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Garoppolo's presence played huge role in Richard Sherman signing with 49ers


Garoppolo's presence played huge role in Richard Sherman signing with 49ers

Three-time first-team All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman is now a member of the 49ers with a huge assist to the quarterback the organization signed to a record-setting deal earlier this offseason.

Sherman, acting as his own agent, signed a three-year contract with the 49ers on Saturday. He said the presence of Jimmy Garoppolo played a “huge part” in his desire to play for the 49ers. He also cited coach Kyle Shanahan’s prowess at putting together confounding offensive packages.

“He and Jimmy together will contribute to a lot of wins for this football team,” Sherman said Monday in a conference call. “And I think, defensively, I can bring a presence and a leadership that will stabilize and help this defense rise to prominence, as well.”

On Friday, Sherman was informed of his release from the Seattle Seahawks, the team for which he played his first seven NFL seasons. When Sherman’s name was distributed on the league’s personnel notice to each team, he said he immediately heard from Shanahan and 49ers general manager John Lynch.

“I really appreciated that because it showed their commitment, their excitement at having a chance to bring me on board and really show me they were putting their best foot forward,” Sherman said.

That evening he and his fiancée dined in Los Gatos with Shanahan and his wife. He also met with 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh, who served on Seattle’s coaching staff during Sherman’s first three years in the NFL.

Sherman, who has always played with an attitude, used the Seahawks’ decision to cut him as motivation to remain in the NFC West.

“I’ve always played that way, but this is kind of reigniting that gasoline fire that I’ve always had burning,” Sherman said. “It just threw a lot more gas on that and I’m thankful for this motivation and this inspiration.”

Sherman has always been particularly motivated to face the 49ers. He has been the main antagonist in a rivalry that Seattle has dominated, beginning with a victory over the 49ers in the NFC Championship game in January 2014. The Seahawks have defeated the 49ers in nine consecutive head-to-head meetings.

Sherman took particularly delight in tormenting his college coach, Jim Harbaugh, with whom he feuded during and after their time together at Stanford. Sherman said he will have no problem adjusting to now being a member of the 49ers.

“It had a lot more with Jim Harbaugh associated with it than with Shanahan and John Lynch,” Sherman said. “I think with Robert Saleh and Kyle at the helm, it there’s a lot of familiarity there, in terms of scheme I play in and the way they run that defense.

"I’ve spent a lot of time wearing a red jersey in the Bay, so I’m sure I’ll figure it out."

In one of the more memorable moments of Sherman’s ability to get under the skins of the 49ers and their fans, he ate turkey at the 50-yard line at Levi’s Stadium following a Thanksgiving night game in 2014.

Sherman said he never saw the incident as being disrespectful. Moreover, he said it was not even his idea. He was merely following the directions of an NBC-TV producer for the postgame show after the nationally televised game.

Sherman clearly envisions more national attention coming to the 49ers – in large part to the two key individuals on the team’s offensive side.

The 49ers were 5-0 in Garoppolo’s starts to close out the regular season.

“The way he played down the stretch was inspiring and incredible,” Sherman said of Garoppolo. “Quarterbacks can get hot for a limited amount of time. And the next year fall off the face of the earth and you never hear from them again. What I saw from him was consistency, I saw poise, I saw leadership. I saw respect of his teammates. I saw command of the offense and he’d only been there a few weeks.”

Sherman is also quite familiar with Shanahan’s offensive schemes from facing his teams with Washington, Atlanta and San Francisco.

“Kyle is one of the most innovative and creative offensive minds in football -- he and Sean McVay,” Sherman said. “He’s always coming up with two or three concepts that we’d never seen and had no answer for outside of some bastardizations of our defense. And that was on the field, spur of the moment, having three or four All-Pro players who can adjust on the fly that way. “

Sherman said he expects to be ready for the opening of training camp after undergoing season-ending surgery on his right Achilles in mid-November. He clarified that the other procedure he had recently was to remove bone spurs from his left foot.

Sacramento native Rhys Hoskins reaches Home Run Derby semis


Sacramento native Rhys Hoskins reaches Home Run Derby semis

WASHINGTON — Bryce Harper thrilled the home crowd and surely made his father proud, winning the All-Star Home Run Derby on Monday night with an exceptional display of power that carried him past Kyle Schwarber of the Chicago Cubs 19-18.

