Ronnie Lott

Ronnie Lott's message for when Richard Sherman plays against Seahawks

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AP

Ronnie Lott's message for when Richard Sherman plays against Seahawks

Ronnie Lott knows what it's like to switch sides of a rivalry. The Hall of Fame defensive back spent his first 10 years in the NFL leading the 49ers' defense. 

And then in 1991, he changed colors and went to Raiders Silver and Black. This season, 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman is in the same situation. 

Sherman went from seven seasons on the Seahawks, to joining the 49ers this season. On Sunday, he'll face his former team for the second time in the last three weeks. 

"I can tell you right now, when we played the 49ers and I was with the Raiders, I was like, you know what, I have to play even harder because of how much I care about how I play around Charles Haley and all the other guys that I played with," Lott said Friday morning on KNBR. 

The game has changed, but respect is still at center of emotions. Perhaps nobody played the game harder than Lott in his day or even in the history of the game. When he went against his old team, he was laying it all on the line to show what everyone in the organization will always mean to him. 

"The sweetest thing in life is to go out and play your hardest against your best friends. And the reason that it's the sweetest thing in life is that that that's the ultimate compliment," Lott said. "The ultimate compliment is to be able to pay your respects to things and to the people who came before you and were part of you and helped you get to where you got to." 

Sherman received a warm homecoming in Seattle when the 49ers were trounced 43-16 in Week 13. All it took was two weeks for the sparks to be lit though. 

Seahawks defensive end Frank Clark quipped Sherman's "opinion really doesn't matter," to which the veteran cornerback said the comments "didn’t bother me at all." Talk is talk though. At the end of the day, all that matters is what happens on the field. 

"Despite all this other stuff, you want to be able to walk across the field, shake their hands and go, 'Hey Pete, you know what, love you, you gave me everything, but man, I gave you something today too.' That's about how much you care about him," Lott said.

Vikings long snapper shows Ronnie Lott-type grit, plays with part of a pinkie

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USATSI

Vikings long snapper shows Ronnie Lott-type grit, plays with part of a pinkie

Ronnie Lott, you might have some company in NFL toughness lore. And it’s a long snapper.

Kevin McDermott, who snaps on field goals and punts for the Vikings, handled those duties seven times Thursday night against the Rams. Nothing to see here, right?

Well, McDermott did some of those without part of a pinky finger, ESPN’s Courtney Cronin reported.

NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport followed up by reporting that McDermott needed 16 stitches in the finger and had to have surgery Friday morning to repair it even further.

McDermott and Lott actually have another thing in common. After going undrafted, McDermott spent the 2013 season with the 49ers.

No one knows exactly when McDermott lost part of the finger -- ProFootballTalk pointed out it likely happened on a second-quarter Bailey field goal, causing him to miss two special-teams snaps -- but the whole thing likely reminds Bay Area fans of Lott’s 1986 decision to have his broken pinkie amputated so he wouldn’t miss time in the upcoming season. The then-49ers safety made the All-Pro and Pro Bowl teams that season, and Lott went on to win two more Super Bowl titles in a Hall of Fame career that ran until 1994.

As for McDermott’s future, he’ll have a little time to recover before the Vikings’ next game, which isn’t until Oct. 8 against the Eagles. Regardless if he plays or not, he’s certainly already earned his teammates’ respect, as well as comparisons to an NFL legend.

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 earlier, 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 premiere commercial-free 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.”