<![CDATA[NBC Bay Area - Bay Area Sports News, Sports Teams, and Scores for the Sharks, 49ers, Raiders,Giants, Bears and More]]> Copyright 2015 http://www.nbcbayarea.com/news/sports http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/nbc_bayarea_blue.png NBC Bay Area http://www.nbcbayarea.com en-us Sun, 02 Aug 2015 09:44:27 -0700 Sun, 02 Aug 2015 09:44:27 -0700 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Disabilities Don't Stop This Surfer]]> Sat, 01 Aug 2015 21:17:34 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/knbc-disabled-surfer-Mitchell-Solomon-Coombs.jpg

Surfing is difficult for many people to master, but for Mitchell Solomon-Coombs, the sport poses an especially unique challenge because the 22-year-old is unable to walk.

Solomon-Coombs was born with various neurological disorders and was diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome, a form of autism, as a teenager.

He also lost his ability to walk after several sports injuries and uses a wheelchair to get around. But ever since discovering surfing in Southern California at Huntington Beach last summer, Solomon-Coombs hasn't looked back.

"I stood up on a surfboard and I hadn't been able to walk in over two years," Solomon-Coombs said. "Ever since then, I caught my first wave and I said, 'I love this water.' It's great therapy for me and I'm going to keep trying this out."

Many who encounter Solomon-Coombs, like surfer Cassidy McClain, who competed in the U.S. Open of Surfing in Huntington Beach, are inspired by his story.

"Just his passion for trying to go out and surf, even though he has a disability, it's not stopping him," McClain said. "He's amazing, he's an inspiration."

Solomon-Coombs is originally from Texas, but discovered a love of surfing while on vacation with his family in Huntington Beach last summer.

He soon found many supporters in the surfing community, including friend Lindsey Potter.

"He draws people with his passion," Potter said. "He's in a wheelchair and he's the happiest kid I've ever met."

This summer, Solomon-Coombs is vacationing by himself for the first time, and as he looks toward the future, said he hopes to one day make his surfing lifestyle a little more permanent.

"I would love to live anywhere in Southern California, but we'll see," Solomon-Coombs said. "One step at a time."



Photo Credit: Mitchell Solomon-Coombs]]>
<![CDATA[Pre-Civil War Baseball Card Goes for Over $100K at Auction]]> Fri, 31 Jul 2015 12:53:51 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/baseballcard.jpg

An heirloom of a baseball player that is over 150 years old was sold at an auction in Chicago Thursday. 

The baseball card was passed down in the family for generations, until being sold for $179,250, according to NBC News. The Brooklyn Atlantics card was from roughly 1860. It was sold at a sports collector's auction.

The card had remained in the family of Archibald McMahon, an outfielder for the Atlantic Baseball Club of Brooklyn. The team was one of the first of baseball's first organized league. 

Among other things sold at the auction included shoes worn by Muhammad Ali and a Yankees jersey worn by Mickey Mantle. 



Photo Credit: NBC News]]>
<![CDATA[49ers' Brandon Thomas is Ready to Play]]> Fri, 31 Jul 2015 09:52:05 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/179*120/tombrandynog.jpg

Over the past few years, the 49ers have gambled on several injured players in the draft.

General manager Trent Baalke has selected formerly highly touted prospects, getting them at bargain prices and stockpiling them for future use.

Sometimes, as with South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore, it doesn’t work out. Lattimore, selected by the 49ers in the fourth round of the 2013 draft, was rated as a first-round talent for the Gamecocks before suffering a second knee injury. Eventually, he retired without ever playing a down in San Francisco.

Fortunately for the Niners, all it cost was a fourth-round draft choice.

As the 49ers prepare to open training camp Saturday with their first full-squad workout, another of those low-risk, high-reward Baalke gambles will be in the spotlight: guard Brandon Thomas.

Thomas, a third-round pick in 2014 out of Clemson, possibly was destined to be a high second-round pick until suffering an ACL tear in a pre-draft workout.

Now Thomas – after more than a year of rehabilitation, film study and participation in recent spring team workouts – is ready to go.

It’s projected that Thomas is the No. 1 candidate to win the left guard spot vacated by Mike Iupati. In fact, much of the success of the offensive line in 2015 could hinge on Thomas regaining the momentum he had at Clemson, when the 6-foot-3, 317-pounder was a first-team, all-Atlantic Coast Conference left tackle who impressed scouts with his smarts and athleticism.

Thomas told a reporter this spring that the past year has been beneficial for him because he’s been able to learn from veteran left tackle Joe Staley while also spending hours and hours lifting weights and watching video.

“Last year I took it upon myself to focus on film study,” Thomas said. “That was a major part because I knew I wasn’t going to be able to get out there on the field. Film room was a big part for me and especially the weight room. I got my legs stronger and I’m just ready to go.”

What kind of a lineman will 49ers fans see in Thomas?

The draft profile of Thomas by Nolan Nawrocki of NFL.com notes that Thomas has long arms (34¾ inches) and big hands (10½ inches), who uses both to his advantage. “Strong-handed puncher with good grip strength once he latches on,” wrote Nawrocki. “Athletic, efficient mover. Light on his feet.”

Nawrocki noted that Thomas improved ever year at Clemson – where he played both guard and tackle – and is projected in the pros to be “a long-term fixture at left guard.”

Beginning Saturday, the 49ers hope that projection -- and their gamble -- turns out to be on the money.

 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Cooper Quietly Confident Heading Into First Camp]]> Fri, 31 Jul 2015 09:56:23 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/165*120/akuppere.jpg

Others have great expectations for Amari Cooper, such as Jerry Rice.

The Hall of Fame wide receiver recently compared Cooper, the Raiders’ rookie, to Oakland great Tim Brown.

Former NFL player and scout Bucky Brooks, too, is confident Cooper will be a star in his first season.

“I think Amari Cooper is going to rip it up, just watching what we’ve seen from him in Oakland, his route running has even improved from the time he left Alabama,” Brooks wrote on NFL.com recently. “He is going to be a guy who right now comes in and plays.”

But as Cooper, Oakland’s No. 1 draft pick, prepared to start his first training camp practice with his new team on Friday, he was more like John Wayne or Henry Fonda than Brown – a man of quiet confidence and few words.

And for the Raiders, that’s probably a good sign.

Cooper, the former Alabama All-America, seems content to let his actions speak louder than his words. He’s not starting training camp with predictions of a 1,000-yard season, 100 catches or the Offensive Rookie of the Year award.

In a brief question-and-answer session with members of the Bay Area media this week, Cooper indicated he’s eager to get going but not thinking ahead.

He’s not getting ahead of himself. He knows he has a job to do and is focused on the task at hand. His new teammates and coaches have talked often this offseason about Cooper’s strong work ethic, and he’s about to prove it.

For the team being, at least, his quotes are pure vanilla.

“I’m just going to take it day by day and try to get better day by day, taking advantage of every moment while I’m out on the field,” he said.

Though the Raiders are counting on him to make an immediate impact on their offense in 2015, Cooper says, “I don’t really feel any pressure.”

In fact, Cooper says he’s been trying to soak up as much information as possible from his teammates. He recently spent time with other Raiders wide receivers and quarterback Derek Carr at a voluntary pre-training camp session in Bakersfield, Carr’s hometown, to fine tune his knowledge of routes, the playbook and the connection with Carr. He says time spent with veteran wide receiver Michael Crabtree, formerly of the 49ers, also has helped.

“He’s a great player,” Cooper told reporters. “I always watch him. He uses his body well to get open. … I try to steal those things from him.”

 

 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Jets Fans Fly 'Cheaters' Banner Over Patriots Practice]]> Thu, 30 Jul 2015 10:45:07 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Jets-Fans-Patriots.jpg

The Jets fans behind last year's campaign to get the team's general manager fired have a new target: The New England Patriots.

The group that runs the website NYJetsFans.com flew a banner over the Patriots' training camp in Foxborough, Massachussets, that said “CHEATERS LOOK UP!” on Thursday. The sign includes the Twitter handle “@JetsFanMedia.”

A spokesman for the group, Jason Koeppel, told Metro.us before the flight Thursday that they were going to fly the banner because “the time has come for Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and Robert Kraft to start dealing with reality.”

“Sports fans are not stupid. We have seen this act before from disgraced former superstar athletes. People like Lance Armstrong and Ryan Braun who challenged the system after they got caught red handed. Ben Johnson, Marion Jones, A-Rod, Roger Clemens -- the list of people who lied after they got caught cheating is sadly endless,” Koeppel said.

Koeppel’s group was also responsible for the “Fire John Izdik” billboard that was placed near MetLife Stadium last season. The group is also trying to have the Jets bring back Fireman Ed, the team’s unofficial mascot who stopped going to games after the 2012 season.

The flight of the banner comes two days after the NFL upheld a four-game suspension for Brady in connection with the team’s use of under-inflated footballs during the 2015 AFC Championship game against the Indianapolis Colts.

Brady has maintained that he had no role in the alleged football-deflating conspiracy, and the NFL Player’s Association has filed suit against the league in federal court over the suspension.



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Niners Training Camp Will Test Speedy Receivers]]> Fri, 31 Jul 2015 08:34:35 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/160*124/jayhsimpp.jpg

When the 49ers open training camp this weekend, wide receivers promise to be a focus of media and fan attention.

San Francisco hopes to have a more explosive, deep-threat passing game in 2015, so the addition of former Baltimore Raven Torrey Smith – one of the best long-ball receivers in the NFL – could have a huge impact.

But the 49ers also are hoping other wideouts will bring some home-run capability, too, including veteran Jerome Simpson, formerly of the Vikings, and undrafted free-agent rookie DeAndrew White of Alabama.

Throughout spring workouts, Simpson and White provided highlight catches and big plays.

Simpson, who sat out the 2014 season, has elite speed and consistently was able to get separation on 49ers defensive backs in spring workouts.

“That’s Jerome,” said Niners co-wide receivers coach Ronald Curry in June, during the team’s minicamp. “We mess with him and tell him that he only has one speed, and that’s full speed. He can’t even jog slow.”

White, too, was impressive. Overshadowed by All-America teammate Amari Cooper at Alabama, White was one of the most exciting playmakers on the offense this spring. The 49ers believe he could make an impact as a receiver and kick returner. The 6-foot, 192-pounder also has the necessary speed to get deep.

In addition, White wants to prove to everyone that he was unjustly overlooked in the draft.

“He motivates himself,” co-wide receivers coach Adam Henry told a writer for the team website recently. “He has a little chip on his shoulder, and he brings it to the building each and every day.”

But with training camp now set to begin, both Simpson and White will be tested far more than they were in spring drills.

As noted in a preview to the opening of training camp on 49ers.com Wednesday, wide receivers now will have to go against defensive backs in full-contact drills and scrimmages, where it will be far more difficult to get separation. Pure speed won’t be enough. Guile, strength and smarts will come into play.

Simpson, of course, has shown that he can make catches in the NFL. The 6-foot-1, 193-pounder, who’s 29, has played six seasons with the Bengals and Vikings and has 145 catches for 2,004 yards and eight TDs, with a 13.8-yard average per catch – but hasn’t played since 2013.

White, meanwhile, is a rookie who will have to learn to get free from more experienced cornerbacks. It will be a whole new experience.

Said Curry, of the impending tests for both: “We don’t crown anyone when we’re in shorts.”

If Simpson and White prove they're up to the task, the 49ers' receiving corps in 2015 could be a much more dangerous group than it was a year ago.

 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Raiders Hope to Get Their Money's Worth From Allen]]> Thu, 30 Jul 2015 10:13:13 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/189*120/nayetalynh.jpg

The Raiders will have plenty of new faces on defense this season, including Nate Allen, a likely starter at safety next to Charles Woodson.

Oakland went into the offseason seeking help at the position and made attempts at bringing in other veterans aside from Allen, a starter the past five seasons with the Eagles. The Raiders made an offer to restricted free agent Sean Richardson of the Packers, which Green Bay matched. Oakland also courted veterans D.J. Swearinger and Stevie Brown.

But Allen was the only veteran free agent of significance signed, and to get him the Raiders signed him to a whopping four-year, $23 million deal – which raised eyebrows across the NFL.

Shortly after Oakland signed Allen in March, an SB Nation fan website for the Eagles, Bleeding Green Nation, posted a story with the headline, “You won’t believe how much money the Oakland Raiders paid Nate Allen.”

“Crazy,” wrote Brandon Lee Gowton. “This just a year after Allen tested the market and re-signed with the Eagles on a one-year deal worth $2 million (with another $1 million in play-time incentives).”

Now, on the eve of training camp, which opens this weekend, the Raiders’ deal with Allen continues to draw negative notices.

While Allen, 27, may prove to be an upgrade this season for the Raiders – the veteran has been a starter with the Eagles every year since being  taken in the second round of the 2010 NFL Draft – many continue to believe the team paid way too much to land him.

This week, Bill Barnwell of ESPN.com’s Grantland, put Allen on his “All-Bad-Contracts Team” for 2015, labeling him a “marginal player.”

Barnwell said the signing of Allen is another example of  Oakland needing to overpay “to try to lure veteran talent to its never-ending rebuilding project in the East Bay.”

“The Eagles were reportedly interested in trading for a safety last year to replace Allen, but after they let him leave in free agency, the Raiders gave Allen nearly $12 million guaranteed,” wrote Barnwell. “He’ll have the seventh-largest (salary) cap hit of any safety in 2015.”

Allen went into the free-agent season ranked sixth among available safeties by the analytics website Pro Football Focus, yet wound up with a larger payday than more touted veterans, such as Rahim Moore, who signed with the Texans.

Yet Pro Football Focus assesses Allen as a player who may still be on the rise. Though he took abuse in Philadelphia for sometimes giving up big pass plays – such as a game-winning touchdown pass against Arizona in 2014 – PFF sees Allen as a player who is getting better.  PFF says his overall grade as a safety has improved the past two seasons.

“Last season he graded positively in both run defense and coverage while playing primarily as a deep safety, though he also saw snaps near the line of scrimmage and in the slot,” reads the PFF assessment. “Got his hands on six passes in 2014, including four interceptions.”

The PFF report says Allen “still has a chance to reach his potential.”

If that’s the case – that Allen continues his ascent and provides the Raiders defense with solid play in 2015, and that it helps Oakland to a big turnaround season under new head coach Jack Del Rio – the Raiders likely will consider the contact money well spent.

For his part, Allen is excited to start a new chapter of his career, with the chance to play alongside Woodson, a future Hall of Famer.

“Just to be able to work alongside a dude like that, I mean, I couldn’t ask for a better situation,” Allen told a reporter this spring. “… He’s been around the game for what, 18 years now? This is his 18th year, so he’s seen just about everything and been through just about everything so I just feel like I have a lot that I can learn from him.”

 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[USOC Exploring Possible LA-SF Joint Olympics Bid]]> Wed, 29 Jul 2015 23:40:27 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/196*120/01-08-2015-olympics-los-angeles-coliseum-flag.jpg

With Boston now out of the 2024 Olympics race, Los Angeles is exploring a new bid that could include Bay Area cooperation.

The United States Olympics Committee has reached out to San Francisco’s Olympics bid committee regarding a joint bid with Los Angeles, multiple sources within the San Francisco 2024 Olympic Bid and the USOC told NBC Bay Area’s Raj Mathai.

“Discussions are taking place,” one of the sources said, but "a lot will have to happen in the next six weeks." 

According to the Chronicle, Giants CEO Larry Baer, who led San Francisco's bid to host the games, got a call from LA sports agent Casey Wasserman on Tuesday to ask about the possibility of submitting a joint proposal to the U.S. Olympic Committee in September.

"I'm not saying we are going to do it, but we are certainly open to discussing it," Baer told the publication.

Tony Winnicker, who has worked with the office of San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee on Olympics efforts, acknowledged that the city might also be open to the possibility.

Sources say the USOC plans to vet the unique proposal at the 128th IOC Session in Kuala Lumpur from July 31 to Aug. 3.

Boston's bid to host the games had been selected to move forward in January over those by San Francisco and Los Angeles. 

The U.S. Olympic Commitee ended Boston's bid after Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said Monday that he was not ready to sign a host city document that would force taxpayers to cover any cost overruns. 

NBC Bay Area’s Raj Mathai contributed to this report.



Photo Credit: Getty Images/Steve Powell/Allsport
This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story in your web browser.]]>
<![CDATA[Vernon Davis's Future Again Seems Bright With 49ers]]> Wed, 29 Jul 2015 10:08:46 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/179*120/vernondavisphuture.jpg

Over the entire, long NFL off-season, there have been nothing but positive reports about 49ers tight end Vernon Davis.

Following a disappointing 2014 season, Davis has been an active, enthusiastic participant in the team’s offseason program and appears motivated to have a big, bounce-back year.

Since the end of the 2014 campaign, the installation of a new coaching staff and organized team activities (OTAs) and minicamp, Davis has been a positive force.

Recently, in fact, he told the team’s website that he’s convinced the 49ers will have “nothing but success” in 2015 – despite predictions of a big drop by many.

Also, this week, Mark Purdy, longtime columnist for the Bay Area News Group, noted that the word out of the 49ers is that Davis actually was injured for much of 2014, but didn’t talk about it.

New offensive coordinator Geep Chryst, in fact, told Purdy that he’s excited about getting Davis involved in a new-look passing attack that also will include newcomers Reggie Bush and Torrey Smith.

“I think that Vernon is going to have a big year,” Chryst told Purdy.

But the perception left by Davis’s disappointing 2014 still lingers. Many NFL observers see Davis’s lackluster stats from his ninth pro season – just 26 catches for 245 yards and two scores – as proof that he’s on a downhill slide.

This week, in fact, Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com’s Around the NFL column included Davis on his list of 15 potential surprise training camp cuts this summer.

Wrote Rosenthal: “Around the NFL heard whispers that the 49ers ‘sniffed around’ tight end Julius Thomas when he was a free agent. If the 49ers were able to consummate that deal, Davis would have been released.”

Rosenthal adds that Davis has received “predictable buzz” for a potential bounce-back year in 2015, but pointed to the fact Davis is due to make $4.35 million this season in the final year of his 49ers contract – which could make him vulnerable.

Certainly, anything is possible.

But for now, trimming Davis seems unlikely, given all the signs.

As 49ers general manager Trent Baalke said this spring of his tight end, “I think he’s looking, as are we, to the future, coming back and having a heck of a year.”



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Roberts Among the Long Shots Aiming at Raiders Roster]]> Wed, 29 Jul 2015 09:20:22 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/180*120/carrstargtts.jpg

When the Raiders hold their first full-squad workout of training camp Friday, a large group of wide receivers will be competing to catch passes from quarterback Derek Carr this season.

A few, such as No. 1 pick Amari Cooper, Rod Streater and Michael Crabtree, are locks to be among the probable six wideouts on the roster (barring injury).

For the rest, training camp and exhibition games should provide a spirited battleground.

Among the long shots to win a job is Seth Roberts.

Roberts, who signed with the Raiders last season as an undrafted free agent out of Division II school West Alabama, spent 2014 on the team’s practice squad.

In order to win a spot on the roster, Roberts will have to outperform two or three among a group that includes Andre Holmes, Brice Butler, Austin Willis, Josh Harper, Kris Durham and Kenbrell Thompkins, That’s a tall order.

But Roberts has some things in his favor as a 6-foot-2, 196-pound pass catcher who ran a quick 4.44 40-yard dash at his pro day after his final season at West Alabama. Roberts had a productive final season, catching 40 passes for 857 yards and 12 touchdowns on a team that focused on running the ball.

In his first camp with the Raiders last summer, Roberts said he looked up to Streater as an example of what is possible. Streater also came from an under-the-radar school (Temple) as an undrafted free agent, but made the Raiders roster and has thrived.

Roberts says that as an undrafted player, he has an attitude that he wants to prove people wrong about him.

“I just try to have the strongest mindset every day to come out here and work and compete and keep pushing myself and have it stay in my mind that I need to just take it day by day,” he said.

Roberts recently was one of several Raiders receivers to join Carr in Bakersfield for a pre-training camp prep session. Roberts will need every edge he can gain to open eyes and open doors over the coming six weeks. Last season, he did what he could. At one point, Jerry McDonald, who covers the Raiders for the Bay Area News Group, tweeted: “WR Seth Roberts has been one of Raiders' most sure-handed receivers throughout camp.”

If he can perform the same way this summer, he could join Streater as an NFL long shot.

 

 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Patriots Owner on Brady Decision]]> Wed, 29 Jul 2015 10:50:50 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-461747308.jpg

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft and head coach Bill Belichick addressed the media Wednesday morning as the team officially kicked off training camp. 

The media availability came a day after the NFL's decision to uphold Tom Brady's four-game suspension for his role in using underinflated footballs during the AFC championship game.

"The decision handed down by the league is unfathomable," Kraft said. He added: "I was wrong to put my faith in the league." 

Belichick dodged questions about the Deflategate controversy, saying there's "nothing really to talk about there." He said the team will continue to get ready for the 2015 season. 

Kraft said that "Tom Brady is a person of great integrity and a great ambassador of the game." 

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said Tuesday the New England quarterback told an assistant to destroy Brady's cellphone on or just before March 6. Brady met with independent investigator Ted Wells on that day.

Brady released a counter-statement Wednesday morning saying, "I have never written, texted, emailed to anybody at anytime, anything related to football air pressure before this issue was raised at the AFC Championship game in January."

Calling the appeal process "a sham," Brady's agent, Don Yee, said Goodell "failed to ensure a fair process" in upholding the quarterback's four-game suspension.

The Patriots were fined $1 million and docked a pair of draft picks. 

Kraft said he regrets not appealing the NFL penalties against the team. 

Devin McCourty says Robert Kraft speaks for the Patriots. They all support Tom Brady. Wide receiver Matthew Slater says the Patriots are a family and stand behind each other, including Tom Brady.

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said "I think the NFL needs to get their priorities straight."



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Social Media Reacts to Tom Brady's Suspension]]> Tue, 28 Jul 2015 23:49:51 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/AP_258466475816.jpg

Patriots fans are steamed after NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell upheld Tom Brady's four-game suspension Tuesday for his role in the Deflategate controversy.

The league, in a 20-page ruling, said the four-time Super Bowl champion “willingly obstructed the investigation” and also “participated in a scheme to tamper with evidence by destroying his cell phone.” The text messages were critical to Wells' investigation because they may have shown key information and communication between Brady and the equipment managers blamed for deflating footballs.

New England fans took to social media to defend their team and its star quarterback, while others hailed Goodell's decision.

The players' union has said it expects to challenge the decision in court. The Patriots were fined $1 million and docked a pair of draft picks after the team used underinflated footballs during their romp over the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC championship game in January. The have yet to appeal that penalty.



Photo Credit: AP
This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story in your web browser.]]>
<![CDATA[Bethea Should Again Be Smart, Solid Element of 49ers' Defense]]> Tue, 28 Jul 2015 09:58:03 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/180*120/numfortywon.jpg

When the 49ers open training camp this coming weekend, one area of focus will be the secondary.

With two veteran cornerbacks now departed via free agency, there’s a question mark attached to new defensive coordinator Eric Mangini’s pass-coverage group.

Fortunately for Mangini, he has safety Antoine Bethea.

The veteran was voted as the team’s most valuable player in 2014 in his first season with the team following eight seasons with the Indianapolis Colts. Though it was a discouraging season for the 49ers defense, Bethea proved to be a rock. His play was consistently smart and steady, and he should again be a reason for optimism in 2015.

Kevin Lynch, who covers the 49ers for the San Francisco Chronicle, noted recently that Bethea wasn’t the flashy, big-hitting presence at safety that Donte Whitner was before him, but, “Unlike his predecessor … Bethea understands how to avoid a drive-extending personal-foul penalty.”

Bethea and fellow starter Eric Reid, in fact, lead a safety group that is among the deepest among all positions on the roster, which should help a cornerback corps that will be determined through competition over the coming six weeks. Along with Bethea and Reid are veteran Craig Dahl, two young players taken high in the 2014 and 2015 drafts (Jimmie Ward and Jaquiski Tartt) and special teams standout L.J. McCray.

Bethea is an often-overlooked piece of the 49ers defense, as they hope to rebound from a disappointing 2014. This offseason, the focus has been on adding pass rushers, replacing departed veterans in the front seven (Justin Smith, Patrick Willis, Chris Borland and Ray McDonald) and the coming competition at cornerback.

But Bethea went to the Pro Bowl last season because of terrific, all-around play. He intercepted four passes, broke up 10 passes, forced a fumble, was in on 86 tackles and had a sack.

This week, writer Bill Barnwell of ESPN.com’s Grantland included Bethea on his list of the top 100 players in the NFL, at No. 93. Barnwell noted he was a smart, mid-market signing by general manager Trent Baalke who paid big dividends.

“(He) was arguably San Francisco’s best player after signing a four-year, $21 million deal in March,” Barnwell wrote. “The middle of the market rarely delivers value, but the 49ers have repeatedly found useful safeties in free agency, both with Bethea and the man he replaced, Donte Whitner.”

 

 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Raiders' Jackson Could be Destined for Pro Bowl]]> Tue, 28 Jul 2015 08:53:47 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/180*120/mrgabeblock.jpg

In 2014, the Dallas Cowboys struck gold with Zack Martin.

The rookie guard from Notre Dame was everything he was advertised to be, and more, earning Pro Bowl and All-Pro honors in his first season.

Rookies Martin, Cleveland’s Joel Bitonio, Jacksonville’s Brandon Linder and Carolina’s Trai Turner all were ranked among the NFL leaders at guard in pass blocking efficiency by the analytic website Pro Football Focus.

But right behind that group was Raiders rookie left guard Gabe Jackson. And, based on the progress he made his first year in the league, some believe that Jackson could be headed toward Pro Bowl or All-Pro status over the next two to three seasons.

According to Pro Football Focus, Jackson ranked 14th in the NFL in pass-blocking efficiency among guards – supposedly a weakness coming out of Mississippi State. Surprisingly, he struggled the first half of the season as a run blocker, but came on strong the second half of the season, compiling an impressive plus grade by PFF over the final seven games.

“We’re excited to see how he builds on his rookie season and progresses in 2015,” noted an analyst for PFF. “It should help blocking between (left tackle) Donald Penn and (center) Rodney Hudson, two players who have been better than average at their positions.”

Jackson, who is 6-foot-3 and 336 pounds, could make a big leap forward in a stronger offensive line now led by new offensive line coach Mike Tice and anchored in the middle by Hudson, whom the Raiders believe could be a free-agent pickup of great impact. The Raiders want to run the ball much more effectively this season, and Jackson should be a key to unlocking that goal.

“Jackson had a fine rookie season and is a road grader who should be a fixture on the line for years,” wrote Bill Williamson of ESPN.com, who recently listed Jackson among the team's 10 most important players on the 2015 roster. “He’s nothing fancy, but he doesn’t have to be fancy.”

Jackson, the son of a football coach, told reporters last season that it was a tough learning experience during the initial games of 2014. But as he learned and became more comfortable and confident, he started dishing out more punishment to defenders. His on-field mean streak became more apparent.

“I don’t know how to explain it other than when I line up against someone, it’s like they’re trying to take something away from me,” Jackson told Jerry McDonald of the Bay Area News Group. “It’s a weird feeling, like I’m being threatened.”

Former Raiders defensive tackle Antonio Smith even compared him to former Dallas Cowboys guard Larry Allen, now a Hall of Famer, who retired after the 2007 season.

“He’s aggressive,” Smith told McDonald. “He’s strong as an ox, and he’s got a punch that reminds me of Larry Allen’s punch. If he catches you with it, you have to readjust your whole rush scheme.”

Tice, who worked with Jackson throughout this spring, calls Jackson “a rising star.”

It will be interesting to see if his second season ends with a Pro Bowl invitation.

 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Leah Still Challenges Fellow Charmer Riley Curry to Dance-Off]]> Tue, 28 Jul 2015 10:52:03 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/dance-off-2015.jpg

The battle of the cuties is on.

Leah Still, the 5-year-old daughter of Cincinnati Bengals defensive lineman Devon Still, has challenged fellow Internet sensation Riley Curry to a dance-off.

On Riley’s third birthday, Ayesha Curry, who is married to Warriors point guard Stephen Curry, posted an Instagram video of the charming tot dancing to Silentó's "Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae)." 

But Leah, who was diagnosed with cancer in June 2014 and received the Jimmy V. Perseverance Award at the 2015 ESPYS, was confident she could do it better.

Devon Still took to Instagram on Sunday, saying: “I showed Leah the video of Riley doing the whip and all she kept sayin was daddy she can't do it better then me...” 

Still continued: “So I said if that's how you feel then challenge her to a dance off ... so @stephencurry30 the challenge has been sent #RileyKilledTheWhip #ButLeahPracticeThisDanceSoMuchSheBeFeelingHerself #SheLoveSeeingRileyOnTv.” 

Before treating viewers to an adorable performance, Leah says, "Riley, I saw your video. You think you can Whip better than me? I challenge you to do the Whip!"

Stephen and Ayesha Curry, who earlier this month welcomed their second baby girl, Ryan, have yet to respond.



Photo Credit: Devon Still, Ayesha Curry
This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story in your web browser.]]>
<![CDATA[WATCH: Half-Court Shot Wins $10K]]> Mon, 27 Jul 2015 15:58:26 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/219*120/willie+cole+shot.jpg

A recent high school graduate from Chicago made an epic half-court shot during a youth basketball tournament over the weekend to win a $10,000 prize.

Willie Cole, 18, sunk the shot with ease during Nike’s Chi League All-Star at Whitney Young High School on Sunday.

Despite having a $10,000 prize on the line, Cole appears calm as he steps toward the line and shoots, as seen in video provided by Nike. A swoosh is heard as the ball falls through the net and the crowd erupts with excitement. Players rush the court to congratulate Cole.

The Chi League All-Star event spotlighted some of the best youth, pro-am and high school basketball players in Chicago.

It’s not clear what Cole, a graduate from TF South High School, will do with his winnings.



Photo Credit: Nike, Inc. ]]>
<![CDATA[Rare Willie Mays Card Stolen From Rob Schneider's Home]]> Mon, 27 Jul 2015 16:04:25 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/schneider-mays+%282%29.jpg

A rare Willie Mays baseball card worth an estimated $175,000 was stolen from actor Rob Schneider's Encino home Friday night, TMZ reported.

Thieves burglarized the house while the Saturday Night Live veteran and "Deuce Bigalow" star was away at the Comedy Film Festival in Montreal.

Schneider's wife and kids were out having dinner in Los Angeles. Thieves also took his wife's diamond engagement ring, a Cartier watch and other expensive items, according to TMZ.

The card, a 1951 Bowman Willie Mays rookie card, was reportedly in mint condition and is valued at $175,000.

Schneider is a big baseball card collector and San Francisco Giants fan.

The thieves also took off with a 1953 and 1971 Mays Topps card, TMZ reported, but the thieves apparently did not take anything from Schneider's "main card collection."



Photo Credit: (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) Right: Willie Mays (AP)
This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story in your web browser.]]>
<![CDATA[Tom Brady, NFL in Deflategate Settlement Talks: Source]]> Mon, 27 Jul 2015 13:32:02 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/461977230.jpg

Tom Brady is engaged in settlement talks with the NFL, a source familiar with the talks tells NBC News' Peter Alexander.

Last week, there were reports that the NFL Players' Union had pitched to Commissioner Roger Goodell a possible settlement between Brady and the League.

All of this is playing out as the NFL mulls Brady's four-game suspension, which the quarterback appealed. The NFL determined he was aware of team staffers deflating footballs in the AFC Championship game.

Goodell and Brady last met on June 23 during a suspension appeal hearing.

The Patriots paid a record $1 million fine and were stripped of two draft picks, including a No. 1 selection next year.

The Patriots did not challenge their punishments.



Photo Credit: FILE - Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Giants vs. Brewers on NBC Bay Area]]> Mon, 27 Jul 2015 13:44:42 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/169*120/455605300_8.jpg

It's Giants vs. Brewers tonight at 7 p.m. on NBC Bay Area!

Chris Heston (10-5, 3.18 ERA) takes the mound for San Francisco against Kyle Lohse (5-11, 6.29 ERA) for Milwaukee.

Because tonight's game is airing on NBC Bay Area, you can watch regularly scheduled NBC programming on COZI TV (Comcast Ch. 186) or on broadcast channel 11.2.

Here's tonight's primetime schedule:

7:00 p.m. -- San Francisco Giants vs. Milwaukee Brewers on NBC Bay Area and over-the-air Channel 11.2

8:00 p.m. -- "American Ninja Warrior" on COZI TV (Comcast 186), over-the-air Channel 11.2 and NBC.com/live

10:00 p.m. -- "Running Wild With Bear Grylls" on NBC Bay Area and over-the-air Channel 11.2 immediately following the Giants game. If the game runs long (beyond 10:15 p.m.), "Running Wild With Bear Grylls" will be pre-empted and will air Tuesday morning at 3 a.m.

You can also watch tonight's episodes of "American Ninja Warrior" and "Running Wild With Bear Grylls" at NBC.com/video/full-episodes or on the NBC app.

For full Giants coverage, visit The Cove.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Boston's Olympic Loss Could Spell Win for L.A.]]> Mon, 27 Jul 2015 13:21:47 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/TLMD-boston-olympics-2024-render.jpg

Now that the U.S. Olympic Committee has dropped Boston’s bid for the 2024 Summer Games, Los Angeles is emerging as the back-up city.

“Los Angeles could bid with a couple of years notice,” said Andrew Zimbalist, a professor of economics at Smith College and the author of “Circus Maximus: The Economic Gamble Behind Hosting the Olympics and the World Cup.” “They don’t need seven years notice. They have almost all their venues already intact.”

In a statement Monday the committee's CEO, Scott Blackmun, said the federation was still interested in mounting a bid for the Summer Games. He did not mention a specific city.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said that his office had not had recent conversations with the U.S. Olympic Committee.

"I continue to believe that Los Angeles is the ideal Olympic city and we have always supported the USOC in their effort to return the Games to the United States," he said in a statement. "I would be happy to engage in discussions with the USOC about how to present the strongest and most fiscally responsible bid on behalf of our city and nation."

The U.S. Olympic Commitee ended Boston's bid after Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said at a Monday morning press conference that he was not ready to sign a host city document that would force taxpayers to cover any cost overruns. The U.S. Olympic Committee had wanted him to sign the contract as soon as possible, he said. But he said he would not without more financial information about the Games and was willing to let the committee choose another city over Boston.

The host city contract, which does not need to be signed until 2017, guarantees that the International Olympic Committee will not be held responsible for any cost overruns.

The U.S. Olympic Committee’s board members had also wanted to know whether Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker supported Boston’s bid. Baker spoke to committee officials on Monday but said beforehand that he would have no answer for them because he was waiting to see a full report from a consultant commissioned to analyze the bid.

The deadline to officially submit bids to the International Olympic Committee is Sept. 15. San Francisco and Washington D.C. also competed to be the U.S. selection. A source told NBC Bay Area that it was now too late for San Francisco to submit a bid that could win. Jack Evans, a D.C. council member, said that the city was still vying to be chosen.

“We in the District would still be very interested," Evans said.

Officials from the U.S. Olympic Committee could not immediately be reached for comment.

Earlier Alan Abrahamson, a sportswriter, said that the U.S. Olympic Committee ought to kill Boston’s bid, Abrahamson, a journalism professor at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, called it the most dismal effort he had seen in 16 years of covering the Olympics.

“Los Angeles is America’s Olympic city,” said Abrahamson, who wrote a column on the topic on his website, 3 Wire Sports. “It hosted the Games twice in 1932 and 1984. The Games are a part of the fabric of civic life in Los Angeles.”

Politicians, businesses and the people of California are behind the Olympics, he said. And like Zimbalist, he said Los Angeles could be ready with little notice.

“Los Angeles could host the Games on maybe two years notice and do a fantastic job,” he said.

Before Boston's bid derailed, Zimbalist said that Baker’s position was key because the state not Boston would have to be the Games’ guarantor.

“Nobody ever expected Boston to actually provide a guarantee,” he said. “They don’t have the resources to do it. Their budget is much too small.”

Zimbalist said that he thought Walsh, who had been closely affiliated with the pro-Olympics group, was trying to cover himself should the U.S. Olympic Committee reject Boston.

“I think that he’s trying to step out in front of that train and say, ‘I was first, I never wanted to put the Boston’s taxpayers at risk,’” Zimbalist said.

Boston’s bid had been expected to go to a statewide referendum next year. The organizers had said that if the majority of voters in Massachusetts and Boston did not vote in favor of it they would pull the bid. A group, No Boston Olympics, had formed in opposition to hosting the Games.



Photo Credit: Boston2024.org]]>
<![CDATA[Can Colin Kaepernick Be Clutch?]]> Mon, 27 Jul 2015 09:17:41 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/180*120/kkapeysakyhawkz.jpg

Colin Kaepernick has in the past shown he can compete and win when a game is on the line.

Consider Jan. 5, 2014, in the fourth quarter of a frigid NFC playoff game at Green Bay’s Lambeau Field.

With San Francisco trailing 17-13 in the fourth quarter, the 49ers’ quarterback led the 49ers from their own 37-yard line to a go-ahead touchdown, a 28-yard scoring strike to tight end Vernon Davis with 10:37 remaining.

Then, when the Packers answered with a field goal to tie the game at 20-20 with 5:09 left, Kaepernick led the Niners from their own 20 to the Green Bay 15, where Phil Dawson kicked the game-winning field goal with just three seconds left in a 23-20 decision. Included in Kaepernick’s three completions on the drive was a 17-yarder to Michael Crabtree on third-and-10 from the 49ers’ own 31.

The victory is one of eight game-winning drives led by Kaepernick in his 39 NFL starts, in which he has a 25-14 record.

But in 2014, Kaepernick and the 49ers often were helpless in the fourth quarter when trailing.

As Paul Gutierrez of ESPN.com noted Monday, Kaepernick’s fourth-quarter play last season was notable for its disappointment. Gutierrez, who covers the 49ers for ESPN.com, points out that Kaepernick’s 60.3 QB rating was last in the NFC and far below his 86.4 overall rating in 2014. His yards-per-play average shrunk from 7.4 in quarters one through three to 5.85 in the final period, and four of his 10 interceptions came in the final period.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, Kaepernick was the first quarterback in two decades to throw at least 100 passes in the fourth quarter without registering a single touchdown pass. He was 0-for-118.

Of course, the 49ers offense as a whole was a mess in 2014. The running game – which had been consistently strong during head coach Jim Harbaugh’s first three seasons – didn’t dominate late in games. Davis fell out of the game plan and the wide receiver corps often had trouble getting open or getting separation on deep throws.

So, as Gutierrez notes, Kaepernick will have to regain his fourth-quarter touch in 2015 if the 49ers are to rebound and contend again for a playoff spot.

This offseason, Kaepernick spent several weeks in Arizona working with former NFL quarterback Kurt Warner to refine his throwing mechanics and hone his ability to dissect defenses.

“But,” wrote Gutierrez, “no matter how much two-time MVP Kurt Warner’s teachings may have tweaked Kaepernick’s delivery, this much is true: the San Francisco 49ers quarterback must improve his fourth-quarter performance.”

Kaepernick’s inability to lead the 49ers back from deficits against the Seahawks has been especially painful.

Former 49ers quarterback Steve Young has said that Kaepernick’s development – and that of other running quarterbacks (as he was) – won’t reach its potential and provide consistent results until he decides he’s going to become a stay-in-the-pocket quarterback. That allows for receivers to work to get open and more consistent completions.

“You have to have the patience to stand in there and figure it out,” said Young, now an ESPN analyst, late last season.

For Kaepernick, his ability to do that late in games during this upcoming 2015 season would be a huge step forward – and could add to his total of late-game comeback victories.

 

 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Raiders' Del Rio Not Shy About Optimism]]> Mon, 27 Jul 2015 09:16:07 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/179*120/DelRioBoldpredikt.jpg

New Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio is proving to be a very positive presence in the organization.

Though Oakland hasn’t had a winning season since 2002 and has to compete in the AFC West with the Denver Broncos, Kansas City Chiefs and San Diego Chargers – all teams with recent playoff histories – Del Rio is being bold.

Recently, in a video on the team’s website, Del Rio told Raiders fans and former players at a gathering, “Goal No. 1 is to win our division, and I don’t see why not.”

Of course, Del Rio’s optimism isn’t matched by NFL observers outside the Raiders organization. They see the Raiders as better in 2015, but not good enough to go from 3-13 to a winning record, a division title or the playoffs.

In assessing the AFC West recently for Sports Illustrated, Don Banks wrote: “The AFC West is too tough for Oakland to climb out of the cellar just now, but six or  seven wins seem well within reach for the re-tooled Raiders.”

And a poll on a Denver Broncos fan site posted this past weekend poked fun at the comment by Del Rio – the Broncos’ defensive coordinator in 2014 – by giving readers three options to the question, “Do you think the Raiders can win the AFC West?”:  A)Yes, B) no and C) “Can’t vote because I’m laughing so hard.”

The winning answer, with 50 percent of the votes, was (of course), C.

Del Rio has been joined in his optimism by others in silver and black. New offensive line coach Mike Tice – who’s been extremely outspoken in his enthusiasm for the upside of his group, joined Del Rio by saying, “We’re going to be a championship football team.”

Del Rio, also noted that, “We came back here to build this thing, back to where it belongs, which is great once again. I promise, when you go back into the stadium this fall, and you watch our team perform, that our team will play harder and (with) more sustained energy than anything you’ve seen.”

Of course, there is reason for optimism, with young players such as Khalil Mack, Derek Carr, Amari Cooper and Latavius Murray.

But, realistically, winning the AFC West – from the vantage point of late July, just before the start of training camp – seems a long shot.

“In the time since their last playoff appearance, the Raiders have gone from Bill Callahan to Norv Turner to Art Shell to Lane Kiffin to Tom Cable to Hue Jackson to Dennis Allen to Tony Sparano as head coach,” wrote Pro Football Talk’s Michael David Smith. “All those coaches arrived with optimism that they’d be the ones to win in Oakland.

“Maybe Del Rio will finally be the coach who can actually turn things around.”

 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Top Sports Photos 2015]]> Sun, 02 Aug 2015 02:03:11 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-482712390-rousey-ufc.jpg Click to see dramatic game action photos from professional football, hockey, basketball, baseball and more.

Photo Credit: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Dustin Plunkett: Special Olympics Saved My Life]]> Mon, 27 Jul 2015 10:07:49 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/214*120/7-26-15-dustin+plunkett.JPG

Many athletes can attest to the difference sports made in their life, but for former Special Olympics World Games athlete Dustin Plunkett, sports saved his life.

Plunkett, 33, was born with an intellectual disability and cleft palate that affected his speech. Growing up, he was ridiculed for his disabilities.

"It was really tough on top of getting bullied every single day of my life. I was called retard, slow, stupid, dumb," Plunkett told NBC4 on Friday.

But Plunkett now is a far cry from the boy who was bullied by his peers. He's a former athlete at the Special Olympics World Games, member of the Special Olympics of Southern California's board of directors and now an ESPN analyst for the Special Olympics.

As a Global Messenger for the Special Olympics, Plunkett has traveled the world as a public speaker and has stood by Yao Ming at the World Games as well as President Barack Obama at the White House.

"I’m around people that are just like me, I'm around people that were bullied and ridiculed every day of their life growing up," Plunkett told NBC4 in December. "This is our safe place."

Plunkett credits the Special Olympics for not only changing his life, but saving it. When he was going through a pregame medical screening in 2004, a dentist noticed the poor condition of his teeth, and he was later diagnosed with gum cancer.

"If it had gone one more month long, I wouldn't be alive today," Plunkett said last year.

Plunkett has been involved with the Special Olympics since 1996 and has coached athletes in basic sports skills and as the assistant basketball coach for Southern California's Lakewood Special Olympics program, according to the organization.

"I was told I was going to be worth nothing in my life," Plunkett said. "And now look at me."



Photo Credit: Jorge Diaz]]>
<![CDATA[N.J. Teen Wins 1st Gold at Special Olympics]]> Mon, 27 Jul 2015 08:04:31 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/150726-noah-dellas-special-olympics.jpg

A 17-year-old from South New Jersey hit the water first at Alamitos Beach in Long Beach and never looked back, winning the triathlon that kicked off the 2015 Special Olympics World Games on Sunday.

Noah Dellas took just under an hour and 13 minutes (1:12:58) to complete the half-mile swim, 20 kilometer bike, and 5k run.

Asked in the finishing chute how he felt, Dellas replied simply, "OK." It was his second thrill of the weekend, after seeing his swimming inspiration, Olympic legend Michael Phelps, at Saturday night's opening ceremonies at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

Coach Lisa Rumer, who trained all four Team USA members in the international field of 22, recalled Dellas’ shyness during the first few months after he began training.

"As he understand that we cared and wanted him to succeed, and he started to create goals because he knew he could do it, that's when he branched out and really took hold of his passion," Rumer said.

Among the women, New Jersey teammates Amy Noctor, 27, and Courtney Dreyfus, 18, finished second and third, respectively.

The Special Olympics were created for athletes with intellectual disabilities, such as Asperger's and Downs syndrome. There is a broad spectrum among the 6,500 athletes who have come from 165 nations.  The World Games are being held in greater Los Angeles for the first time in four decades.

In a tent cooling off after their race, Noctor and Dreyfus both spoke of how the Special Olympics movement has helped them overcome challenges they face and broadened their daily lives.

"You can just be you. You don't have to hide anything and you can push beyond your boundaries," said Dreyfus.

Amy's parents dedcribed the progress they've seen in her.

"Amy does not make a lot of friends on her own, but when she comes here she meets a lot of people and talks to them," said Mathew Noctor, Amy's father.

"She's become more independent, more sure of herself," said Heidi Noctor, Amy's mother.

"It's given me a life. It's the best part of my life right now," said Amy.

"Amen," added her father.

The first ever World Games triathlon featured another innovation: allowing non-Special Olympic athletes on the course as a "unified" event. Pro Triathlete Heather Jackson said it proved mutually inspirational for both groups of athletes. Jackson also marveled at the enthusiasm of the fans in the finishing chute - "more than for some pro triathlons," she said.

Among team sports, beach volleyball was also unified, enabling some non-Special Olympic athletes to play on the same team. The initial reaction of spectators was positive.

"I just think it's a great idea," said volunteer Tracy Lambert.

Events continue across the Southland through next weekend.



Photo Credit: KNBC]]>