No more drama: Terrell Owens part of 2018 Pro Football Hall of Fame class


No more drama: Terrell Owens part of 2018 Pro Football Hall of Fame class

BLOOMINGTON, Minn. – The third time was a charm for flamboyant wide receiver Terrell Owens.

Owens, a polarizing figure who spent his first eight NFL seasons with the 49ers, was voted Saturday into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Owens ranks second in the NFL in all-time receiving yards behind former teammate Jerry Rice. He made it into the Hall of Fame in his third year of eligibility.

“Terrell Owens gave our organization eight great seasons of service and some terrific memories that will live on in 49ers lore. He is one of the most accomplished wide receivers in the history of the NFL, and very deserving of this selection to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The 49ers organization would like to congratulate him for this great honor,” 49ers CEO Jed York said in a statement issued by the 49ers.

The Hall of Fame class of 2018 will also include wide receiver Randy Moss, linebackers Ray Lewis (Baltimore Ravens) and Brian Urlacher (Chicago Bears), and safety Brian Dawkins (Philadelphia Eagles/Denver Broncos). Linebacker Robert Brazile (Houston Oilers) and guard Jerry Kramer (Green Bay) were elected as seniors candidates. Long-time NFL executive Bobby Beathard was elected as a contributor.

Moss, whose best seasons came with the Minnesota Vikings and New England Patriots, played two seasons with the Raiders (2005-’06) and finished his career with the 49ers in 2012. His final game was Super Bowl XLVII, the 49ers' 34-31 loss to the Baltimore Ravens in February 2013.

Beathard, considered one of the game’s top talent evaluators during his career as general manager in Washington and San Diego, is the grandfather of 49ers quarterback C.J. Beathard.

The voting took place among 47 members of the board of selectors on the eve of Super Bowl 52. The newest class will be formally enshrined into the Hall of Fame on Saturday, Aug. 4, in Canton, Ohio.

John Lynch, the 49ers’ general manager, a nine-time Pro Bowl safety during his 15-year career with Tampa Bay and Denver, did not make the cut from the 15 finalists to the final 10. Lynch was in his fifth year as a finalist.

In his first two years of eligibility, Owens was eliminated on the cut from 15 to the final 10. A maximum of five modern-era finalists are inducted into the Hall of Fame annually.

Owens was likely not elected to the Hall of Fame in his first two years of eligibility due to role in controversies in the locker rooms of the teams for which he played.

During his 15-year NFL career, Owens feuded with quarterbacks Jeff Garcia, Donovan McNabb and Tony Romo. But each of those quarterbacks compiled their best single-season win-loss records and set single-season highs in touchdown passes with Owens as the No. 1 receiver.

Hall-of-Fame quarterback Steve Young played just 45 games with Owens. But when Young threw for a career-high 36 touchdown passes in 1998, Owens caught 14 of them.

Owens was named to six Pro Bowls during his career, was a five-time first-team All-Pro and was a second-team All-Decade selection for the 2000s. Owens ranks second in league history with 15,934 receiving yards; third with 153 receiving touchdowns (behind Rice and Moss); fifth in overall touchdowns; and eighth with 1,078 career receptions.

After eight productive seasons with the 49ers, the club traded him to the Philadelphia Eagles in 2004 when a clerical error prevented him from becoming an unrestricted free agent. It was an acrimonious departure from the 49ers, and something that apparently still remains on Owens’ mind.

This week, a video was posted on TMZ on which Owens was asked what team he would represent if he were chosen for the Hall of Fame. Owens answered, “Well, it won’t be the 49ers.”

However, Owens has no choice to make.

According to the Hall of Fame’s official website: “An enshrinee . . . is not asked to ‘declare,’ nor does the Hall of Fame ‘choose’ a team under which a new member is enshrined. When elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, an individual is recognized for accomplishments as a player, coach, or contributor.”

Owens thrived during his first season in Philadelphia. He returned to play in the Super Bowl, just seven weeks after sustaining a torn ligament and a fractured lower leg. He caught nine passes for 122 yards in the Eagles’ 24-21 loss to the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XXXIX.

The following season, Owens’ relationships with McNabb and team management soured. The Eagles eventually suspended him after he appeared in just seven games in 2007 while declining to renegotiate his contract.

He appeared in 47 games the next three seasons with the Dallas Cowboys before getting released following the 2008 season after he became critical of Romo’s reliance on tight end Jason Witten and then-offensive coordinator Jason Garrett’s play-calling.

Owens also became a subject of controversy throughout his career with his celebratory antics.

While with the 49ers, he twice ran to the star at the middle of Texas Stadium after touchdown receptions from Garcia in a 49ers game in 2000 against the Dallas Cowboys.

After his second trip to the middle of the playing field in that game, Cowboys safety George Teague leveled Owens and a melee ensued. The 49ers suspended Owens for one game, citing conduct detrimental to the team.

Owens also pulled a Sharpie from his sock to autograph a football he caught for a touchdown against Seattle and grabbed pom-poms from a cheerleader to celebrate another touchdown.

Now, more than seven years after his playing career ended with one-year stints in Buffalo and Cincinnati, Owens has reason to celebrate once again.

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.”