<![CDATA[NBC Bay Area - Bay Area Sports News, Sports Teams, and Scores for the Sharks, 49ers, Raiders,Giants, Bears and More]]> Copyright 2014 http://www.nbcbayarea.com/news/sports http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/nbc_bayarea_blue.png NBC Bay Area http://www.nbcbayarea.com en-us Fri, 25 Jul 2014 10:31:55 -0700 Fri, 25 Jul 2014 10:31:55 -0700 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Future May Be Now for Harbaugh's 49ers]]> Fri, 25 Jul 2014 09:38:12 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/176*120/futurenoww49.jpg

After the first practice of training camp Thursday, 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh described the feeling of his team as “relentlessly positive.”

And, after an offseason with several significant moves, San Francisco certainly is surrounded by high hopes entering the 2014 season.

After three straight trips to the NFC Championship Game and a Super Bowl appearance since taking over the team in 2011, Harbaugh’s excitement Thursday was effusive.

He said the first day of training camp is a big, exciting change from the offseason routine, when suddenly, he said, “It’s light, it’s bright, it’s noisy, it’s the crazy world of football.”

But while Harbaugh was his typical enthusiastic self and 49ers players expressed their happiness at getting back on the field and starting work toward 2014, others outside the organization have reservations.

In writing a preseason analysis on the Niners for USA Today this week, Steven Ruiz wondered if the 49ers’ magical run may soon lose steam.

“With the bulk of the team’s core group headed toward free agency in the next two years, the window for the franchise’s sixth (Super Bowl) championship is starting to close,” he wrote.

Certainly, the 49ers will have some decisions to make in 2015 and 2016, as the contracts of veterans expire. Wideout Michael Crabtree, running back Frank Gore, guard Mike Iupati and nose tackle Glenn Dorsey are among those whose contracts run out next season. In 2016, they’ll be followed by tight end Vernon Davis, defensive ends Ray McDonald and Justin Smith, linebacker Aldon Smith and receiver Anquan Boldin.

So, with all those decisions looming, 2014 may indeed be the time when the Niners need to make a championship happen. As Ruiz noted, “There is enough talent to contend for a Super Bowl.”

This week, in fact, the 49ers were ranked No. 2 in NBC Sports’ Preseason Power Rankings, and writer Curtis Crabtree argued that Harbaugh’s team is “again primed to push for a sixth Super Bowl title.”

But after three straight berths in the NFC Championship Game, can the 49ers make it four straight? In the NFL – where injuries and weird things happen every game – that’s difficult to achieve. The last NFC team to go to four straight conference championship games was the Philadelphia Eagles (2001-02 to 2004-05). And despite getting close, the Eagles didn't win a Super Bowl.

And the 49ers enter this season in the same division as the Super Bowl-champion Seahawks, who just happen to be the favorite to win this season’s Super Bowl.

If the 49ers’ future is now, though, they go into it well-armed. Additions at wide receiver and running back may be the fuel that powers San Francisco to a Super Bowl trophy in its fourth season under Harbaugh.

“Another year of experience from Colin Kaepernick and improved quality at the receiver position should make the passing game more efficient this season,” wrote NBC Sports’ Crabtree. “With a rock-solid rushing attack, the 49ers offense could be the best it has been with Kaepernick under center.”


Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Door Opens for Chekwa, Carrie With Hayden Out Again]]> Fri, 25 Jul 2014 10:23:07 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/163*120/Chekkkwa.jpg

Raiders head coach Dennis Allen recently noted that cornerback D.J. Hayden was “light years” ahead of where he was a year ago.

In a matter of weeks, however, Hayden has hit a wall. And as usual with the young, injury-prone corner, the wall won.

Allen on Thursday told the media gathered at Raiders training camp that Hayden will be placed on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list after he suffered a stress fracture in his right foot at organized team activities this spring.

At first, team doctors thought the injury was just a sprain. When a fracture was discovered, surgery was required to correct it. Now Hayden is expected to be out 4-8 weeks, meaning he might miss all of training camp.

It’s certainly not the scenario the Raiders were hoping for going into 2014. They were counting on Hayden, last year’s No. 1 pick, to step in, earn a starting spot at cornerback and live up to the expectations placed on him by general manager Reggie McKenzie when he was selected out of the University of Houston.

But Hayden has now lost time during his final year at Houston (because of a freak chest injury), half his rookie season (for a sports hernia) and now the stress fracture in his foot.

“It’s disappointing for him and for me, because he’s a guy we were counting on being able to step up and help us this year, and he’s a young player and he needs the reps,” Allen told the media.

So what’s Plan B?  With Hayden now out of the picture – at least for a while – the Raiders will have to find someone in camp to take his place. Veteran corners Tarell Brown and Carlos Rogers will start, with Rogers expected to take over slot responsibilities in nickel coverage. But that leaves the team looking for someone to take over outside cover responsibilities in nickel coverage.

Best bets are rookie T.J. Carrie and veteran Chimdi Chekwa. Rookie corner Keith McGill  -- a fourth-round pick from Utah -- might have been a good option, too, but he’s also expected to be placed on the PUP list because of an ankle problem.  McGill is a tall (6-foot-3) physical corner who made a good impression in organized team activities and other workouts this spring.

But that leaves the door open for Carrie, a seventh-round pick from Ohio. The Raiders took Carrie mostly for his prowess as a return specialist. But Carrie has caught the eyes of Raiders coaches as a pass defender – a pleasant surprise.

“I’ve been very impressed with him,” Allen told reporters during OTAs. “His ability to understand what we’re trying to do within the scheme of the defense. What you look for in guys like that is you look for a guy who is going to make a play that kind of catches your attention. Really every day there’s been something that he’s done that you say, ‘Damn, that was a pretty good play.’ I like where he’s at and the development process here.”

Chekwa, entering his fourth season, was a fourth-round pick by Oakland out of Ohio State in 2011. He played just seven games his first two seasons before appearing in 15 in 2013, making 23 tackles, forcing two fumbles and recovering one.

According to Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle, Allen mentioned Chekwa as a candidate to earn significant playing time with Hayden out.

Meanwhile, the Raiders will wait – again – for Hayden to get back, regain his full fitness and finally show over an extended period of time whether he’s a player Oakland can count on for the present and future.

“The kid wants to be out there,” said Allen. “He wants to play. It’s just been unfortunate that he’s had some injuries that have kept him from being able to do that.”


Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Justin Smith is Fully Armed for 2014]]> Thu, 24 Jul 2014 09:29:06 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/180*120/jusssmith49.jpg

Justin Smith’s nickname is Cowboy. Now we know it could also be Superman or the Hulk.

Pick your favorite superhero.

When the 49ers’ veteran defensive lineman reported for training camp Wednesday he revealed that he played all of last season with a shoulder injury suffered in training camp. He played 16 regular-season games and three more in the postseason all as, basically, a 1½-armed defender.

After injuring the shoulder in the summer, he made the decision to play through the season and have surgery afterward. Now he says he’s again 100 percent.

Even playing without his full strength, Smith, 34, had 6½ sacks and again played a big role in the 49ers’ 3-4 scheme. Yet Smith knew the injury cost him effectiveness.

“You use your arms in football quite a bit,” he told the Bay Area media Wednesday. “It was what it was. Hey, they can fix you, so that’s a good thing.”

As Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee noted, Smith had a solid year coming back from a torn triceps that had hindered him late in the 2012 season and in the team’s run to the Super Bowl. But NFL analysts had seen a dropoff in his play. Pro Football Focus gave Smith a terrific +50.5 grade in the 2011 season, for instance, but it was just +8.1 in 2013, Barrows reported.

Now, however, Smith is eager to get going on a season that is the final one on his contract. He’s now surrounded by a deep and young group of linemen who could allow Smith to take a few downs off every game and keep him fresh for the long haul.

And with two healthy shoulders, Smith will take the practice field for the first time in training camp Friday for what could be his final season in San Francisco.

“I’m playing this year,” he told the media. “That’s all I’m focused on. I feel a lot healthier than I did last year. I feel a lot better.”


Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Bonds Supporters Launch Campaign to Build "Barry Bronze" Statue]]> Fri, 25 Jul 2014 06:39:13 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/AP954965539457.jpg

Barry Bonds fans are pushing for a "Barry Bronze," an eight-foot statue in honor of the controversial former slugger.

Supporters launched a Kickstarter campaign Thursday and need $60,000 for the project. Organizers said they have a sculptor lined up ready to create the proposed bronze statue. As of Thursday night, they have raised just about $5,400.

No word yet on where this possible statue would be placed.

Among the rewards offered to those who pledge: for $125, a chance to “vote on the pose we choose for Barry Bronze - Fingers to the sky? Home run swing? You make the call! (Plus t-shirt, sticker & pin)”

The organizer said he came up with the idea after the former San Francisco Giants left fielder was not inducted into baseball's Hall of Fame.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Raiders Hope to Get Returns From Atkinson Signing]]> Thu, 24 Jul 2014 09:30:55 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/160*125/atkinson3nd.jpg

As the Raiders’ training camp gets under way, the competition between veterans Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew will be one of the most interesting on the team.

It’s not yet known how head coach Dennis Allen will use the two running backs, both of whom have much to prove after downturns in their careers.

But the running back corps in general has some interesting story lines aside from McFadden and MJD. Second-year pro Latavius Murray is a powerful runner who could step up to be the No. 1 back if the veterans falter, and former Canadian Football League star Kory Sheets and Jeremy Stewart also will get their chances to show what they can contribute.

And then there is George Atkinson III.

Atkinson is an undrafted rookie from Notre Dame and the son of former Raiders standout safety George Atkinson Jr.  – who played for Oakland from 1968-77. The running back is excited to follow in his dad’s footsteps and get a chance to make an impact on a team he’s followed his whole life. Atkinson played high school football in Livermore and sometimes visited training camp with his father, now a broadcaster.

But the Raiders didn’t draft Atkinson because of his name. They liked him as a player – although the DNA helps.

“He’s a talented athlete and he’s got a lot of speed, and he has the ability to help us on special teams,” Allen told Jerry McDonald of the Bay Area News Group. “I think any time you have a chance to get a legacy, somebody who has the Raider bloodlines, you do it because those guys understand what it means to be a Raider.”

In three seasons at Notre Dame, Atkinson rushed for 943 yards on 153 attempts (6.2 yards per carry) and 10 touchdowns, and he has solid speed, having run a 4.39 40-yard dash.

But it’s as a special teams player that he might make the biggest impact. As a freshman at Notre Dame he returned two kickoffs for scores, and he had a 24.3-yard average on 88 kick returns for the Fighting Irish. Plus, he is happy to play on any special teams unit.

“If it’s a kickoff, punt block or punt, I’m looking at special teams as a definite way to get on the field and contribute early to this team,” Atkinson III told McDonald.

Taiwan Jones did most of the kick-return duty for the Raiders in 2013, and averaged 24.0 yards per attempt. It’s likely Atkinson will compete for that role, and coaches may also try him as a punt returner, though he had just two punt returns in college.

Atkinson Jr. wore No. 43 for the Raiders; his son will wear No. 34.

“It’s a tremendous honor for me to finally put on the silver and black,” the younger Atkinson told reporters recently. “Since I was a kid, I’ve been waiting for this moment.”


Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Niners Hoping Aldon Smith Can Get Back on Track]]> Wed, 23 Jul 2014 08:34:11 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/180*120/alldonnnsmith.jpg

When he’s on the field, there certainly are no questions about Aldon Smith.

The 6-foot-5 outside linebacker is force as a pass rusher and his speed, power and long arms make him a test for even the best offensive tackles. In 43 career NFL games, Smith has 42 sacks.

In a preseason rundown of the NFL’s top 10 pass rushers this week, Chris Burke of Sports Illustrated ranked Smith No. 5, behind Miami’s Cameron Wake, St. Louis’ Robert Quinn, Denver’s Von Miller and Houston’s J.J. Watt.

“Smith is on an early pace to distinguish himself as one of the best sack artists ever,” wrote Burke.

But Burke also knows what every 49ers fan knows: Smith can’t get to the quarterback from the sidelines.

As the 49ers prepare to open training camp – with the first practice set for Friday – Smith’s status is in doubt. After pleading no contest to drunken driving and misdemeanor weapons charges last week, Smith seems destined for some type of suspension from the NFL.

Smith received a sentence of three years probation and time on a Sheriff’s work crew as part of a mandated 235 hours of community service. But that won’t keep him off the field in 2014; a league suspension would, and, according to Cam Inman of the Bay Area News Group, suspensions for personal-conduct violations under NFL commissioner Roger Goodell have been for one to eight games. First-time offenders for similar offenses have received suspensions for between one to three games.

