49ers' Ben Garland sees worlds intersect with football on Veterans Day

49ers' Ben Garland sees worlds intersect with football on Veterans Day

SANTA CLARA – Ben Garland’s two worlds come together on Monday night when he takes the field with his 49ers teammates at Levi’s Stadium on Veterans Day.

Garland, 31, is a six-year NFL veteran from Air Force whose football career was delayed for two years while he completed his military commitment. He still serves in the National Guard during the NFL offseason.

“My whole family’s been in the military,” Garland said. “I got a lot of friends in the military. I’ve lost friends who’ve died in the military, so Veterans Day is always a really big thing for me and close to my heart.”

The Garland tradition in the military is believed to date back to Col. John Garland, who served 50 years, including during the War of 1812 and, briefly, in the Civil War.

There has been a Col. Garland in the Air Force for generations.

Ben Garland’s great grandfather flew combat missions in World War II, and his grandfather, Hal Garland, a full-bird colonel in the Air Force, is his hero. His uncle, Steven Garland, a brigadier general, retired in December 2017.

Ben Garland said the family tradition of entering the military was never something that was talked about. It just happened through an innate desire to serve the United States of America.

“My grandfather always told me he would be proud of me no matter what I did,” Garland said. “He said, ‘Just always work hard and do your best.’ And I always thought my best and reaching my potential would be following in his footsteps, going the military route.”

Garland said he always takes time to pay reverence for the sacrifices of his family and others during the playing of the national anthem before games.

“I know what people have done to fight for that flag and for our country,” Garland said. “My family is out there fighting for it, and my closest friends who I consider family are out there fighting for it. It means the world to me.”

In October 2015, while with the Atlanta Falcons, Garland received word that his friend, Capt. Jordan Pierson, 28, died in Afghanistan when his C-130J Super Hercules aircraft crashed. Garland and Pierson grew close during their time together in Squadron 27 at the Air Force Academy.

“Great guy, incredible dude, and to die so young, is tough,” Garland said. “It crushes you. I remember I got the news when I was at practice in Atlanta. I was struggling to even play that week and focus.”

Garland finished his military commitment a couple of years ago. He continues to serve with the 140th Wing at Buckley Air Force Base in Aurora, Colo., with 48 four-hour blocks during the NFL offseason.

“As long as I can maintain serving and continue doing this (playing football), I’m going to,” Garland said. “I’m serving because I love it, and I’ll do it as long as they want me and I want them.”

Garland, a backup offensive guard, appeared in 46 games over the past three seasons with the Falcons. He has suited up for each game with the 49ers but has seen action in only three games. Garland sees correlations between the qualities that have attracted him to football and the military.

“The military symbolizes some of the best parts of what we have in our country,” Garland said. “The reason I love football, you take a diverse group of people from every walk of life, and you have to become the best in the world. You work together.

“You get black, white, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter whether you’re from the ghetto or from the country, you get a group together and you train as hard as you can, you become as close as you can, and you become the best in the world. That’s what our military is today.”

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Garland, of course, knows that’s where the comparisons end between football and life in the military.

“Over there, it’s amplified to a millionth degree,” Garland said. “It’s life or death over there. Here, it’s just a game.”

49ers Mailbag: How will Kyle Shanahan deploy running backs vs. Saints?

49ers Mailbag: How will Kyle Shanahan deploy running backs vs. Saints?

NEW ORLEANS – It’s a good problem for the 49ers to figure out who among their running backs they are going to feature.

Leading rusher Matt Breida is scheduled to return to action on Sunday against the New Orleans Saints after missing three games with an ankle sprain. Raheem Mostert is coming off a 146-yard day, the best game from a 49ers running back in three years. But what kind of role will he play on Sunday?

That question leads off this edition of the 49ers Mailbag:

Coach Kyle Shanahan and his staff put a lot of discussion into how they are going to use their backs. Shanahan talks to his entire offensive staff, as well as quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, about which plays are best fits for which players.

Then, Shanahan’s in-game decisions are also influenced by which running back is having the most success.

“None of them are bad at anything, so whatever we end up going with, all of them have a chance, whatever play it is,” Shanahan said on 49ers Game Plan, which airs Saturday at 7 p.m. on NBC Bay Area and 9 p.m. on NBC Sports Bay Area.

