49ers' George Kittle to spend time in the offseason with Tony Gonzalez


49ers' George Kittle to spend time in the offseason with Tony Gonzalez

It is only going to get more difficult for George Kittle, who set the all-time NFL single-season record for tight ends with 1,377 receiving yards this season.

Kittle is likely to be the focus of every opponent that faces the 49ers next season. And with that in mind, 49ers assistant head coach/tight ends Jon Embree has lined up a special week in Los Angeles for Kittle to help him cope with the new challenge.

Kittle and Embree will meet up with Tony Gonzalez, one of the all-time great tight ends, in February or March, Embree said on The 49ers Insider Podcast.

Embree said he believes Kittle can gain a lot from the experience of talking ball with Gonzalez, who is likely to be elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame this weekend in Atlanta.

“One of the things with George is, it’s easier to be the hunter than the hunted, so to speak,” Embree said. “So now that he’s had this success, my thing with him is, 'How do you sustain it?' And how hard it’s going to be to sustain that success.

“Now, when you walk into a game, everybody is going to know where 85 is on every play. Everybody is going to (say), defensively, ‘Get your hands on 85. Get your hands on 85.’ ‘Re-route.’ ‘Jam.’ All those different things that he’s going to have to face now, that maybe he didn’t face the entire year last year.”

There are few individuals on the planet who can relate more to the challenge of being a marked man than Gonzalez, who made 14 Pro Bowls in his 17 NFL seasons and ranks behind only Jerry Rice with 1,325 career receptions.

“I just want him to understand about how he needs to work, how he needs to continue to prepare,” Embree said of Kittle. “How do you handle certain things so when those things arise he’s not sitting there trying to figure out something? I can say, ‘Hey, remember when 88 told you this.’ ‘Hey, now, 88 told you about this; this is what we got to do.’ Don’t be frustrated, because those situations are going to arise next year for him.”

Embree and Gonzalez built a lasting bond during the three seasons Embree coached tight ends with the Kansas City Chiefs from 2006 to ’09. Embree said he will go to dinner with Gonzalez and Kittle. Then, those two will work together on the field. NFL rules do not allow Embree to step on the field with Kittle before the start of the team’s offseason program in April.

“Tony knows how I work and things I want done, so Tony is going to work with him on some of those things and teach him some of the little tricks and nuances that he’s done over his career,” Embree said.

Kittle had an encouraging rookie season in 2017, catching 43 passes for 515 yards. However, he started just seven of the 15 games in which he appeared as he battled an array of injuries. This year, Kittle remained healthy, started all 16 games and caught 88 passes for 1,377 yards.

“He was a big body catch, letting the ball get on his body,” Embree said. “My thing is, if you’re 6-5 and you have the length you have, you got to use it. My expression is about playing big. So I want you to catch the ball outside your frame. Reach out and catch the ball. Use your length. You could tell he worked on that. He did a good job of plucking the ball. He did a good job of being in traffic and using his length.”

Kittle was even more impressive after getting the ball in his hands. He had 873 yards after the catch, according to Pro Football Focus, which is the most for any player at any position since PFF began keeping statistics in 2006.

“The mindset in our room is, ‘Make them tackle you,’” Embree said. “The rule says they have to tackle you, but you don’t have to let them tackle you.”

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Embree said once a player, such as Kittle with his size and speed, drops his shoulder and runs over a player in the secondary, it changes how defensive backs approach him for the remainder of the game.

“They’re going to make a business decision. And that business decision is, ‘I don’t want to get hurt’ or ‘I don’t want to look bad,’” Embree said. “So they’re going to let you go a little bit and tackle you from behind. He has such good speed, if they try to make that business decision, it ends up being an explosive (play) for a touchdown.”

Colin Kaepernick, Eric Reid resolve pending grievances against NFL


Colin Kaepernick, Eric Reid resolve pending grievances against NFL

Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid have settled their collusion grievances against the National Football League with a confidential settlement, lawyers representing both men and the NFL announced Friday in a joint statement.