So, when the 49ers open their season Sept. 7 against the Cowboys, it’s possible they’ll be without Smith and injured inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman, two of the team’s most dynamic defensive playmakers.

The Niners hope that once Smith gets beyond this incident, he can get back on track to becoming the pass rusher he was in 2012. That season, he had 19½ sacks in 16 games. Last year, because of injuries and time off in a rehabilitation facility, he had 8½ sacks in 11 regular-season games.

Niners general manager Trent Baalke said the team will “support any action the NFL may take with respect to this matter” while continuing to support Smith and hoping he can “grow personally from this experience.”

Smith issued a statement after last week’s sentencing that said, in part: “I have learned a great deal and have worked very hard to become a stronger individual and better person. I look forward to continuing on this path.”

That untroubled path could take him to the top of the NFL’s pass-rushing list. He ranks behind only Jared Allen (45½) in sacks since the start of the 2011 season and – because he plays on a talented defensive unit – is in great position to keep getting to quarterbacks.

In three postseason games last season, Smith had 3½ sacks and 11 tackles while being consistently disruptive.

As head coach Jim Harbaugh said in January, Smith is a force.

“On the field, he’s been outstanding,” Harbaugh told Steve Corkran of the Bay Area News Group. “Teams that want to block Aldon Smith one-on-one are whistling Dixie. That’s the way he’s playing right now.”

But, he needs to be on the field to earn sacks and accolades. Beginning this week, he gets to start working toward that goal.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Giants Broadcaster Mike Krukow Has Muscle Disease]]> Tue, 22 Jul 2014 16:23:40 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Mike_Krukow_7th_Inning_Stretch_Giants_Cubs.jpg

When Mike Krukow is down, he's not out.

The Giants broadcaster is fighting a musclular-degenerative disease that causes him to fall down, the former pitcher revealed Tuesday.

He's got inclusion-body myositis. The condition has no cure, has no "solid theory for what causes it," and causes "progressive weakness" in the hands, feet, and legs, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Krukow's had the disease for eight years, the newspaper reported, and may eventually be forced to get around in a motorized scooter.

He decided to go public this year after a fall on the team bus, and after the once-robust, muscular athlete was seen getting about with a cane.

A slight nudge can send him "sprawling," according to the newspaper; as a result, he often exits ballparks via a golf cart.

Krukow has no plans to stop calling Giants games on television and on the radio.

In the meantime, his broadcaster buddy Duane Kuiper is helping him get around: carrying luggage and otherwise doing what Krukow needs as he works through his condition.


Photo Credit: YouTube.com]]>
<![CDATA[Davis Eager to Watch His Raiders]]> Tue, 22 Jul 2014 08:53:57 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/167*120/emDavis.jpg

Certainly, there is reason for optimism.

After two consecutive seasons of 4-12 and 11 straight non-winning years, it’s easy to see why Raiders owner Mark Davis is pumped up about his team.

General manager Reggie McKenzie had a busy offseason, bringing in an impressive crop of veteran free agents and a draft class headlined by perhaps the best defensive player in the draft, linebacker Khalil Mack.

Going into the first practice of training camp this Friday in Napa, the feel surrounding this Raiders team is different than the past few seasons. Davis, in fact, told Jerry McDonald of the Bay Area News Group this week that the offseason rebuilding of the roster has been “phenomenal.”

Davis told McDonald he wants to see results on the field this season that the franchise is headed in the right direction, and he trusts McKenzie.

“This is the year,” Davis said. “There are no more excuses.”

But despite all the moves and the optimism, there are huge question marks hovering over this team that won’t be answered for many weeks. On paper, most of McKenzie’s moves look good. Taken as a whole, it would seem the Raiders couldn’t help from being much better in 2014.

But the Raiders could be better and still not be able to climb out of the basement in the AFC West. The reasons:

* The division looks formidable. Denver, San Diego and Kansas City all went to the playoffs in 2013, and each was active in the offseason, adding key pieces. If the Raiders are to climb the division ladder, one or two of those teams will need to stumble.

* Even though the supporting cast on offense is better – a strengthened offensive line, running back Maurice Jones-Drew and wideout James Jones – if quarterback Matt Schaub doesn’t rebound from a horrible 2013, Oakland could be doomed.

* It may take awhile for all the Raiders’ new players to create a winning chemistry, which would be an impediment to a fast start – seemingly a necessity to get the momentum rolling on a turnaround season.

As Davis excitedly awaits the start of training camp Friday, he believes this roster is significantly upgraded. But he told McDonald this team must have much more heart than last year’s team.

He points to blowout losses to Kansas City and Philadelphia as examples of a team that simply wasn’t built to win.

“There were times last year when we didn’t show up,” Davis told McDonald.

It doesn’t sound as if Davis will tolerate performances such as those this year, after all the money he spent upgrading the roster.

As NFL.com analyst Chris Wesseling wrote this week, Davis’ days of patience are over.

“The excitement in Oakland has been palpable this offseason,” Wesseling wrote. “The roster is considerably deeper and stronger than it was entering training camp a year ago. There is even talk of a long-awaited return to the playoffs in a division currently dominated by the Broncos.

“Anything less than that could end up costing McKenzie and (head coach Dennis) Allen their jobs.”



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Niners' Williams Eager to Return and Contribute]]> Tue, 22 Jul 2014 08:48:19 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/180*120/theIanWms.jpg

Football can be a cruel, heartbreaking sport.

Consider the case of Ian Williams.

During last summer’s training camp and exhibition season, the 49ers’ defensive lineman – in his third pro season after being an undrafted free agent from Notre Dame – finally had a chance to win a starting job with the departure of veteran nose tackle Isaac Sopoaga.

Williams outperformed veteran Glenn Dorsey, earned the starting job and played very well in a season-opening victory over the Green Bay Packers.

Niners linebacker Patrick Willis used terms such as “amazing” and “unbelievable” to describe Williams’ play.

But in Game 2 his season came to an early end when he suffered a broken left fibula and ligament damage when he was cut-blocked by Seattle guard J.R. Sweezy.

Dorsey then stepped into the starting spot and played very well, cementing his status going into this 49ers training camp, which will have its first practice Thursday.

Williams said it was hard to be sidelined last season and watch the team go on without him all the way to the NFC Championship Game. But Williams was confident he would be ready by the opening of training camp.

Now, his future looks a bit more cloudy. Last week, Williams was placed on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list, a procedural move, according to Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee. It means the 49ers can put him on the PUP list at the start of the regular season and he won’t count against their 53-man roster.

