49ers

Nick Bosa thrilled to be healthy, register first sack in 49ers debut

Nick Bosa thrilled to be healthy, register first sack in 49ers debut

TAMPA, Fla. — Nick Bosa's much-anticipated 49ers debut exemplified what the rookie pass rusher is capable of.

The No. 2 pick in the 2019 NFL draft played 39 of the defense’s 70 snaps in the 49ers' 31-17 win over the Bucs, which calculates to 56 percent. During that time, he racked up two solo tackles, one for a loss, and one assist. He also sacked Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston once and hit him three times.

Bosa spent a bit of time off the field during OTAs due to a hamstring injury, and then was sidelined again in training camp with an ankle sprain. One of the biggest victories might have been him simply getting through the entire game healthy after a year away from the game due to injuries. 

“Good, a little sore, just getting back into it,” Bosa said when asked about his health. “It’s a long game and you can’t really simulate it with practice so, definitely sore but I’ll be fine.

“Just getting my ankle back. An ankle sprain is something you kind of have to work through a little bit of pain in the beginning. Pretty happy that I got through the whole game and I started to pick it up at the end and we got the win.” 

There were a few plays that Bosa would like to have back. The most notable instance was when he got into the backfield close enough for what could have been a sack, but hesitated. Winston subsequently slipped through his grasp.

“Yeah, just shooting my gun instead of pitter-pattering my feet like that,” Bosa said. “Because if I shoot my gun, even if I don’t get him, I’ll make him either stumble or make him go a certain way so somebody else can get him. I kind of just broke down too much and let him get away. Go for whatever I see instead of hesitating.” 

Bosa was more pleased with his performance in the second half, as he became adjusted to the speed and style of the NFL and their quarterbacks as the game wore on. 

“It’s just a different type of mindset rushing in the NFL compared to college, especially with Jameis,” Bosa said. “He’s unbelievable at getting away from you. I have a lot to work on and just a mindset change but I learned a lot today and I’m really glad to get a win.

“That just goes with the first game and Jameis. He’s unbelievable. Big dude. You can’t arm tackle him. But we got to him when it counted and that’s what matters.” 

Bosa didn’t get his first NFL sack until the middle of the third quarter. He described it as exciting but was unable to celebrate it because of the timing. 

“It felt great,” Bosa said. “It was kind of a moment where we had to focus up. So I was like ‘Alright, no celebration, let’s just go.’ It was second down so we had another big play right after it so it was kind of anti-climactic but it was still nice to get it.” 

The 49ers defense was able to get Winston to the ground three times for a loss of 20 yards total, and had him under pressure much of the game. Bosa knew that if the line was able to get pressure on Winston, the Bucs QB would turn it over.

“Yeah, we knew he has a history of turnovers so we just tried to get in his face, stick hands in his face, whatever we could do,” Bosa said. “Close the pocket on him, make him feel suffocated and it turned out, what was it, four turnovers? Two picks? Three picks?” 

[RELATED: Grading 49ers' offense, defense after sloppy win over Bucs]

When Bosa was reminded of the 49ers' previous season where takeaways were less common, he actually laughed and cracked a joke. 

“That’s not normal for this team?” Bosa quipped. “Yeah, I’m just glad to be a part of a winning effort and I’m glad our defense is trending in the right way.” 

Tom Brady's Joe Montana, Jimmy Garoppolo connection made him 49ers villain

Tom Brady's Joe Montana, Jimmy Garoppolo connection made him 49ers villain

When thinking about a villain, most will think of a maniacal figure lurking in the shadows hellbent on destruction and devastation. In sports, the term is a little broader.

It is reserved both for athletes and coaches who have authored devastation and heartbreak for a fan base: Think Eli Manning for the New England Patriots. It also can be someone whose mere presence and personality makes your skin crawl: Think Floyd Mayweather (boxing skills aside) for most sane people.

Some athletes are born to be the villain. Some have it thrust upon them. For others, their achievements and greatness transform them into the villain, with that role serving as new-found motivation to desecrate their opponents.

When it comes to Tom Brady, his villainy is multi-layered. A sixth-round draft pick who became, in my opinion, the greatest quarterback in the history of football is a Hollywood story everyone would love if they slapped a Disney logo on it.

