ORLANDO, Fla. – After four-time Pro Bowl cornerback Richard Sherman negotiated and signed his three-year contract with the 49ers, there was another matter with the organization that had to be settled.
“We had to unblock each other on Twitter,” 49ers CEO Jed York said Wednesday at the NFL owners meetings.
York declined to identify the specific interactions on social media that led to the mutual blockings, but he certainly was not alone among the 49ers and their fans who have been annoyed with Sherman’s antics in the past.
“There’s just a level of competition and that competitive spirit,” York said. “I’m happy to be fighting alongside him. But there was definitely a rivalry.
“At the end of the day, football is a business, but you have to figure out can you work with people who have different perspectives and difference histories. And with Richard, he’s going to come in and be the consummate pro.”
49ERS ON SAME PAGE – FOR A CHANGE
For much of the past decade, the 49ers have been unable to come up with a compatible tandem at the two most-important positions on the football side of the organization. At least through one year, it appears they got it right with coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch.
“I think everybody’s on the same page,” York said.
“It makes it easier when you start 0-9 and nobody’s pointing fingers at each other.”
The 49ers finally seem to have a well-defined plan in which the coaching staff and front office are working together. York referenced the team’s approach to free agency. In the past, the 49ers would list their positions of need with players ranked in order of priority -- with little regard to how the individuals actually fit the 49ers' style of either side of the ball. This year, Shanahan and Lynch came up with a small pool of players in which they were genuinely interested.
The 49ers signed Sherman before the start of free agency. He is considered the prototype cornerback for the system defensive coordinator Robert Saleh has installed. The scheme is based on Seattle’s defense.
Center Weston Richburg and running back Jerick McKinnon were the only two players the 49ers pursued at the start of free agency. Both players signed lucrative contracts with the 49ers.
“It started with the foundation of John and Kyle being on the same page on how we want to build our team and this is ultimately where we want to get to, and we want to get to sustainable success,” York said.
“The biggest thing for me – and it’s very, very hard to get this – but it’s a combination of talent and culture. When you see teams that have talented people and cultural fits, they are the ones that are competing for and winning championships.”
SHANAHAN’S BRUTAL HONESTY
York said he knew within the first five minutes of interviewing Shanahan more than a year ago for the head-coaching job last year that he would always get an honest answer. York asked Shanahan what he thought of the 49ers.
His answer: “It wasn’t very complimentary,” York said.
York added, “You can see how some people would take that the wrong way. For me, I just want direct feedback from the coach. You’re probably the most-important person in the organization. We have to be on the same page. I have to know exactly where you stand. I never doubt where Kyle stands.”
LIMIT ON EARLY STARTS VOTED DOWN
The 49ers, Arizona Cardinals and Los Angeles Chargers jointly submitted a proposed bylaw that would have limited the number of games West Coast teams could play at 10 a.m. on the West Coast to three per season.
The bylaw was voted down with little support from teams outside the Pacific time zone. TV officials did not support the move because of its expected limits on broadcasting options.
“It’s not going to be an excuse for us, but it’s a clear competitive disadvantage,” York said. “And we want to make sure people understand that.”
There were 23 such games last season in which West Coast teams played in the early Sunday time slot. The proposal would have limited it to a maximum of 18 times.
Shanahan had never coached a West Coast team before last season. He recognized the difficulty with the early starts last season. The 49ers played five away games that began at 10 a.m. in the Pacific time zone. The club changed its travel plans late in the season from Saturdays to Fridays for games at Houston and Chicago in hopes of benefitting from an extra day to get acclimated to the change of time zones.
The 49ers also proposed a resolution that would require all NFL stadiums to have three separate locker rooms for females of the home and visiting staffs, as well as game officials. York said there was unanimous support for the proposal but the voted was tabled to allow some teams that do not own their stadiums to iron out the details of the necessary construction costs.
The 49ers have two full-time female employees on the football side on game days: offensive assistant Katie Sowers and assistant athletic trainer Laura Schnettgoecke.
WORKING TOGETHER TO AVOID NEED TO PROTEST
The 49ers have been the epicenter of the protests of social inequality that began in 2016 on NFL sidelines during the national anthem. York said he expected more discussion of the topic at the owners meetings, which concluded Wednesday.
“It really wasn’t discussed and touched on in great detail,” York said. “I thought there would probably be more discussion. But there wasn’t much discussion in the last three days on that issue, where there’s been more discussion in the past.”
York said he believes there has been great progress with the NFL working with the Players Coalition with the possibility of more good things to emerge from the sides working closely together.
“You want to work proactively with the players and figure out how to do something together where there’s not a reason to protest,” York said. “We want progress.”
York said the NFL can use its money, influence and platform to team up with players who wish to affect positive change on social matters.
The biggest discussion point might have been the desire to increase player safety. The NFL passed a rule on Tuesday to penalize players who initiate contact by leading with their helmets.
"When you talk about taking the head out of the game, we definitely have to make sure the game is safer," York said. "It's easy for non-experts to say, 'You should do this; uou should do that.' But when coaches actually sit down and talk about it, it’s great to hear experts in any field get up there and speak eloquently about how to do it in the right way."