The move doesn’t necessarily mean Williams won’t play his way back into the lineup this summer. It is expected he will practice at some point during camp. It simply gives the team insurance, just in case Williams’ comeback falters.

Williams told reporters that, “I want to make sure I’m close to 100 (percent)” before getting back onto the field, because as a nose tackle, he’s being blocked, pushed and wrestled every play by 300-pound offensive linemen.

Williams is recovering from four surgeries and months of rehabilitation. Recently, he said his left leg “feels good” but remains a bit weak. But, he added it’s feeling better every day and he’s optimistic he can get back on the field to compete for the job he held so briefly in 2013.

When he does return, however, the 49ers will be deep at nose tackle, with Dorsey and second-year pro Quinton Dial. Whether Williams can make it all the way back to his starting job this summer – or have his comeback delayed still later this season or next – is the question.

As Williams recently tweeted, when asked if he were going to be ready to play in training camp: “Won’t really know that until we start camp.”


Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[WNBA Coach Michael Cooper has Tongue Cancer]]> Mon, 21 Jul 2014 18:24:09 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/AP13030709140.jpg

Atlanta Dream coach Michael Cooper has early stage tongue cancer and has taken a leave from the WNBA team.

He will have surgery this week at Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University in Atlanta and a full recovery is expected, the Dream said Monday.

The 58-year-old coach is expected to miss about two weeks, with assistant coach Karleen Thompson filling in. Atlanta plays at Minnesota on Tuesday.

"I'm fortunate that my condition was diagnosed early, and this episode illustrates the importance of screening and early detection," Cooper said. "I know the team will be in good hands with coach Thompson at the helm during my absence, and I look forward to returning to the court soon."

Cooper is in his first season with Atlanta. His team leads the Eastern Conference with a 15-6 record. He coached the East to a 125-124 overtime victory at the WNBA All-Star game Saturday.

Cooper won five NBA titles as a shooting guard with the Los Angeles Lakers during the "Showtime" era from 1978-90. As a coach, he won two WNBA titles with the Los Angeles Sparks and one NBA Development League championships with Albuquerque.

After his second run with the Sparks, Cooper was hired as the women's coach at Southern California. He resigned in March following an 11-20 season, his first losing mark in four seasons.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[49ers' New Levi's Stadium Sees First Arrest]]> Tue, 22 Jul 2014 05:47:46 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/AP807363826924.jpg

Eric Johnson now owns the title for being the first person arrested at Levi's Stadium.

The 51-year-old Watsonville man was "spotted wandering inside" Levi's Stadium, the 49ers' new $1.3 billion football palace in Santa Clara, at about 6:45 a.m. on July 15, according to the San Jose Mercury News.

Security officers detained Johnson for trespassing, and then discovered that he had an arrest warrant out in San Mateo County. He was booked into jail and released the next day, the newspaper reported.

Technically, an unidentifed construction worker was the first person arrested at the stadium site, but Johnson's arrest was the first bust at the completed Levi's Stadium.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Janikowski Hopes to Be On Target in 2014]]> Mon, 21 Jul 2014 09:48:01 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/176*120/janny2014k.jpg

In 2012, Sebastian Janikowski had been as good as ever.

In his 13th season in the NFL, the Raiders’ kicker made 31 of 34 field-goal attempts and his 91.2 percent success rate was the highest of his career.

But in 2013, Janikowski misfired often. He missed nine of his 30 attempts and at times his misses were costly. In a November game against the Titans he shanked a 32-yard try – his second miss of the season from under 40 yards after making 85 of 86 from that distance from 2008-12 -- then had a 48-yarder go wide in a 23-19 Raiders loss.

Some said his problems were because he was working with a new holder, punter Marquette King, after years working with Shane Lechler; Janikowski said his technique was off; and head coach Dennis Allen, after the loss to Tennessee, said it was a “field-goal unit problem” and all the blame wasn’t on Janikowski.

Now, as the Raiders prepare to open training camp this week, Janikowski says he expects 2014 will be more like 2012 than 2013.

Janikowski told San Francisco Chronicle columnist Scott Ostler recently that he cut his offseason short by two months to come to California to work with King and long snapper Jon Condo to make certain the trio is in tune heading into this season.

“With Shane, we knew each other so well, that’s a trust issue right there,” Janikowski told Ostler. “He knew if I’m pushing the ball, he would tilt the ball in the different direction. So now I’m working with Marquette and it’s improving a lot.”

Janikowski, 36, says age hasn’t been a problem. He knows he hasn’t lost leg strength and and he believes with fine-tuning the on-field chemistry with King, he can return to his All-Pro form.

The Raiders certainly have a lot invested in their kicker. In August of 2013, they made Janikowski the highest-paid kicker in the league, giving him a four-year extension worth just under $19 million.

Now the franchise’s career scoring leader wants to prove again how good he is. And with upgrades across the roster this offseason, Oakland will need him to be his old self – the 2012 version – to pull out some close games.

After last year, however, Janikowski knows there are doubters.

“Every year is a test,” he told Ostler.


Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[A's Fan Who Threw Telerobotic First Pitch Tosses One in Person]]> Mon, 21 Jul 2014 05:54:59 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/oakland_first_pitch_nick_legrande.jpg

Sunday's first pitch at Oakland's O.co Coliseum brought a heartwarming story full circle.

15-year-old Oakland A's fan Nick Legrande tossed out the first pitch in person after throwing out the first ever telerobotic pitch last year from his hometown in Kansas City.

He was being treated for a rare blood disorder and could not be among crowds back then. That pitch was thrown remotely from the mound at the Coliseum.

Since that time, thanks to a successful bone marrow transplant, doctors have allowed him to travel--and that is why Nick made Sunday's first pitch in person.

The A's beat the Baltimore Orioles 10-2 Sunday afternoon.

<![CDATA[A Healthy Ward Ready to Compete for High-Impact Position]]> Fri, 18 Jul 2014 09:07:55 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/180*120/wardcleared.jpg

Finally, Jimmie Ward is cleared for takeoff.

The 49ers’ No. 1 draft choice – who hasn’t yet been able to practice because of an injury – is now completely healthy and ready to start work at the Niners’ training camp in Santa Clara.

Rookies could start reporting Wednesday, with the first practice set for July 24.

Ward, a safety from Northern Illinois, had a foot injury that kept him on the sidelines during organized team activities and the full-roster minicamp in June.

