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49ers' Dee Ford pays it forward, purchases guitar for young musician

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49ers' Dee Ford pays it forward, purchases guitar for young musician

"Pay it forward."

That's what 49ers defensive end Dee Ford told Adam Birmingham and his best friend, Aidan, at a Guitar Center this week in Bradenton, Fla.

Ford and the 49ers are staying in Bradenton as they prepare for a Week 14 showdown in New Orleans against the Saints, and Ford got in the holiday spirit during some down time.

Adam, 17, is a young, talented musician who spends his time at the center hanging out with Aidan. The two share a lot with one another, including being bandmates.

Adam was practicing on a guitar he'd been dreaming about owning for the past year when he noticed Ford, not knowing he was an NFL star and 2018 Pro Bowler.

Ford walked toward the Fender area and sat down and started playing on a guitar.

"He turned to me and asked me how long I've been playing," Birmingham told NBC Sports Bay Area. 

Birmingham then put that special guitar away, but noticed Ford walking up to the counter as he was getting ready to check out. Ford then turned to Birmingham and said he would buy anything in the store for the young musician, as crazy as it sounded.

Naturally, the teen assumed Ford was pulling his leg.

"I didn't believe him for a second," Birmingham added.

Ford then told Birmingham to pick something off the wall -- anything he wanted -- and the 49ers star would take care of it. 

Adam went and grabbed the guitar he'd become fond over and Aidan, who works at Guitar Center, scanned it in to purchase. 

"Sure enough, he bought (Adam's) guitar. Dee bought a guitar for himself -- and an amp and some cables, stuff like that," Aidan added.

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My nephew @adam.j.birm7 is a young — and talented — musician. Today, he was practicing on the guitar at Guitar Center in Bradenton when @49ers defensive end @iamdeeford came in and saw him playing. After a little conversation about Adam’s musical dreams and whatever, Ford told him to pick any guitar he wanted and he’d buy it for him. After a year of dreaming of owning that guitar; now Adam does. Thank you @iamdeeford for that incredible gesture and supporting a young kid’s dream. You’ve made a whole family of fans and I hope others hear of your kindness. (And I grew up hating the Niners, as a Bengals fan your team ruined my early dreams of ever seeing my favorite team winning a Super Bowl.)

A post shared by Jeremy Birmingham (@_birm_) on

The guys didn't know it was the 49ers' defensive end, but Ford asked Aidan to put his number in the system and "it would all make sense."

Aidan, then realizing who it was, admitted he had the 28-year-old on his fantasy team for the past couple of the seasons -- something that surprised Ford, a defensive player.

Ford took some photos with the two, then even offered to purchase a guitar for Aidan -- but he said no. Aidan wanted the focus to be about his best friend Adam, who had just moved and couldn't afford to have much of a Christmas.

[RELATED: Kittle says Fred Warner is one of his favorite players]

"I thanked him 100 times -- I didn't know what to say," Birmingham added. 

If the 100 "thank yous" aren't enough, that's perfectly OK with them. They have an open invitation for Ford to attend any concert or show their band might be a part of. And they promise to give him the VIP treatment.

49ers' Richard Sherman brings facts to debate about shadowing receivers

49ers' Richard Sherman brings facts to debate about shadowing receivers

SANTA CLARA -- Though Richard Sherman is a graduate of Stanford University, one of the most prestigious institutions of higher learning on planet earth, his Thursday afternoon analysis of defensive strategy came straight outta Compton.

The subject was man-to-man coverage and Sherman’s avowed comfort at left cornerback.

The insinuation was that an opposing team could, theoretically, neutralize Sherman, surely the 49ers' best cornerback and perhaps tops in the NFL, by sending its best receiver to the opposite side of the field.

That the Green Bay Packers, for example, might frequently deploy No. 1 receiver Davante Adams to the right side of the San Francisco defense when the teams meet Sunday to decide the NFL representative in Super Bowl LIV.

It would not be illogical, in this instance, to have Sherman “shadow” Adams. Many defensive coordinators have made that request of their top cover corner.

Sherman proceeded to eviscerate that plan by using what folks in his hometown refer to as common sense.

“We have the No. 1 pass defense in this league,” the Compton native said while standing at the podium in the interview auditorium, “and we haven’t done it.”

The statistics absolutely support Sherman’s claim and his dismissiveness toward making a change that might convey a measure of desperation by the 49ers.

With Sherman almost exclusively on the left side, San Francisco in the regular season was the NFL’s top pass defense, allowing an average of 169.2 yards per game – the lowest average allowed by any team since 2009, when the Jets limited passers to an average of 153.7.

Moreover, the 49ers led the league in net yards per attempt at 4.8 and tied with the Patriots for fewest first downs allowed via pass, averaging 9.4 per game.

These numbers are among the factors that have made defensive coordinator Robert Saleh a candidate to become a head coach. They undoubtedly influence Sherman’s belief in Saleh, and as long as the numbers confirm no change is needed there will be request to follow Adams on Sunday or any other receiver on any other team.

“I love it how people are like, ‘Oh, my gawd, these guys need to do this,’ ” Sherman said in his usual audacious tone. “Well, I’m going to let you know something: You go to your job and tell your boss what you’re going to do and what you’re not going to do and see how long you last.