Harper hit the contest-winning blast in extra time, the reward for hitting two homers at least 440 feet during the 4 minutes of regulation. After he connected with the game winner, the Washington Nationals slugger threw his bat in the air and pointed both index fingers toward the sky as a shower of streamers rained upon the crowd of 43,698.

The six-time All-Star arranged to have his dad, Ron, pitch to him in the annual contest on the eve of the All-Star Game. Harper responded with a performance that drew the loudest cheers of the night at Nationals Park.

It’s been a trying season for Harper, who’s hitting only .214 for the disappointing Nationals. He won a contest that many sluggers avoid, fearful it might wear them out and throw them off.

Harper can only hope this helps him get back into the swing.

The 2015 NL MVP beat Freddie Freeman of the Atlanta Braves and Max Muncy of the Dodgers before trumping the fifth-seeded Schwarber, who put the pressure on with a solid outing before Harper stepped to the plate.

Wearing a headband that resembled the District of Columbia flag and displaying a right sleeve with stars and stripes, Harper trailed 18-9 with 1:20 left before rallying. He homered on nine of his last 10 swings before entering extra time.

Hours before the session, Harper spoke excitedly about having his dad pitch to him in the contest. The 25-year-old said his father “worked his tail off every single day to provide for me and my family” and “now being able to have him throw to me in a big league ballpark is the cherry on top.”

Harper advanced to the final with an astonishing spree of long-ball hitting. He trailed Max Muncy of the Dodgers 12-4 with 2:20 left, then peeled off six homers in 47 seconds before calling a timeout.

Harper returned to hit three more home runs in 22 seconds, the last of them inside the right-field foul pole.

The semifinal matchup between Schwarber and Philadelphia’s Rhys Hoskins was a thriller. After stunning top-seed Jesus Aguilar of Milwaukee in the opening round, the eighth-seeded Hoskins ripped 20 long balls to put the pressure on Schwarber.

Using a late surge, Schwarber pulled one ball after another over the right field wall to squeeze out a 21-20 victory — by far the highest-scoring matchup of the night.

The fans dutifully cheered most home runs during the first round, but they saved their loudest cheers for Harper, the last player to step to the plate.

After Freeman hit 12 home runs over the 4-minute span, Harper unleashed six shots of at least 440 feet and secured the victory with a drive to center long before the clock expired. As the ball cleared the wall, the left-handed hitting Harper walked out of the batter’s box and thrust both arms in the air.

Freeman was the oldest player in the field at 28, and the first Braves participant since Andruw Jones in 2005.

Milwaukee’s Aguilar, the NL home run leader at the break, was eliminated in the opening round by Hoskins 17-12.

Aguilar hit too many balls to straightaway center, where the wall stands over 400 feet from the plate. Hoskins pumped most of his drives into the left-field seats, where it’s 336 feet down the line.

The most thrilling first-round match featured a near buzzer-beater by Houston’s Alex Bregman, who fell to Schwarber 16-15. The difference was the pair of homers that Schwarber hit during 30 seconds of extra time, the reward for hitting two long balls of at least 440 feet.

Bregman — the lone AL representative — appeared defeated with a minute left, but he mounted a late surge and lost when his final swing produced a drive that landed at the base of the center-field wall.

Muncy advanced by defeating No. 6 seed Javier Baez of the Cubs, 16-15. Baez hit the longest shot of the Derby, a 479-footer.

Aaron Rodgers hits fan jumping off a boat in Tahoe in stride with perfect throw


Aaron Rodgers hits fan jumping off a boat in Tahoe in stride with perfect throw

Green Bay Packers quarterback (and former Cal Golden Bear) Aaron Rodgers is known for his downfield accuracy. 

Rodgers has three successful Hail Marys to his name. The first, on Dec. 3, 2015 against the Detroit Lions, kept his team's playoff hopes alive. Another, on Jan. 16, 2016 against the Arizona Cardinals, sent the Divisional game to overtime, and a third came en route to a Wild Card game win against the New York Giants on Jan. 8, 2007. 

At the American Century Championship Celebrity Golf Tournament in Lake Tahoe on Friday, Rodgers added another notch to his belt.

His latest effort won't be confused with the other three, but it's not like any of those receivers landed in a body of water, either. 

The real question? Whether or not that's a catch under the NFL's new rules.