But Ward is part of a 49ers grand experiment that will shift him toward the competition at nickel corner, and he’ll need on-field work during training camp and exhibition games if he’s going to develop in time for the team’s regular-season opener Sept. 7 at Dallas.

In his absence this spring, veteran Perrish Cox and Darryl Morris, a second-year pro who excelled on special teams in 2013, got most of the snaps at the third cornerback spot.

As Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee wrote this week, Ward is a multi-dimensional player (he also played corner and nickel in college) who could bring some special skills to the 49ers secondary.

“The 49ers are eyeing him for the nickel spot because of his coverage skills and – this is where he could distinguish himself from Cox and Morris – his strength as a tackler,” wrote Barrows.

In June, 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said the team likes Ward’s skills and potential, but Ward won’t be handed a job.

“I don’t think you can assume that,” Fangio told Cam Inman of the Bay Area News Group. “He’s going to certainly get every opportunity to, but he’s missed all this time, he’s learning, he’s a rookie, et cetera. We’ll have to be a little patient with him.”

At the same time, Fangio said he was happy with the work being put in by Cox and Morris.

It’s possible, however, that once Ward gets into the mix on the field, he may quickly show why the 49ers like him.

San Francisco saw Ward as a player who can make a big impact in nickel coverage which is playing a more prominent role in the NFL now that it’s a pass-oriented league. Fangio told analyst Doug Farrar of Sports Illustrated recently that the Niners are in their nickel scheme 60 percent of the time, so the third cornerback spot actually has become a starting position.

And Ward showed at Northern Illinois that he has a major-league skillset to play both safety and cover slot receivers.

After watching extensive tape of Ward heading into the NFL draft, Farrar wrote about Ward’s special talents. He apparently saw the same things that 49ers GM Trent Baalke saw.

Wrote Farrar: “(Ward) plays well everywhere in the defensive backfield – from deep center field to slot cornerback. … Has tremendous range and can cover a lot of ground in a big hurry, and he’s on point when he gets there. He doesn’t overreach as much as you’d expect for a player who’s going all out at all times.

“Ward makes plays in the passing game from inside seams to outside the numbers and can roll back into deep coverage from linebacker depth. He times his hits exceptionally well to deflect and break up passes … plays a lot of slot coverage and this may be his most appealing value to NFL teams. His footwork is outstanding and his backpedal speed really shows up on tape.

“Doesn’t allow a lot of yards after catch. If a receiver grabs a catch in his area, Ward is quick to end the play.”

Now that he’s back at full speed, it will be interesting to see how quickly he can make progress in the competition against Cox and Morris.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Aldon Smith Sentenced to Jail Time, Probation]]> Sat, 19 Jul 2014 14:41:54 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/071814-aldon-smith-court.jpg

A judge in Santa Clara County Superior Court in San Jose on Friday sentenced San Francisco 49ers player Aldon Smith to 11 days in a work program for his conviction on three assault weapons charges reduced to misdemeanors and two DUI charges.

Judge Daniel Nishigaya sentenced the 24-year-old Smith to 11 days in the sheriff's office work program in lieu of jail time, three years of probation, 235 hours of community service and about $3,000 in fines.

"I would like to apologize for my actions," Smith said to Nishigaya prior to his sentencing. "And I will abide by any order you give."

Smith had faced a maximum sentence of four years and four months in prison on the charges, according to the District Attorney's Office.

But Nishigaya agreed on a motion by Smith's attorney Josh Bentley to reduce the felonies to misdemeanors, since the weapons charges were "wobblers" that could be lodged as either felonies or misdemeanors.

He was sentenced to three years probation for the DUI charges in addition to serving in the work program in lieu of jail time.

"The 49ers organization is aware of today’s proceedings," 49ers general manager Trent Baalke said in a statement. "We are pleased that Aldon has moved past this phase of the process, and will support any action the NFL may take with respect to this matter. The organization will continue to support Aldon’s efforts to grow personally from this experience.”

Prosecutors did not make a deal with Smith to plead to reduced or fewer charges, but Smith did agree in May to change his previous not guilty pleas to the felony and misdemeanor charges to no contest, according to Santa Clara County Deputy District Attorney Brian Buckelew said.

Smith decided not to contest charges he possessed three assault rifles, a .308 caliber Armalite AR10-T, Bushmaster ARC for 5.56mm bullets and a .223 caliber Bushmaster Carbon-15 in his rented home in an unincorporated area outside of San Jose in 2012, prosecutors said.

In the DUI case, Smith was arrested last Sept. 20 on suspicion of DUI and marijuana possession after he drove his car into the front lawn of a suburban home in San Jose and crashed his car into a tree.

Smith, who was no injured, was released after posting bail. Prosecutors did not filed charges related to the marijuana.

He then entered a rehabilitation program for alcohol abuse, was placed on the non-football injury list by the 49ers and missed five games after his DUI arrest.

On Oct. 9, he turned himself in at the sheriff's office in response to a warrant for his arrest on the assault rifle charges.

He was released on $75,000 bail. The 49ers activated him to resume playing in the 2013 season two days later.

In 2012, sheriff's deputies seized Smith's three rifles -- which Smith bought in 2011 in Arizona, but are illegal in California -- as part of an investigation into an unruly party at his home where gang members showed up and two guests were shot and wounded.

Deputies also recovered large-capacity magazines of bullets on the floor of Smith's bedroom and other live and expended bullets of various calibers in his bedside table.

During the 2012 party, someone fired a shot into Smith's garage and then Smith himself fired two shots from a .45 caliber handgun into the air to disperse the crowd of hundreds of people outside.

Also attending the party were 49ers player Chris Culliver and former team player Delanie Walker, who also fired a gun into the air in an attempt to encourage the crowd to leave.

At one point, while Smith stood in his driveway to tell the crowd to leave, Steven Raymond Barba, 28, an alleged member of the Norteno criminal street gang, came forward and stabbed Smith in the chest.

The wound to the muscular 49ers linebacker was only superficial and Smith was not badly hurt.

On Monday, Barba, who was convicted last month of assault with a deadly weapon in Smith's stabbing and unrelated gun charges, was sentenced to three years of parole after serving about 560 days in county jail and receiving enough credit to quality for parole, prosecutors said.

Smith changed his pleas to "no contest" on May 21 to three felony counts of illegal possession of assault weapons and two misdemeanor DUI counts.

Smith pleaded no contest to another count regarding a license plate switch on the vehicle he was driving during the DUI.

