Why 49ers release of Bowman is best for both sides

Why 49ers release of Bowman is best for both sides

The 49ers came to the conclusion linebacker NaVorro Bowman no longer had value to the organization on or off the field.

In Bowman’s mind, he is the same player who was a first-team All-Pro selection in his each of his four full seasons as an NFL starter.

And that’s where the sides agreed to disagree, which led the 49ers to release Bowman on Friday -- on the same day the club travels to the East Coast to face Washington on Sunday.

General manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan appeared at a press conference Friday at 49ers headquarters in Santa Clara to discuss the move.

“When Kyle and I came into this, we said we knew that we would have to make tough decisions, if they were in the best interests of our team. We felt like this was,” Lynch said.

Bowman started to see a reduction in his playing time last week against the Indianapolis Colts. He would have seen a significant decrease as rookie Reuben Foster returns to full strength from a high ankle sprain.

He made it clear he did not like coming off the field for just one series per half a week ago. He was certainly not going to be satisfied being – at most – a two-down player with Foster playing full-time.

Bowman’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, expressed to the 49ers on Monday that Bowman would like to seek a trade. The 49ers reached out to all 31 teams after a meeting with Bowman, Lynch and Shanahan following practice on Thursday.

Rosenhaus called Friday morning to tell Lynch that Bowman would publicly accept a reduced role with the 49ers.

But, by that time, Lynch knew it was too late. The 49ers pulled the plug on trade talks with a couple of interested teams, according to Lynch, to enable Bowman to become a free agent and cut his own deal.

"Having been through that myself, once you're there, mentally, people feel it in the building," Lynch said. "Some people are going to question whether this is, but I truly do feel it's best for us and I truly do feel it's best for Bow, for him to go and have an opportunity somewhere where if someone brings him in, I will imagine they will have a role and that role will be easier. It's harder to do in the place you've been."

Bowman missed the entire 2014 season with a devastating knee injury sustained in the NFC Championship game at Seattle in January 2014. He returned to an All-Pro level in 2015, but sustained a torn Achilles in the fourth game of last season.

Lynch and Shanahan described the 49ers’ decision to release Bowman at this stage of the season as a move that was best for Bowman and the 49ers.

It was clear he did not exhibit the same explosiveness and foot speed upon his return to the field for this season.

Off the field, the 49ers wanted Bowman to take on more of a leadership stature, a selfless attitude and accept his role of helping set a good example for the young players as the team got off to an 0-5 start.

The future for the 49ers is Foster. The future also includes Malcolm Smith, who would have been a starter if not for the season-ending pectoral injury he sustained in August. The 49ers also like Brock Coyle, and newcomers Elijah Lee and Mark Nzeocha, Lynch said.

With an increasing price tag for next year that included a scheduled $9.45 million in salary and bonuses, there was no chance Bowman would be back with the 49ers next season, regardless of how things went the remainder of the season.

Bowman does not see himself as a player in the twilight of his career. He was upset that he was being phased out. Bowman still sees himself as one of the league’s top players.

The 49ers gave him that opportunity to go to another team to prove it.

How Dwight Clark's idea for 'Letters to 87' caught on with 49ers fans

How Dwight Clark's idea for 'Letters to 87' caught on with 49ers fans

Dwight Clark considered it a shared experience.

He came down with the most improbable, important and well-timed pass reception in 49ers history, but the impact of the play was more than he could have ever imagined.

The story of the NFL would be incomplete without a large section devoted to “The Catch.” But Clark always seemed to feel he was not alone as he leaped and fully extended his 6-foot-4 frame to make a finger-tips grab of Joe Montana’s pass on Jan. 10, 1982.

And, sure enough, the story of many lives would be incomplete without mention of Dwight Clark, too.

“The way he connected with the fans, personally, really brought them together,” Montana said. “Once you met Dwight, it was hard not to like him. His personality was fun, upbeat and jovial -- always.”

Through the years, Clark enjoyed hearing the perspectives and stories of fans -- many of whom had not yet been born when the 49ers beat the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC Championship Game and went on to the organization’s first Super Bowl.

As Clark battled ALS, he made a request during the final interview of his life.

“I’ve often thought if I could get the word out somehow to get the stories, I should put a book together of the stories that these 49ers fans lived through at that moment,” Clark said on The 49ers Insider Podcast on Feb. 27. “Hopefully, long after I’m gone, 49ers fans will still enjoy that play and that year, that team that started it all off.”

The word got out that Clark wished to receive letters from the public, and his fans did not disappoint. The letters poured in. Some were hilarious. Some were emotionally moving. Some recounted the personal experiences of that day. Others described the wide-ranging impact that Clark’s play had on a life, a family.

Each of the letters conveyed a sense of love and appreciation for Clark as a player but, mostly, as an individual.

Clark died on June 4, 2018. Two weeks before that, a group of friends visited him at his ranch in Whitefish, Montana. The group sat around Clark’s bed and read letters to him for nearly two hours.

“Letters to 87,” a documentary that explores Clark’s unique bond with his fans, will premier on NBC Sports Bay Area on Tuesday, Aug. 21, at approximately 8 p.m. (following Giants Postgame Live).

“He really seemed to understand from a fan’s perspective how it felt, what it was,” former 49ers teammate Keena Turner said. “And he seemed to really want the fans to walk away feeling good about the interaction in the moment.

