Harbaugh wants 49ers to rest their bodies, minds


Harbaugh wants 49ers to rest their bodies, minds

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) As Jim Harbaugh sent the 49ers into a mandatory three-day break to ``rest their minds, rest their bodies,'' San Francisco's coach and his staff busily began playoff preparations for the NFC divisional round in less than two weeks.

That is, after he took a moment to congratulate his men for another special season. One that is hardly finished in everybody's mind.

The two-time reigning NFC West champions (11-4-1) will now spend much of their energy and efforts studying the Washington Redskins - the one team among the Niners' three possible opponents that they have yet to face this season. Green Bay and Seattle are the other two who could visit Candlestick Park for the Jan. 12 prime-time matchup.

Rarely one to look ahead by even a day, Harbaugh referenced the road he expects the team to take before season's end: reaching the Super Bowl after coming so close last season. San Francisco lost 20-17 in overtime of the NFC title game to the eventual champion New York Giants.

``To be back-to-back division champs, worthy champions of arguably the best division in football again this year, I think is quite an accomplishment,'' Harbaugh said Monday. ``Now it's a new focus, a three-game focus, to get our ultimate goal.''

There's another important job, too. Harbaugh must figure out who will be kicking field goals the rest of the way. David Akers struggled yet again Sunday, missing wide left from 44 and 40 yards before connecting on a 43-yarder and 26-yarder in a 27-13 win against Arizona. Harbaugh said it is likely the team will bring in a few kickers for ``some tryouts, have some competition.''

Akers, who made 44 of 52 attempts in his sensational 2011 season, is just 29 for 42 this year. He is only 7 for 13 from 40-49 yards.

The 38-year-old Akers signed a three-year contract as arguably the 49ers' biggest offseason acquisition ahead of the 2011 season aside from the hiring of Harbaugh. And he delivered at nearly every opportunity - until recently.

He had a 21-yard attempt blocked by Red Bryant in a 42-13 loss at Seattle on Dec. 23, and Richard Sherman returned it 90 yards for a touchdown.

Such a dramatic decline for the veteran who surprised himself when he hit a 63-yarder in a season-opening win at Green Bay after the ball bounced off the crossbar. Akers called it ``about like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.''

A six-time Pro-Bowler in his 15th NFL season out of Louisville, Akers scored 166 points last season - far surpassing the 49ers' previous best of 138 accomplished by Hall of Fame receiver Jerry Rice in 1987.

``Kickers go through, at times, slumps. You see a guy go through it and sometimes he'll come out of it quickly and sometimes it lingers a little bit,'' Harbaugh said. ``Have I been surprised that he hasn't made those kicks? You have to understand, that's the job of the kicker, put it through the uprights.''

Also of added importance with securing the NFC's No. 2 seed and an extra week before opening the playoffs is the chance to get Pro Bowl defensive tackle Justin Smith back into the mix after he partially tore his left triceps muscle in a 41-34 win at New England on Dec. 16. Smith's 185-game streak without missing a start ended at Seattle, and Arizona pounded that right side of the line at every opportunity with Smith missing.

``My thoughts are that you watch the strength and how that comes back, and if he can play, do his job, defend himself and be effective,'' Harbaugh said. ``He has made progress each week, significant progress. Hopeful, would be my thought.''

Harbaugh indicated the team would not only rely on Smith's word on whether he feels ready, but also the doctors.

``Nobody knows his body like a player himself,'' Harbaugh said. ``I'm hopeful.''

When it comes to the surprisingly shaky kicking game, Harbaugh provided three potential scenarios - sticking with Akers, bringing in a new kicker altogether or having two kickers and letting them compete.

Whatever plan they go with, the 49ers will need more consistency from that position going forward.

``We want to make the right decision. David's certainly in it,'' Harbaugh said. ``He's done a lot of great things for us. He's made a lot of great kicks, big kicks. He knows it, we know it. Those kicks in the games, you've got to make those kicks. There will always be a level of competition around at any position to find who gives you the best chance to win the next game. Knowing how competitive Dave is, I don't think he'll have a problem with that.''

San Francisco captured consecutive division crowns for the first time since winning four straight West titles from 1992-95. A first-round bye again was an added bonus after Minnesota beat the Packers.

``The bye is great,'' backup quarterback Alex Smith said. ``It gives us a chance to get that much more healthy.''

Harbaugh became the eighth coach in NFL history to win division titles in each of his first two seasons and third to do so after taking over a team with a losing record.

Yet Harbaugh offered a warning of sorts to his players as 2013 approached not to get too excited about what they've done so far.

