49ers

49ers LB Aaron Lynch eligible to return from suspension

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AP

49ers LB Aaron Lynch eligible to return from suspension

SANTA CLARA – Outside linebacker Aaron Lynch is eligible to return to 49ers practice Monday after serving a four-game suspension for violating the league’s policy on substances of abuse.

The 49ers are in desperate need of a pass rush, and the team was expecting big things from Lynch, who recorded 12.5 sacks in 30 games (16 starts) in his first two NFL seasons.

The 49ers, who are likely receive a temporary roster exemption, could activate him in time to play in Thursday’s game against the Arizona Cardinals at Levi’s Stadium.

Lynch was prohibited from practicing with the team or working on the field with coaches during his suspension.

“I haven’t watched Aaron do anything because he’s not with us during practice,” 49ers coach Chip Kelly said last week. “I know talking to our strength and conditioning coach, he’s working extremely hard off the field. After we get after Game 4 then we’ll get him back, but I haven’t had a real chance to observe anything Aaron is doing just because of the nature of what the deal is.

“He’s not allowed to practice with us or train with us. Everything he’s doing is with our strength and conditioning coaches on the side. I know he’s kind of over there, but we’re on the field so I haven’t had a chance to really take a look at him or watch him.”

Through four games, the 49ers have recorded seven sacks. Outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks leads the team with two sacks.

The NFL suspended Lynch after denying his appeal. He said he entered into the NFL’s program on substances abuse upon entering the NFL draft in 2014 for a positive test. He said he was suspended due to a diluted urine sample.
 

49ers' Arik Armstead faces make-or-break stretch after bye week

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AP

49ers' Arik Armstead faces make-or-break stretch after bye week

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 the player whose future with the 49ers could be determined by his play in the final six games.

The 49ers are in search of closers.

Protecting a three-point lead with just under three minutes remaining in regulation on Monday night, the 49ers put the four defensive linemen considered their best pass-rushers onto the field to snuff out quarterback Eli Manning and the New York Giants.

Defensive end Arik Armstead did not play a snap for the remainder of the game. He had a spot on the sideline as a spectator, along with Solomon Thomas, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2017 draft.

“I would have liked to see them in there more on the last drive,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. “They didn't get in there enough.”

Thomas is going nowhere after two seasons. But the 49ers have to make a decision with Armstead, who is completing his fourth NFL season.

Armstead was the No. 17 overall pick in the 2015 draft. In April, the 49ers picked up the fifth-year option for the 2019 season on Armstead. As a defensive end selected from picks 11 to 32, the option for Armstead is $9.046 million.

But the money does not become fully guaranteed until the start of the 2019 league year in March. Up to that point, the money is guaranteed for injury only. So the 49ers will have a window of more than two months after this season to decide whether Armstead is worth keeping around as the team’s highest-paid defensive player for next season.

[CHAN: Richard Sherman, DeForest Buckner lead 49ers' defense through Week 10]

Does Armstead fit the 49ers’ defensive scheme? Does he provide the club with an element that general manager John Lynch cannot get at a less-expensive cost in free agency?

Armstead has already played more games (10) than he did in each of the past two seasons, when he was relegated to just eight and six games in 2016 and 2017 due to shoulder and hand injuries.

Armstead has nine sacks in his 40-game NFL career. On Monday, he was used primarily on run downs.

He is tied with Cassius Marsh for second on the 49ers (behind DeForest Buckner) with 26 total quarterback pressures – consisting of three sacks, six hits and 17 hurries on 220 pass-rush snaps this season.

Armstead has yet to find his niche in the 49ers’ scheme on those all-important nickel pass-rush situations. Against the Giants, Sheldon Day and Ronald Blair were the players selected to join Buckner as interior pass rushers during crunch time.

He will get opportunities in the final six games, but Armstead may have to prove to the 49ers he is worthy of that hefty price tag for next season to still have a spot on the team.

49ers' Joe Staley loves Frank Gore just as much as Jim Harbaugh does

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AP

49ers' Joe Staley loves Frank Gore just as much as Jim Harbaugh does

Close your eyes, erase the nightmares of torn ACLs for Jimmy Garoppolo and Jerick McKinnon and remember the good old days. 

Jim Harbaugh was leading the 49ers to the Super Bowl. Frank Gore was carrying the rock like he will until the year 2034. And Joe Staley was leading the way with blocks for Gore. 

That trio certainly misses those days, just like you do. 

[CHAN: Richard Sherman, DeForest Buckner lead 49ers' defense through Week 10]

On Tuesday, Harbaugh, now the head coach of the University of Michigan, congratulated Gore, now with the Dolphins. Gore has now rushed for at least 500 yards in 14 straight seasons.

"I would also like to congratulate Frank Gore," Harbaugh said to the media unprompted. "The record he set this past Sunday -- and Frank is my favorite player of all time that I've ever coached. Fourteen years of each year rushing for over 500 yards, passing Walter Payton and Emmitt Smith is incredible. ... All respect to that accomplishment by Frank." 

Gore, who has rushed for 528 yards this season at 35 years old, took notice to the kind words from his old coach. 

Staley spent eight seasons blocking for Gore and the veteran misses his old friend. Time to remember the good times again. 

And now we get to the Spider-Man meme version of this story. 

Can it be 2012 again?

[JOHNSON: Patriots owner Robert Kraft addresses previous Colin Kaepernick rumor]