So happy together: Bowman, Willis paired through 2016


So happy together: Bowman, Willis paired through 2016

SANTA CLARA A somewhat soft-spoken NaVorro Bowman took to the outside podium at the 49ers practice facility at dusk Tuesday to address his new five-year contract extension, with the loud crashing and banging of stadium construction acting as a sound bed to his press conference.

NEWS: Bowman inks five-year deal

The beams and girders are still being loudly put into place, but Bowman now knows for certain that hes going to be taking snaps in what is sure to be a gorgeous new facility when it opens in 2014. In fact, the 6-foot, 242-pounder can now be considered a part of the concrete foundation of the team and its defense for the foreseeable future.

It means a lot. Ive been wanting to be here since the first day I got here, said the third-year linebacker out of Penn State. For me, to get this done and be here through 2018 is just a great thing.

The announcement comes in the middle of what can only be considered a successful season up to this point, as the 8-2-1 Niners have the second-best record in the NFC.

Why get it done now?

Bowman said: This is a very physical game. And whenever you have a chance to get a deal done, and it sounds good, and everyone is comfortable with it, why not? We take a lot of risks out there as football players. So for me, to get this deal done, just means a lot. It shows the organization trusts me and Im just happy to be a part of it.

The move ensures that Bowman and fellow linebacker and good friend Patrick Willis will be together through at least the 2016 season. In fact, Willis was among the first people Bowman gave his good news. He just couldn't keep the secret any longer.

As soon as I told him this morning -- I wasnt supposed to, but I couldnt keep it from him, Bowman said. He has a great deal to do with this, too, just playing beside him and him helping me through this season and last year.

Willis said: I just want to say, its trulytoday is a very blessed day. Not only for this organization, but for NaVorro and his family. I know hes going to continue to play hard, and continue to do all the things right to become an even better player. Truly blessed to have him here for a long time, and beside each other.

Bowmans agent Drew Rosenhaus revealed that he had been working with the 49ers organization since the start of the season, after he approached the team in the offseason. The two sides were originally far apart, according to Rosenhaus, but the agent had only good things to say about the teams front office for finalizing a deal on Tuesday.

Its a very special accomplishment. I take my hat off to the Niners and to NaVorro, Rosenhaus said. I think only the most proactive teams get it done. I think this is perhaps the most talented team in the NFL. If you want to keep all your good players, you have to get deals done now. You cant let guys get to free agency. You cant keep everybody.

Willis and his hefty salary threw a monkey wrench into the negotiation process, according to Rosenhaus. According to the NFL Networks Albert Breer, Bowmans new contract is worth 45.25 million over five years, with 25.5 million of that guaranteed. In the 2010 offseason, Willis inked a five-year, 50 million deal (29 million guaranteed).

Once we got to a level of guaranteed compensation, we knew we werent going to get caught up with who was making more. NaVorro was not about that, Rosenhaus said. We were very comfortable with this deal. Hes one of the top-five highest paid guys at the position. Hes gotten it earlier than just about anybody and were very comfortable with the deal.

Bowman said: In order for us to keep the guys that we have together, were going to have to give on each side. Thats what was done. We worked together. I wasnt mad about not getting paid more than Pat. Hes my brother. We play together, we play close together, and were making the same amount of money just about. Im happy about it, and I wont lose any sleep over it. Im glad to be a Niner for a few more years.

Willis doesnt seem too concerned, either. In fact, the godfather of Bowmans twin daughters only has one request for himself and his fiance.

"A super nice dinner. A medium-plus steak with probably a lobster tail, so a little surf-n-turf deal, with some good mashed potatoes and some vegetables, Willis said. And some ice cream for dessert. Vanilla."

Young Sharks fitting in, not neccessarily standing out


Young Sharks fitting in, not neccessarily standing out


The message for the San Jose Sharks’ prospects was quite clear this offseason.

After general manager opted not to re-sign Patrick Marleau, or sign any free agents of consequence, it was readily apparent the Sharks would need to rely on their young players to fill any holes.

Before the quarter mark of the season, that youth movement is underway. Five first or second-year players will suit up at SAP Center Monday night against Anaheim. 

