49ers

49ers to honor Dwight Clark with helmet decal, statue outside Levi's Stadium

49ers to honor Dwight Clark with helmet decal, statue outside Levi's Stadium

SANTA CLARA – Dwight Clark helped launch the 49ers’ dynasty of the 1980s when he leaped high into the air to come down with “The Catch.”

The 49ers will permanently pay tribute to Clark at the apex of his finger-tip grab with a statue outside the gates of Levi’s Stadium, the club announced during a private event Tuesday night.

The event featured a preview of the documentary, “Letters to 87,” which will air commercial-free on Tuesday, Aug. 21, on NBC Sports Bay Area at 8 p.m. (following Giants Postgame Live). The documentary highlights Clark’s bond with his fans, as signified by an outpouring of heartfelt letters he received after he was diagnosed with ALS.

Team president Al Guido announced the different ways the 49ers will honor Clark, who passed away on June 4 after a two-year battle with the disease. The club announced it plans to honor Clark on the date 8/7 every year. Clark, of course, wore the No. 87.

“It’s what we’re considering now Dwight Clark Day,” Guido said on The 49ers Insider Podcast.

The 49ers on Sunday, Oct. 21, will unveil statues depicting Clark’s leap and Joe Montana’s pass on the play that propelled the 49ers to their first Super Bowl title. The 49ers’ nationally televised night game against the Los Angeles Rams will serve as the backdrop for a number of Clark tributes.

Clark’s statue will feature him suspended in mid-air with his hands outstretched 11 feet above the ground. Montana’s arms are raised to signify a touchdown. The statues are 23 yards apart – the same distance the ball traveled from Montana to Clark, who made "The Catch" in the back of the end zone in the NFC Championship Game against the Dallas Cowboys on Jan. 10, 1982. The statues weigh 350 pounds apiece.

All 49ers players will wear “87” helmet decals throughout the season. The same logo, which includes a silhouette of Clark’s signature leap, will be featured on the field bunting behind the north end zone.

“Almost four decades ago, Dwight Clark’s miraculous catch launched the San Francisco 49ers into an era of excellence,” 49ers CEO Jed York said. “Since that time, he has served as an inspirational figure to citizens of the Bay Area and beyond. Dwight has meant so much to so many and it is only fitting that our organization continues to carry on his wonderful legacy.

“The 2018 season provides us a tremendous opportunity to celebrate the life of a very special man, while also raising awareness for the Golden Heart Fund, which was so dear to his heart. Dwight lived his life with great compassion for others, and we want to honor that legacy by raising funds to support his 49ers brothers.”

The 49ers also received permission from the NFL to mark the location of Clark’s catch in the north end zone with an “87” painted into the end zone for the Oct. 21 game against the Rams.

The game against the Rams will serve as the 49ers’ annual Alumni Game, with funds being raised throughout the weekend for the Golden Heart Fund. The fund was established in 2016 to support 49ers alumni in need of financial, medical, psychological or emotional support. The Golden Heart Fund was Clark's charity of choice.

Jerry Rice took part in the event on Tuesday night, as he modeled a coyote fur coat Clark famously wore at the 49ers’ first Super Bowl parade in San Francisco, following the 1981 season. Clark’s brother, Jeff, donated the coat for display at the 49ers Museum.

Patriots owner Robert Kraft addresses previous Colin Kaepernick rumor

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USATSI

Patriots owner Robert Kraft addresses previous Colin Kaepernick rumor

As we all know, former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick remains out of the NFL. 

No matter how long Kaepernick remains unsigned, however, rumors will swirl connecting him to teams. Thanks to Kaepernick's attorney Mark Geragos, Kaepernick was linked to the Raiders and the Patriots back in September.

In an interview with the New York Times, Patriots owner Robert Kraft didn't confirm nor deny Geragos. Kraft called the report a "rumor" before pausing, taking his time and saying, “I’m done talking about it." 

“Let me say this: I would very much like to see him in the league,” Kraft also said.

Kraft could have easily denied the report. He didn't though, and yet, we're in the second straight season of Kaepernick as a free agent since he started kneeling to protest racial and social injustices.

Kaepernick is still the youngest quarterback to win a regular season game in New England against the Patriots. In 2012, Kaepernick, at 25 years and 43 days old, led the 49ers to a 41-34 win at Gillette Stadium. He threw for 221 yards and four touchdowns in the victory. 

What has made George Kittle the 49ers' best offensive player in 2018

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AP

What has made George Kittle the 49ers' best offensive player in 2018

Editor’s note: The 49ers break for the bye week with a 2-8 record. This is part of a series that recaps the first 10 games with an eye to the future. In this installment, we look at who the best player is on the offense. 

There’s no debate that George Kittle has been the star of the 49ers’ offense thus far. Coach Kyle Shanahan still isn’t completely sure why the tight end dropped to the fifth round in the 2017 draft, but he’s thankful it happened. 

Shanahan points his finger toward the heavy run-first Iowa offense for Kittle lasting until the 146th overall pick but says he saw more than that in his second-year tight end. Shanahan always had high expectations for Kittle and still believes the tight end hasn't reached his ceiling. 

Kittle put together a solid rookie season, catching 43 of his 63 targets for 515 yards and two touchdowns. He had a 68.3 catch percentage and one 100-yard game. 

In his sophomore season, Kittle was able to adjust his offseason training program to be more specific to his position instead of being geared toward the NFL Scouting Combine. He has learned how to take care of his body in order to recover and stay on the field, which Shanahan said has been a key to his success. 

Kittle has caught 50 of his 71 targets for 775 yards and three touchdowns. That puts him on pace for 1,240 yards for the season. He has a 70.4 catch percentage and has posted two 100-yard games. 

One thing markedly different about Kittle in his second year is his desire to play angry. After the loss to the Giants, he explained where this aggression came from. 

“I learned this from Pierre Garçon last year,” Kittle said. “That dude has the nastiest switch from when he goes from not on the field, to on the field. He goes from the nicest guy in the room to the angriest, meanest person ever. 

“Seeing him play like that last year, completely, it’s a kind of mindset, seeing him play like that has definitely helped me this year. And flipping that switch to play as angry as possible, because there’s a lot of guys who don’t play angry, that’s helped me a lot.”

[RELATED: Kittle's one-handed catch]

“So when I see someone flat-footed, and I can run over them, it makes me very happy, and I’m going to continue to do that.” 

That anger has helped Kittle gain more yards after catch than any other tight end in the league. His 535 yards after catch far outreaches Chiefs All-Pro tight end Travis Kelce’s 362 yards. Kittle is on pace to shatter the season record of 652 yards after catch, currently held by Kelce. 

Kittle also has 10 receptions of 20 yards or more, tied for the most among tight ends with Kelce and Raiders Jared Cook.

And he's done all of this while working with three different quarterbacks in those 10 weeks: Jimmy Garoppolo, C.J. Beathard and Nick Mullens.