Or, maybe that movie ends with Brady leading the Patriots to a win in Super Bowl XXXVI. The 20 years that followed saw Brady slowly transform from a feel-good story into something else entirely.

A kid from the Bay who grew up idolizing Joe Montana, only to eventually join the 49ers legend atop the all-time quarterback hierarchy, is inspiring. Perhaps, in theory, you'd think those in the Bay Area would laud Brady's success.

He hasn't ripped their heart out time and time again like he did the New York Jets, Miami Dolphins and Buffalo Bills. The 49ers weren't on the other end of a Deflategate scandal that had absolutely no impact on a conference championship game walloping. That was the Indianapolis Colts.

Brady didn't erase a 28-3 Super Bowl lead to stun the 49ers into a meme-filled existence from which they can't escape. That was the Atlanta Falcons.

There is no direct correlation to the annoyance and dislike many in Northern California appear to have for Brady. There's no seminal moment for 49ers fans to point to, like Raiders fans have with the "Tuck Rule" game.

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

With Brady, it has been villainy by 1,000 cuts. The NFL rags-to-riches story got old quick. The wins piled up. The arrogance from the Patriots and their fans grew. It festered under the surface of every other opposing fan base as they rooted not solely for their team to win, but also for Brady to suffer a humiliating defeat. A dream that seemed to never come true. Strike one.

After Brady and the Patriots ripped the Falcons' soul out of their chest in Super Bowl LI, the kid who grew up idolizing Montana had suddenly supplanted him in the eyes of many (mine included). I'll be the first to say that GOAT debates are among the most pointless exercises we undergo in sports. People have their opinions, and no stats, anecdotes or records are going to change that.

Like the American political landscape, most people have dug their trenches so deep that they are bound to stay in them until a killer asteroid vaporizes us all as we debate passing yard records and Super Bowl wins.

But with Montana's legacy under assault for the first time in two decades, 49ers fans started to assemble in defense of their GOAT. The idol of an age of supremacy long past must not be tipped over and replaced. So, Brady came to personify an assault on the greatness of the 49ers' golden era.

He became a constant reminder that the NFL had passed the 49ers by as they tried to rediscover their glory, while on a decade-plus long search for a quarterback to replace Steve Young.

Watching a Bay Area native who grew up bleeding red and gold win title after title and challenge Montana as the GOAT -- when they drafted Giovanni Carmazzi instead of him -- was a blunt force trauma that's been nearly impossible to recover from whether they admit it or not.

The distaste has lulled a bit in recent years, but then this past offseason came. Brady, a free agent, was interested in coming to the 49ers to replace Jimmy Garoppolo and do what his former protegee couldn't: Lead the 49ers to a Super Bowl title.

Brady, based on reports at the time, had forced the Patriots to trade Garoppolo in 2017, not wanting to have to look over his shoulder at the heir apparent as his career wound down. The 49ers were the beneficiary of Brady's thin skin, acquiring a quarterback who piloted them to a Super Bowl berth for pennies on the dollar.

Garoppolo became the 49ers' guy, the franchise quarterback they had longed to find since Young left (Colin Kaepernick should have been that guy, but that's for another column).

Now Brady, after being worn down by Belichick after 20 years in Foxboro, had the arrogance to try and replace their guy. Garoppolo's shortcomings became a topic of every TV debate show. The wolves were once again at the gates, and a different QB1 now had to be defended from Brady and his believers.

Surely, Brady would have presented a more immediate upside in 2020. But his end his near, and the 49ers Faithful didn't want to be holding the bag when the TB12 Method careens into a ravine.

The belief that you're always the better option no matter the person you're trying to supplant is an arrogance reserved for those who have known only success. Those whose minuscule failures in life have been forgotten, a distant memory of a time when you weren't a six-time Super Bowl champion who is married to a supermodel and believes in some weird pseudoscience witch-doctor medicine that can extend your prime long past when Father Time rings the bell.

And that is everyday villainy that's hard to connect with or root for.

[RELATED: Brady's virus dismissal reason sports should remain paused]

For what it's worth, I don't believe Brady is a villain. He's not the NFL's Joker trying to sow chaos, or Vontaze Burfict running around headhunting for sport. At his core, he's a nerdy guy who reached the peak of his profession and has rarely failed in any pursuit. 

