San Francisco 49ers

49ers to unveil 'The Catch' statues at Levi's Stadium before Sunday's game

49ers to unveil 'The Catch' statues at Levi's Stadium before Sunday's game

Statues of Dwight Clark and Joe Montana, commemorating “The Catch,” will be unveiled four hours before kickoff Sunday outside of Levi’s Stadium, the club announced.

The ceremony is scheduled from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. on Sunday outside Gate A at Levi’s Stadium.

Sculptures weighing 350 pounds apiece will depict a leaping Clark and Montana with his arms raised. The statutes will be placed 23 yards apart -- the distance Montana’s pass to Clark traveled on the iconic play against the Dallas Cowboys on Jan. 10, 1982, in the NFC Championship Game that lifted the 49ers to their first Super Bowl.

Montana and Clark’s wife, Kelly, along with 49ers CEO Jed York will take part in the ceremony before the 49ers face the Los Angeles Rams.

Clark died on June 4 from ALS. The 49ers will continue to honor Clark's legacy with a marking “87” at the location in the north end zone where Clark made “The Catch” at Candlestick Park.

Funds raised throughout the weekend will support Clark’s charity of choice, the Golden Heart Fund, which offers 49ers alumni financial, medical, psychological or emotional support.

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A book version of "Letters to 87" is being planned for a 2018 release. It’s not too late to send your letter about your memories of “The Catch” or what the play meant to you and/or your family. Please send your letters to:

Letters to 87
NBC Sports Bay Area
360 Third Street, Suite 200
San Francisco, CA 94107

49ers, Kyle Shanahan surprised by Ahkello Witherspoon's sophomore slump

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USATSI

49ers, Kyle Shanahan surprised by Ahkello Witherspoon's sophomore slump

SANTA CLARA - After a very promising finish to his rookie season, 49ers cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon seems to be in a sophomore slump. 

When Jimmie Ward left Monday’s game in the fourth quarter with a hamstring injury, the unexpected happened. Greg Mabin took his place at cornerback instead of Witherspoon. That was the plan all week, according to 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan. 

“Jimmie practiced all week as our starter,” Shanahan said, “and we gave Mabin the backup role. So we knew going into the week that Ahkello was going to take the backseat. We had him get a little more scout-team reps and challenged him that way, and he was up to the challenge.”
 
Witherspoon’s snap count has gradually gone down over the past few weeks. This was apparent in Green Bay when he played no snaps on defense for the first time all season. He was limited to just nine special-teams plays, including the Packers’ game-winning field goal as time expired – a play on which he collided with Mabin and sustained a concussion.
 
The previous week, facing the Arizona Cardinals, Witherspoon played 29 defensive snaps and 11 on special teams. Facing the Chargers, he played 51 defensive snaps and two on special teams. 

Witherspoon’s regression has even Shanahan stumped. When asked about why he has taken a step back he couldn’t specify what has happened. 

“I’m not sure,” Shanahan said. “That’s something we’re working through with him. I do think he had his best week of practice last week, which I had a good talk with Ahkello about that before the game. It was the most encouraged we had been with him, last week through practice.

"I think Ahkello will be there, exactly where he was at last year. I expect him to get better from that. It hasn’t happened right away, but he’s going in the right direction now and I expect it to continue.”

The third-round pick from Colorado received high praise from veteran cornerback Richard Sherman during the offseason. The three-time All-Pro invited Witherspoon to his first “Cornerback Summit” down the road at Stanford. He spent two days learning from the likes of Darius Slay, Xavier Rhodes and Aqib Talib.

Sherman spoke about his belief in Witherspoon being among next great cornerbacks and how he knew he could handle his own with the assembled group. So what has changed? 

Is it because Sherman is now on the other side of the field, which makes opposing quarterbacks target the other side? Is it because Witherspoon’s confidence became too high after so much praise? Is it just the growing pains of being in the NFL? 

There isn’t a concrete answer yet, and there may not be one for a little while with Witherspoon unable to practice while in the NFL’s concussion protocol. The time table for his return to practice is unclear for now.

Mabin, who struggled in his limited role on Monday, is likely to be back on the field in an expanded role if Ward and Witherspoon can’t play on Sunday against the unbeaten Los Angeles Rams.

'Extra credit' work helped Raheem Mostert meet Kyle Shanahan's challenge

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AP

'Extra credit' work helped Raheem Mostert meet Kyle Shanahan's challenge

SANTA CLARA - One of the bright spots in the 49ers loss to the Green Bay Packers was the performance of running back Raheem Mostert. 

Mostert had a tough go the week before when he fumbled the ball on his first carry facing the Arizona Cardinals. Coach Kyle Shanahan challenged the running back after the mishap and Mostert said he took it to heart. 

“I need you to step up,” Mostert said Shanahan told him. “I need you to focus more on ball control. I know you don’t get many reps in practice but when you do, you have to make them count.” 

Mostert understood that as a physical challenge as well as a mental one. He took more reps in practice with the absence of Matt Breida, who was out due to an ankle injury. He asked defenders to go after the ball more aggressively while he was carrying the ball in practice.

He even stayed after practice for “extra credit” to work on ball security drills. Guess what? No one forced a fumble when he was carrying the ball in practice or in the game, even though they tried. 

Mostert closed out the night at Lambeau Field as the game’s top rusher with 12 carries for 87 yards, giving him an average of 7.3 yards per carry. He still isn’t satisfied. He is his own toughest critic, he said.

“I left a lot of yards out on the field especially with my speed,” Mostert said. ”I felt like I could have gotten to the edge a little bit faster. I watched the film and I was really hard on myself even though I had some good runs. I also had mental busts in the game too, which I’m not proud of. That’s something I have to continue to work on, being mentally sharp and for that transition to be more effective in the pass game.” 

Mostert has been known as a special-teams star for most of his NFL career and has just been waiting for his number to get called as a running back. He said he believes he and Breida complement each other well with their similar styles of play.

When asked who of the two would be lightning and who would be thunder, Mostert replied, “Matt is always lightning.”