NBC Bay Area's Damian Trujillo and Matt Maiocco contributed to this report.

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[Hayden Needs to Show Progress in Training Camp]]> Fri, 18 Jul 2014 08:14:54 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/180*120/deeejah.jpg

It’s now just days away from the opening of the Oakland Raiders training camp in Napa. Players are scheduled to arrive July 23, with the first practice on July 25.

In his training camp preview this week, Paul Gutierrez – who covers the Raiders for ESPN.com – outlined a few of the biggest story lines in camp. How Matt Schaub looks in trying to resurrect his career as an effective NFL quarterback is of course the biggest, and the development of top draft pick Khalil Mack is another.

But one of the keys to the Raiders’ defensive success this coming season may be the No. 1 draft pick from 2013, cornerback D.J. Hayden.

As Gutierrez notes, the Raiders continue to express faith in Hayden and believe he can win the starting job at right cornerback and rebound from an up-and-down rookie year that was cut short by injury.

But after suffering a sprained ankle this spring, Hayden missed valuable time during organized team actitivies (OTAs) and the recent full-squad minicamp.

“His injury has to have Oakland worried,” wrote Gutierrez. “Even if he is a full go at the start of camp, he missed valuable reps in the offseason. Sure, Hayden got mental reps, but they are not nearly as important or effective, especially for a player who many in the organization see as a bonus draft pick since he appeared in only eight games (two starts) last season.”

It remains to be seen if the ankle injury is just a speed bump for Hayden, or a big setback.

Before the injury, Hayden appeared much stronger – through offseason weight work – and was excited and eager to start his second season.

And in March, head coach Dennis Allen also was very optimistic.

“I think D.J. Hayden is going to be outstanding,” he said.

But even then, Allen added the “if” that keeps popping up in any evaluation of the young cornerback: “If he can stay healthy, I think he is going to be outstanding.”

So far, that’s been the problem. Oakland drafted him after Hayden’s freakish and near-fatal chest injury during his final season at the University of Houston, then watched him go down at midseason of his rookie year with a groin injury. Then came the ankle injury.

With Hayden, the Raiders have the makings of a much better cornerback corps in 2013, along with ex-49er veterans Tarell Brown and Carlos Rogers. If Hayden proves fragile, one of those cornerback positions may prove to again be a weak link.

Right now, Hayden is on track to be on the field when training camp begins. If he can be fully healthy for all of camp and through the exhibition season, Oakland may finally get to see what the young defensive back can do when healthy, and what general manager Reggie McKenzie saw when he made him Oakland’s top pick a year ago.

Said Allen, after Hayden missed minicamp: “He needs the work.”


Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Levi's Stadium Ribbon Cutting]]> Fri, 18 Jul 2014 19:34:30 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/AP807363826924.jpg Barely four years after Santa Clara voters voiced their approval of a measure paving the way for bringing the San Francisco 49ers to the South Bay, the welcome mat is almost out for fans itching to get inside Levi's Stadium.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Niners Have Options if Boone Holdout Continues]]> Thu, 17 Jul 2014 08:31:39 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/163*120/Boonehldoutt.jpg

It won’t be official that Alex Boone is a holdout until July 23, when veterans are due to report to 49ers training camp.

But there’s every indication so far that Boone will be a no-show, and the Niners will begin work toward the 2014 season without their starting right guard.

Boone and tight end Vernon Davis both held out during the recent full-squad mimicamp, unhappy with their deals. But since then Davis has indicated he’s probably not going to force the issue. It’s likely that No. 85 will report on time.

Boone, however, is a different story.

Boone, a starter the past two seasons, has two years left on his contract that’s reported to be worth $2 million this coming season, plus a roster bonus of $200,000; he’s due to get $1.2 million in 2015.

That contract is an absolute bargain for the 49ers, notes the Sacramento Bee’s Matt Barrows, because Boone signed his current deal when he was a backup offensive tackle. But he’s started 38 games since then and become another physical presence on an offensive line that ranks as one of the NFL’s best. Now Boone’s salary ranks below 40 other guards in the league, reported Barrows, creating a huge “disonnect between Boone’s salary and his output.”

In his first season as a starter two years ago, he committed just three penalties and was dominating as a run blocker. Pro Football Focus graded Boone as the third-best guard in the NFL in 2012 and has him at No. 11 overall over the past two seasons. So Boone, obviously, has done everything asked of him and more.

Boone, 27, is huge at 6-foot-7 and 300 pounds, but is mobile and athletic. When he pulls out in front of running backs or gets past the line of scrimmage, he’s been a devastating blocker.

“When he gets out in space, he can get rolling a bit like an 18-wheeler going down a hill,” offensive coordinator Greg Roman once said of Boone. Roman, in fact, has been a big believer in Boone’s abilities and work ethic.

“Alex is the kind of guy we want, pushing to get better every week,” said Roman during Boone’s first season as a starter. “He’s doing a great job.” Added 49ers offensive line coach Mike Solari, to Grantland reporter Robert Mays last season: “The way (Boone) attacks and the way he plays the game is just beautiful to watch if you love line play.”

But if Boone’s holdout continues and the 49ers don’t budge in offering him a new deal, where does that leave the 49ers?

They do have a few options, with the No. 1 plan being Joe Looney, who’s been taking the first-string snaps in Boone’s absence. There’s also rookie Marcus Martin, drafted as a center from USC (but with guard experence) and veteran Adam Snyder.

Looney, a 6-foot-3, 315-pounder drafted in the fourth round from Wake Forest in 2012, hasn’t gotten a lot of playing time in his short career, but did get 62 snaps against the Rams last season when tackle Joe Staley was injured, Boone shifted to left tackle and Looney played right guard in that game. The San Francisco Chronicle’s Eric Branch reports Looney graded out very well in that game. And Roman says Looney has done well stepping in for Boone during offseason workouts and practices.

“He’s really shown himself well,” Roman told the Chronicle. “I’m excited about what he’s been able to do with the opportunities. So it’s next man up. That’s just how it goes.”

But will the 49ers really feel comfortable going with Looney over Boone in 2014? Right now, it doesn’t seem likely. But if Looney continues to impress – especially during exhibition games – it might give the 49ers more leverage in their negotiations with Boone.


Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Freak Accident Leaves High School Athlete Brain Dead]]> Thu, 17 Jul 2014 16:45:45 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/214*120/NNAMDI+OKONGWU.PNG

A Chino Hills High School basketball star is on life support after a freak accident that left him brain dead Tuesday.