“Saleh calls the defense. If Saleh comes up to me and says, ‘Hey, you follow this guy everywhere he goes,' then that’s what I’m going to do. If he doesn’t, guess what? I’m going to do what he told me to do. That’s how coaching and player relationships work.

“And it just so happens, we have the No. 1 pass defense in the league,” he reiterated before sprinkling bits of sarcasm with his truth. “Whoa! Oh, my gawd! It’s crazy. Crazy that you’re not following anybody but, somehow, you’ve got the No. 1 pass defense in the league. It’s almost like our strategy works. It’s almost like you’re in idiot for doing it any other way. It’s almost like you’re dumb if you do it another way. It’s almost like people who have been saying, ‘Oh, do it this way’ for so long, but they don’t have the No. 1 defense.”

For Sherman, and for Saleh, it’s about doing what has worked. What succeeds. What wins. Is there a risk to staying true to their tendencies? Perhaps. If Adams avoids Sherman and torches Emmanuel Moseley and Ahkello Witherspoon – and the latter has been vulnerable – and Green Bay prevails, there will be second-guessing. Because there always is.

Don’t expect it from Sherman, who posed a rhetorical scenario that essentially has a great left tackle shadowing a great pass rusher, no matter where he goes. This does not happen, nor can it ever be expected.

Until it does, Sherman has one criterion for any strategy involving his placement.

[RELATED: 49ers focused on Rodgers' patented move]

“Does it help us win the game? Is it going to help the defense? Is it going to help us limit their explosive (plays)? Then I’ll do it,” he said. “If it’s not. If it doesn’t make a difference, if it’s ... then that’s what I’m going to do.”

It’s not that he never has shadowed a receiver. He has done it against Atlanta’s Julio Jones, against Cincinnati’s A.J. Green. But as a rule, no.

So when the topic was floated this time, Sherman was armed and ready and filled the room with facts.

How 49ers plan to stop Aaron Rodgers' potent 'wrist flick from hell'

How 49ers plan to stop Aaron Rodgers' potent 'wrist flick from hell'

SANTA CLARA -- Type “Aaron Rodgers” and “Hail Mary” into a search engine and the suggested terms drop down in an impressive list. Google offers to combine what you’ve typed with: “vs. Giants,” “vs. Cardinals,” and “vs. Lions.”

There probably are a few more in the Internet’s memory bank. The Green Bay Packers quarterback has a knack for doing the improbable. The 49ers will be cognizant of that Sunday in the NFC Championship Game at Levi’s Stadium.

When pressed for a memory watching Rodgers over the years, 49ers defensive lineman DeForest Buckner brought up that Lions game from 2015. Rodgers zigged and zagged around prospective tacklers as time expired and effortlessly sent a mile high -- and equally far -- Hail Mary to complete an improbable comeback.

The 49ers have a term for that.

"It’s just funny, because we used to call it ‘the wrist flick from hell,’” Buckner said Thursday. “He would start avoiding rushers and everything and then you see that wrist flick and you think, ‘Oh, Lord.’ You know what I mean? You see him do that and you know someone’s going to come down with it. He’s just a special player.”

Last year’s defensive line coach Jeff Zgonina coined the term while the 49ers were watching film. It’s both accurate and apt, considering Rodgers can do things most signal-callers can’t.

The 49ers defensive line is aware of that and has to respect the possibility when rushing such a talented, athletic quarterback. Rodgers isn’t necessarily quick like Kyler Murray or as willing to break the pocket as Russell Wilson, but he can move and create space and avoid negative plays just the same.

That aspect of his game, Buckner said, must be respected a feared a little bit.

“He can extend plays. He’s good getting outside the pocket and knowing where the rush is at if he stays in the pocket,” Buckner said. “He can get out of the way and make guys miss. He can break free and make you pay the way Russell Wilson does. We just need to take it one play at a time and go with the same mindset the last time we played him and the same mindset we had last week. Our guys took it personal and told themselves that they weren’t going to be blocked.”

[RELATED: What Packers' Davante Adams learned from watching 49ers' Jerry Rice]

Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins isn’t Rodgers-like, but he can play. An excellent 49ers defensive line featuring Buckner, Dee Ford, Nick Bosa and Arik Armstead relentlessly hounded Cousins to the tune of six sacks and 23 total pressures in last Saturday's NFC Divisional Playoff.

The 49ers sacked Rodgers seven times and had 25 pressures in a Week 12 matchup with the Packers, and will have to be equally effective and create some scoreboard separation to avoid falling victim to the “wrist flick from hell.”

Programming note: NBC Sports Bay Area feeds your hunger for 49ers playoff coverage with special editions of “49ers Central” all week (6 p.m. Thursday and 8 p.m. Friday)

Also tune in at 2:30 p.m. Sunday for “49ers Pregame Live,” with Laura Britt, Jeff Garcia, Donte Whitner, Ian Williams and Grant Liffmann previewing the NFC Championship Game against the Packers. That same crew will have all the postgame reaction on “49ers Postgame Live,” starting at approximately 6:30 p.m.