Who were 49ers' MVPs? One man's opinion


Who were 49ers' MVPs? One man's opinion

The postseason honors are rolling in, but the 49ers have yet to disclose any of their team awards for the 2011 season. The guess is that coach Jim Harbaugh does not consider this season concluded, so he doesn't want to start looking back on the team's accomplishments quite yet.
So here is one man's opinion of the team MVPs on the day the 49ers impatiently await the outcome of Saturday night's Detroit-New Orleans game.If the Saints win, the 49ers will play host to New Orleans in a divisional round game at Candlestick Park next Saturday at 1:30 p.m. If the Lions win, the 49ers will play the Sunday's winner of Atlanta and the New York Giants.Defensive MVP: Justin Smith became the first player to be voted first-team All-Pro at one position (defensive tackle) and second-team All-Pro at another position (defensive end) in the same phase of the game. He was second on the team in tackles and sacks (7.5). His play was a great benefit to rookie Aldon Smith, who led the team with 14 sacks. And he made the play of the year -- the chase-and-strip of Philadelphia speedster Jeremy Maclin to preserve a Week 4 win against the Eagles. Also, chalk up Justin Smith as the overwhelming choice for team MVP.
Honorable mention: Cornerback Carlos Rogers and safety Dashon Goldson recorded six interceptions apiece; inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman led the team in tackles; Aldon Smith set a team rookie record with 14 sacks and gave the pass rush some much-needed spark; and Patrick Willis was typically outstanding when he was on the field. Offensive MVP: Looking back on what the 49ers' offense did better than any team in the league, and most of the credit goes to quarterback Alex Smith. Sure, he was 19th in the league in passing yards. But of the 33 qualifying quarterbacks, Smith led the league in fewest interceptions. He was sacked 44 times, but he lost only two fumbles. The 49ers tied an NFL record for fewest turnovers (10) in a season. He showed calm under pressure during the regular season, in helping direct the 49ers to four fourth-quarter comeback victories on the road. The biggies were the 20-point, second-half rally against the Eagles and the fourth-down scoring pass to Delanie Walker to defeat the Detroit Lions.
Honorable mention: Running back Frank Gore has the second-most rushing yards in his career with 1,211 yards; wide receiver Michael Crabtree emerged into the go-to guy with team-highs of 72 catches for 874 yards; and left tackle Joe Staley graded out as the team's best offensive lineman.Special teams MVPs: This is impossible for me to call, so I wimped out and went with two winners: Punter Andy Lee and kicker David Akers. Lee set an NFL record for net punting average at 43.99. Lee punted 78 times on the season, and when he was called into action, the 49ers averaged a 7-yard gain with a flip of the field. His performance helped the defense pin teams back, and no offense in the league started with better field position than the 49ers because of Lee's performance. Often, the 49ers were almost already in field-goal range when the offense took over. The 49ers relied on their kicker more than they would've liked, but Akers routinely came through. He set NFL records with 44 field goals and 166 points (most for a player without any touchdowns). And, for good measure, he also tossed a touchdown pass on a fake field goal against the St. Louis Rams in the finale. What made Akers' season all-the-more impressive is that he made 7 of 9 attempts from beyond 50 yards.
Honorable mention: C.J. Spillman and Blake Costanzo were outstanding on the coverage units; and long-snapper Brian Jennings was again bordering on perfection.

LeBron James: Colin Kaepernick ‘had a vision like Martin Luther King’


LeBron James: Colin Kaepernick ‘had a vision like Martin Luther King’

LeBron James is an avid football fan. He's now an even bigger Colin Kaepernick fan than the sport. Following the Cavaliers' practice on Sunday, James opened up on Kaepernick and his absence from the NFL. 

"I've commended Kap, and for him to sacrifice everything for the greater good for everyone, for what he truly believed in, the utmost respect to him," James said to ESPN. "Obviously he had a vision like Martin Luther King and like some of our all-time greats that people couldn't see further than what they were doing at the point and time. And Muhammad Ali and things of that nature."

James believes the masses don't truly understand what Kaepernick was doing when he first took a knee as a protest against social and racial injustices in America. For his actions, James respects Kaepernick choosing his beliefs over his sport.

"When it's something that's new and it's something that people are not educated about or don't understand what your beliefs are all about, people are so quick to judge and people are so quick to say that what you're doing is wrong," James said. "For him to sacrifice the sport that he plays and to sacrifice the things he's done his whole life because he knew what he believed in, I salute him. I salute and respect that."

Add James to the list of those who believe Kaepernick is being blackballed by the NFL for taking a knee last season. The more games he watches, the more James sees the evidence on the wall. 

"I don't represent the NFL. I don't know their rules and regulations. But I do know Kap is getting a wrong doing, I do know that," James believes. "Just watching, he's an NFL player. He's an NFL player and you see all these other quarterbacks out there and players out there that get all these second and third chances that are nowhere near as talented as him. It just feels like he's been blackballed out of the NFL. So, I definitely do not respect that."

Kaepernick, who recently turned 30 years old, appeared in 12 games for the 49ers in the 2016-17 season. Through the air he completed 59.2 percent of his passes and ended the year with 2,241 yards, 16 touchdowns and four interceptions. Kaepernick also added 468 yards and two more scores on the ground. 

"The only reason I could say he's not on a team is because the way he took a knee," James said. "That's the only reason. I watch football every Sunday, every Thursday, every Monday night. I see all these quarterbacks -- first-string, second-team, third-team quarterbacks -- that play sometimes when the starter gets hurt or are starters that play. Kap is better than a lot of those guys. Let's just be honest."

For his career, Kaepernick has thrown for 12,271 yards and 72 touchdowns to 30 interceptions. With his speed as a dual-threat quarterback, Kaepernick has also gained 2,300 yards rushing and 13 more touchdowns. 

Former 49ers quarterback takes over under center for Cardinals


Former 49ers quarterback takes over under center for Cardinals

TEMPE, Ariz. — Blaine Gabbert will get his first start for the Arizona Cardinals when they play the Texans in Houston on Sunday.

Coach Bruce Arians announced the decision after Friday's practice.

Drew Stanton, the starter the last two games, bruised his knee early in the Thursday night loss to Seattle last week. He stayed in the game but has been limited in practice all week.

Arians said it will be a game-time decision as to whether Stanton or recently signed Matt Barkley would be Gabbert's backup.

Gabbert will be making his 41st NFL start. He has a 9-31 record. He signed with Arizona last offseason and was the third quarterback until Carson Palmer broke his arm against the Los Angeles Rams in London and was lost for the season.