Nnamdi Okongwu, 17, was involved in a skateboard accident at Ruben S. Ayala Park, according to Chino Hills High assistant basketball coach Mel Sims.

"We need a miracle right about now," Sims said.

Okongwu's family told NBC4 that he doesn't have any brain activity. Coaches and friends were praying for the 6-foot-9 athlete Wednesday night.

"He truly, genuinely cared about everybody that was around him," teammate Chazz Smith said. "(He had) a very bright future ahead of him."

Okongwu was considered a basketball standout with a promising career. He was already being closely watched by Pac-12 teams. His senior year, which was supposed to start this fall, was going to be his breakthrough year, coaches said.

"He just made you feel good when you (were) around him," Chino Hills High baseball coach Kyle Billingsley said.

Sims described Okongwu as someone with a "charismatic smile" and a person that was "just a joy to be around."

"You hate to see this happen," Sims said.

Friend Jared Nyivih, who has known Okongwu since the sixth grade, said Okongwu "was just one of the nicest kids you could meet."

"(Everyone) knew him, they liked him, they loved him," Nyivih said. "He was a very nice guy, a very good basketball player."

Okongwu’s family was deciding whether or not to take him off life-support Wednesday night.

"I don’t think it’s sunk in for all of us yet, this, what really happened," Smith said. "We’ll never forget him, I know that for a fact."


<![CDATA[McEnroe's Son Arrested for Drugs]]> Thu, 17 Jul 2014 10:11:55 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/kevin+mcenroe.jpg

Kevin McEnroe, the 27-year-old son of tennis champion John McEnroe and actress Tatum O'Neal, was arrested in New York City after he was allegedly caught with dozens of oxycodone and morphine pills, authorities say.

McEnroe was arrested late Tuesday after an alleged drug exchange with another suspect on East Fourth Street between First Avenue and Avenue A in the East Village, the district attorney's office said.

Police found 20 oxycodone pills and 10 morphine pills in an inner pocket in his jacket, according to the criminal complaint. 

McEnroe was arraigned on two counts of criminal possession of a controlled substance Tuesday and released on $5,000 bail. He's next scheduled to appear in court on Oct. 16. 

His attorney declined to comment.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[49ers Cut Ribbon at Levi’s Stadium]]> Thu, 17 Jul 2014 17:44:41 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/07-17-2014-levis-ribbon-cutting.jpg

Barely four years after Santa Clara voters voiced their approval of a measure paving the way for bringing the San Francisco 49ers to the South Bay, the welcome mat is almost out for fans itching to get inside Levi’s Stadium.

The only thing missing is the yard lines painted on the field.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell joined 49ers brass, as well as representatives from Levi’s Strauss and the City of Santa Clara, for Levi’s Stadium’s formal ribbon-cutting ceremony on Thursday morning.

“It’s an important day for us,” Goodell said. “This is the type of infrastructure that’s important to the NFL overall.”

The $1.2 billion successor to Candlestick Park was originally supposed to cost $937 when Measure J passed in 2010, but the Santa Clara Stadium Authority ended up going a few hundred million dollars over budget in order to add a number of Levi’s Stadium attractions that would "enhance the fan experience."

“I’ve only been to home games at Candlestick, so it will definitely be a different experience for us,” 49ers CEO Jed York said in a Q&A posted on the 49ers website.

Santa Clara voters’ passage of Measure J was the key moment in making the Levi’s Stadium a reality, according to York.

“Getting the public support and a resounding 60-40 victory, that was really when I felt like, ‘OK, this thing has a great chance,” York said. “And then the next big step was securing the financing, the construction financing. The two things that you really need are community support and funding. And those were the two really big pieces of this.”

A group opposing taxpayer subsidies for Levi’s Stadium, called Santa Clara Plays Fair, fought against Measure J, spearheading a campaign to collect more than 5,000 signatures as part of an ultimately unsuccessful effort to get the stadium project proposal back on the ballot after it passed.

Of the billion-plus dollars it cost to build the stadium, none of it came out of the city's general fund, Santa Clara city spokesman Dan Beerman said.

The city’s now-defunct state-funded redevelopment agency did put up $40 million in “seed money to show good faith and to make sure the rest of the funding could come through other means,” Beerman said.

The day's biggest ovation came for those who built the stadium: the 7,800 construction workers.

"It feels great," said Albert, a worker who spoke with NBC Bay Area. "I'm a big fan and it's a dream come true."

Two workers were killed during the Levi's Stadium construction process.

The team announced July 1 that season tickets for the 68,500-seat stadium’s inaugural season had sold out. Personal seat licenses, which fans are required to purchase before buying tickets in certain seats, cost between $2,000 and $80,000 apiece. Individual game tickets cost between $85 and $375. The seat licenses must be renewed each season, for a price of $850 to $3,750 a year, about twice the fee at Candlestick Park.

The first event to be held at Levi’s Stadium won’t be a 49ers game but a Major League Soccer match between the San Jose Earthquakes and Seattle Sounders FC. The 49ers will host the first NFL preseason game at the new park on Aug. 17 against the Broncos, with the first regular season game scheduled for Sept. 14 against the Bears, a Sunday night game that will be broadcast on NBC.

Super Bowl 50 will be played at Levi's Stadium on Feb. 7, 2016.

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[Niners Have Eyes on Intriguing Linebacker]]> Wed, 16 Jul 2014 08:47:57 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/180*120/lipfordnc.jpg

Darius Lipford appears to be an intriguing candidate to join the 49ers.

The former North Carolina linebacker, who went unclaimed in the recent NFL supplemental draft, was reported to have worked out for the Niners Tuesday, but did not sign with the team. But if the 49ers liked what they saw, the team could bring him aboard in the next few days or weeks of training camp.

Niners rookies are due to report for camp Wednesday, a week ahead of veterans.

Lipford, 6-foot-3 and 245 pounds, played 11 games as a freshman at North Carolina in 2010, then became the starter at strong-side linebacker as a sophomore. He played in all 13 games, but tore his ACL in the team’s Independence Bowl game vs. Missouri. The injury forced him to sit out all of 2012, but he returned in 2013 for his junior season, appearing in 10 games.

He had 20 tackles, including six for loss and 2½ sacks. He decided to forgo his final season with the Tar Heels and was declared eligible for the league’s seven-round supplemental draft last week, but went unclaimed.