“He felt a genuine love that came, and he wanted to reciprocate. He wanted the fan to understand that it was a shared feeling.”

The impact of listening to the letters was something Clark carried with him. Former 49ers owner and close friend Edward J. DeBartolo Jr. was not in the room that day, but he heard plenty about it from Clark himself.

“He was thrilled,” DeBartolo said. “Getting the letters made him very, very happy. He was sick, but he was just thrilled to know he wasn’t forgotten.”

Ronnie Lott was among the people in Clark’s bedroom on Sunday, May 20, when the letters were read to Clark.

“When he wanted fans to express their feelings, he was trying to capture the same feeling that he had when he did it and how did they feel?” Lott said. “Were they as excited as he was?

“When fans write their letters, there’s a spirit there. There’s a connection. That connection was something we can take for granted.”

49ers notes: Sherman works with Hopkins; McGlinchey's learning experience

49ers notes: Sherman works with Hopkins; McGlinchey's learning experience

HOUSTON -- Texans coach Bill O’Brien and 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo did not overlap while they were with the New England Patriots. But O’Brien saw plenty of Garoppolo last season in Week 14.

Garoppolo threw for 334 yards in his 49ers second start -- a 26-16 victory over the Texans. This week, the 49ers and Texans participated in two joint practices ahead of the teams' Saturday night preseason game.

“Good player,” O’Brien said in his assessment of Garoppolo. “Really quick release, good leader . . . accurate guy, really good guy, good person. It’s what you’re looking for at that position, just guys that are easy to coach, that want to be coached, that are obviously good players. It makes it a lot of fun to coach that position.”

O’Brien served as a Patriots offensive assistant for five seasons under coach Bill Belichick. O'Brien left after the 2011 season to become Penn State’s head coach. Garoppolo spent 3½ seasons with the Patriots, beginning in 2014, before being traded to the 49ers last year.

Coach Kyle Shanahan said he expects Garoppolo to play “maybe a little more” in the 49ers’ second preseason game. Garoppolo started and played one series, nine snaps, and converted two third downs on pass plays last week against the Dallas Cowboys.

“I see it pretty similar to the first game,” Shanahan said. “We’ll feel it out. But he’ll probably go a little more. I wouldn’t expect much more.”

Sherman, Hopkins Work Together

Veteran cornerback Richard Sherman did not take part in any competitive drills during the two 49ers-Texans practices as he continues to rehab from a hamstring strain. But he and Texans All-Pro receiver DeAndre Hopkins spent time together after practice Thursday talking shop while Sherman mirrored Hopkins on some half-speed pass routes.

“I got a little work with Sherman at the end, just kind of go over some stuff that I need to work on,” Hopkins said. “It’s always good to up against a veteran guy because he can tell your weaknesses. He’s going to tell you after what you need to work on. So going up against guys like that, it helps me stay on top of my game.”

Hopkins’ work on Day 1 ended after one play when he and 49ers cornerback Jimmie Ward got into a fight and were kicked out of practice. Hopkins and Ward almost immediately shook hands and seemed to put the incident behind them.

“It was basically a little game of tic-tac-toe,” Hopkins said. “It’s football. That’s my friend. That’s football. It’s nothing more than us just out here playing football.”

McGlinchey’s Learning Experience

The first time 49ers rookie right tackle Mike McGlinchey lined up against Texans All-Pro defensive lineman J.J. Watt, he was rudely tossed to the ground. As it turns out, McGlinchey had no idea what he was supposed to accomplish during that particular sequence. It was a one-on-one run drill -- something the 49ers never do.

“I don’t think guys were expecting that,” 49ers left tackle Joe Staley said. “I know Mike had no idea. He was like, ‘One-on-one run? What do you do there?' I was like, ‘Just come off the ball as hard as you can, like the Oklahoma drill, old school.’

“It didn’t go well for him the first rep. You could see that. But he was awesome. He told me after that, ‘I was just like trying to focus and don’t get embarrassed because he’s pretty strong.’ I was like, ‘J.J.’s one of the best in the NFL, so, yeah, he’s going to be pretty strong.’ ”

All in all, McGlinchey appeared to fare well against Watt for the remainder of the snaps in which they were matched against each other.

“I thought it was good work for him,” Shanahan said. “I think he battled. He definitely lost some and definitely won some, so it was a good start for him.”

This ‘N’ That

Slot receiver Trent Taylor had two good days of practices, and he appears to be all the way back from offseason surgery to remove bone spurs from his lower back. “His cuts are becoming more decisive and efficient, and it’s nice having him out there,” Garoppolo said. . . Shanahan said he was not sure whether veteran running back Alfred Morris would play Saturday. Morris joined the team in Houston and took part in the two practices. Jeremy McNichols, Joe Williams, Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson are likely to split the playing time with the team’s top two running backs, Jerick McKinnon and Matt Breida, sidelined with injuries. . . . Joshua Garnett and Jonathan Cooper are expected to see their first playing time of the preseason, as they join Mike Person and Erik Magnuson in the competition for the starting right guard job. Shanahan said the practices are equally as important as the games in evaluating the competition. “Every day that we put on pads and go against someone, it’s all equal,” he said.