49ers camp report: On no-contact day, rookie LB Fred Warner makes a big hit


49ers camp report: On no-contact day, rookie LB Fred Warner makes a big hit

SANTA CLARA – Rookie linebacker Fred Warner was nursing a chest injury, so he went out to practice Thursday wearing a blue jersey, signifying he was off-limits for contact.

Yet, it was Warner who supplied the biggest hit of training camp on a day he was supposed to steer clear of his offensive teammates.

“It’s one of those that happened so quick,” 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh said. “There were a lot of plays in there where Fred did avoid contact like he was supposed to. But that one was so quick and so fast that it was almost like he was bracing for contact, so it was completely accidental.”

Warner broke up a Jimmy Garoppolo pass over the middle that was intended for fullback Kyle Juszczyk. Warner separated Juszczyk from the ball, and Juszczyk landed flat on his back with a thud.

Juszczyk remained on the ground for a full minute. After he got to his feet, Warner went over to apologize. Juszczyk returned to practice in the next period. Afterward, Juszczyk said he got the wind knocked out of him.

Warner is competing for a role in the 49ers’ defense. He figures to be a standout on special teams, while factoring into the team’s sub packages due to his coverage skills.

“He’s improving quite a bit,” 49ers tight end Garrett Celek said. “The guy knows how to hit. In practice, he’s hit a couple guys really hard. Some people don’t have that in them. He has it in him. And he’s a smart player as well.”

Offensive Play of the Day

Garoppolo’s ability to connect on the deep ball was a facet of his game that appeared to be lacking during the offseason program and the first couple practices of training camp. But Garoppolo appears to be dialing in with wide receiver Marquise Goodwin. Early in practice, Garoppolo executed a play fake and unloaded a pass that traveled 45 yards down field. Goodwin ran past right cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon to make the catch in stride en route to a 75-yard touchdown. Garoppolo and Goodwin also hooked up on a 40-yard pass later in practice against the coverage of Witherspoon and safety Adrian Colbert.

Defensive Play of the Day

Garoppolo’s pass was tipped at the line of scrimmage, and rookie Tarvarius Moore tumbled to the ground to make the interception. Moore appears to be getting more comfortable playing cornerback after mostly playing safety during his college career at Southern Mississippi. The 49ers invested a third-round draft pick in Moore, who also broke up a Nick Mullens pass attempt two plays later.

Injury report

There was concern after tight end Cole Wick, who spent most of last season on the practice squad, sustained a right knee injury upon landing awkwardly after jumping for Mullens’ sideline throw. Wick was taken in for further evaluation. The 49ers were already down one tight end, as Cole Hikutini is expected to miss a week with a groin injury.

The other players who remain out of practice are: Defensive lineman Arik Armstead (hamstring), guard Joshua Garnett (knee), linebacker Brock Coyle (hip) and offensive lineman JP Flynn (knee).

This ‘n’ That

The following veterans were given “recovery days” and did not practice: Joe Staley, Pierre Garçon, Jerick McKinnon, DeForest Buckner, Earl Mitchell, Richard Sherman and Malcolm Smith . . . Garnett has missed four consecutive practices. Jonathan Cooper, Mike Person and Erik Magnuson are working at right guard. . . Colbert made an interception of a Garoppolo pass that deflected off the hands of wide receiver Kendrick Bourne. . . Receiver Max McCaffrey and safety Chanceller James both had their hands on a C.J. Beathard pass, but McCaffrey came away with the football after gaining control of it when both players went to the ground.

Letters to Dwight Clark range in emotions, experiences

Letters to Dwight Clark range in emotions, experiences

EDITOR'S NOTE: “Letters to 87,” a documentary that explores Dwight Clark’s unique bond with his fans, will premier on NBC Sports Bay Area on Tuesday, Aug. 21, at approximately 8 p.m. (following Giants Postgame Live).

* * *

The words of 17 fans are heard in the 27-minute documentary “Letters to 87.”

In all, nearly 150 letters were taken to Dwight Clark at his ranch in Whitefish, Montana, just two weeks before he died of ALS.

The sentiments expressed to Clark ran the gamut of experiences and emotions.

Here is just a sampling of the letters Clark heard when a group of close friends sat around his bed on May 20 and read what his fans sent for him:

* * *

I was 9 years old. My friends and I gave up and went outside to toss the football around. My memory is vivid of my mom coming out to the front porch to tell us the Niners had scored a touchdown.

While none of us imagined how iconic "The Catch" would become, it did immediately teach me a lesson. And that lesson? Never give up and continue fighting. You have continued to teach myself and others this lesson.

Sean McCannell

* * *

We moved to So Cal in ‘79 from No Cal. Back then there were no highlights or Internet. We’d looked at the stats, but there were no pictures attached. Truth be told, until ‘80 due to no TV coverage in SoCal, we thought the Dwight Clark who was making these catches in the stats was a “speedy lil black receiver from Clemson.” True story.

