Joe Staley one of few 49ers holdovers deemed worthy of keeping around


Joe Staley one of few 49ers holdovers deemed worthy of keeping around

In three offseasons since their hirings, 49ers general manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan have turned over the team’s roster.

Only 10 players have remained with the 49ers from the roster Lynch and Shanahan inherited in February 2017.

Lynch and Shanahan have spoken about "taking care of our own." But there haven't been many holdover players the 49ers have wanted to keep around.

Safety Jaquiski Tartt, running back Raheem Mostert and tackle Joe Staley will open the season as the only players acquired during Trent Baalke’s time with the 49ers that the new regime has signed to multi-year contract extensions.

The 49ers also would like to sign Pro Bowl defensive tackle DeForest Buckner to a long-term extension. The club this offseason picked up the fifth-year option on Buckner for the 2020 season.

“We’ve had to bring in a lot of people and we knew that before we got here,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said before the conclusion of the team's offseason program. “What’s been really hard is bringing in a lot of people. We want to reward our own.

“We’ve been waiting to do that, and we know Buck is right around the corner. Hopefully, that could be soon. To get that done with Staley, it’s something that we’ve wanted to do. We want to do a lot more of that.”

There was a time in the middle of the 2017 season when Staley was unsure if he wanted to continue to play. But after seeing eye-to-eye with Shanahan on the direction of the organization, he has been re-energized to the point that he signed a new deal that could pay him more than $36 million over the next three seasons.

The deal to lock up Staley is exactly what the 49ers want to do with their players who set the kind of standard the organization wishes to see from everyone in the locker room and field.

“It means everything,” Shanahan said. “First of all, you’re going to reward people who are good players, who can help you. But whenever you make a commitment like that to someone and you’re talking a certain type of money and things like that, you want to do it for people who do it the right way.”

Staley, 34, is a 12-year NFL veteran who did not earn his first Pro Bowl selection until his fifth year in the league. He now has been chosen to six Pro Bowls. Although he had one of his better seasons last year, he was not chosen for a spot on the NFC team.

“Joe’s a very good player, and in terms of doing it the right way he’s been perfect for us,” Shanahan said. “He’s gotten better since we’ve gotten here, which is very exciting, especially at his age and we all know he was real good before that, too.

“So the fact that you can see him improving, the way he carries himself, the fact that he really loves football, you can tell he enjoys playing it. That’s why when guys truly enjoy it, they can play later in their career. They’re not just collecting a check and things like that. It’s people you believe in.”

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These are the 10 players who have remained continuously with the 49ers from the roster Lynch and Shanahan inherited in 2017:

LT Joe Staley, 2007, drafted first round
TE Garrett Celek, 2012, signed as undrafted rookie
DB Jimmie Ward, 2014, drafted first round
*LS Kyle Nelson, 2014, signed as free agent
DL Arik Armstead, 2015, drafted first round
DB Jaquiski Tartt, 2015, drafted second round
DL DeForest Buckner, 2016, drafted first round
OG Joshua Garnett, 2016, drafted first round
DE Ronald Blair, 2016, drafted fifth round
RB Raheem Mostert, 2016, signed to practice squad/active roster

(*-Nelson is scheduled to serve the final six games of a 10-game suspension as a repeat offender of the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing substances at the beginning of the season.)

Why Aldon Smith not labeling self as 'victim' is great sign of growth


Why Aldon Smith not labeling self as 'victim' is great sign of growth

My amateur opinion was that Aldon Smith never took responsibility for his actions.

Maybe I was wrong. But that’s the impression I got from him, including a time we spoke at length during the 2014 offseason when he came by our studios on Third Street in San Francisco. He visited some tech companies in the South Bay and our studios to get out and gain a greater perspective in life.

On the outside, it looked as if his life was spiraling out of control. But when you spoke with him, he portrayed himself as if he had everything under control. And he could be convincing, too.

That’s why I never really thought Smith had a chance to succeed in a comeback attempt.

Then, I read something Wednesday night that changed my mind. Or, at least, it gave me hope that Smith has turned an important corner. Smith posted a statement on his Instagram account after signing a one-year contract with the Dallas Cowboys.

It read:

There is beauty in the struggle.

Life will always present us w/tests. I’ve learned how to take a different perspective on the adversities of life. Instead of looking at life as a victim, I have embraced the journey as God has planned it, making exponential strides towards becoming a better man.

Take this time that we have away from our normal day to day activities and think about changing your perspectives. Focus not on how bad this situation is but instead on how we can all come out of this better people. Let’s work on the things we have been putting off and grow towards our ultimate potential.

I never thought Smith was a bad guy. Never. His was a sad story, for sure.

But I always felt he never took responsibilities for his actions -- the actions that derailed his Hall-of-Fame start with the 49ers and ended his tenure with the Raiders before it really even began.

There might have been plenty of underlying reasons Smith had run-ins with the law and issues with substances of abuse. But there are also a lot of people who went through worse and did not repeatedly make the same mistakes, the same poor decisions.

I was not sure how to feel about the latest, unexpected Smith news after Jay Glazer of Fox Sports and The Athletic broke the story that Smith signed a one-year contract with the Dallas Cowboys.

Glazer described Smith as “clean and sober now.” He added, it is “incredible how much he’s turned his life around.” Glazer revealed he has been around Smith for more than a year with the Merging Vets & Players program. Smith has been “amazing in helping veterans dealing with sobriety issues while getting help himself.”

While I did not doubt any of what Glazer described, what provided the most reason for hope came from Smith -- “instead of looking at life as a victim.” I can’t tell you how happy I was to read those words.

Smith is 30. He has not played in the NFL since 2015. I can only imagine what he faces daily. It is not just a matter of mental toughness or will power. If only it were that easy for him and the many others who deal with similar issues.

It means little to me how well Smith performs on the field this season and, possibly, in the next few years. The important part is that he sets himself up for the many, many years after his playing days are over.

This is a great step on that journey.

NFL rumors: Aldon Smith, Cowboys agree to terms as ex-49er, Raider returns


NFL rumors: Aldon Smith, Cowboys agree to terms as ex-49er, Raider returns

He's back.

Former 49ers and Raiders defensive lineman Aldon Smith reportedly is returning to the NFL with the Dallas Cowboys, FOX's Jay Glazer reported Wednesday night.

NFL Media's Ian Rapaport later reported that Smith has agreed to one-year, $4 million contract.

Smith, the No. 7 overall pick of the 2011 NFL Draft, spent the first four seasons of his career with San Francisco, totaling 44.0 sacks over his first 50 games. A series of personal conduct violations and run-ins with the law ultimately ended his tenure with the 49ers. He then played nine games with the Oakland Raiders in 2015, but has not played in the NFL since.

The deal is contingent on reinstatement from an indefinite ban levied after multiple violations of the substance abuse policy. A contract signifies confidence that he will be reinstated.

Reinstatement to the NFL requires proof of prolonged avoidance of substance of abuse (supported by clean drug tests), and a strong case made to the league.

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In Dallas, Smith would reunite with defensive line coach Jim Tomsula, who was his position coach throughout his time with San Francisco.

The 49ers are scheduled to play the Cowboys at AT&T Stadium in 2020.