Ex-49ers Patrick Willis, Bryant Young Pro Football Hall of Fame semifinalists


Ex-49ers Patrick Willis, Bryant Young Pro Football Hall of Fame semifinalists

Popular former 49ers defensive stars Patrick Willis and Bryant Young advanced to be included among the 25 semifinalists of modern-era players for the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2020.

Willis and Young are among seven first-time semifinalists the Hall of Fame announced Tuesday, as the selection committee narrowed the list of candidates from 122 nominees after the first round of voting. Willis and Young played their entire careers with the 49ers after being first-round draft picks.

Former 49ers running back Ricky Watters was also chosen as a first-time semifinalist, along with two other previously eligible players, linebacker Carl Banks and running back Fred Taylor.

Willis, safety Troy Polamalu and wide receiver Reggie Wayne are the first-time eligible players who were voted into the top 25.

San Francisco general manager John Lynch, who was voted to nine Pro Bowls in 15 seasons as a safety with Tampa Bay and Denver, was named as a semifinalist for the eighth consecutive year.

The modern-era players list will be reduced to 15 finalists to be announced on Jan. 2, 2020. The finalists will then be discussed in front of the full 48-member selection committee during its annual meeting on Feb. 1, 2020, the day before Super Bowl LIV in Miami.

The selection committee will elect up to five modern-era players for the Class of 2020. In addition, a special Centennial Class that will be comprised of 10 seniors (a player who has been retired for more than 25 seasons), three contributors (an individual other than a player or coach) and two coaches.

The seniors, contributors and coaches will be selected by a special 25-person Centennial “Blue-Ribbon” Panel.

Willis played seven full seasons after entering the NFL as a first-round draft pick of the 49ers in 2007. He was named NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, a seven-time Pro Bowl selection and was named first-team All-Pro five times.

Willis led the NFL in tackles twice in his career before appearing in just six games in 2014 due to a foot injury. He retired the following offseason at the age of 30.

Young had an outstanding 14-year career that included four Pro Bowl appearances and one first-team All-Pro selection. He was on a Super Bowl champion as a rookie in 1994, and won Comeback Player of the Year in 1999 after a broken leg ended his previous season after 12 games.

Young is the all-time 49ers leader with 89.5 sacks. This is his eighth year of eligibility for the Hall of Fame.

Watters played his first three NFL seasons with the 49ers and was a key member of the team’s Super Bowl champion for the 1994 season as a dual-threat back. A five-time Pro Bowl performer, Watters ranks 24th all-time with 10,643 rushing yards.

The following is the alphabetical list of 2020 Modern-Era Player Semifinalists, including their positions, years and teams. Also listed are the number of times and years the candidate has been named a semifinalist since this reduction vote was added to the Selection Committee Bylaws in 2004.

--Steve Atwater , S – 1989-1998 Denver Broncos, 1999 New York Jets | (Times as a Semifinalist: 9 – 2012-2020)
--Carl Banks , LB – 1984-1992 New York Giants, 1993 Washington Redskins, 1994-95 Cleveland Browns | (Times as a Semifinalist: 1 – 2020)
--Ronde Barber , CB/S – 1997-2012 Tampa Bay Buccaneers | (Times as a Semifinalist: 3 – 2018-2020)
--Tony Boselli , T – 1995-2001 Jacksonville Jaguars, 2002 Houston Texans (injured reserve) | (Times as a Semifinalist: 5 – 2016-2020)
--Isaac Bruce , WR – 1994-2007 Los Angeles/St. Louis Rams, 2008-09 San Francisco 49ers | (Times as a Semifinalist: 6 – 2015-2020)
--LeRoy Butler , S – 1990-2001 Green Bay Packers | (Times as a Semifinalist: 3 – 2018-2020)
--Alan Faneca , G – 1998-2007 Pittsburgh Steelers, 2008-09 New York Jets, 2010 Arizona Cardinals | (Times as a Semifinalist: 5 – 2016-2020)
--Torry Holt , WR – 1999-2008 St. Louis Rams, 2009 Jacksonville Jaguars | (Times as a Semifinalist: 6 – 2015-2020)
--Steve Hutchinson , G – 2001-05 Seattle Seahawks, 2006-2011 Minnesota Vikings, 2012 Tennessee Titans | (Times as a Semifinalist: 3 – 2018-2020)
--Edgerrin James , RB – 1999-2005 Indianapolis Colts, 2006-08 Arizona Cardinals, 2009 Seattle Seahawks | (Times as a Semifinalist: 6 – 2015-2020)
--John Lynch , FS – 1993-2003 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 2004-07 Denver Broncos | (Times as a Semifinalist: 8 – 2013-2020)
--Clay Matthews , LB – 1978-1993 Cleveland Browns, 1994-96 Atlanta Falcons | (Times as a Semifinalist: 4 – 2012, 2017, 2019-2020)
--Sam Mills , LB – 1986-1994 New Orleans Saints, 1995-97 Carolina Panthers | (Times as a Semifinalist: 3 – 2016, 2019-2020)
--Troy Polamalu , S – 2003-2014 Pittsburgh Steelers (Times as a Semifinalist: 1 – 2020)
--Simeon Rice , DE – 1996-2000 Arizona Cardinals, 2001-06 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 2007 Denver Broncos, 2007 Indianapolis Colts | (Times as a Semifinalist: 2 – 2018, 2020)
--Richard Seymour , DE/DT – 2001-08 New England Patriots, 2009-2012 Oakland Raiders | (Times as a Semifinalist: 3 – 2018-2020)
--Steve Tasker , ST/WR – 1985-86 Houston Oilers, 1986-1997 Buffalo Bills | (Times as a Semifinalist: 7 – 2004, 2008-2010, 2012-13, 2020)
--Fred Taylor , RB – 1998-2008 Jacksonville Jaguars, 2009-2010 New England Patriots | (Times as a Semifinalist: 1 – 2020)
--Zach Thomas , LB – 1996-2007 Miami Dolphins, 2008 Dallas Cowboys | (Times as a Semifinalist: 2 – 2019-2020)
--Hines Ward , WR – 1998-2011 Pittsburgh Steelers | (Times as a Semifinalist: 4 – 2017-2020)
--Ricky Watters , RB – 1992-94 San Francisco 49ers, 1995-97 Philadelphia Eagles, 1998-2001 Seattle Seahawks | (Times as a Semifinalist: 1 – 2020)
--Reggie Wayne , WR – 2001-2014 Indianapolis Colts | (Times as a Semifinalist: 1 – 2020)
--Patrick Willis , LB – 2007-2014 San Francisco 49ers | (Times as a Semifinalist: 1 – 2020)
--Darren Woodson , S – 1992-2003 Dallas Cowboys | (Times as a Semifinalist: 4 – 2015, 2017, 2019-2020)
--Bryant Young , DT – 1994-2007 San Francisco 49ers | (Times as a Semifinalist: 1 – 2020)

Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Selection Committee.

Hue Jackson wanted Browns to sign Colin Kaepernick to contract in 2017

Hue Jackson wanted Browns to sign Colin Kaepernick to contract in 2017

Colin Kaepernick hasn't played in an NFL game since Jan. 1, 2017.

But if former Cleveland Browns coach Hue Jackson had his way, the quarterback would have played during the 2017 season.

During an interview with ESPN Cleveland on Friday, Jackson was asked about Kaepernick, and revealed that he pushed for the Browns to sign the former 49ers quarterback.

“I wanted him,” Jackson said (H/T The News-Herald). “It just didn’t work out. Obviously, those things do have to work from a finance, draft, whatever all that is. And that wasn’t my decision."

Throughout the 2016 season, Kaepernick took a knee during the national anthem to bring attention to racial injustices plaguing the country.

Following the 2016 NFL season, the 49ers hired Kyle Shanahan as their coach and John Lynch as the general manager. They informed Kaepernick that they planned to release him, so he opted out of his contract.

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Despite his obvious talents, no team has signed Kaepernick since he became a free agent in 2017. He held a workout at an Atlanta area high school last year, but there were no suitors for his services following the showcase.

Jackson, who coached the Raiders in 2011, also mentioned that Oakland planned to draft Kaepernick in 2011 if the 49ers hadn't taken him in the second round.

“I’ve known Colin," Jackson said. "When I was with the Raiders (2011), we were going to draft him when I was there. So, obviously he’d been a really good player in the league. He had tremendous success."

With protests taking place nationwide over the last two weeks, Jackson believes Kaepernick's original message finally is being heard.

"He is a guy who has stood for something," Jackson said. "I think everybody is seeing exactly where he was coming from … I always thought Colin deserved an opportunity in this league, but he has to want to play. If he really wanted to play, I think he would have a chance again.”

[RELATED: Kap could help these five teams]

Whether or not the Browns were close to signing Kaepernick, he would have been an upgrade over what they had in-house at the time. The 2017 Cleveland team went 0-16 with DeShone Kizer, Kevin Hogan and Cody Kessler seeing time at quarterback. Kizer started 15 games and threw for 2,891 yards and 11 touchdowns, while being intercepted 22 times.

Despite going 1-10 as the 49ers starter in 2016, Kaepernick completed 59.2 percent of his passes for 2,241 yards and 16 touchdowns. He was intercepted just four times.

Would Kaepernick have made the 2017 Browns a playoff team? Probably not, but they most likely would have been better than 0-16.

49ers' George Kittle reveals Trent Brown as ideal WWE tag-team partner

49ers' George Kittle reveals Trent Brown as ideal WWE tag-team partner

49ers tight end George Kittle doesn’t keep his love for wrestling a secret. He joined WWE’s Smackdown during an appearance in San Francisco, and received a personal introduction from Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson during Super Bowl week.

When asked who he’d want on his side for a hypothetical tag-team match, Kittle points to a surprising player and former 49ers teammate.

“If I really wanted to win all the time, Trent Brown,” Kittle said on the “Bussin’ With The Boys” podcast. “He’s like 6-foot-7, 350 pounds and he moves like he’s 220. I’d pick him because he’d just pick people up and throw them around.”

[RELATED: Kittle reveals which NFL players are toughest to block]

Brown began his NFL career with the 49ers after being selected in the seventh round of the 2015 draft. He and Kittle shared a locker room for the 2017 season, before Brown was traded to the New England Patriots that offseason.

Brown’s athleticism is shocking, given his size (Kittle actually was slightly off: Brown is listed at 6-8), and he earned his first Pro Bowl nod in 2019 as the Raiders' right tackle. Brown signed a four-year $66 million contract with the team last summer, and is the highest-paid offensive tackle in football.

These two really could do some damage between the ropes.

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]