``The celebration will be after the Super Bowl, not New Year's Eve,'' the coach said. ``I hope guys are smart, I hope they're tame tonight. I tried to ask that, encourage it, almost insist it. You can't make people do things, but if the players are listening, be tame, be tame. Let's rest. I think we need it.''

Notes: RB Kendall Hunter said he underwent surgery on his injured left Achilles and is making progress in his recovery. While still sporting a walking boot, he said: ``I'm getting better. I'll be walking next week. I wish I could be out there.'' ... Aside from the break early in the week, San Francisco players also will have Saturday and Sunday off. ... Harbaugh said CB Tarell Brown played Sunday while fighting a ``fever, the sickness, the flu, the whole works.'' ... The Niners waived RB Brandon Jacobs, who was suspended Dec. 10 for the final three regular-season games.


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Report: Wizards players Thomas Bryant, Gary Payton II test positive for coronavirus

Report: Wizards players Thomas Bryant, Gary Payton II test positive for coronavirus

The Washington Wizards have their first reported cases of coronavirus, as center Thomas Bryant and Gary Payton II have tested positive, according to the Washington Post.

The timing of the tests prevented Bryant and Payton II from traveling with the Wizards to Orlando, FL as they entered the NBA's restart bubble at Disney World. The team, however, is hopeful they can join them before long.

Head coach Scott Brooks first dropped a hint on Thursday night when addressing the media on a video conference call from Orlando.

"A couple of guys did not make the trip. Hopefully they will be joining us soon. But with the CBA medical [restrictions] I can't get into who did not participate," Brooks said.


That suggested coronavirus was the likely reason. If it were another injury, he could specify just as they did with Bradley Beal days earlier when they explained why he wasn't going to play in the restart. A basketball injury also wouldn't prevent them from traveling.

Coronavirus generally stays in the system for 10 to 14 days. It is unclear when Bryant and Payton II contracted the virus, or when they tested positive. The Wizards' first exhibition game is July 22. They play their first regular season game on July 31.

Bryant and Payton II are the first cases involving the Wizards made public. It is not known whether any others have tested positive previously, as team officials have deferred to league statements on related matters.

There have been dozens of positive tests throughout the league in recent months, including some that shut down practice facilities.

Stay connected to the Wizards with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.


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One analyst explains why Redskins' financial value won't decrease with name change

One analyst explains why Redskins' financial value won't decrease with name change

As it stands now, the Washington Redskins are one of the most valuable sports franchises in the world. According to Forbes, the team is worth a whopping $2.2 billion-- the 14th most-valuable franchise in all of sports, and the fifth most valuable team in the NFL.

With the team currently conducting an internal review of the moniker, it's worth wondering if a new name would hurt the value of the team. According to Randy Vataha -- the president of Game Plan LLC., which helps the service of helping people buy and sell sports franchises -- it shouldn't.

"I don't think it will really hurt the team's value ultimately," Vataha said to NBC Sports Washington's JP Finlay.

Vataha explained that each franchise's actual name has little to do with its value.

"We're big believers and have a lot of data that indicates that yes, branding is important, yes, names are important in a lot of ways, but what's really important is the size and the demographics of the market," Vataha said.

The analyst gave the example of New York sports franchises, such as the Knicks and Rangers, and how they are consistently two of the most valuable teams in all of sports. Why? Because they play in New York City.

"The New York teams are all the top teams in every league," Vataha said. "The NFL is a little different because of how they share revenue, but the New York teams are always at the top, not because of the names of the teams. It's because of the marketplace.

"You'll have a lot of people, you'll have a lot of social media, you'll have a lot of political commentary back and forth," Vataha continued. "But at the end of the day, the core value is decided by the size of the market and the demographics of the market."


This past week, a report surfaced from the Washington Post that the Redskins three minority owners were looking to sell their stake in the team, citing that they were "not happy being a partner" with Redskins majority owner Dan Snyder. The three minority owners -- Fred Smith, Dwight Schar and Robert Rothman -- make up approximately 40 percent of the team's ownership group.

Vataha said he understands both sides of the argument surrounding the team. Additionally, he said that the safest financial decision for the team would be to keep the name, despite all the public backlash they've received over the past couple of weeks.


However, immediately after, Vataha emphasized once more that he doesn't envision the name change truly making a big difference value-wise.

"I understand the arguments on both sides pretty well," Vataha said. "But I think from the financial standpoint, the safest thing is never change it. But, on the other hand, I don't think it'll be a big hit to value any way at all."

Stay connected with the Redskins in the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.