“For the past several months, counsel for Mr. Kaepernick and Mr. Reid have engaged in an ongoing dialogue with representatives of the NFL," the statement read. "As a result of those discussions, the parties have decided to resolve the pending grievances. The resolution of this matter is subject to a confidentiality agreement so there will be no further comment by any party.”

Kaepernick, 31, has remained out of the NFL since the end of the 2016 season. He played six seasons with the 49ers and became the center of a nationwide controversy with his decision to kneel during the playing of the national anthem as a protest against racial inequality during the 2016 season.

Reid, 27, joined Kaepernick in the protest, which began during the exhibition season in 2016. Reid continued his protest in 2017 with the 49ers and last season with the Carolina Panthers. Reid is a six-year NFL veteran who played his first five seasons with the 49ers.

While Kaepernick has not played in the NFL the past two seasons, Reid experienced a slow free-agent market last offseason before finally signing with the Panthers in late September. Reid appeared in 13 games for the Panthers and last week signed a three-year extension worth more than $21 million.

The NFL Players Association released the following statement:

"Today, we were informed by the NFL of the settlement of the Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid collusion cases. We are not privy to the details of the settlement, but support the decision by the players and their counsel. We continuously supported Colin and Eric from the start of their protests, participated with their lawyers throughout their legal proceedings and were prepared to participate in the upcoming trial in pursuit of both truth and justice for what we believe the NFL and its clubs did to them. We are glad that Eric has earned a job and a new contract, and we continue to hope that Colin gets his opportunity as well."

[RELATED: AAF reportedly interested in Kaepernick]

In August, an arbitrator denied the NFL’s request to throw out the claims that owners conspired to keep Kaepernick out of the league because of his protests. The grievance was scheduled to be heard this month.

In November 2017, attorney Mark Geragos, representing Kaepernick, notified the NFL they were seeking electronic communications, including text messages and emails, of personnel from NFL teams that were linked to Kaepernick.

AAF has interest in signing Colin Kaepernick, just like the NFL should


AAF has interest in signing Colin Kaepernick, just like the NFL should

We don't know when or if Colin Kaepernick will ever play football again.

We do know, however, that even if the NFL isn't interested in his services, someone else is.

According to Charean Williams of Pro Football Talk, the Alliance of American Football recently reached out to Kaepernick to gauge his interest in playing in the new football league.

Per Williams' report, AAF co-founder Bill Polian told The Athletic that CEO Charlie Ebersol was the one to reach out to Kaepernick.

"I don’t know what transpired, but he’s obviously not playing," Polian said.

The AAF is in its debut season, but one of the early critiques of the league is its lack of quality quarterbacks. In addition to Kaepernick, the AAF reportedly also reached out to former Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow, who declined.

After news of the AAF's contact with Kaepernick broke, Barry Wilner of the Associated Press subsequently reported that Kaepernick's reasoning for declining to join the AAF was financially motivated.

According to Wilner's report, a person with knowledge of the conversation told the Associated Press that Kaepernick, "wanted $20 million or more to consider playing with the league that had its debut last weekend." That person spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Not to question anyone's credibility, but that $20 million number is awfully hard to believe, for several reasons.

For one, it's a number that would dwarf all other salaries in the league. AAF players sign three-year contracts worth a total of $250,000.

Additionally, there is nothing in Kaepernick's past that would support the notion that he's in it for the money. Just think about all the money he's donated out of his own pockets to the numerous social causes that have undoubtedly played a major role in his shunning from the NFL.

And, finally, if the NFL was going to find a way to try to sully Kaepernick's character and land a punch in the arena of public opinion, wouldn't leaking a false claim such as that $20 million number make a lot of sense?

[RELATED: Colorado sports store closes after Nike, Kaepernick boycott]

The AAF wants Kaepernick, much like the NFL should.

But that $20 million number?

That doesn't make any sense.