Partially, the infusion is due to injury, as Barclay Goodrow, Melker Karlsson, and Paul Martin are all on the mend. But as the season wears on, the young players’ presence is becoming a necessity. 

Joakim Ryan looks like a natural fit alongside Brent Burns, and the Sharks are a decidedly better puck possession team with him on the ice than when he’s not. Tim Heed leads Sharks defensemen in scoring, and Danny O’Regan assisted San Jose’s lone goal in his season debut on Saturday. 

That assist set up the goal that ended Timo Meier’s drought, and he looks primed to break out: he’s third on the team in five-on-five shots despite playing the ninth-fewest five-on-five minutes this season, according to Corsica Hockey.  Kevin Labanc’s cooled off since his scorching start, but is still tied for sixth on the team in scoring and skated on the top line at Monday’s morning skate, according to the Bay Area News Group’s Curtis Pashelka.

There’s still room for improvement, of course. Labanc and Meier could stand to score more, but the same can be said about most everyone else. Ryan’s made his fair share of mistakes, but Burns has struggled plenty of times alongside him, too. 

So the young players are fitting in, even if all of them aren’t necessarily standing out. That shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. 

Meier’s the only first-round pick of the lot, but he’s also only been able to legally buy a beer for a month. Ryan and Heed have made the best adjustment, in no small part because they’re the oldest (24 and 26, respectively) of the Barracuda call-ups, and thus have the most professional experience. 

Of course, fitting in isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It is, however, far from ideal, when that’s what many other players on the roster are doing. 

Having all of their young players stand out is what will ultimately make the Sharks stand out from the rest of the pack. It hasn’t quite happened yet, and San Jose’s one of 22 teams separated by six points or fewer. 

And if it doesn’t, the middle of the pack is where the Sharks will remain.


Bad offense, not bad officiating, is main culprit for Sharks' skid

Bad offense, not bad officiating, is main culprit for Sharks' skid

For just the second time this season, the San Jose Sharks have lost consecutive games.

It’s the first time since the club opened the season 0-2, and were outscored 9-4. San Jose played much better in Thursday’s loss to Florida and Saturday’s defeat at the hands of Boston than they did to start the campaign, but have now been on the wrong side of four goal reviews.

The Sharks have lost each of the last two games by two goals, so there’s an understandable temptation to chalk these losses up to questionable officiating. Yet even if you disregard the notion that the officials got each call right (which they did), it’s one that must be resisted.

Their actual lack of offense, not a perceived lack of good officiating, is the main culprit behind the losing streak.

Timo Meier’s goal on Saturday stands as San Jose’s lone tally on this three-game homestand. It’s not for a lack of trying: The Sharks pumped 72 shots on net in the last two games, but could not solve Roberto Luongo or Anton Khudobin.

You can blame the officiating in San Jose’s last two losses all you want, but a good offensive team would have converted subsequent chances to make up for the goals taken off the board. The Sharks have not been a good offensive team this season, and could not make up for it.

San Jose’s inability to finish chances has been their main weakness all season, but they were still able to win games thanks to their defense and goaltending. The latter’s lapsed at times over the last two games, and the former let them down on Saturday when Aaron Dell allowed three goals on only 20 shots.

But that, as well as the discussion around the recent officiating, only serves to mask the Sharks’ real issue. San Jose just simply cannot score.

They’ve only scored on 7.41 percent of their shots this season, according to Natural Stat Trick, which is the third-worst rate in the league. There’s too much talent on the roster to expect that to continue all season, but the Sharks faltered offensively down the stretch last season, too.

Plus, they’re relying significantly on players on the wrong side of 30. Brent Burns, 32, hasn’t scored a goal, and Joe Pavelski, 33, is on pace to score fewer than 20 goals.

He hasn’t failed to reach that mark in a decade. At some point, it must be asked: are the Sharks just unlucky, or is age catching up to their star players?

The answer is probably a bit of both. How much of a role either factor has played is up for debate, but that either has led to San Jose’s failure to score goals is not.

Poor officiating is easier to diagnose than a poor offense, but it’s the latter, not the former, that’s responsible for the Sharks’ most recent skid.