NFL roster cuts 2019: 49ers release veteran linebacker Malcolm Smith

NFL roster cuts 2019: 49ers release veteran linebacker Malcolm Smith

SANTA CLARA – The 49ers released veteran linebacker Malcolm Smith on Tuesday, which signals a vote of confidence for rookie linebacker Dre Greenlaw.

Smith, 30, was one of the defensive centerpieces of the first day of 2017 free agency when the 49ers signed him to a five year, $26.5 million contract. However, Smith missed the entire 2017 season with a torn pectoral. He appeared in 12 games last season, including five starts.

The 49ers signed wide receiver Nick Willams to fill the roster spot ahead of the team's final preseason game on Thursday against the Los Angeles Chargers. Williams entered the NFL in 2013 as an undrafted rookie with Washington, where 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan was the offensive coordinator. He also spent time with Atlanta, Tennessee, the Los Angeles Rams and Denver, appearing in 26 games and catching 30 passes for 280 yards and two touchdowns.

The 49ers restructured Smith’s contract in the offseason. The club does not have to pay him his scheduled $1.25 million base salary. Smith, an eight-year NFL veteran, is now free to sign with any NFL team.

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Smith played his first four seasons with the Seattle, where he was named MVP of Super Bowl XLVIII following the Seahawks’ 43-8 victory over the Denver Broncos. He played two seasons with the Raiders before signing as a free agent with the 49ers.

The decision to release Smith before the 49ers’ final preseason game appears to signal that Greenlaw is in line to start, along with linebackers Fred Warner and Kwon Alexander. Greenlaw, a fifth-round draft pick, was impressive in training camp and during the exhibition season.

CA Governor Gavin Newsom 'doesn't anticipate' normal NFL games in fall

CA Governor Gavin Newsom 'doesn't anticipate' normal NFL games in fall

President Donald Trump reportedly told sports commissioners and top executives Saturday that he believes the NFL should start on time with fans returning to stadiums by August despite the coronavirus outbreak.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom doesn't share the same thoughts.

The governor was asked about Trump's reported prediction, and said he doesn't envision California having made enough progress against the virus for it to be business as usual for the NFL come fall.

“I’m not anticipating that happening in this state,” Newsom said Saturday. “We’ve all seen the headlines over the last couple days in Asia, where they opening up certain businesses, and now they’re starting to roll back those openings because they’re starting seeing some spread and there’s a boomerang. One has to be very cautious here, one has to be careful not to overpromise.

"It's interesting, I have a lot of friends that work in Major League Baseball and the NFL, they've been asking me -- in fact, a well-known athlete -- a football player -- just asked me if he expects to come back. I said, 'I would move very cautiously in that expectation.' "

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Newsom is making sure to prioritize safety and caution above all else before letting sports return.

“Our decision on that basis here in the State of California will be determined by the facts, will be determined by the health experts, will be determined by our ability to meet this moment and bend the curve, and have the appropriate community surveillance and testing to confidently determine whether that's appropriate," Newsom said. "Right now, I’m just focusing on the immediate, but that’s not something I anticipate happening in the next few months.”

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The truth of the matter is that no one knows how long this will last or when sports will be able to return to packed stadiums. The NFL is planning on starting the schedule on time with fans in the stadium, but that might not be the case in California. With many epidemiologists expecting the virus to surge again the fall, the fate of the NFL's season is very much up in the air.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases as well as a lead member of the White House's coronavirus taskforce, told Warriors star Steph Curry that sports can only safely return once the country as a whole has turned the corner from the outbreak and the medical system no longer is under strain.

As of Saturday, there were more than 270,000 cases of coronavirus in the United States and more than 7,000 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and NBC News reporting.

Watch DeForest Buckner, Arik Armstead, Clelin Ferrell in joint workout

Watch DeForest Buckner, Arik Armstead, Clelin Ferrell in joint workout

While the NFL offseason programs are postponed, many players are still working out to be ready for the time when the teams are able to get back to work in an organized setting.

In Miami, DeForest Buckner, Arik Armstead and Clelin Ferrell are working out with private defensive line coach Mark Hall.

Hall, who recently was a guest on the 49ers Insider Podcast, sent a video to NBC Sports Bay Area of the three players working out.

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The 49ers recently traded Buckner to the Indianapolis Colts for the No. 13 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, and re-signed Armstead to a four-year, $84 million contract. Ferrell will enter his second season with the Las Vegas Raiders after being the club’s first-round selection at No. 4 overall in the 2019 draft.