Damontre Moore emotional about rejoining 49ers, makes most of chance

Damontre Moore emotional about rejoining 49ers, makes most of chance

SANTA CLARA – Damontre Moore pressed a football to the top of his head as he bent at his waist, leaning against the bench on the 49ers sideline. He said a prayer of gratitude in the closing seconds of his return to the NFL, which he capped with a key forced fumble.

The 49ers were also thankful Moore was still there for them after 10 weeks of the NFL regular season.

“I was emotional,” Moore said after coming up with a big play to help preserve the 49ers’ victory Sunday over the Arizona Cardinals at Levi’s Stadium. “The one thing I realized on my journey, is I got to give thanks to God.

“I was so emotional because me and coach Kris Kocurek talked probably once a week or once every other week when I was gone. He believed in me. I just have to keep thanking him for this opportunity. I love that guy. I love him. I love my brothers. I love my teammates.”

A week earlier, Moore was spending his time, as he did every Sunday, with his 6-month-old son, Sekani Deruis, and wife Tiara at their home in Mansfield, Texas, a suburb of Dallas. He watched football, kept tabs on all his friends with the 49ers, and wondered if he would get another chance to play in the NFL.

On Tuesday morning, his phone finally rang.

He was on a flight to the Bay Area later that day to work out for the 49ers, who lost defensive end Ronald Blair to a season-ending knee injury in the team’s loss to the Seattle Seahawks on Monday night.

“The 49ers called and, ‘Hey, can you make this flight in two hours? You’re going to work out today, and we’ll see where it goes from there.’ It was a quick turn-around,” Moore said. “The next thing you know, on Wednesday, I’m in practice with full pads.

“This whole week has been a whirlwind. That’s why I’m so emotional. And Sunday, I’m contributing to a win. It doesn’t get any better than that. We got a win, and I actually made a couple of plays.”

Moore played 23 of the 49ers’ 69 defensive snaps, and none was bigger than his hustle play with 25 seconds remaining and the 49ers clinging to a 30-26 lead over Arizona.

Moore was rushing the passer from the left side of the defense. After Kyler Murray’s short pass completion to rookie receiver KeeSean Johnson, Moore turned and ran to the ball. Cornerback Emmanuel Moseley had Johnson wrapped up, and Moore delivered a hit to knock the ball loose. Teammate Jaquiski Tartt recovered the fumble to, in effect, clinch the victory.

“Honestly, I feel like I had to make that play because just as good of a game it was, I also had a lot of mistakes,” Moore said. “I feel like I owed it to this team. They took a risk in bringing me in, and trusting me.”

Moore, 27, broke into the NFL in 2013 as a third-round draft pick of the New York Giants. He also played for Miami, Seattle, Dallas and the Raiders in his career. After suiting up for the San Diego Fleet of the Alliance of American Football this spring, Moore signed with the 49ers to join their 90-man offseason roster.

[RELATED: Unlikely heroes show up in win over Cardinals]

Moore made a strong bid to win a roster spot at the end of training camp. And the 49ers were surprised Moore did not end up on another team before they dialed his number following Blair’s injury.

“He was the 54th guy on our roster after camp, so he earned it,” 49ers rookie defensive end Nick Bosa said. “He deserved to be here, but it’s a numbers game. And he wasn’t here for half the year, so he’s just trying to make up for the time off.”

The 49ers might need more from him after 49ers defensive end Dee Ford exited Sunday’s game with a right hamstring injury. Ford could miss some time, which would provide Moore with additional opportunities. He said he stepped right back into the 49ers’ locker room and felt as if he had never left.

“With coach Kocurek and all the guys embracing me, you would’ve thought I never got cut the way everybody treated me,” Moore said. “It’s really emotional.”

Emmanuel Sanders was down to 49ers, Saints, Packers in NFL free agency

Emmanuel Sanders was down to 49ers, Saints, Packers in NFL free agency

Emmanuel Sanders is a man of his word. He said he would prioritize an opportunity to contend for a Super Bowl when deciding which team he was going to sign with in free agency, and given the finalists for his services, that's precisely what he did.

Sanders joined "The Rich Eisen Show" on Monday and explained that his decision ultimately came down to the top three seeds in the NFC from last season.

"I was talking to Green Bay, I was talking to the Niners and just trying to figure out what type of deal, what type of money are we talking about," Sanders explained. "And then the Saints called, and I was ecstatic about them calling. The opportunity to play with Drew Brees and everything. The numbers made sense -- Drew has two more years left on his deal, and I signed a two-year deal."

As you might recall, the 49ers and Packers earned the Nos. 1 and 2 overall seeds in the NFC last season -- and a first-round bye -- while New Orleans finished as the No. 3 seed. The Saints saw their season end in the wild-card round, whereas San Francisco defeated Green Bay in the NFC Championship Game to advance to Super Bowl LIV.

While the 49ers and Saints didn't face each other in the playoffs, they did combine for a thrilling regular-season shootout in Week 14 -- a 48-46 San Francisco road win in which Sanders played a huge role, catching seven passes for 157 receiving yards and a touchdown. The next time he returns to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, it won't be as a visiting player.

"I'm just excited to be a New Orleans Saint," Sanders continued. "I looked at the schedule -- we've got 11 or 12 games inside in a dome. Michael Thomas being my counterpart, Drew Brees throwing the ball, Sean Payton calling the plays -- a wide-open spread offense just like I was with Peyton [Manning] in 2014 -- it just set a new fire under me."

Though Sanders didn't elaborate on those indoor games, he was correct in that the Saints will play 11 regular-season games in a dome next season. In addition to road games against the Atlanta Falcons, Las Vegas Raiders and Detroit Lions, they of course have their eight home games -- one of which might be circled as soon as the official schedule is released.

[RELATED: NFL will expand playoffs to seven teams beginning in 2020]

That one?

Against the 49ers.

NFL plans to start 2020 season on time, with fans despite coronavirus

NFL plans to start 2020 season on time, with fans despite coronavirus

While the sports world remains on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic, the NFL is planning on forging ahead.

The league didn't push back the start of the new league year and conducted free agency as scheduled. While it's impossible to predict what state of the pandemic will be come fall, the NFL is committed to the idea that the 2020 season will go as expected, with fans in attendance and without delay.

"All of our discussions," Jeff Pash, executive vice president and general counsel for the NFL, said Tuesday, via ESPN. "All of our focus, has been on a normal, traditional season, starting on time, playing in front of fans, in our regular stadiums, and going through a full 16-game regular season and a full set of playoffs. That's our focus.

"We're still in March, so it's quite a few months between now and when our season would begin. The belief and the information that we have is leading us to continue on focusing on a season that starts on time and played in a normal way."

Pash also noted the NFL schedule, which was slated to be released in April, will come out May 9 and will include international games, according to Sports Illustrated.

While the NFL is planning for business as usual some five months from now, the pandemic has greatly impacted the way the league operates. Team facilities are shuttered except for a few essential employees. Draft visits and workouts have been canceled. The NFL draft, which was slated to be Las Vegas' introduction to the football world, now will be held remotely.

Pash told reporters there are no current contingency plans for a shortened season or a delayed one, citing: “how the curve has trended down and tailed off in other countries, and what they believe will be the result based on the modeling that has been done in this country."

[RELATED: NFL to expand playoffs to seven teams per conference beginning 2020]

Be sure, the NFL has a lot of money at stake. A lot of advertisers and companies that want to know what their plan is. For now, it's to plan for normalcy and adjust should the pandemic reemerge in the fall as most epidemiologists expect.

As of Tuesday, there have been more than 160,000 cases of coronavirus in the United States and more than 3,000 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and NBC News reporting.