During the NFC Championship game, our cable kept going on and off. So we scrambled and had a TV with rabbit ears in the living room. The game would go out. We’d sprint to the rabbit ears. It would come back. We’d sprint back. When you caught the ball, white stuff was raining down on me. It was the popcorn ceiling stuff that I hit when I jumped up in jubilation.

Chris Dasté
Simi Valley

* * *

We watched the 49ers march to our end of the stadium. Everyone was on their feet and the place was rocking. When you caught that ball, the old place shook. The roar was incredible. My friend, Charlie, leaped on me and we both tumbled down a few of the walkway stairs. That was the happiest we’d ever been as fans. Once the final seconds ticked off, it was bedlam.

We’ve kept our tickets all these years. My daughter, son-in-law and our two grandsons use the tickets most games. Both of our daughters turned out to be Niners fans. The grandsons are big fans, and "The Catch" had a big influence on cementing that relationship.

Jack Moyer

* * *

I was watching the game with my wife Jan, father-in-law Bill, who went to a lot of games at Kezar, my mother-in-law Bea and my wife’s grandmother, 79-year-old Nan. We were all diehards.

Nan knew nothing about football. She just enjoyed being around people and was a great lover of brandy and water. As you can imagine, we were extremely nervous throughout the entire game. Hell, the entire week before.

When you caught that ball, Dwight, it was pandemonium. My father-in-law actually ran into the street yelling, “We won!” Of course, Jan and I were jumping all over the place. My mother in law was stunned. And Nan . . . remember, she was 79. She came out of the chair and actually jumped a few inches off the floor. We talked about that day for years.

Bill Dow

* * *

I was old enough to remember Dallas ended every previous 49ers chance at a Super Bowl. I was also conditioned to believe that championships happened for fans of other teams in other cities. Not San Francisco. And then Montana rolled right. And you climbed high into the sky. And you came down with the ball. We went crazy! We shouted from the balcony. We hugged and jumped and screamed some more. I remember it still. . . like it was yesterday.

Frank Muscat
Lincoln, Rhode Island

* * *

Oh, man, it was a huge game. I was with all my buds, watching the game in Santa Clara. My father, Eddie Forrest, was on the original 49ers team in 1946. As you can imagine, my blue blood made me the most popular one at the party.

There we were, packed in this room like sardines. When you made "The Catch," it was like a bomb went off.

My good friend, Pierce, was the first to hit the floor. Then, the darndest thing happened. Every single one of us, at least 30 people, jumped onto the pile. We were like college kids stuffing a telephone booth. I don’t think it unraveled in time to watch the end of the game.

Peter Forrest
San Jose

* * *

My dad lived in San Jose and was neighbors with Leo Nomellini and some other 49ers, and I grew up a 49er fan from a young age. I am 63 now and 2 weeks ago gave a speech at my dad's celebration of life gathering, as he recently passed away. He was 93, and some of the best memories I have of him involve our sports time together. "The Catch" was definitely one of the best sports and life memories that we had.

These memories are priceless and will live forever in our hearts. Thank you for being a part of our lives.

Jean Paul Martinet

* * *

Words cannot express how much you have meant in my life. You occupy a place in my heart that is reserved for childhood heroes that exceed your expectations in real life. These are the people that, when you meet them and get to know them, you find out that they are more than you ever dreamed possible. That is what you are to me. You are a Superhero, one that will occupy a place in my heart forever.

Sharon Bolshakov
San Francisco

* * *

I was sitting on my pillow couch and when you caught the ball from Joe, I leaped up, hitting the hanging lamp above me along with shorting out all the power to our house. There was obviously time left in the game, so I had to scramble into our basement to find another fuse and we were able to barely watch the exciting finish.

Keith Van Dyke
Cottage Grove, Oregon

* * *

When Joe threw that ball to you and you made THE CATCH, my dad, who grew up in The City and suffered through bad seasons and previous heartbreaks to the Cowboys, was so happy and excited, he jumped up!

But when he did, he jumped up, went backwards and wound up knocking himself out. He had friends over at our house and was watching in one room while I was watching the game in another room with my mom. My dad told me that his friends helped him regain consciousness. He came up to the room where my mom and I were, and he had a big smile on his face.

Brazell Carter II
Bellevue, Washington

* * *

I was only 7 years old in 1982. I lived in the same small town that I still live in today. My parents weren’t football fans. My friends weren’t football fans. My extended family weren’t particularly football fans, either, except one – my grandfather.

I don’t think I ever asked who he considered his team in any sport. I knew my grandfather watched for the sport, but I do remember asking one time who he thought would win a particular game we were watching and he said, “49ers.” So that was my team from then on.

I don’t remember knowing it was the NFC Championship game. But I knew I wanted to watch that game. It’s the first memory I have of feeling like I understood what was happening on the field. I felt the intensity of the game and the excitement of “The Catch.”

To me, “The Catch” wasn’t about watching my team win. It defines the moment I started to become the fan I am today. Thanks to my grandfather, and the excitement of the 49ers’ 1981 team, I am a fan for life. And, from the looks of it, my kids are following right behind me!

