Hall of Fame semifinalist Bryant Young loves watching 49ers this season


Hall of Fame semifinalist Bryant Young loves watching 49ers this season

Bryant Young left a lasting impact on the 49ers as one of the best players to ever wear the uniform.

There has never been an individual who earned more respect from his teammates, as exemplified by the eight times he was chosen as the winner of the 49ers’ top honor, the Len Eshmont Award for courageous and inspirational play.

Young last week was announced as a semifinalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame for the first time, making it to the final 25 modern-era candidates for the Class of 2020.

Upon his retirement and being carried off the field on the shoulders of his teammates at the conclusion of the 2007 season, Young’s uniform No. 97 was not worn by another 49ers player for a decade.

Now, No. 97 is back making an impact, and Young is excited to see rookie defensive end Nick Bosa wearing the number with distinction.

“It’s kind of weird seeing it flash across the screen,” Young said on The 49ers Insider Podcast. “But I tell you what, he’s representing that number really well and doing a good job in his first year. I’m proud of the job he’s doing with that number.”

Young is the 49ers' all-time sacks leader with 89.5. Bosa has eight sacks in his first NFL season with four games remaining on the regular-season schedule.

But Young was never about numbers, and that perspective is part of what made him special -- on and off the field.

“It’s not the number that makes the person, it’s the person that makes the number,” Young said. “To be able to wear that number for so many years, I hope people remember the person more than they remember the number, and the person and what he did in the community. The person, in terms of how he treated people in the organization and the community.

"And, then, the person as a player.”

Young coached for several seasons after his retirement as a player. He stepped away from his position as defensive line coach of the Atlanta Falcons in the offseason to spend more time with family in Charlotte, N.C.

He still follows the only NFL organization for which he played. And, of course, he pays particularly close attention to the play of the 49ers’ defensive line.

[RELATED: 49ers would love Ravens rematch in Super Bowl LIV]

“You see things, the chemistry that they have, they understand situational football, and guys are competing from snap to whistle, and that’s really fun to see,” Young said.

“From a fan perspective, it’s really fun to see the Niners are doing a really good job and everybody’s engaged, and it’s fun. And you feel that excitement in the air. They’re fun to watch. You understand from a coach’s standpoint, they have a good group of guys that have been assimilated on that field that really care about each other and play for each other.”

Akiem Hicks shades Mike Glennon to argue Colin Kaepernick blackballed

Akiem Hicks shades Mike Glennon to argue Colin Kaepernick blackballed

Chicago Bears defensive tackle Akiem Hicks needed just four words to sum up why he thought former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick had been blackballed by the NFL.

"We signed Mike Glennon."

Hicks said as much in a video press conference with reporters Wednesday, referring to Chicago's decision to sign Glennon to a contract worth $18.5 million guaranteed in 2017. Kaepernick, who had kneeled during the national anthem before games to protest police brutality and institutional racism throughout the 2016 season, went unsigned that entire offseason and since then.

Kaepernick's protest has received renewed attention as protestors demonstrate around the world against the same societal issues the QB sought to highlight. George Floyd, a 46-year-old African American man, died last Monday in Minneapolis police custody after a white police officer pressed his knee into Floyd's neck for nearly nine minutes as he pleaded that he couldn't breathe. Floyd's death also occurred within months of Louisville police fatally shooting a 26-year-old African American woman named Breonna Taylor, and nearly four months after two white men allegedly followed and shot Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old African American man, as he jogged in his Georgia neighborhood.

Kaepernick argued his protest against police brutality cost him his job as part of a collusion lawsuit he ultimately settled with the NFL last February, and he has been a free agent since opting out of his contract with the 49ers -- after they said they would release him otherwise -- in 2017. Former 49ers teammate Alex Smith said last month it's "absurd" Kaepernick, who led San Francisco to a Super Bowl appearance and an NFC Championship Game berth in back-to-back seasons, has not been employed by an NFL team since then.

“I think he would have gotten a good deal if he had not protested,” Hicks said. “Does he have all the qualifications that we seem to be looking for in NFL quarterbacks? Athletic. He can get the ball down the field. I think that he fits a lot of those categories. Do I know if he would have gotten a huge deal and gone onto be a Hall of Fame quarterback? I don’t know these things. I just know that when he took a knee, he was silenced -- or they attempted to silence him.”

Some of Kaepernick's critics argued he played his way out of a job. Yes, the 49ers went just 1-10 after a healthy Kaepernick regained the starting job from Blaine Gabbert in 2016. But the QB posted a 90.1 passer rating and 16 touchdowns (to four interceptions), all while playing on a team that current general manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan couldn't wait to strip for spare parts the following offseason.

Nine 49ers caught at least 10 passes from Kaepernick in 2016, and seven didn't return to San Francisco the following season. Only one of those nine players, depth tight end Garrett Celek, was on the 49ers' roster in 2019. Three haven't played in an NFL game since then, and another (Rod Streater) has only played in three games -- all in 2018 -- during that time.

[RELATED: Shanahan believes Jimmy G has ability to be "all-time" great]

Of course, the Bears might have seen enough when Kaepernick completed just one of five passes for 4 yards against Chicago in the middle of a December snowstorm. Kaepernick's 45 snaps in that game could've been plenty, considering Glennon played all of 15 snaps in 2016 before the Bears signed him to a three-year contract worth up to $45 million.

But Glennon didn't last a season as the Bears' starter, losing his job to Mitchell Trubisky -- who the Bears selected with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft following a trade with the 49ers -- after just four games. The Bears eventually cut Glennon in 2018.

Glennon has played for three teams since then, and Kaepernick hasn't played for one.

“What I will say is this, though: It’s not a Chicago problem, it’s an entire-league problem," Hicks said of Kaepernick remaining unsigned. "There’s 31 other teams.”

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

Why 49ers' George Kittle 'loves' playing for head coach Kyle Shanahan

Why 49ers' George Kittle 'loves' playing for head coach Kyle Shanahan

George Kittle has rapidly ascended during his three NFL seasons. Originally a fifth-round draft pick in 2017, Kittle has become one of the league's best tight ends playing in coach Kyle Shanahan's offense.

When asked what it's like to play for the young head coach, Kittle couldn't be more thrilled about having Shanahan at the helm in San Francisco.

"Awesome, Kyle is the man, I love playing for him," Kittle told Will Compton and Taylor Lewan on this week's episode of the "Bussin' With The Boys" podcast. "One of my favorite things about him is he just loves football so much. And when you have a guy that loves football and its not work for him, it makes it pretty easy to play for the guy. He doesn't have to give a pump-up speech, you can just tell how much it means to him."

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

Kittle also appreciates that Shanahan doesn't beat around the bush when it comes to communicating with his players.

"He's just straight up with everybody," Kittle said. "We were 4-12 (in 2018), and he still got up in front of the team and didn't bulls--t us or anything like, he's like, 'This is why we're not good, this is what we have to do to be better, we just have to work hard and practice better.' So he's always straight up with us."

[RELATED: Steve Young wants 49ers' Kyle Shanahan to challenge Jimmy Garoppolo]

He certainly has evoked a similar reaction from many of his players, as Shanahan's passion helped players gravitate towards the head coach.

Shanahan, Kittle and the rest of the 49ers' roster will come to training camp hungry, looking to avenge a heartbreaking loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV.