<![CDATA[NBC Bay Area - Bay Area Sports News, Sports Teams, and Scores for the Sharks, 49ers, Raiders,Giants, Bears and More]]> Copyright 2016 http://www.nbcbayarea.com/news/sports http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/nbc_bayarea_blue.png NBC Bay Area http://www.nbcbayarea.com en-us Wed, 10 Feb 2016 18:16:33 -0800 Wed, 10 Feb 2016 18:16:33 -0800 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Teardown of Super Bowl City Ahead of Schedule]]> Wed, 10 Feb 2016 17:32:38 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/SB-CITY-CLEANUP.jpg

San Francisco city leaders say the teardown of Super Bowl City is ahead of schedule and road closures implemented ahead of the big game will end one day sooner than expected.

Super Bowl City along the Embarcadero closed at 3 p.m. Sunday, minutes before the kickoff of Super Bowl 50. Commuters stuck trying to get around roadblocks might see relief Thursday, a day before scheduled.

"We're anticipating that the road closures will be open Thursday night," said the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency's Paul Rose. "Muni reroutes go to normal schedule on Friday morning."

Muni ridership jumped 40 percent over the nine days leading up to the Super Bowl, according to Rose. The agency had 70 parking control officers stationed at 32 intersections, with the cost projection at about $2.5 million, but the final numbers aren't in yet.

San Francisco's police chief was expected to give a summary of Super Bowl activities Wednesday night.

SFPD spokesman Sgt. Michael Andraychak said the department made a total of 12 arrests at Super Bowl City and another 12 at the Moscone Center where the NFL Experience event was being held. Most of those arrests were for public intoxication, Andraychak said.

The final numbers on the cost to the police department are expected in about two weeks.

Super Bowl 50 Host Committee CEO Keith Bruce says 1.1 million people visited Super Bowl City and the NFL Experience.

San Francisco officials said it could be months before they know the full economic impact of Super Bowl 50.



Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area
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<![CDATA[Ex-49ers Wide Receiver Accidentally Shoots Himself]]> Wed, 10 Feb 2016 16:31:34 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/180*120/GettyImages-124641240.jpg

Ex-San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Josh Morgan accidentally shot himself with his own gun and has been charged.

According to a crime report by the Loudoun County Sheriff's Office in Virginia, sheriff's deputies responded to reports of a self-inflicted gunshot wound at a home around 9 p.m. on Jan. 31. TMZ was the first to report about it.

According to the crime report, Morgan claims he was “cleaning his gun” when the weapon was discharged unintentionally. He was taken to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

Morgan, currently a free agent, was drafted by the 49ers in the sixth round of the 2008 NFL Draft, and played for them professionally in 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011. He was signed by the New Orleans Saints prior to the 2015 season but did not make the team.

Morgan, 30, has been charged with reckless use of a firearm, a misdemeanor.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[With Allen Gone, Raiders Need Safety Help]]> Wed, 10 Feb 2016 10:30:26 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/180*120/Nayttt.jpg

Now that Nate Allen’s tenure with the Raiders has come to an end after just one injury-damaged season, general manager Reggie McKenzie has both safety spots to fill.

Allen started alongside Charles Woodson in the 2015 season opener, but Woodson has retired and the Raiders announced Tuesday that Allen had been released after signing a four-year, $23 million contract with Oakland last offseason after playing his first five NFL seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles.

Allen, 28, appeared in just five games with the Raiders after suffering a knee injury in the first regular-season game. His season consisted of just 11 tackles, two passes defensed and one interception.

By releasing Allen Tuesday, the Raiders save a bundle of money. According to several reports, Allen would have been guaranteed $4.9 million for the 2016 season if he had been on the roster Wednesday.

So how will the Raiders fill the safety vacancies this offseason?

One possibility is holdover T.J. Carrie, a young cornerback pressed into service at safety following Allen’s early-season injury. Carrie had some good games and some bad ones, flipping back and forth between corner and safety in 2015, but could be significantly better in 2016 by focusing solely on the safety position over a full offseason and training camp.

Carrie, who will go into his third season with the Raiders, started 14 games in 2015 and had two interceptions, nine deflected passes and was in on 42 tackles. Larry Asante – who is a restricted free agent – started two games for Oakland in 2015 and played in all 16, and also is an option.

With the NFL Combine coming up on February 23, McKenzie and his staff also will be taking a hard look at safeties available in the draft. Several have been rated first- and second-round talents. An assessment by NFL.com analyst (and former NFL scout) Bucky Brooks rates the top five safeties available in the draft as Jeremy Cash of Duke, Vonn Bell of Ohio State, Darien Thompson of Boise State, Karl Joseph of West Virginia and Miles Killebrew of Southern Utah.

The class of unrestricted free-agent safeties also is strong and could include the Chiefs’ Eric Berry, Tashaun Gipson of the Browns, San Diego’s Eric Weddle, George Iloka of the Bengals and Rodney McLeod of the Rams, writes Levi Damien, who covers the Raiders for SB Nation.

The Raiders have a lot of room under the salary cap, so they could bring in a high-priced free agent.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Niners Don't Seem Like a Good Fit for Bush]]> Wed, 10 Feb 2016 08:23:24 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/180*120/bushnoquit.jpg

In his prime, running back Reggie Bush would have been a perfect fit for Chip Kelly’s spread offense.

His ability to catch the ball out of the backfield and his versatile talent to be effective on runs both inside and outside the tackles would be a wonderful pairing with the fast-paced attack.

But at age 31 and coming off an injury-shortened 2015 season in San Francisco, it seems unlikely that Bush will be back with the 49ers for an encore season.

This past weekend, Bush – who had his season end with the 49ers after just five games – said he’s not yet ready to walk away from the game.

“I’m not retiring,” Bush told the Detroit Free Press. “I’m still playing. No, I’m not done. And I would never --  knock on wood – I never want to end my career like that, going out like that.”

Bush signed a one-year deal with the 49ers last offseason after two seasons in Detroit. But with the 49ers, he never got going. He played briefly in the season opener, missed the next two games, played in one, missed another and then injured his knee slipping on the slick surface outside the turf in St. Louis and was sidelined for the remainder of the season.

He carried the ball just eight times for 28 yards and had four catches for 19 yards. It marked his second straight injury-marred season after playing just 11 games for the Lions in 2014. That followed three straight seasons of durability for the Dolphins and Lions.

It’s possible, of course, that Kelly and general manager Trent Baalke believe Bush is worth another gamble. But at his age and with his recent history, it doesn’t seem like a sound gamble for a franchise intent on getting a fresh start.

The 49ers need another running back to add to their mix, but it’s more likely they’ll land one through the draft or from the free-agent pool of other teams.

As Chris Wesseling of NFL.com wrote this week: “Bush is entering his NFL twilight years after averaging 3.86 yards per carry over the past two seasons. He will hit the open market as an injury-prone, 31-year-old running back best utilized as a pass-catching specialist.”

Bush told the Detroit paper that his rehabilitation is going well and that he’s scheduled to start running in two weeks. He's eager to prove his doubters are wrong.

“I’m going to get myself healthy and get back on the field again,” Bush told the Free Press.

 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Warriors Take Flight, Out-Slug Rockets]]> Tue, 09 Feb 2016 22:50:52 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/177*120/GettyImages-509321912_594_screen.jpg

OAKLAND – With a pulsating 123-110 victory over the Houston Rockets on Tuesday night, the Warriors became the first team in NBA history to reach 47 wins before getting its fifth loss.

With Stephen Curry leading the offense and Andrew Bogut laying down the defense, the Warriors (47-4) overcame sluggish second and third quarters to win their 10th consecutive game.

Curry scored a team-high 35 points and five other Warriors scored in double figures: Harrison Barnes totaled 19, Marreese Speights had 15, Klay Thompson and Bogut 13 apiece, and Andre Iguodala added 12.

The Warriors seemingly had the game in hand early, going up 16 (54-38) with 6:49 left in the first half. But the Rockets tightened up their defense and went on a 36-15 run spanning the second and third quarters, taking a 74-69 lead with 10:42 left in the third quarter.

The Warriors extended their overall home win streak to 42 games and have won seven consecutive regular-season games against Houston, sweeping the series in back-to-back seasons for the first time ever.

James Harden scored a game-high 37 points – all in the final three quarters – to lead the Rockets (27-27), who have lost five of their last seven games.

STANDOUT PERFORMER

Curry and Bogut share the honors on this night.

Curry’s line: 35 points (12-of-24 shooting, 7-of-16 from deep), nine assists and five rebounds. He finished plus-3 for the game.

Through 51 games, Curry has 240 3-pointers. Only four other players have made more over an entire season.

Bogut’s line: 13 points, 11 rebounds, six blocked shots and three steals. A huge paint presence in the pivotal fourth quarter, he was plus-13.

TURNING POINT

With the score tied 93-93 after three quarters, the Warriors opened the fourth with a 15-3 run to go up 108-96 with 7:58 remaining.

With Bogut protecting the rim (three blocks in the first four minutes) and Barnes scoring eight points during that stretch, the Warriors rebuilt the lead they’d lost.

Houston got no closer than eight the rest of the game.

INJURY UPDATE

Warriors: F James Michael McAdoo (L foot toe sprain) was listed as doubtful and ruled out prior to tipoff. C Festus Ezeli (L knee surgery) was listed as out.

Rockets: F Terrence Jones (concussion) was listed as doubtful. F Sam Dekker (low back pain) was listed as out.

WHAT’S NEXT

The Warriors return to action Wednesday night, when they face the Suns at Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix. Tipoff is scheduled for 6:05 p.m. PST.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Giants Unveil 2016 Promo Schedule]]> Tue, 09 Feb 2016 19:24:18 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/180*120/GettyImages-482191930.jpg

The NFL season officially ended on Sunday. One day later, the San Francisco Giants gave fans another reason to be excited for the return of baseball, releasing their complete schedule of promos and special events for the 2016 season.

On Saturday, Aug. 13 the Giants will honor Hall-of-Famer Gaylord Perry with the dedication of a bronze statue at AT&T Park -- the fifth statue installation at AT&T Park to commemorate a Hall of Famer’s career.

Highlights of the 2016 promotions schedule include a Beat LA Flag presented by Coca Cola (April 9); Hello Kitty Day (July 10); STAR WARS Day t-shirts (Oct. 1). The featured bobbleheads include Matt Duffy presented by PG&E (April 23), Brandon Crawford presented by AAA (May 7) and Madison Bumgarner presented by Chevron (June 25). There will also be a Mike Krukow Bobblehead to commemorate the 30th anniversary of his 20-win season (Aug. 28). In addition to the bobblehead giveaways there will be a Bruce Bochy Gnome giveaway presented by AT&T (July 31) and a Hunter Pence Solar Bobblebody presented by Coca-Cola (Aug. 14).

Date Event Name (Giveaway Item)

18-Apr Stanford Night (Stanford Giants Hat)
18-Apr Bay Area Unite (Warriors-themed Giants Hat)
19-Apr UC Berkeley Night (Cal Giants Hat)
20-Apr San Francisco State Night (San Francisco St. Giants Hat)
22-Apr San Jose St. Night (San Jose St. Giants Hat)
22-Apr Golf Night (Julie Inkster Bobblehead)
23-Apr Brewfest (Complimentary Beer Tastes)
25-Apr St. Mary's College Night (St. Mary's Giants Hat)
25-Apr Irish Heritage Night 1 (Irish Giants T-Shirt)
26-Apr Chinese Heritage Night (Year of the Monkey Figurine)
5-May Cinco de Mayo (Lou Seal "Cinco de Mayo edition" Bobblehead)
6-May Metallica Night ("Scary Guy" collectible statue)
7-May MARVEL Superheroes Day (Bobblehead)
9-May University of San Francisco Night (USF Giants Hat)
9-May Korean Heritage Night (Korean Giants Drawstring Backpack)
10-May Japanese Heritage Night (Giants Cherry Blossom T-Shirt)
20-May Orange Friday Happy Hour 1
23-May Until There's A Cure
23-May Filipino Heritage Night 1 (Filipino Giants snapback hat)
24-May Bruce Lee Tribute (Bruce Lee Giants T-shirt)
10-Jun Orange Friday Happy Hour 2
13-Jun Portuguese Heritage (Portuguese Giants blanket)
14-Jun Autism Awareness Night (Long-sleeved Will Clark t-shirt)
15-Jun Peanut Allergy Friendly Night
24-Jun LGBT Night (Giants rainbow trucker hat)
25-Jun Wine Fest 1 (Bruce Bochy Bobblestopper)
27-Jun Stitch N Pitch
8-Jul Orange Friday Happy Hour 3
10-Jul Hello Kitty Day
25-Jul Firefighter Appreciation Night
25-Jul Peanut Allergy Friendly Night
26-Jul Toki Doki Night ("Adios/Romo" Vinyl figure)
28-Jul Law Enforcement Appreciation Night (Giants Belt Buckle)
29-Jul Wine Fest pres. By LoCa (Neoprene Giants wine bottle holder)
14-Aug Girl Scout Night
15-Aug Irish Heritage Night 2 (Irish Giants Hat)
16-Aug Native American Heritage Night (Giants Scarf)
17-Aug Peanut Allergy Friendly Night
18-Aug Jerry Garcia Tribute (Jerry Garcia Giants hat)
19-Aug Orange Friday Happy Hour 4
20-Aug Fellowship Day
21-Aug Pixar Day
21-Aug Boy Scout Day (Comemoritive Giants Patch)
26-Aug Bill Graham Tribute (Bill Graham Bobblehead)
26-Aug Superheroes and Comics Night 2 (Bobblehead)
28-Aug Gamer Day (Mike Krukow sound-chip Bobblehead)
30-Aug Jewish Heritage Night (Jewish Giants Hat)
12-Sep Union Night
12-Sep Runner's Night
12-Sep Step Up to the Plate
13-Sep Filipino Heritage Night 2
15-Sep Italian Heritage Night
16-Sep Star Trek Day
17-Sep Fiesta Gigantes (Tito Fuentes Bobblehead)
27-Sep Polynesian Heritage Night (Polynesian Giants Canvas Bag)
28-Sep Mason's Night
28-Sep African American Heritage
29-Sep Santa Clara University Night Santa Clara Giants Hat
29-Sep Oktoberfest
1-Oct Star Wars Day(Stormtrooper Bobblehead)

San Francisco Giants media services contributed to this report. 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Newton Defends Actions at Super Bowl: 'I Will Not Conform']]> Tue, 09 Feb 2016 14:12:40 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/194*120/2016-02-09-cam-newton.jpg

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - Cam Newton isn't apologizing for acting like a "sore loser" after the Super Bowl.

The league's MVP has been widely criticized for walking out of a three-minute press conference after a 24-10 loss to the Denver Broncos on Sunday in which he answered questions with mostly one- and two-word responses while sulking in his chair wearing a black Carolina Panthers hoodie over his head.

"Show me a good loser and I'll show you a loser," Newton said Tuesday as players cleaned out their lockers at the team's downtown stadium.

Newton said he believes the situation is being overblown by the media, and added he doesn't plan to change how he reacts to losing just to appease his critics.

"If I offended anybody that's cool, but I know who I am and I'm not about to conform nor bend for anybody's expectations because yours or anybody's expectations would never exceed mine," Newton said.

The quarterback went on to say, "Who are you to say that your way is right? I have all of these people who are condemning and saying this, that and the third, but what makes your way right?"

At one point during Newton's nearly seven-minute interview, his teammates walked behind the media gathered three-deep around his locker and starting saying, "We love you, Cam," and even sang him a song lightning the mood.

Newton said his emotions were raw after the game and he simply didn't want to talk to the media.

"When you invest so much time and sacrifice so much and things don't go as planned, I think emotions take over," Newton said. "I think that is what happens."

Panthers coach Ron Rivera said while he prefers his fifth-year quarterback would have handled the situation a little better, he understands where he is coming from and what he felt at the time.

"That's who he is. He hates to lose, that's the bottom line," Rivera said. "That is what you love in him. I would much rather have a guy who hates to lose than a guy who accepts it. The guy who accepts it, you might as well just push him out of your locker room because you don't want him around.

"That is a beauty of a guy like that - he wants to win and his teammates know it. That is what it is about. We don't play this game for a participation trophy. We want to win."

Newton takes losing harder than most.

In some past Carolina defeats, he's sat distraught at his locker still in his uniform for more than 30 minutes after the conclusion of the game. There are times it has taken him more than an hour before addressing the media.

Because this was the Super Bowl, Newton was forced into the interview room a little sooner than normal.

At one point, his attention appeared to drift to listening to Broncos players who were celebrating and talking about their win on the other side of the interview room.

Rivera suggested in the future Newton may need more time before addressing the media to get his emotions in check.

"There are a lot of young people out there looking at who we are, and we are role models for them," Rivera said. "I think again we know who he is and he does take it hard. Quite honestly if he is going to take it hard, as a public service, we should avoid having him talk right away. People take losses, not just football losses, but personal losses different ways. Time is probably the best thing."

Teammates rallied behind Newton on Tuesday.

They said they know how badly he wanted to win and how hard he takes losing games.

"He's a competitor just like everybody else," fullback Mike Tolbert said. "He's not happy at all about what happened. I'm not happy about what happened. I think everyone on our team is not happy, so why should we be all smiles after? I can't expect anybody to be laughing and joking and ecstatic about losing a football game."

Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman refused to criticize his franchise quarterback for the way he acted after the game.

"I want players that hate to lose," Gettleman said. "I want players that I know when the game is over they are crawling into the locker room and they need help getting their gear off and they are going to need time getting into the shower. I want the buses to be late to the airport if we're traveling. We all handle defeat differently."



Photo Credit: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Rams Close Season Ticket Campaign With 56,000 Deposits]]> Tue, 09 Feb 2016 14:09:12 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/rams-GettyImages-501808184.jpg

The Los Angeles Rams accepted more than 56,000 season ticket deposits during a four-week campaign propelled by the announcement last month that the team will be returning to Southern California.

The $100 refundable deposit gives fans priority the purchase season tickets this spring before the general public. The team reported more than 5,000 deposits in the first five minutes that the site was live Jan. 18.

The campaign closed Monday.

"We are inspired by how enthusiastically NFL fans in Southern California have responded to the return of the Los Angeles Rams," said Rams Chief Operating Officer/Executive Vice President Kevin Demoff. "We will reward their passion by providing a terrific game day experience at both the Coliseum this fall and ultimately in Inglewood. We can't wait to welcome our fans on Sundays and become an integral part of the Greater Los Angeles community."

Season ticket prices have not been announced.

The Rams will play in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum before moving into a new stadium in Inglewood at the start of the 2019 season. The move was announced last month after an owners meeting in Houston.

The agreement also gave the Chargers one year to decided whether they will join the Rams in the Los Angeles area. The Chargers reached an agreement late in January with the Rams regarding a possible move, but the Chargers also announced they will play in San Diego in 2016.

The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Commission is considering an amended lease with USC that would allow two National Football League teams to play at the Coliseum, which is also the home field of the USC Trojans.

The Rams finished 7-9 under coach Jeff Fisher, third in the NFC West and had a troubled attendance history in St. Louis, where a team that once produced the Super Bowl winning "Greatest Show on Turf" later struggled through a series of losing seasons. The team was consistently at the bottom of the NFL in attendance over the past decade.

The franchise played in Southern California for 49 seasons before owner Georgia Frontiere moved the Rams after the 1994 campaign. Owner Stan Kroenke won the three-team derby to return to the nation's second-largest market, enticing NFL owners with his impressive stadium plans and his team's ties to Los Angeles, where thousands of fans stayed true to the Rams during two decades away.

The new stadium, yet to be named, will be at the former site of Hollywood Park racetrack. But Kroenke, a billionaire land developer married to a Wal-Mart heir, is building more than a football stadium with the reported $1.86 billion Inglewood project, which also includes office space, shops, a concert venue and innumerable other enticements.

If the Chargers decline to partner with the Rams, the Oakland Raiders would then be given the chance to move to Inglewood -- making that team another potential temporary Coliseum tenant.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Soccer Star Solo Might Skip Rio Games: Report]]> Wed, 10 Feb 2016 06:53:32 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/AP_58048417797.jpg

U.S. women's soccer star Hope Solo said in an interview with Sports Illustrated she might not go to Brazil for the Summer Olympics because of the Zika virus, the magazine reported Tuesday.

Solo and the women's national team will play Costa Rica on Feb. 10, in their first match of the 2016 CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying Championship in Frisco, Texas.

Solo told SI she wouldn't go to Rio "if I had to make the choice today."

She's the first high-profile athlete to comment on Zika and the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Brazil.

The outbreak in Brazil was first reported in 2015, and later linked to a startling increase in infants born with microcephaly, a birth defect that results in babies born with abnormally small heads, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Zika virus is spread to people by mosquito bites and causes fever, rashes, joint pain and conjunctivitis.

There are 26 countries and territories in the Americas listed as zones with active Zika virus transmission by the CDC. Brazil, Costa Rica and Mexico are all on the list; Puerto Rico is the only U.S. territory where Zika is actively being transmitted.

"The safety of our athletes and staff is always the highest priority, and we are taking all necessary precautions in regard to the Zika virus," the U.S. Soccer Federation said in a statement.



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[It's On: Mavericks Surf Competition Set for Friday]]> Tue, 09 Feb 2016 14:39:13 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/01-23-2014-mavericks-surf-contest.jpg

The world's premiere big-wave surfing event competition, Titans of Mavericks, is set for Friday.

The officials that decide when to hold the surf contest, as expected, made the call Tuesday afternoon summoning the world’s best big-wave surfers to the famous surf break off Pillar Point north of Half Moon Bay, about 20 miles south of San Francisco.

"The Call Alert: The Event is On!” the alert reads against a green backdrop on the Titans website.

The one-day event will be held Friday, Feb. 12. The contest is held only when surf conditions are suitable, so while it has happened in 2014 and 2013, it did not happen last year or in 2012 and 2011.

Massive waves last week had the Committee 5 poised to pull the trigger, but blackout dates surrounding Super Bowl 50 in nearby Santa Clara stood in the way. The conditions were perfect for the contest, with 20- to 40-foot surf and warm temperatures.

National Weather Service forecasters are predicting waves between 13 and 14 feet on Friday but waves could reach up to 25 to 30 feet, with the occasional breaker hitting the 35-foot mark.

The Mavericks surf contest is an invitation-only event in which the world's top surfers are notified about 48 hours in advance that conditions are right. This year, 24 surfers worldwide have been picked to take on the massive swells off of Half Moon Bay.

The contest was founded in 1999 and typically draws thousands of spectators to the area, even though they're not allowed on the beach or nearby cliff. Fans can watch live streaming video via RedBull TV.

Associated Press and Bay City News contributed to this report.



Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area
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<![CDATA[Niners' Torrey Smith Could Thrive in Kelly's Offense]]> Tue, 09 Feb 2016 08:13:53 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/160*121/Torytorytorye.jpg

The 49ers invested heavily in wide receiver Torrey Smith for 2015, bringing the speedy, deep-threat receiver in after his four seasons in Baltimore.

Yet the Niners never really tapped into Smith’s talent.

Only 62 passes were thrown in his direction after he was targeted 92 times in 2014, 137 in 2013 and 110 in 2012. He had a career-low 33 catches after pulling in 49 to 65 each of his first four years. And he tied his career low in touchdown catches with four after catching 11 in 2014.

A lot contributed to Smith’s bad numbers, of course: the quarterback position and offensive line was shaky and the system under one-and-done head coach Jim Tomsula didn’t play to Smith’s strengths.

But now there’s reason to believe Smith might be much more of an impact player in 2016.

Former NFL wide receiver Nate Burleson, now an NFL Network analyst, says he sees the spread offense of new head coach Chip Kelly being a boon to Smith. Burleson singled out Smith and running back Carlos Hyde as being perfect pieces for Kelly’s offense once they get into its rhythm because of their burst.

“Those are both speed guys, very explosive individuals,” Burleson told a writer from the 49ers website. “When you’re looking at an offense that’s so intricate in the way it needs to be defended, that gives receivers like Smith and playmakers like Hyde the ability to run routes against coverages that are beneficial to route runners.”

Burleson pointed out that Kelly’s multiple misdirection plays can causes just slim moments of hesitation by linebackers and defensive backs that can allow a quick receiver such as Smith to get separation.

For his part, Smith has taken responsibility for his own performance and not blamed others, or the situation. He’s called his year “horrible.”

“It starts with looking at myself in the mirror and asking, ‘Did I make the most out of every opportunity?’ ” he told a Bay Area reporter in January. “And the answer to that is, ‘No.’ ”

But, he’s eager for the new challenge with Kelly’s offense, that will reward players in top condition, able to quickly go from one play to the next in a constant, hurry-up mode.

Tweeted Smith when Kelly was hired: “Guess I might have to start running right now to get in shape.”

 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Hockey Player Helps Stranger]]> Tue, 09 Feb 2016 07:44:45 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Darling.png

There are plenty of stories about professional athletes behaving badly, but if you’re seeking out an example of a player who goes the extra mile, Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Scott Darling seems to be a good candidate.

The goaltender, who has been with the Blackhawks since the beginning of the 2014-15 season, made quite the impression on an Uber driver in the Phoenix area recently. 

Kane Van Gate shared the story on Twitter of how Darling went out of his way to help a stranger.

To his credit, Darling responded, saying he’s fortunate to be able to help people in need.



Photo Credit: Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Warriors' Draymond Green Slings Coffee at Peet's in Berkeley]]> Mon, 08 Feb 2016 20:06:42 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/draymond-peet-1.JPG

Golden State Warriors All-Star Draymond Green played barista for a day at Peet's Coffee & Tea in Berkeley Monday.

And fans went crazy.

The line to meet Green snaked all the way up to Edwards Stadium on Oxford and Fulton streets. Inside Peet’s, the Warriors forward served up coffee for customers and autographed balls for fans.

Green was at Peet’s to promote the release of the specialty coffee roaster’s “Warriors Grounds” blend. The company will donate 5 percent of the proceeds to the Warriors Community Foundation.

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<![CDATA[Peyton Manning Explains Eli's Reaction]]> Tue, 09 Feb 2016 08:53:16 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/180*120/GettyImages-508990438.jpg

One of the most talked about moments of Super Bowl 50 was when cameras captured the reaction of Eli Manning to his brother's team the Denver Broncos scoring a critical touchdown in the win over the Carolina Panthers.

Everyone has an opinion of what's behind Eli Manning's not-so-pleased expression. Not to mention the hilarious memes that have been created because of it.

But on television Monday morning, Peyton Manning put speculation to rest, explaining why his brother didn't appear to be celebrating along with the rest of the Manning family.

“Eli’s just like me. Eli is analyzing the game. He’s thinking about whether we were going to go for two. Whether it was going to be reviewed,” Manning told CBS News.

“Eli’s kinda like me,” Manning continued. “He wasn’t gonna relax until that final second ticked off. I’ve had a great chance to celebrate with Eli. He’s very happy and proud of me just like I’ve always been of him.”

Peyton tied his younger brother Sunday for two Super Bowl rings apiece, leading many to wonder whether sibling rivalry had anything to do with Eli's emotionless face.



Photo Credit: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Day After Big Game, Fans Line Up to Buy SB50 Memorabilia]]> Mon, 08 Feb 2016 12:55:16 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/sb50-mersh.jpg

Super sale!

At the NFL Shop inside Levi's Stadium on Monday morning, it felt like the day after Christmas. The shop, which Sunday, was selling pullovers for $95 emblazoned with a "Super Bowl 50" logo, had those same sweaters for half-price on the day after the big game.

Victor Sanchez of Phoenix paid $92 for his bling, a 50th Super Bowl wristwatch that was priced at $180 the day Denver's defense shut down Carolina's quarterback, Cam Newton, and the Panthers high-scoring offense.

The NFL Shop opened at 8 a.m., and by noon, more than 100 people crowded the wall of caps reduced from $35.

"This is great! We saw some things yesterday but decided to come back today. I won't tell you how much we've spent," said Melissa Torres of Denver, clutching a plaque commemorating Denver Broncos quarterback, Peyton Manning's pre-Super Bowl 2016 accomplishments in his 18-year NFL career.

The shop is situated in the northwest corner of Levi's Stadium, near Gate A, which is nearest Tasman Drive, across from the Santa Clara Convention Center.

The sale does not include items proclaiming the NFL's newest champions, the Denver Broncos, but there were plenty of iconic Golden Gate Bridge-themed shirts, caps, key chains and pennants to keep shoppers perusing the stock on tables.

But, now that word's out, the limited supply might be snapped up in a retail equivalent of Denver's pass rush on Super Bowl Sunday.

The sale, Monday only, ends at 6 p.m.



Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[Docs Detail Alleged Manziel Beating]]> Tue, 09 Feb 2016 09:39:19 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/JohnnyManziel-AP_324132097739.jpg

NFL quarterback Johnny Manziel hit his girlfriend Colleen Crowley so severely on Jan. 29 that she suffered a ruptured eardrum and still can't hear in her left ear, the woman's attorney said Monday.

"They expect (her ear) to heal but it'll take a while," Dallas attorney Kathy Kinser told NBC 5.

Kinser represents Crowley, who wrote in an application for a protective order that she and Manziel dated for two years and lived together for four months in Cleveland before the alleged attack in Dallas last month.

Dallas police re-opened the criminal case on Friday and NBC 5 has reported that police in Fort Worth are also investigating.

Manziel, the Cleveland Browns quarterback who became the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy while playing at Texas A&M, agreed to the order, which forbids him from seeing her for two years.

Crowley's version of what happened that night, including more alleged violence and threats that Manziel would kill himself, is detailed in a sworn statement she wrote to obtain the protective order. Manziel's attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday.

She said the two went to dinner at Victor Tangos restaurant in Dallas with three friends, then went to two bars before going to an "after party" at Hotel ZaZa. The friends left Manziel and Crowley alone.

"We planned to spend the night together in his room there," Crowley said in the statement.

"We started having a discussion about things I had heard earlier in the week about him being with a girl who had caused us problems in the past," Crowley said. "I told (him) that if I was going to spend the night, it would be on the couch."

Crowley said Manziel threw her on the bed.

"He claimed it was 'playfully' but it frightened me and I took it seriously," she said.

Crowley said she decided to leave the hotel but he "restrained" her from leaving.

"I tried to fight him off," she said. "I became very scared that he was going to hurt me."

She said Manziel continued to restrain her and led her down a back stairway to the valet.

"When we got to the valet, I was crying and begged the valet, 'Please don't let him take me. I'm scared for my life," she wrote. "The valet replied, 'I don't know what to do,' and allowed Manziel to "literally throw me in the front passenger seat of his car."

In a statement to NBC 5, Avi Niego, manager at Hotel ZaZa said, "(It) is our policy not to comment publicly on any aspect of our operation."

Manziel and Crowley drove to a nearby bar where she had earlier parked her car, she said.

"I jumped out of the car and ran across the street and hid behind some bushes," she said. "He flipped a U-turn and pulled right in to where I was hiding. He grabbed me by my hair and threw me back into the car."

That's when Crowley said Manziel hit her in the head on her left ear.

Crowley said she tried to hit back but Manziel threw her off and she hit her head on the car window and fell on the floorboard.

"Still fearful for my life, I stayed in the floorboard motionless until (Manziel) pulled me back onto the seat. He was telling me to 'stop' and wouldn't let me have my phone.'"

The two drove down Interstate 30 from Dallas to Fort Worth, where Crowley, a TCU student, has an apartment.

Crowley said she at first told him she hated him but Manziel told her he was going to take her car and kill himself.

"I thought maybe he was on drugs or having a psychotic break so to keep him calm I began telling him, 'I love you. We can figure this out. We can talk,'" she said.

Manziel started laughing, she said.

"I started crying even more and he told me, 'Shut up or I'll kill us both,'" she said.

She said he responded by saying, "I would never kill you. You don't deserve that. I would only kill myself."

Crowley said they arrived at her apartment and continued to fight, which she described as "more verbal than physical."

"He then smashed my phone onto the tile in my apartment entry," she said. "I was in my kitchen so out of fear for my life, I pulled a knife out of my knife block and advanced toward him. He ran out of the apartment."

She said she screamed for help and a neighbor came out. He ran.

Fort Worth police have said officers searched for him with the help of a helicopter but couldn't find him.

"I continue to be extremely concerned for my health and well-being," Crowley wrote.

Manziel signed the protective order, agreeing not to be around Crowley for two years and pay Crowley's attorney's fees of $12,500.

Manziel's attorney, who is listed on the court documents as Brad Beckworth of Austin, did not return a telephone call seeking comment Monday.

Kinser said Crowley met with Dallas police on Friday.

Dallas police have released no new information on the case since announcing on Friday they were investigating.

Colleen E. Crowley's Application for Protective Order



Photo Credit: File – AP
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<![CDATA[With Bigger Role, Autry Showed Raiders His Value in 2015]]> Mon, 08 Feb 2016 09:30:26 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/180*120/Autreeie.jpg

The Raiders have some big decisions to make over the next few weeks about whether to re-sign key performers who are entering free agency.

Will they keep left tackle Donald Penn? It may be the biggest question. Will they retain punter Marquette King? There seems little doubt.

But there are other role players who are pending unrestricted free agents that may be attractive to keep – players who didn’t come into the league with much acclaim. Players such as backup defensive end Denico Autry.

Autry, a 6-foot-5, 273-pounder, was signed by general manager Reggie McKenzie as an undrafted free agent from Mississippi State in May of 2014.

He played in 10 games in 2014 and was in on 13 tackles. In 2015, he played a much bigger role, appearing in 14 games and starting eight following the injury to veteran Justin Tuck. He made a big statement, coming up with three sacks and was in on 22 tackles, including one for a safety, while also batting down three passes.

With the retirement of Tuck and some uncertainty about Mario Edwards Jr.’s health, it seems likely that McKenzie will want to retain Autry if the price is right. Autry has proven he can put pressure on quarterbacks. In two years at Mississippi State, he had six sacks and three forced fumbles, along with 73 tackles.

Autry, 25, certainly shouldn’t be expensive – although he should get a raise. He made $510,000 in 2015 after a first-season deal for $247,058, according to Spotrac.com.

Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio became a fan of Autry’s after seeing what he could do in a larger role.

“Denico was not a surprise,” he told reporters this past season. “He was a guy that when we came into camp it was hopeful that he would compete and do the things he’s been able to do. He flashed occasionally on tape from last year. He’s a big, athletic guy and he’s got a great work ethic. He’s a young man that’s really worked hard and embraced all the different challenges that we’ve thrown at him and he’s done a nice job.”

Plus, as Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle wrote in December, Autry wants to stay in silver and black. Tweeted Tafur: “Autry has proved to the rest of the NFL he can play. Plans to re-sign with #Raiders. What about testing his market value? ‘I don’t care about that.’ ”

 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Odds Are, 49ers Won't Be Playing in 51st Super Bowl]]> Mon, 08 Feb 2016 11:17:37 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/187*120/chypprh.jpg

When the 49ers moved into Levi’s Stadium they hoped they’d be participants in Super Bowl 50. Instead, they were forced to watch the Denver Broncos beat the Carolina Panthers on their home turf Sunday.

Now that this year’s Big Game is over, it doesn’t look all that likely they’ll be participants in Super Bowl LI, either. According to the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook odds released Sunday night after the Broncos’ victory, the New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers are co-favorites, at 8-1 odds, to get to the next Super Bowl on Feb. 5, 2017 at NRG Stadium (formerly Reliant Stadium) in Houston.

The 49ers?

Their odds to get to the NFL’s championship game are 60-1, which ranks as No. 31 in a 32-team league. The only team below San Francisco is Cleveland, at 200-1.

The 49ers, coming off a 5-11 season and the firing of head coach Jim Tomsula after just one season, have fallen a long way in three seasons. Back in September of 2013 the 49ers were headed into a new season as co-favorites to reach the Super Bowl at 6-1, along with the Broncos. And last season the Niners were given 25-1 odds right after the New England Patriots defeated the Seattle Seahawks in the 49th Super Bowl, tied for seventh in the NFL.

As David Fucillo of SB Nation noted Sunday night after the Broncos-Panthers game, the 49ers have hired a dynamic offensive head coach in Chip Kelly, “but it has not done much for their perceived chances.”

Also having a little something to do with it, of course, are the questions about quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s future, an offensive line with several holes and whether a suspect defense can get better and stop the Seahawks, Cardinals and Rams offenses in the rugged NFC West in 2016.

In Kelly’s first year with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2013, he turned them from a 4-12 team in 2012 to a 10-6 team. Can he perform another miracle in 2016?

Right now, a 10-6 record for the 49ers would feel like reaching the Super Bowl after a horrible 2015.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[FAA Tracks Four Airspace Violations During SB50]]> Mon, 08 Feb 2016 10:50:36 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Levi-Stadium-SB-AP_256090637103.jpg

There were four airspace violations by private planes during Sunday's Super Bowl at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California, the Federal Aviation Administration said. 

FAA spokesman Ian Gregor told NBC Bay Area on Monday that the he knew of four "temporary flight restrictions" during the game, one more than was originally reported on Sunday.

In general, FAA spokeswoman Laura Brown said, pilots could face sanctions ranging from warning letters to license suspensions or revocations.

The FAA declared the air space above the stadium a "no fly zone" during the Super Bowl game between the Denver Broncos and the Carolina Panthers. That meant drones and other aircraft were not allowed to fly within 32 miles of the stadium between 2 p.m. and midnight on game day.

Major Katrina Andrews, a spokeswoman for the air component of the North American Aerospace Defense Command, said the violators were not drones. Instead, she said they were pilots of  private planes, such as small Cessnas, who didn't read their notices telling aircraft to stay away from the stadium during the big game. The FAA said these four planes violated the airspace: a Cessna 150, a Cessna 172, a Vans RV 6 and a Beechcraft BE35.

She said the pilots received an alert that they were violating the air space and were escorted or diverted to the Livermore Municipal Airport or Palo Robles, where they were headed anyway.

"It appears they had not read their notice to airmen (NOTAMS), which explains the parameters of the restricted area," she said.

NORAD is the agency charged with the missions of aerospace warning and aerospace control for North America.



Photo Credit: AP
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<![CDATA[Tweet From Seahawks' Lynch May Indicate Retirement]]> Sun, 07 Feb 2016 20:28:56 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/MarshawnLynch-AP_324019937170.jpg

Leave it to Marshawn Lynch to be at the center of attention in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl.

Except this time, Lynch may have given the surest sign he's on the verge of retirement.

Lynch, the mercurial Seattle Seahawks running back, sent a tweet during the fourth quarter of Sunday's Super Bowl with a pair of cleats hanging from a power or telephone line, along with an emoji depicting a peace sign. It certainly wasn't a definitive statement that Lynch is ready to call it a career, but it would fit with a mounting stack of evidence that the bruising running back is ready to move on from football.

Lynch's teammates in Seattle were certainly taking his tweet as a statement of retirement. Doug Baldwin, Bruce Irvin, Paul Richardson and Richard Sherman were among the many teammates to pay tribute to Lynch on social media.

"Salute to my guy @MoneyLynch ... It was an honor sharing the field with you," Sherman wrote on Twitter.

"To one of the greatest teammates I've ever had the pleasure of suiting up with. Salute. #Beastmode," Baldwin posted on Instagram.

Messages left for Lynch's representatives were not immediately returned.

The tweet from Lynch also backed statements from Jan. 22 by Seattle general manager John Schneider in a pair of radio interviews that indicated Lynch was leaning toward retirement. Schneider said in separate interviews with two Seattle radio stations that he believes Lynch is leaning toward calling it a career after an injury-filled 2015 season.

Schneider first appeared on KIRO-AM, the team's flagship station, saying the team was going to give Lynch time and leeway to decide what he wants to do, but added he was "under the impression" Lynch was leaning toward retirement.

Later on KJR-AM, Schneider hedged his comments slightly, but reiterated that he thought Lynch was considering stepping away.

"I really, honestly don't know at this point," Schneider said on KJR. "If you put a gun to my head I would say he is leaning toward retirement. But I think with Marshawn you never really know. He's a fierce competitor. We just have to handle it the right way in terms of showing him as much respect as we possibly can for everything he's done for this organization."

ESPN reported earlier Sunday without identifying its sources that Lynch had been telling close friends he was planning to retire.

Lynch will turn 30 in April and is coming off an injury-plagued 2015 season where he was limited to just seven games in the regular season and one of Seattle's two playoff games. Lynch was bothered by hamstring and calf issues early in the season and later missed the final seven regular-season games with an abdominal injury that required surgery. Lynch returned for the NFC divisional playoff game at Carolina but was mostly a non-factor with the Seahawks falling behind 14-0 in the opening moments of the loss.

Lynch was limited to just 111 carries and 417 yards in the regular season, the first season of his career where injuries have been a significant factor.

Lynch would cost the Seahawks $11.5 million against the salary cap for the 2016 season, a massive number for a running back of his age, but Schneider had indicated changes would be needed if Lynch wanted to return. 



Photo Credit: AP
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<![CDATA[Levi's Stadium Turf Issues Force Players to Change Cleats]]> Sun, 07 Feb 2016 18:50:43 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/levi-stadium-turf-new.jpg

Players on the Broncos and Panthers were forced to change cleats during the first half of Super Bowl 50 due to footing issues with the Levi's Stadium sod.

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About halfway through the second quarter, CBS sideline reporter Tracy Wolfson said, not only were Carolina and Denver players changing cleats mid-game, they were complaining about slippage in the Levi’s Stadium turf.

The 2-year-old stadium has a history of turf troubles. The field was replaced at least six times this season, SI reports.

But Sunday’s problems can’t be blamed on the 49ers. The NFL took over the stadium prior to the Super Bowl and new turf was installed last month ahead of the Sunday's game.

Field issues had the stadium in the spotlight back in October when Baltimore Ravens kicker Justin Tucker slipped during a field goal attempt.

During the preseason, the San Francisco 49ers were forced to move the team’s open practice off the turf due to "poor field conditions."

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CSN Bay Area's Scott Bair contributed to this report.



Photo Credit: Getty
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<![CDATA[Businesses Disappointed with Super Bowl Profits]]> Sun, 07 Feb 2016 20:00:24 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Marianne+Business.jpg

When Santa Clara business owners heard the Super Bowl was headed to the Bay Area, they were understandably excited: With tens of thousands of people swarming Levi’s Stadium for the big game, surely big profits would follow, they assumed.

As it turns out, however, sales in the weeks leading up to the Super Bowl has been lackluster at some locations that were counting on a customer uptick.

Nga Huynh, the owner of Butter and Zeus, says that the foot traffic has slowed at her location.
“Businesses is a little bit down because of all the road closures,” she said. “We aren’t seeing our usual Sunday crowd.”

Like many restaurateurs, she’s keeping her eatery open late so that people leaving Super Bowl parties can come and dine.

Despite Huynh’s disappointing sales, however, the Super Bowl has met the expectations of other business owners, particularly those within a two block radius of the stadium.

“This super bowl thing is amazing,” said a cook at Dona Maria Mexican Food, where tacos were in high demand but short supply.

“We’re probably up 100 percent,” said Guillermo Prado, owner of Dona Maria’s. “Normally, business on Sunday is slow.”



Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[Celebrities at Super Bowl 50]]> Mon, 08 Feb 2016 06:44:40 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/AMBRO_GettyImages-508985750.jpg Famous faces dotted the crowds at Super Bowl 50 as A-list celebrities flocked to see the Carolina Panthers take on the Denver Broncos at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[PHOTOS: Super Bowl 50]]> Mon, 08 Feb 2016 06:58:36 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/180*120/GettyImages-508990588.jpg

Photo Credit: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Curry, Warriors Hit 'Rolling Stone' Party After Big Win]]> Sun, 07 Feb 2016 12:54:03 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/rs-party-th.jpg Golden State Warriors Stephen Curry, Festus Ezeli and Leandro Barbosa were among the celebs spotted checking out performances by Travis Scott and Avicii at one of the most exclusive pre-Super Bowl 50 parties in San Francisco.

Photo Credit: Getty]]>
<![CDATA[Dazzling Fireworks, Pricey Snacks, Tight Security at SB50]]> Sun, 07 Feb 2016 20:14:14 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/ezra2.jpg

The Denver Broncos defeated the Carolina Panthers 24-10, winning Super Bowl 50 at Levi's Stadium.

The NFL’s extravaganza Sunday featured an electrifying rendition of the "Star-Spangled Banner" by Lady Gaga and a flamboyant halftime performance by Coldplay, Beyonce and Bruno Mars.

Tens of thousands of fans have poured in to the Bay Area in the days leading up to the game, but all eyes were on the South Bay Sunday.

StubHub sold over 5,000 tickets — ranging from $3,000 to more than $10,000 — to the event. Fans, from all over California, North Carolina and even Australia, began lining up before 9 a.m. on game day to snag their seats at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara.

A sense of anticipation and excitement permeated the festivities with revelers stocking up on beer, chicken and hot dogs. Some, however, were miffed at seeing that water bottles were priced at $7, Bud Light at $13 and Pinot Grigio at $25.

Thousands boarded Caltrain, which transported them from San Francisco to Mountain View, where a light rail brought them directly to Levi's Stadium.

VTA officials, who estimated that around 12,000 people would use the service from Mountain View Sunday, were pleased by the turnout. On Monday, officials announced that 9,500 fans had, in fact, used the light rail and bus service.

Stacey Hendler Ross with the VTA said the transit agency has spent nearly a year coming up with "plans on how to take people [to Levi's Stadium] safely, efficiently, and effectively."

Melissa Rutledge, a Panthers supporter, was glad she chose to use public transit to and from Levi's Stadium.

"It was wonderful — very safe, really clean," she said. "Unfortunately, there were Broncos fans."

Broncos fan Jamie Cosmer, however, was so excited to watch her favorite team live that she was at a loss for words.

"I can't even talk, I can't even talk," she said.

Media personnel from Russia, Mexico, the U.K., Germany and Japan also flocked to the venue and reported that security — by way of armored vans, helicopters and even the National Guard — was expectedly tight. 

The Department of Homeland Security deemed the Super Bowl a tier-one event, which earned it a high level of security starting at the federal level. 

A no-fly zone took effect around 2:30 p.m. Sunday and officials promised violators that they would see an F-15 fighter aircraft on their tail. A no-drone zone was also enforced in a 32-mile radius surrounding Levi’s Stadium.

Meanwhile, Black Hawk helicopters circled the stadium all day, military personnel and snipers perched on rooftops surrounding the 65,000-seat venue, and K-9 units that work with explosives walked among the crowds.

Attendees admitted to NBC Bay Area that they were grateful for the increased security measures and large number of uniformed officers.

"With big events like this, ever since we’ve had Al Qaida and whatnot, [they] have to be secure," Grace Meullens said. 

Ryan Hooten agreed.

"I feel pretty safe," he said. "If anything goes down, I think the safest place is the Super Bowl."

Earlier in the week, fans flocked to the NFL Experience as well as Super Bowl City to watch performances by One Republic, Alicia Keys and others. The massive turnout, in fact, forced officials to close Justin Herman Plaza on Friday and Saturday evenings to ensure the public's safety.

People also spotted celebrities, including Justin Bieber and Cuba Gooding, Jr., and took in a Metallica concert at AT&T Park.

Meanwhile, NFL great Jerry Rice successfully masqueraded as a Lyft driver and a cancer-stricken teenager's dream to watch the Broncos in action was fulfilled when tight-end Vernon Davis surprised him with two tickets to the Super Bowl.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Cannabis Activists: Pot Could Help Cure 1 of NFL's Ills]]> Sun, 07 Feb 2016 06:03:00 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/CTE-split-stabler-seau.jpg

With much of the NFL world camped out in the San Francisco Bay Area in the days before Super Bowl 50, researchers released sobering news: late Oakland Raiders quarterback Ken Stabler had a degenerative brain disease associated with repeated blows to the head.

Later Wednesday, another late, great QB, Earl Morrall, also was revealed to have had chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), which is associated with memory loss, impaired judgment and progressive dementia. Dozens of former players have been diagnosed, some who died in old age, like Frank Gifford, and a few who took their lives, like Junior Seau.

There is no known treatment for CTE, not least because there's no test that can point it out in the living — it's detected in post-mortem brain scans. But to one former player who's sure his nine-year career gave him the disease, there's an obvious treatment that isn't allowed in the NFL, even though it would be easy to score not far from Levi's Stadium on Super Bowl Sunday for anyone with a doctor's note: medical marijuana.

"If cannabis is implemented and (the NFL) can lead the science on this, they can resolve this brain injury situation in a big way," Kyle Turley said.

Turley is at the forefront of a vocal movement arguing that medical marijuana's pain-suppressing and possible neuroprotective benefits make it the only effective treatment for the effects that chronic concussive blows to the head have on football players. As co-founder of the Gridiron Cannabis Coalition, Turley is the movement's most outspoken member, but it also includes other retired players and rapper/marijuana entrepreneur Snoop Dogg.

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More players' brains are found to show signs of CTE with each year that passes. Researchers at Boston University have found evidence of CTE in 96 percent of the NFL players' brains they examined. At the same time, more states are allowing doctors to prescribe marijuana as a medicine – 23 so far, according to National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

California was the first state to legalize medicinal marijuana, and remains the only medical marijuana-legal state so far to host the Super Bowl. Nearly half of the medical marijuana identification cards issued in California were prescribed in the Bay Area, according to the Department of Public Health.

A small body of research suggests marijuana can heal head trauma, yet Turley wonders why the league isn't investigating the drug as a medicine. To advocates, hosting the Super Bowl in the region is almost hypocritical, given what they see happening to the heads of NFL players and the spiraling lives of some former players.

"The NFL's policy against medical marijuana is stupid and counterproductive," said Dale Gieringer, director of the California chapter of NORML, in an email calling the NFL out of touch with the laws of the state. "There's no doubt NFL players would be better off with medical access to marijuana."

The NFL did not comment for this story.

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Science, the Brain and Medical Marijuana
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The NFL, CTE and Medical Marijuana

Hard-Knock Lives

Turley is a former defensive lineman who has been extremely outspoken about his medical struggles after playing for three NFL teams in nine years.

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A New Yorker article from 2009 describes him blacking out at a Nashville concert, feeling much the same way he did when he was kneed in the head during a game years earlier. The former lineman had recently retired and was taking painkillers. He wound up in the hospital, where he said he briefly lost nearly all control of his body.

"Before quitting all the pills and committing to cannabis ... my life was a train wreck, plain and simple," Turley told NBC Owned Television Stations.

Today, Turley has eliminated all other chemicals from his system, from Aleve to Zoloft, he said. The San Diego resident has found strains of marijuana that relieve pain and other strains with effects comparable to the psychiatric pill Vicodin, but without the narcotic effects.

Medical marijuana has fairly well known, though not conclusively proven, pain relieving benefits. But to Turley, the drug also treats mental anguish he believes comes from CTE. There is very little research on that front, but the 40-year-old father insists marijuana has given him stability after recently feeling despondent and suicidal.

"The reality is I don't think about those things anymore. And if it wasn't for cannabis, I wouldn't be where I am mentally," Turley said.

Turley swears that marijuana use is rampant in the NFL – "from players to coaches to owners, marijuana is in the National Football League" – but only a handful of players have spoken out about using it. They emphasize the mental clarity it offers as much as the pain relief.

"I always healed fast, ahead of schedule; was never really very swollen; my mind was very sharp, and after concussions medicated with it," Nate Jackson told marijuana magazine High Times this week, discussing how marijuana helped him in his days with the Broncos in the 2000s.

It's not just young players who swear by pot, either. Jim McMahon, one of the heroes of the Chicago Bears' 1985 championship, revealed last month that he weaned himself off pharmaceutical drugs that left his head feeling fuzzy.

"This medical marijuana has been a godsend. It relieves me of the pain – or thinking about it, anyway," he told The Chicago Tribune.

But there isn't much medical research to back up their claims.

Science, the Brain and Medical Marijuana
Most medical marijuana advocacy is directed at the drug's pain-relieving qualities, which may be recognized by many states, but not the federal government. The FDA has not approved marijuana as a drug, though it notes there is widespread general interest in its potential as a less addictive alternative to painkillers.

But last year, the Journal of the American Medical Association found only some evidence that medical marijuana and similar drugs help chronic pain, less evidence for help with nausea and brain disorders and a risk of adverse effects, including nausea, fatigue and confusion. The National Institute on Drug Abuse says long-term marijuana use can affect learning, thinking and memory, and has been linked to mental illness and depression.

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Advocates dispute those claims, and in the case of brain trauma, their case is bolstered, in some sense, by the fact that little research has been done on medical marijuana's effects on the brain.

The psychoactive chemical in medical marijuana, THC, was associated with a significantly improved mortality rate in patients who sustained traumatic brain injuries, according to a 2014 UCLA study. A study by Michigan State University researchers found that, in test tubes, THC reduced tau deposits, which indicate CTE and Alzheimer's.

Marijuana advocates cite these and some other studies when describing the drug's purported neuroprotective effects, saying it may be able to protect and heal brain cells in a way no other drugs can.

Other supporters only go as far as saying they intoxicate and sedate patients less than opiates do, and are easier on the stomach than anti-inflammatories, like Berkeley Dr. Frank Lucido, who says he has prescribed marijuana to two former NFL players. Asked about any neuroprotective effects, he noted they were unproven in humans.

Turley and others who do believe the drug can protect or restore neurological function mainly argue that more research needs to be done, and soon. A federal study found in 2012 that retired players were three times likelier to die of neurodegenerative diseases than the U.S. population on the whole.

"NFL pockets are deep enough to support a crash research program to determine that this combination of cannabinoids is effective in preventing the consequences of concussion," Harvard emeritus professor of Psychiatry Lester Grinspoon wrote in an open letter to the commissioner of the NFL in 2014.

For now, marijuana remains a problem in the NFL, subject to fines and suspensions during the season for repeat offenders, just as the federal government continues to classify marijuana as one of the most dangerous drugs.

Turley hopes his Gridiron Cannabis Coalition will help change that position, as much for the players as for Alzheimer's patients and others he thinks can benefit from cannabis.

"The attitude of the active players is the attitude of police forces around our country," Turley said. "It is absurd that this continues to be a reason for a player to be suspended or someone is arrested. We don't want to deal with this anymore."

The NFL, CTE and Medical Marijuana 
On Saturday, the NFL announced that Ken Stabler will be inducted into the Hall of Fame. If last year's ceremony is any indication, CTE will hardly be mentioned at all when he is honored.

The 2015 induction of Junior Seau, who was 43 when he killed himself, was marred by the league's initial refusal to let his family speak at the ceremony. The league cited a long-standing policy, but many noted that the family had sued the NFL, saying his suicide was at least partially caused by repeated hits to the head sustained in his playing days. His daughter eventually did speak, and did not mention Seau's brain.

Though the league settled concussion-connected lawsuits last year involving thousands of former players, about 200 opted out, including Seau's family. The suits claimed players weren't properly protected from concussions or informed of their risks.

The NFL did not admit liability in settling the suits. Since CTE has become associated with football, the NFL has also donated a substantial amount of money to research, including $30 million to the National Institutes of Health – its largest-ever donation to any organization.

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As for medical marijuana use, there are signs that the league's position could change.

A representative for the the NFL Player's Association told NBC Owned Television Stations it is reviewing medical-marijuana policy, though didn't comment further. The union works with the NFL to set the league's drug policy.

And the league that doled out four drug-related suspensions to Ricky Williams – the electric running back whose career is now synonymous with marijuana in the game – has recently expressed more openness toward medical marijuana, if not the drug on the whole.

Commissioner Roger Goodell briefly addressed the issue in the run-up to last year's Super Bowl, saying the NFL could one day condone cannabis as a treatment but that its medical experts didn't yet consider its use proper.

If the league did decide to reverse course on the issue, it would still face a major hurdle: the federal ban on marijuana would mean players without contracts might gravitate to teams in states where medication was legal.

Not that that should stop the league from trying, said Turley, a fiery speaker about the cause.

"It would have been an amazing opportunity for the NFL to have dealt with this proactively, instead of allowing this to be another thing that shows their desire to really change things is very lackluster," Turley said.

Turley, Williams and McMahon will all talk about their experiences with marijuana this month at the Southwest Cannabis Conference and Expo in Dallas, the first marijuana conference in a state that hasn’t legalized marijuana medicinally, according to Rory Mendoza, the event’s organizer.

Their goal, for now is to slowly raise awareness about how the drug helped them, like a football team grinding out a long drive a few yards at a time.

And on Sunday, Turley will be watching the Super Bowl at home with family and friends, avoiding intoxicants and drugs – except the one he believes can save his life, which he long ago dedicated to football.  



Photo Credit: Getty Images, File
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<![CDATA[Broncos Player Surprises Fan With Super Bowl 50 Tickets]]> Sun, 07 Feb 2016 10:22:35 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/vernon+1.jpeg

A Denver Broncos player visited a cancer and heart transplant patient the night before the Super Bowl and was moved to tears by the encounter.

Alex Walter, who is undergoing treatment at Lucile Packard Children Hospital Stanford, is an ardent Broncos fan who had long dreamed of meeting a team player.

His surprise came in two parts.

Walter, 18, was first bowled over Tuesday when Vernon Davis decided to stop by.

The Montana teen again was left dumbfounded Saturday when the tight-end handed him two tickets to watch Super Bowl 50 between Davis' Broncos and the Carolina Panthers.

Walter said he has been a Broncos supporter since he was 2 years old and is particularly in awe of wide-receiver Demaryius Thomas as well as Davis, for whom he made a bracelet out of his Beads of Courage.

Deeming the experience "cool," Walter said he was excited for the Broncos to defeat the Panthers and to be able to watch them do it. He said he plans to give his second ticket to a friend who is also a patient at Lucile Packard.

Meanwhile, Davis teared up looking at the beaming teenager.

"It brings joy to my heart ... to be able to give him the tickets," he said. "It means a lot to me … to see everything come to fruition for him."

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Davis said also that he makes a conscious effort to be compassionate and uplifting and found himself filled with gratitude at being able to "share this experience" with Walter.

Pediatric oncologist Sheri Spunt recalled Walter predicting that he would "freak out" if he ever met the Broncos, prompting hospital officials to take to social media earlier in the week to get the team’s attention.

Walter, who attends classes at Lucile Packard, has to undergo chemotherapy for a year and also been through radiation therapy, she said.

"He was born with congenital heart disease and had multiple heart surgeries and, ultimately, required a heart transplant," Spunt said. "Then unfortunately several years after that he was diagnosed with Rhabdomyosarcoma, which is a relatively uncommon type of childhood cancer."

A lifelong Broncos fan herself, Spunt quipped that she was jealous that Walter would be at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara on Sunday.

"Going to the Super Bowl is awesome and I know that he is going to be very excited," Spunt said."He’s the kind of guy who comes even during the off-season wearing his Broncos gear. So I know he will be absolutely thrilled to go to the Super Bowl and see his favorite team."

For her part, Walter’s mother Ronda also shared in her son’s amazement.

"He is so excited about the whole experience!" she said.

NBC Bay Area's Robert Beasom contributed to this report.

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Photo Credit: Robert Beasom]]>
<![CDATA[Warriors Land Thrilling Victory in Statement-Making Game ]]> Sat, 06 Feb 2016 21:26:07 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/180*120/GettyImages-508243866_594_screen.jpg

The Warriors confronted another “statement game” Saturday night and, once again, made a semi-convincing argument on their behalf.

Meeting Oklahoma City for the first time this season, the defending champions blew a 20-point lead but summoned just enough defense at crucial times to post a thrilling 116-108 victory before a celebrity-studdent crowd at Oracle Arena.

Five Warriors scored in double figures, led by Stephen Curry’s 26 points. Harrison Barnes put in 19, Klay Thompson had 18, Marreese Speights totaled 15, while Shaun Livingston added 10.

The Warriors (45-4) held the Thunder without a field goal (on 0-for-5 shooting) over the final 3:36 to hang on and get the win.

With the likes of Jay-Z, Beyonce, Kendrick Lamar, Kate Hudson and Jim Harbaugh looking on, the Warriors ran their home record to 23-0 and extended their home win streak to 41, second-longest in NBA history behind the 1994-95 and 1995-96 Bulls, who won a record 44 in a row.

Kevin Durant scored a game-high 40 points and Russell Westbrook added 27 to pace the Thunder (38-14), which saw its five-game win streak snapped.

The Warriors are now 4-0 against the three teams widely considered most threatening to their chances to win back-to-back titles. They are 2-0 against the Cavaliers, 1-0 against the Spurs and now 1-0 against the Thunder.

STANDOUT PERFORMER

Draymond Green didn’t score much, only nine points, but he was crucial to the Warriors gutting this one out in the fourth quarter.

Green’s line – nine points, 14 rebounds and six assists – don’t tell the story as much as his late-game determination against Oklahoma City’s big men. The Warriors had 11 rebounds in the quarter, and he had five of them, including four in a 111-second span inside the final three-plus minutes.

TURNING POINT

After Enes Kanter made a turnaround jumper to tie the game 104-104 with 3:36 left, the Warriors closed it out with a 12-4 run.

Green’s free throw with 3:25 left put the Warriors ahead for good and Curry scored six points during the run.

INJURY UPDATE

Warriors: C Festus Ezeli (L knee soreness) and F James Michael McAdoo (L foot toe sprain) were listed as out.

Thunder: G Andre Roberson (R knee sprain) was listed as out.

WHAT’S NEXT

The Warriors return to action Tuesday at Oracle Arena, where they play host to the Houston Rockets. Tipoff is set for 7:35 p.m.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Source: 49ers' DeBartolo Elected to Hall of Fame]]> Sat, 06 Feb 2016 17:30:33 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/160*120/picresized_th_1291323816_76052206.jpg

 SAN FRANCISCO -– Eddie DeBartolo’s journey from Youngstown, Ohio, to owner of the 49ers will reach its final destination just 60 miles from his hometown.

DeBartolo was elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday in a vote of the 46-member board of selectors on the eve of Super Bowl 50 at Levi’s Stadium, CSN Bay Area’s Mindi Bach reported Saturday.

The enshrinement ceremony will take place on Aug. 6, in Canton, Ohio.

DeBartolo, 69, this year’s lone nominee as a “contributor” was selected for the Class of 2016.

The latest group of Hall of Fame inductees, as selected during a meeting that lasted approximately nine hours at Moscone Center, is scheduled to be announced Saturday evening.

Former 49ers wide receiver Terrell Owens announced on Twitter that he fell short of the required vote during his first year of eligibility. Owens wrote: "Unfortunately I did not make it. CONGRATS to the 2016 HOF CLASS. Thanks to ALL MY FANS for ur unwavering love & support."

Owens ranks second in NFL history with 15,934 receiving yards, third with 153 receiving touchdowns, and sixth with 1,078 career receptions.

Owens was certainly not passed over for his on-field performance. The voters discussed Owens’ pros and cons for 43 minutes, 12 seconds, according to Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News.

He played his first eight seasons with the 49ers, but also spent short periods of time with Philadelphia, Dallas, Buffalo and Cincinnati over his final seven years in the NFL. Owens will have to wait at least another year.

DeBartolo is no stranger to waiting. He was a finalist for the Hall of Fame on three separate occasions before this year. DeBartolo took over ownership of the 49ers in 1977. He hired Bill Walsh in 1979, and his teams averaged 13 victories per season from 1981 to 1998 – not including the strike-shortened 1982 season.

During his time in charge, DeBartolo’s teams won five Super Bowls, 13 NFC West championships, advanced to the NFC Championship game 10 times and made 16 playoff appearances. The 49ers posted the highest win percentage in the 1980s and 1990s.

But DeBartolo likely fell short of the required votes in previous years due to a 49ers salary-cap violation in the late-1990s and the way his ownership ended with the 49ers.

The NFL’s salary cap was instituted to level the playing field, in part, due to DeBartolo’s eagerness to attract and stockpile top players with his spending.

Then-team president Carmen Policy and vice president Dwight Clark reached settlements with the NFL as part of the league's investigation into alleged salary-cap violations. The 49ers agreed to pay a $300,00 fine and surrender draft picks in 2001 and 2002.

DeBartolo's tenure with the 49ers ended in controversy in March 2000 when he reached an agreement with his sister, Denise DeBartolo York, to split their financial interests. DeBartolo York, and her husband, John York, gained permanent control of the football team, a racetrack in Louisiana and the Edward J. DeBartolo corporate headquarters in Youngstown. Eddie DeBartolo agreed to take real estate holdings and stock.

One year earlier, then-NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue announced a one-year suspension for DeBartolo for his role in a gambling scandal that resulted in DeBartolo pleading guilty to a felony for failure to report an extortion attempt from former Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards.

Leading up to Saturday’s selection, DeBartolo said he was truly humbled to be considered for the highest honor in the sport while acknowledging the complication of his exit from the NFL. But DeBartolo was wildly popular among his players and he is the only owner in NFL history with five Super Bowl titles.

“Whatever good I did in the past, whatever bad I did in the past, I mean, it all goes together,” DeBartolo said. “It’s like baking a loaf of bread. When it comes out of the oven, people say he deserves it or he doesn’t deserve it.”

Hall of Fame officials instructed voters to not to weigh DeBartolo’s legal issues when considering his candidacy, sources told CSNBayArea.com. The voters discussed DeBartolo for longest period of time, 50 minutes, 33 seconds, according Gosselin.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[London 2012]]> Sat, 28 Jul 2012 07:04:30 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/olympic-stadium-London.jpg ]]> <![CDATA[Cam Newton, Sore Loser? Social Media Reacts]]> Tue, 09 Feb 2016 22:12:27 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/180*120/GettyImages-508991994.jpg

Two days after losing in the Super Bowl, Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton remains unapologetic for his now infamous post-game press conference, despite a firestorm of reaction from social media.

We can all sympathize with Newton. He was understandably dejected and sullen after losing the biggest game of his life. But the social media backlash that ensued wasn’t because he wasn’t smiling, it was because he appeared ungracious. In a digital world where reactions are instantaneous, many didn’t hold back their displeasure.

Newton, however, remains unfazed. “Show me a good loser and I’m going to show you a loser," the NFL MVP told reporters while he and his teammates cleaned out their lockers Tuesday. "If I offended anybody that's cool, but I know who I am and I'm not about to conform nor bend for anybody's expectations because yours or anybody's expectations would never exceed mine."

Some have defended Newton, pointing out that Denver Broncos cornerback Chris Harris Jr. was in earshot of Newton, describing how his team's plan to throw the quarterback off his game worked. Hence the reason he abruptly walked off the podium.

The Panthers signal-caller is known for his high highs and his low lows. When he wins he's exuberant and the epitome of pure joy. And who could fault him for that? But when he loses he's the exact opposite, to the point that he sends off a signal he may not have intended.

Newton will get plenty of chances to redeem himself. He's young, extremely talented and poised to appear in many more playoff games.

But for now, he'll just have to ride out the social commentary, including the funny jabs at his expense.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Draymond Green Slings Coffee at Peet's in Berkeley]]> Mon, 08 Feb 2016 16:03:48 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/draymond-peet-1.JPG Golden State Warriors star Draymond Green played the part of a barista at the Peet’s Coffee & Tea store in Berkeley.

Photo Credit: Ariel Nava/NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[Stephen Curry Bangs Panthers' 'Keep Pounding' Drum]]> Sun, 07 Feb 2016 15:55:23 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/curry-drum-th.jpg The reigning NBA MVP banged the drum for the Panthers before the team took the field prior to Super Bowl 50.

Photo Credit: Getty]]>
<![CDATA[TIMELAPSE: Demolition of Candlestick Park Complete]]> Fri, 05 Feb 2016 13:24:11 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/CANDLESTICK+GIF_18147279.gif

As the San Francisco 49ers’ new home, Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, gets ready to host Super Bowl 50 on Sunday, the development company building a new mixed-used complex released time-lapse video of Candlestick Park being torn apart.

The video, provided on Thursday to NBC Bay Area by Lennar Urban and shot by OxBlue, shows about two minutes of the ‘Stick being taken down, seat by seat, and 19 seconds of what the future site should look like, including sweeping views of the San Francisco bay.

The eight-month demolition of Candlestick Park was finished in September to make way for a new urban mixed-use project at Candlestick Point in the southeast corner of San Francisco. More than 95 percent of the materials used to build Candlestick were recycled by the demolition firm, Silverado Contractors, according to Lennar Urban spokesman Dave Satterfield. The entire project should take 20 years and $8 billion to complete, thought the retail mall portion is expected to open in 2018, Satterfield said.

The complex, being built by Macerich Corp., will include an Africa diaspora-themed shopping marketplace, a hotel, movie theaters and 12,000 new homes at the site and nearby at the former naval shipyard of Hunter’s Point.

The 49ers left Candlestick Park after the 2013 season for a new $1.2 billion stadium in Santa Clara. The Super Bowl will be played there on Sunday between the Denver Broncos and the Carolina Panthers.
 



Photo Credit: Lennar Urban]]>
<![CDATA[Marshawn Lynch Opens 'Beast Mode' Store in Oakland]]> Fri, 05 Feb 2016 11:14:10 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/marshawn-lynch-media-day.jpg

Marshawn Lynch wants to outfit the Bay Area in "Beast Mode."

That's the name of the Seattle Seahawks star and Oakland native's clothing company, which grand opens Friday at 811 Broadway Street.

The Chronicle reports Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf is expected to attend an opening party at noon and has declared Friday "Beast Mode Day" in the city.

According to the Beast Mode website, the store will enter all customers who purchase at least $100 today into a chance to win a pair of tickets to Super Bowl 50 on Sunday.

As for whether he'll return to the field himself next year, Lynch cheekily deflected the question from TMZ Sports on Thursday night.



Photo Credit: Getty Images
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<![CDATA[McKenzie's Success With Linemen in Free Agency a Good Sign for Raiders]]> Fri, 05 Feb 2016 09:48:13 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/180*120/rodneehydsynn.jpg

Once the Super Bowl 50 is over Sunday, the Raiders’ offseason will truly begin.

On Monday, NFL teams can begin waiving players. On Tuesday, teams can start signing their own players whose contracts have expired. And, on Feb. 16, clubs can designate franchise players. A month from Super Bowl Sunday, the free-agent season kicks off with teams permitted to contact and sign players from other teams who are about to become unrestricted free agents.

So, Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie and his staff have a busy few weeks ahead as they work to add missing pieces to a team that could be on the verge of a winning season and a possible trip to the playoffs after posting a 7-9 record in 2015 under first-year coach Jack Del Rio.

Recent history should give Raiders fans hope that McKenzie will (mostly) make the right moves in 2016, especially when it comes to bolstering the offensive and defensive lines.

In 2014, he signed offensive tackles Donald Penn and Austin Howard who both played key roles this past season. In 2015, McKenzie added center Rodney Hudson, tackle-guard J’Marcus Webb and defensive tackle Dan Williams. Veteran blocking tight end Lee Smith also made a big contribution.

Of course, in both the 2014 and 2015 free-agent signings, McKenzie had some big misses – Lamarr Woodley, Maurice Jones-Drew and Kory Sheets in 2014 and Trent Richardson, Christian Ponder and Curtis Lofton in 2015. But McKenzie’s ability to find productive, impact free-agent linemen has been a key component of the franchise rebuild.

In 2015, Hudson and Williams stabilized both lines, something to keep in mind as the Raiders will look to upgrade at right guard and on the defensive line.

In fact, the analytic website Pro Football Focus noted late in the 2015 season that Hudson and Williams ranked among the best free-agent signings of the year.

Hudson solidified a line, provided leadership and was a terrific pass blocker. He ranked among the best pass-blocking centers in the NFL in 2015 while also being graded as a strong run blocker. His performance, wrote PFF, was “a big part of the development” of quarterback Derek Carr, who had much more time to throw than in his rookie season.

Williams, meanwhile, ranked among the NFL’s top interior linemen in run-stop percentage and had “arguably his best season.”

And, both Williams (28) and Hudson (26) still have many productive seasons left, so they will be a part of whatever storyline McKenzie and Del Rio can build for the Raiders over the next few seasons.

A couple of more solid free-agent signings for both lines in March will set the tone for McKenzie’s work this offseason.

 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>