49ers

'The thing that Jerry Rice was No. 1 at ...' -- Cris Carter assesses best receiver ever

'The thing that Jerry Rice was No. 1 at ...' -- Cris Carter assesses best receiver ever

In case you didn't have cell phone reception over the weekend and missed it, Jerry Rice made it official ...

"I'm the f***ing best football player of all time," Rice declared while in Tahoe for the American Century Championship celebrity golf tournament.

In football, we typically separate the "best ever" by position group because it's hard to determine the best player overall. So, it's basically unanimous that Rice is the best wide receiver to ever play.

But what made him so special?

"The thing that Jerry Rice was No. 1 at -- Jerry Rice is the best conditioned athlete I've ever seen," Hall of Fame wide receiver Cris Carter said Monday on Fox Sports 1. "He took training to whole another level. ... Jerry Rice wasn't fast on the clock, but he had game speed. I never saw anyone catch him.

"He was the No. 1 football player ever at catch and run. They didn't talk about yards after catch until Jerry Rice. The No. 1 focused and disciplined athlete that I've ever been around."

Rice holds NFL records in touchdowns (208), receiving yards (22,895) and receptions (1,549) -- to name a few ...

49ers unclear on what constitutes penalty under new NFL helmet rule

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49ers unclear on what constitutes penalty under new NFL helmet rule

HOUSTON -- In two preseason games, the 49ers have been penalized three times under the new NFL rule that prohibits any player from lowering his head to initiate contact with the helmet.

Around the league, there appear to be different interpretations of the rule being enforced by different officiating crews through two weeks of the exhibition season. Count 49ers Kyle Shanahan among those who is not sure what defines a penalty.

“We’re all still trying to figure it out,” Shanahan said following the 49ers' game Saturday night against the Houston Texans. “We’ll see how it goes.”

In the exhibition opener, 49ers linebacker Elijah Lee was penalized for a tackle on Dallas running back Bo Scarbrough. Lee appeared to use his shoulder and helmet to make simultaneous contact with the back of Scarbrough, as he turned away from contact.

Lee told NBC Sports Bay Area that not only was he not fined for the play, but the NFL informed a representative of his that referee Ron Torbert’s crew incorrectly threw a flag.

While the three penalties called on the 49ers surprised the three players flagged for infractions, Lee said he understands the purpose behind the rule. He said he is determined to improve his technique to keep his head out of tackling as much as possible.

“It shouldn’t have been a penalty, so it makes me feel a lot better to know that,” Lee said of the play on which he was penalized. “But at the same time, I watched the play, and I do have to keep my head up. I have to keep playing safer and practicing to keep playing safer.”

On Saturday, the 49ers were called for two more questionable interpretations of the rule from referee Walt Anderson’s crew.

Raheem Mostert, who was the gunner on the left side on a punt, lowered his body as he approached Houston return man Tyler Ervin. Mostert appeared to turn to avoid a direct helmet hit on Ervin but might have made glancing helmet contact with the arm in which Ervin was holding the ball after fielding the punt.

“They said it was bad form, but I thought it was good technique by me,” Mostert said. “But I got to go look at the film. I know I tried to keep my head up, but I got to go check out the film.

“It is tough, but that’s why we have film, so we can go watch it and learn from that.”

Defensive end Jeremiah Attaochu was called for unnecessary roughness, lowering his helmet to initiate contact while rushing the passer against Texans right tackle Chad Slade. But Attaochu appeared to extend his arms first. He appeared to initiate contact with his hands before any his helmet made contact with Slade's helmet.

“I had no idea, actually,” Attaochu said. “I just tried to put my hands on his chest and turn into him, trying to stay underneath him. I didn’t understand it.”

Taking the helmet out of tackling has been a major emphasis for the NFL as a safety issue. And there are almost certain to be more complications and controversy as officiating crews must make important and, in some cases, game-changing calls in a split-second.

“It’s whatever they call it, and at the end of the day, we can’t argue with what they call,” Lee said. “I guess we’ll see after we get out of the preseason if they change or how it will change or how it will effect us.

“At the same time, you can’t play hesitant because a big play might happen for the offense. You just got play your game and hope it’s not a penalty.”

Three things you need to know from 49ers' 16-13 preseason loss to Texans

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Three things you need to know from 49ers' 16-13 preseason loss to Texans

HOUSTON -- Here are three things you need to know about the 49ers’ 16-13 loss to the Houston Texans on Saturday night in Week 2 of the exhibition season...

Interior D-line has Depth

The 49ers still don’t really know from where their outside pass rush is going to come, but the interior of the defensive line looks to be in good shape. Veteran Earl Mitchell is a solid presence at nose tackle. And DeForest Buckner could become one of the league’s better defensive tackles.

Behind Mitchell and Buckner are a couple of young players who have put together strong training camps. Sheldon Day and D.J. Jones continued their impressive play on Saturday with strong showings against the Texans.

Day recorded five tackles and forced a fumble, while Jones came up with three tackles and a forced fumble, too. Day is in his first summer with the 49ers after the club claimed him off waivers from the Jacksonville Jaguars last season.

Jones, meanwhile, has made tremendous strides since his rookie season. He said he lost 20 pounds from the end of last season when he regularly found himself on the inactive list for games.

“I feel like it’s been a big turnaround, the way I changed my body in the offseason,” Jones said. “Toward the end of the season when I wasn’t playing, the way I practiced, it got me prepared for this season.”

In the Right Slot

Second-year player Trent Taylor missed most of the offseason program after undergoing surgery to remove bone spurs in his lower back. He has slowly been working back into form during training camp.

Taylor clearly made a lot of progress during this week in Houston. He was Jimmy Garoppolo’s favorite target during the two days of practices against the Texans. And Garoppolo looked for Taylor again on Saturday with a 2-yard touchdown pass to cap the 49ers’ first drive of the game.

“I’m starting to get stronger and get my legs back under me,” Taylor said. “It’s always good to feel improvement as you work. I still have a little ways to go, but it definitely felt great being out there tonight and getting my first catch as a TD.”

Taylor, the team’s primary slot receiver, had only two catches for 7 yards. But his other reception was a 5-yard catch to extend the 49ers' second drive on a third-and-4 play.

Penalties Galore

The 49ers certainly have a lot of room for improvement, especially when it comes to avoiding flags. Kyle Shanahan’s team was called for 15 penalties, totaling 140 yards.

What always gets to Shanahan most are the pre-snap penalties. Joe Staley (false start), Kendrick Bourne (illegal formation), Darrell Williams (false start) and Cedric Thornton (neutral zone infraction) were called for those kinds of infractions.

The worst sequence of penalties, however, went to veteran center Weston Richburg. He was guilty of a rare double-penalty on the first play of the second quarter when he was flagged for holding, then another 15 yards for his ensuing dialogue with the official.

Two of the penalties might have been excusable, though. Raheem Mostert and Jeremiah Attaochu were called for strict interpretations of the NFL’s new rule on lowering the helmet to initiate contact.