Success is hard for some to stomach and cheer. Jealousy takes over. Could-haves and what-ifs can torment the mind, and hate fills the heart even when you personally haven't been wronged.

Brady's path from Montana fanboy to Bay Area villain (and I use that term lightly), comes not from being a specter of defeat in the postseason or a division rival. It is not his on-field exploits that garner vitriol. Sure, the Make America Great Again hat, the coronavirus dismissal and the belief that drinking water can stop sunburns make him easier to dislike. It's all part of the package, but not a driving force.

But his presence and the ties to Montana and Garoppolo are a constant reminder that the quest to rekindle the 49ers' former glory still is ongoing. He has become a symbol for greatness lost, opportunities missed and paths 49ers fans wish would have been traveled.

Washington NFL team to hold 'thorough review' of using R-word as name

Washington NFL team to hold 'thorough review' of using R-word as name

Could the 49ers already have played their last game against the current iteration of the Washington NFL team?

Washington said in a statement Friday morning that the "team will undergo a thorough review" of using the R-word as the team's name, following years of criticism and mounting corporate pressure over the Daniel Snyder-owned team's use of a racist slur towards Native Americans and Indigenous people.

"In light of recent events around our country and feedback from our community, [we] are announcing the team will undergo a thorough review of the team's name," the press release read. "This review formalizes the internal discussions the team has been having with the league in recent weeks."

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement that the league is "supportive of this important step," and it reportedly isn't the only one. NFL Media's Ian Rapoport, citing "conversations with several sources," reported that the team is likely to change its name. A source told The Washington Post's Mark Maske that the team is "expected" to change the name.

The 49ers are scheduled to play Washington on Dec. 13 at Levi's Stadium, after beating the team 9-0 last season. It's possible, then, that the Oct. 20, 2019 game is the last time the 49ers played Washington under its racist moniker. How long it will take the franchise to change its name, logos and uniforms remain to be seen.

[RACE IN AMERICA: Listen to the latest episode]

Washington has been criticized for years for using the R-word, even facing legal challenges last decade aiming to change it. Washington's use of the R-word has faced renewed scrutiny since George Floyd's death in Minneapolis police custody on Memorial Day, amid a nationwide grappling with systemic racism and inequality. A social-media campaign led by the nonprofit IllumiNative began circulating in recent weeks, while First Peoples Worldwide and the Investors & Indigenous Peoples Working Group sent letters last week signed by firms and investor groups worth over $600 billion calling on Nike, FedEx and PepsiCo to end their business relationships with Washington if the team name did not change.

FedEx, whose chief executive owns a minority stake in the team, requested the team change its name earlier this week. On Thursday, Nike removed all of the team's merchandise from its site. Nike is the NFL's official uniform supplier, while FedEx holds naming rights to the field in Maryland where the team plays.

Washington has used the R-word as its name since 1933, back when the team played in Boston under George Preston Marshall's ownership. The team said in court filings that Marshall named the franchise to honor William Henry "Lone Star" Dietz, the franchise's first head coach. Dietz claimed he was part-Sioux but historians have called his origins into question, finding that Dietz assumed the identity of a missing Sioux man named James One Star. He pleaded no contest in 1920 to charges he used his purported heritage to claim a draft exemption for World War I.

Marshall, a notorious racist, was the last NFL owner to integrate his team and only did so after the proposition his franchise couldn't play in a stadium on federally owned land otherwise. A statue honoring him outside of RFK Stadium, where Washington used to play, was removed earlier this month. The team also removed Marshall from its ring of honor and a wall outside the team's locker room at its practice facility.

[RELATED: Colin Kaepernick, Nate Boyer helped enact real change with discussion]

Defenders of the team's name, including the team itself, have long cited historical research indicating the R-word was used as a self-identifier among Indigenous people. A 2013 NPR investigation found that the word "began to take on a negative, increasingly violent connotation" in the 19th century, as sports teams increasingly began using Native imagery and iconography, but Washington consistently stood by its use of the R-word.

Snyder told USA Today in 2013 that he "would never change the name." Never appears to be now.