49ers

Why 49ers' George Kittle says Kobe Bryant is reason he plays sports

Why 49ers' George Kittle says Kobe Bryant is reason he plays sports

Kobe Bryant's sudden, tragic death Sunday from a helicopter crash rocked the NBA world. The Lakers legend's impact was felt much further than basketball courts, though. 

From athletes around multiple other sports, fans and everyday people like you and I, Kobe's death at 41 years old, along with his 13-year-old daughter and seven others aboard the helicopter, simply was gut-wrenching. Star 49ers tight end George Kittle is no exception. 

Kittle, 26, grew up in Iowa as a huge Kobe fan. Like so many of us, Kittle would lace up his Kobes and mimic the former MVP. 

"Kobe was, other than my parents, he was the reason why I played sports," Kittle said Monday at Super Bowl Opening Night. "Just his mindset, the Mamba mentality. I wore the number 24 in high school my freshman, sophomore year because of him. I wore Kobe Bryant basketball shoes because of Kobe Bryant. Every time I laced up my basketball shoes, I felt like I had Kobe Bryant with me. I had a little part of him -- I had his jumper, his fadeaway.

"The amount of hours I spent practicing that fade away from the corner ... and I never made it. But I tried and I thought I was Kobe. He's an icon, he was a hero of mine." 

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Kobe is regarded as one of the best at his position ever, an honor Kittle now finds himself holding among tight ends in the NFL. He has overcome injuries as Bryant did, and his competitiveness is seen every game like the Black Mamba himself.

There is no doubt Kittle will look to unlock his inner Mamba mentality Sunday in Super Bowl LIV against the Kansas City Chiefs.

Programming note: NBC Sports Bay Area feeds your hunger for 49ers Super Bowl coverage with special editions of “49ers Central” all week (8 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, 9 p.m. Tuesday and 3 p.m. Saturday).

Also tune in at 1 p.m. on Super Bowl Sunday for a two-hour special of "49ers Pregame Live" with Laura Britt, Donte Whitner, Jeff Garcia, Ian Williams, Kelli Johnson, Greg Papa and Grant Liffmann. That same crew will have all the postgame reaction on "49ers Postgame Live," starting immediately after the game.

49ers receiver Marquise Goodwin announces birth of his daughter Marae

49ers receiver Marquise Goodwin announces birth of his daughter Marae

February 19 was a day Marquise Goodwin and his wife, Morgan, never will forget.

After suffering two miscarriages since November 2017, the Goodwins welcomed their daughter, Marae, to the world. Marquise announced the birth via his social media channels Sunday.

The Goodwins first revealed their pregnancy struggles to the world on Nov. 13, 2017, when the 49ers wide receiver caught an 83-yard touchdown pass shortly after Morgan delivered their stillborn son.

Goodwin blew a kiss to the sky and dropped to his knees after the score. After the game, he posted to Instagram explaining the tragedy that had befallen his family hours before the game.

In 2018, Goodwin had to fly home the day before the 49ers played in Tampa Bay against the Buccaneers after Morgan had a miscarriage while carrying their twin boys. 

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Goodwin's future with the 49ers is uncertain, but for now, all that matters is he's a #GirlDad.

49ers roster analysis: Future secondary needs warrant action now

49ers roster analysis: Future secondary needs warrant action now

This is the eighth installment of a nine-part series that examines the 49ers’ roster coming out of the 2019 season, looks ahead to 2020, and outlines the offseason challenges facing general manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan on a position-by-position basis.

Today, a look at the 49ers’ defensive backs.

Under contract (signed through)

-CB Richard Sherman (2020)
-S Jaquiski Tartt (2020)
-CB K’Waun Williams (2020)
-CB Ahkello Witherspoon (2020)
-S Tarvarius Moore (2021)
-CB/S D.J. Reed (2021)
-S Marcell Harris (2020)
-CB Tim Harris (2022)
-CB Teez Tabor (2020)
-S Jacob Thieneman (2021)
-CB Jermaine Kelly (2021)
-S Chris Edwards (2021)
-S Derrick Kindred (2020)

Sherman enters the third year of the three-year, $27.15 million contract he negotiated with the 49ers after the Seattle Seahawks released him in March of 2018. Tartt and Williams also are on the final years of their contracts, so the 49ers could look to extend any of them during the offseason.

Expiring contracts

-S Jimmie Ward (UFA)
-CB Jason Verrett (UFA)
-CB Dontae Johnson (UFA)
-CB Emmanuel Moseley (EFA)

Ward is a priority to re-sign. It’s just a matter of how much attention he receives on the open market (if he gets that far) and how far the 49ers will go to re-sign him.

A year ago, Verrett signed a one-year, prove-it contract. He went on injured reserve early in the season.

Moseley will be back on the team. He has no outside negotiating power because of his status as an exclusive-rights free agent.

What needs to happen

The defensive backfield situation might be the most complex to figure out for the 49ers this offseason. Ward is scheduled to be a free agent, but the 49ers also have three of their other top-five defensive backs entering the final years of their contracts.

First things first, they have to figure out how to approach Ward. They would like to retain him, but there might also be some hesitancy because of his injury history. Ward finally played a 16-game season, but that was only after missing the first three games, then picking up three games in the postseason.

Sherman, who turns 32 next month, had an outstanding regular season. Do the 49ers open talks with him about extending his contract?

On the other side, Moseley ended up as the starter over Witherspoon, who enters the final year of his deal. After the demotion, Witherspoon asked to play more special teams. Moseley generally played well, but he was in the middle of the biggest play of Super Bowl LIV.

Tartt, the starting strong safety, also enters the final year of his contract. He and Ward were high-school teammates and work well together.

Williams, one of the top nickel backs in the league, also is entering the final year of his deal.

The 49ers have just one pick in the first four rounds of the draft. This is why it makes a lot of sense to trade back (and trade back and trade back) to acquire selections in the second, third and fourth rounds.

This is a good draft for defensive backs. And while drafting for need is not often advisable, it becomes a lot better of a plan when it is a need that is projected a year down the road.

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Expectations

The 49ers had the best pass defense in the league last season. Despite playing with a lead for most games, the 49ers allowed just 169.2 yards passing per game. That was the lowest average passing yards allowed in the NFL in more than a decade.

It will be nearly impossible to match that level of pass defense of a year ago. So much of the success the 49ers experienced against the pass was a product of the team’s pass rush. That will likely have to be the case again next season.

Teams generally shied away from Sherman’s side. But Sherman gave up a couple of big plays in the postseason, including one late in the Super Bowl. He likely will be challenged more in 2020, which will give him more opportunities to add to his career total of 39 interceptions (including postseason).

The 49ers must find more consistency on the other side. Moseley enters the offseason as the starter. Witherspoon is competing for a role. Tartt appears locked in as one starting safety, but the other spot is wide open at this point.

If Ward does not return to the team, Moore could be next in line to step in as a starter.

If the 49ers use an early draft pick on a safety or cornerback (or both), then competition could potentially lead to a rookie or two in the team’s starting defensive backfield.