Draft? 49ers VP of Player Personnel weighs in


Deepest position in the NFL Draft? 49ers VP of Player Personnel weighs in

The 49ers concluded the first wave of the free-agent signing period with the signings of players to fill the team’s biggest offseason needs.

--Cornerback. Aqib Talib would have been the answer in a trade with the Denver Broncos, but he wanted to play elsewhere. Instead, the 49ers signed veteran Richard Sherman, whom the Seattle Seahawks cut a day earlier.

--Interior offensive line. Center Weston Richburg was the player the team had rated as their top target in free agency, and they signed him to a lucrative five-year deal.

--Running back. The team decided Jerick McKinnon was a better fit than Carlos Hyde. They wrapped him up with a four-year contract.

--Edge rusher. Lacking many options in free agency, the 49ers signed Jeremiah Attaochu to a one-year contract in hopes he will earn a spot on the team and make a contribution at the “Leo” position.

The 49ers can still use more help at a number of different positions, including cornerback, wide receiver, offensive line, linebacker and edge rusher. While the 49ers might add some role players in the second wave of free agency, most of the major acquisitions at this point are likely to come in the draft.

On the 49ers Insider Podcast, 49ers vice president of player personnel Adam Peters addressed what positions he believes are strong in this year’s draft.

“I think running backs, absolutely. It’s a deep position,” Peters said. “Quarterbacks at the top is deeper than it was last year. Secondary, corners, it’s not deeper than it was last year, but it’s a strong class of corners. Those are the main ones. The offensive line class is a little better than last year, too.”

The 49ers got major contributions from their rookie class last season. Tight end George Kittle, receiver Trent Taylor, quarterback C.J. Beathard, running back Matt Breida, defensive lineman Solomom Thomas, cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon, linebacker Reuben Foster and safety Adrian Colbert each played more than 300 snaps.

The 49ers feel good about Witherspoon, a third-round draft pick, as a starter with Sherman on the other side. Peters said a lot of the team’s rookies played larger roles than expected in 2017, but Witherspoon might have been at the top of the list.

“I don’t think he was active for the first four games,” Peters said of Witherspoon. “And he ended up playing at a high level at the end. Really driven, conscientious player who wants to be great. 

"We were lucky we got a chance to play a lot of rookies because that’ll help us moving forward.”

Shanahan sees versatile McKinnon as piece that was missing from 49ers' offense


Shanahan sees versatile McKinnon as piece that was missing from 49ers' offense

The player Kyle Shanahan studied on video was a lot better than the player he saw on the stat sheet.

The 49ers coach said he places a lot more emphasis on how he projects a player in his offense than what the player did with his former team.

And that is why the 49ers placed a large priority on signing former Minnesota Vikings running back Jerick McKinnonon the first day of the free-agent signing period. McKinnon comes to the 49ers on a four-year, $30 million contract with $11.7 million guaranteed.

McKinnon's stats might not suggest he is anywhere near a top running back in the NFL, but Shanahan sees it differently. And that is why the 49ers opted to pursue McKinnon instead of Carlos Hyde.

“I don’t know the numbers until I like the guy,” Shanahan said. “I always watch the guy first, and turn on the tape and get lost in it for a while. There were so many things I liked about him, visualizing how we would use him and stuff he would do. And even though there wasn’t a ton of it, you still got to see him do some stuff that we do a lot. Where he did it, he excelled a ton and was very good at it.

“Eventually, I look at the numbers and it did surprise me. Then you go back and you try to see why. I’m not going to get into all the whys, but I know all the stuff we liked about him, we cut up those numbers. I think they would’ve been good numbers.”

In four NFL seasons as a part-time player, McKinnon (5-9, 205), averaged 4.0 yards per rushing attempt. The past two years, he gained 539 and 570 yards with rushing averages of just 3.4 and 3.8 yards.

Hyde (6-foot, 230) is a bigger back with more production in his career. He rushed for 988 and 938 yards in 2016 and ’17 with averages of 4.6 and 3.9 yards.

Shanahan said he looked at every player who was available, and McKinnon was the player he evaluated to be the best of all the free agents. Shanahan has long valued running backs who are versatile in the run and pass games with an ability to make defenders miss.

“A good run is when you get more yards than what it was blocked for,” Shanahan said. “Sometimes, runs are blocked for negative 1 (yard) and the best run in the game was a 1-yard carry.

“Sometimes the one that most people could do is a 60-yarder because it was a busted coverage or a busted front and nobody was there. Numbers do tell stuff, but it’s never an absolute."

The 49ers signed McKinnon to be the starting running back with Matt Breida likely mixing into the action. The 49ers could also be in the market to add to the competition and depth through the draft.

Shanahan is likely to deploy multiple players, just as he did successfully with Atlanta Falcons running backs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. McKinnon is expected to take Freeman’s role. In each of Shanahan’s two seasons as Falcons offensive coordinator, Freeman accounted for more than 1,500 yards from scrimmage. He rushed for 1,056 and 1,079 yards while catching 578 and 462 yards in passes.

“I’m just excited to be in the offense that I feel is a perfect fit for me,” McKinnon said on Thursday at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara.

“Things that coach Shanahan has done with the backs like he did in Atlanta with Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman, I see myself doing those kinds of things. For me, I feel like the scheme is right. The fit was just perfect for me. I feel like I can’t be in a better situation as a player.”

Shanahan said he liked McKinnon as a draft prospect in 2014 out of Georgia Southern but it was more difficult to evaluate him because he mostly played quarterback in college.

But in studying McKinnon while with the Vikings, he saw a runner who has speed and elusiveness while also exhibiting the strength to break arm tackles. He set the record at the NFL Scouting Combine for running backs with 32 reps of 225 pounds in the bench press in 2014. But McKinnon's best asset might be his ability to be a factor in the passing game in blitz pickup, while also being a dependable receiver out of the backfield or in the slot.

“When it comes to separating and beating linebackers and safeties in man-to-man coverage, I definitely think he’s an issue for teams,” Shanahan said. “I think this league, when it comes to third downs and things like that, you move the chains based off of matchups, which allows you to get points in the long run. I think Jerick is very versatile and we can do a lot of things with him.

“He’s good enough to make it as a runner alone in this league. He’s good enough to make it in the pass game as just a third down threat alone, but when you can do both of those, it gives you a lot of freedom as a coach.”