O'Neil states case for Buckner to win Defensive Rookie of the Year

O'Neil states case for Buckner to win Defensive Rookie of the Year

SANTA CLARA – The campaign has begun for 49ers defensive lineman DeForest Buckner as NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year.

Defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil stated his case Tuesday for the No. 7 overall pick in the draft to become first 49ers player to win the award since Patrick Willis in 2007.

“I don’t know how he’s not going to be considered for the defensive rookie of the year,” O’Neil said of Buckner. “If you look at his numbers compared to every defensive tackle in this league, he leads the NFL in tackles for all the defensive tackles. He’s at the top in sacks. He’s played the most plays of any defensive tackles in the NFL

“He’s done an unbelievable job. And for such a young guy, he’s the ultimate professional.”

Buckner leads all rookies with 71 combined tackles this season. He ranks second in the entire NFL behind the New York Giants’ Damon Harrison, a fifth-year player who has recorded 82 tackles.

Buckner’s top competition for NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year figures to come from fellow first-round draft picks Joey Bosa and Leonard Floyd, and second-round pick Deion Jones of Atlanta.

Bosa leads all NFL rookies with 9.5 sacks, but has missed five games, including a length contract stalemate with the San Diego Chargers after being the No. 3 overall pick. Bosa has 36 tackles.

Floyd, the No. 9 overall pick of the Chicago Bears, is tied for second among NFL rookies in sacks with seven. Yannick Ngakoue, a third-round selection of the Jacksonville Jaguars, also has seven sacks. Floyd has 33 tackles, while Ngakoue has 20 combined tackles.

Buckner ranks fourth among rookies with six sacks while playing more snaps than any interior defensive lineman in the league. He is tied for the 49ers lead with Ahmad Brooks.

“His progression has been awesome -- it really has been,” O’Neil said. “Early on, he had to learn how to get his pads down. Now you see him dominating at the line of scrimmage and knocking guys back instead of stalemating or, at times, being knocked back.

"You’ve seen the progression of him as far as a pass rusher from the start of the season to now."

Jones, a linebacker, could be a strong contender. In addition to being the co-leader among rookies with three interceptions, Jones also has recorded 102 tackles in 14 games.

Terrell Owens selects former 49ers coach as his Hall of Fame presenter


Terrell Owens selects former 49ers coach as his Hall of Fame presenter

Terrell Owens has selected former 49ers special teams and wide receivers coach George Stewart as his presenter into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

“He knew what to get out of me,” Owens told the Hall of Fame.

“He knows who I am. To know who Terrell Owens is, you have to spend some time with him. . . George Stewart became a father figure to me.”

Owens was elected into the Hall of Fame in February. He will enter the Hall of Fame in a class that also includes wide receiver Randy Moss, linebackers Ray Lewis, Brian Urlacher and Robert Brazile, safety Brian Dawkins, guard Jerry Kramer, and contributor Bobby Beathard.

Owens played special teams under Stewart’s direction as a rookie after coming to the 49ers in 1996.

From 2000 to ’02, Stewart worked as the 49ers’ wide receivers coach. Owens was selected to three consecutive All-Pro teams and Pro Bowls during that time. Owens ranks No. 2 all time behind Jerry Rice with 15,934 receiving yards. He is third all-time with 153 receiving touchdowns.

Stewart is set to enter his 30th NFL season as an assistant coach and his second as special-teams coordinator of the Los Angeles Chargers.

The Class of 2018 will be enshrined inside Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, Ohio, on Saturday, Aug. 4.

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.