Clarissa Feeback
Carlisle, Kentucky

Letters to Dwight Clark make impact, reach a wider audience

Letters to Dwight Clark make impact, reach a wider audience

Daniel Roman of San Jose had a few free minutes at work that day, so he wrote a letter to a man he never met.

Dwight Clark's leaping touchdown catch against the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC Championship game in January 1982 came eight years before Roman was even born. Yet, "The Catch" had a significant impact on Roman and he wanted to join the many others who wrote to Clark as he was battling a deadly disease with no known cure.

Roman’s letter eventually made it to Whitefish, Montana, where Clark moved with his wife Kelly from Capitola in March. Clark was in the final stages of his battle with ALS. Some of Clark's close friends, including former 49ers teammates Ronnie Lott and Keena Turner, traveled to see Clark on May 20. They brought the letters with them. And they gathered in his bed room to read what Clark's fans had written.

The letters made an impact. In fact, two of the letters were chosen to be read on Aug. 1 at Clark's Celebration of Life at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco.

Former 49ers tight end Brent Jones read a letter written by Marly Ortega of Petaluma. She was in Candlestick Park to witness Clark's "hands reaching for the stars and moon" to come down with the franchise-turning play that propelled the 49ers to their first Super Bowl.

"Not only were you an amazing athlete, professional and dedicated in every respect," Ortega wrote, "but your modest, warm and genial demeanor carried it to the level of perfection."

Dwight Hicks, a former defensive back who was a member of the 49ers' first Super Bowl champion team, was next to read a fan's reflection of "The Catch." Roman was stunned to learn Hicks read his letter.

“It was pretty cool,” Roman said. “It was a little surreal, to be honest.”

Hicks told those attending the private memorial service that the country might be divided, but sports has always provided a remarkable benefit of uniting people.

Roman said he did not intend for his letter to resonate so powerfully because of the current political climate. But he said it did not surprise him that his letter was presented in a larger context.

“It kind of applies to the belief that sports are a universal thing for us,” Roman said.

Hicks began reading Roman’s words.

* * *

Mr. Clark,

My dad is a Salvadoran Civil War refugee who came to America to create a better life for me. He moved to San Francisco, where he became a die-hard 49ers fan. He sure does remember the 80’s and 90’s. He used to always tell me how great Ronnie Lott and Joe were, and how you kicked off the greatness.

* * *

Roman later watched a video of Hicks reading his letter. The first thing he noticed was how Hicks motioned toward Lott as he read his name.

“He pointed at Ronnie Lott when he was talking about Ronnie Lott,” Roman said of Hicks. “Ronnie was probably my dad’s favorite player.”

Hicks continued reading Roman's letter to Clark.

* * *

You have made believers out of generations past, present and generations to come. You have created more than you imagine. You’ve impacted relationships like mine and my dad’s all over the country -- maybe all over the world.

* * *

Daniel Roman, 28, never watched Dwight Clark play. Yet, “The Catch” remains as the most-important moment in the history of the team for which he grew up cheering. That was a point he wanted to get across in his letter to Clark.

* * *

I hope you know that for me, you created a bridge for me and my dad to relate and yell and laugh, and watch the games to this day. For that, we love you.

* * *

The 49ers helped unify a city that was going through difficult times while Bill Walsh’s team surprised the football world and captured the imagination of the Bay Area in 1981.

In 1979, more than 900 people died in Guyana, mostly from a mass suicide ordered by Peoples Temple founder Jim Jones. The group was headquartered in San Francisco.

Less than two weeks later the city was rocked again when Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk were assassinated at City Hall.

San Francisco was also shaken and devastated by the growing number of cases of the AIDS epidemic.

“The Catch” provided relief and joy during some dark days in San Francisco.

Antonio Roman, Daniel’s father, was a young man when he escaped a war-torn country to come to the Bay Area. Antonio found interest in the local sports teams. It helped him build ties and connect with people in his new community. The 49ers brought people of all different backgrounds together to share something people in San Francisco could have in common: A passion for the 49ers. It was a point that was not lost on Antonio Roman’s son nearly four decades later when he wrote to Dwight Clark.

* * *

Dwight, in a way, you reached out to a foreigner who maybe wasn’t comfortable and gave him solace and helped him fit in. This in turn made me a Niners fan from birth.

* * *

"That’s the thing," Daniel Roman said. "I never saw Dwight Clark play, and I have an affinity for him. It’s amazing how far it does reach out."

Hicks elicited some chuckles from those at Grace Cathedral when he read the final line of Roman's letter.

* * *

My dad hates the Cowboys with a passion to this day.

* * *

EDITOR'S NOTE:  “Letters to 87,” a documentary that explores Dwight Clark’s unique bond with his fans, will premier on NBC Sports Bay Area on Tuesday, Aug. 21, at approximately 8 p.m. (following Giants Postgame Live).