“We definitely try to decide which one we prefer during the week. We go into the game with a plan, but then we always stick with what’s hot.”

Tevin Coleman has been getting the starting assignments. It remains to be seen if that will continue, but Breida and Mostert should get their opportunities, too. 

I don’t know about using Daniel Brunskill for any trick plays, but it might not be a bad idea to mix him in for a series here and there to ease Joe Staley back into the action.

Staley has missed nine games this season, and Brunskill has shown to be a very effective player. It could be something along the lines of how the 49ers got Ahkello Witherspoon back into his starting role. At first, they had Witherspoon and Emmanuel Moseley sharing the playing time before Witherspoon was all the way back.

Richard Sherman will play despite hobbled last week with a knee injury. He appeared to be moving well during 49ers practices this week in Florida.

The only 49ers starter who will not play on Sunday is strong safety Jaquiski Tartt, who may miss multiple games with fractured ribs. Marcell Harris will start at strong safety. But everybody else is good to go, including Breida, Staley and Dee Ford.

My hunch is that if the 49ers do not place the franchise tag on Arik Armstead, he will end up signing a lucrative multi-year contract with another team as an unrestricted free agent. The 49ers' top priorities to sign to multi-year extensions are defensive tackle DeForest Buckner and tight end George Kittle.

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Neither Jalen Hurd nor Trent Taylor will play this season. Hurd will miss his entire rookie season due to a stress reaction in his back, while Taylor is out for the season from complications after undergoing surgery on a Jones fracture in his right foot.

The 49ers elevated defensive lineman Kentavius Street to practice this week. The 49ers might use their final injured reserve/designated to return spot on cornerback Jason Verrett, who has been out with a knee injury. He could return to practice as early as Wednesday.

The odds are very slim that Marquise Goodwin will be back on the team next season. He is scheduled to make $4.5 million in salary and bonuses in 2020, and that is not a price the 49ers are going to pay for what he gives them.

The 49ers are not giving up on Dante Pettis, though. They want him to put in the work during the offseason to have a big bounce-back season.

Pettis experienced the same kind of second season as Ahkello Witherspoon. Both players experienced success to ends their rookie seasons and thought they had it figured out.

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Witherspoon struggled in Year 2, and realized what he had to do in order to perform at a high level. He came back focused for a strong third season.

The 49ers hope Pettis will make the same kinds of adjustments to his work ethic and mindset to become a reliable receiver in 2020.

49ers-Saints odds, predictions: Betting lines, picks for NFL Week 14 game

49ers-Saints odds, predictions: Betting lines, picks for NFL Week 14 game

For the third straight week, the 49ers will play in a potential playoff preview Sunday. 

The Niners (10-2) visit the NFC-leading New Orleans Saints (10-2) at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, as San Francisco concludes a brutal three-week stretch that included games against the Green Bay Packers and Baltimore Ravens. Facing Aaron Rodgers, Lamar Jackson and Saints quarterback Drew Brees in back-to-back-to-back weeks is no small feat, and it's clear 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan is taking a matchup with Brees seriously. 

"Everyone knows he's one of the best quarterbacks in the league, and I still will say he's underrated," Shanahan told NBC Sports Bay Area's Matt Maiocco earlier this week. "I mean, he's unbelievable. Any time he's on your team, you've got a chance to be a Super Bowl team every year, and I think that's why they've had a chance over the last 10 years."

The 40-year-old is by no means the first -- or last -- elite QB the 49ers have faced this season, but he might be the best. Among qualifying quarterbacks, Brees ranks eighth in passer rating (104.4), ninth in QBR (60.9) and first in completion percentage (73.8 percent).

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Can the 49ers stop Brees and pick up a much-needed win in the Big Easy? Here's how Las Vegas and experts around the country see the game playing out.


Caesars: Saints -2
Consensus: Saints -2
Westgate: Saints -2
Wynn: Saints -2.5


Nick Wagoner, ESPN: 49ers 27, Saints 20
Mike Triplett, ESPN: Saints 19, 49ers 17
Mike Florio, Pro Football Talk: 49ers 27, Saints 23
Michael David Smith: Saints 21, 49ers 20
Gregg Rosenthal, NFL Media: 49ers 24, Saints 20