The 49ers, of course, have a deep roster but a recent history of patience. Even if they don’t see Lipford as an immediate help, the team could sign him to stash away on injured reserve if he’s still not 100 percent. They've signed and kept such players as Marcus Lattimore, Tank Carradine and Lawrence Okoye for the future.

Lipford has long arms – a trait that GM Trent Baalke loves – and his teammates at UNC gave him the nickname “Freak” because of his athletic abilities.

As Rob Rang of the Sports Xchange noted before the supplemental draft, Lipford never developed in college the way his coaches hoped, but his athleticism is hard to overlook.

“He is a fluid, explosive athlete with clear upside and therefore could warrant a late-round selection if teams are comfortable with his medical report,” Rang wrote.

Matt Barrows, who covers the 49ers for the Sacramento Bee, noted that the team’s roster is full, so if the team signs Lipford, it will have to release a player from the 90-man roster.

The day before his tryout with the 49ers, Lipford was obviously excited about his opportunity.

“Can’t do anything but thank God for the journey I’m about to embark on. #Calibound,” he tweeted.

Cam Inman of the Bay Area News Group wrote that the Niners may wait to sign Lipford until they know what fate of outside linebacker Aldon Smith. Smith’s status is uncertain because of some legal issues that should be resolved later this month.


Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Derek Jeter's All-Star Goodbye]]> Wed, 16 Jul 2014 05:12:10 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Jeter-ASG-Goodbye-0715.jpg

The All-Star Game telecast opened Tuesday night with Fox’s Joe Buck surveying the impressive talent in the American League locker room as he made his way to the undisputed star among all stars: Derek Jeter. But the Yankees’ captain waved off the announcer, telling him, “We’ve got a game to play, bro.” 

His words, even if possibly scripted, offered a vintage Jeter moment: It’s never about him, it’s all about the game.
Jeter played his 14th and final All-Star contest Tuesday night, in what could be his farewell appearance before a major league-sized national TV audience, barring a Yankees playoff run. The bittersweet milestone marked the latest leg in a victory lap for the future Hall of Famer – and for baseball.
Like his longtime team mate Mariano Rivera, who earned a similar sendoff last year, Jeter emerged as a standout in the 1990s as the game rebounded from labor strife on the bulging backs of sluggers with a seemingly endless capacity to belt the long ball. But the home run heroics turned out to be an illusion fueled by witches’ brews, injected by cheaters who, hopefully, will never see Cooperstown.
Amid the cloud that hung over the game, Jeter shined, not as a slugger, but as player whose dirt-caked uniform testified to an all-out style that sent him flying into the stands after balls. His stats, especially in the post-season (a record 200 hits on the way to five World Series victories), speak to his clutch hitting. With Derek Jeter, there’s no room for illusion: What you see is what you get.
He gave us plenty to watch Tuesday. In the first play of the game, Jeter, at age 40 and in his 20th season, dove for a ball with the verve of a rookie. He later ran full steam as he laced a double in his first at bat and scored the game’s first run. Jeter added to his stature as one of the greatest to grace the diamond – among them his fellow shortstops Ernie Banks and Cal Ripken, Jr., who also embodied a love for the game with their ceaseless hard play and leadership, on and off the field.
Even amid the World Cup afterglow and the return of LeBron James to Cleveland, Jeter’s last All-Star berth on his way to his final Major League at bat provided a potent reminder of why baseball remains out National Pastime, a game equally capable of breaking hearts and sending them soaring. He transcends his storied franchise and the game, with a quiet class to which other players – and other sports – aspire.
Jeter is the kind of player who commands the respect of all who love baseball – even those of us who hate the Yankees. Cheers, from fans and rivals alike, filled Minnesota’s Target Field Tuesday as Jeter left the game at the top of the fourth inning.
Even the commercials packed an emotional punch: A spot for Jordan Brand featured everyone from Michael Jordan to Red Sox fans to Mr. Met tipping their hats to a player who helped mend his sport and will leave it stronger when he caps his career at the season’s end. Check out the clip below as baseball tips its cap to a player who wears No. 2, but ranks higher in the estimation of many who share his love – and respect – for the game.


Jere Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multi-media NYCity News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is also the author of "Raising a Beatle Baby: How John, Paul, George and Ringo Helped us Come Together as a Family." Follow him on Twitter.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[A's Owner: No Montreal, But Coliseum Lease Must Be Extended]]> Tue, 15 Jul 2014 17:56:26 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/160*120/72542991.jpg

There's no place like home for the A's.

And that means the Coliseum, nowhere else, with no other options, according to A's owner Lew Wolff.

Wolff, addressing the media at the Major League Baseball All-Star game - with MLB Commissioner Bud Selig in tow - stated that rumors of the team fleeing to Montreal or San Antonio if a lease extension at the O.co Coliseum wasn't signed are untrue.

But if the Oakland City Council can't agree on extending the A's lease? "If it isn't, it's my last [hurdle]," he told the Chronicle.

Building a new ballpark at the Coliseum site is possible, but the Coliseum site "is the only option," Wolff added, noting that the Howard Terminal waterfront option is not on the table.

Selig called the Montreal rumors false, and said that he and Wolff are focused on getting the Coliseum lease extension done -- and nothing else.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[WATCH: Derek Jeter Ad Creates A Buzz]]> Tue, 15 Jul 2014 12:32:27 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/DerekJeter21.jpg
Fans, celebrities, and rivals alike, are tipping their hats to departing New York Yankee Derek Jeter in a new star-studded ad creating a buzz online.
The commerical honoring the all-star shortstop, who will take his final walk off the field this year after 20 seasons with MLB, debuted online Monday, part of Nike's Jordan Brand. The two minute clip has racked up more than 2 million views ahead of its scheduled on-air debut during tonight's All-Star Game in Minneapolis. 
The Jordan Brand ad features Jeter’s wide fan base from sports stars like Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan, to entertainers including Jay-Z and Billy Crystal - all paying homage to the award-winning captain. Even Boston Red Sox die-hards and New York Mets’ fanatics cannot deny their admiration for him. 
Jeter is respected not only for his talent, but also his character. “You try to carry yourself the right way. I’ve always tried to do that,” Jeter told NBC 4 New York. “I am who I am. I don’t try to be any different.”
The 40-year-old signed with the company in 1999, and became the first Jordan Brand-endorsed baseball player. He is one of Nike’s longest sponsored athletes, according to the Bleacher Report. The world famous brand also awarded Jeter his own RE2SPECT collection.  
The RE2PECT ad will debut tonight on TV during Jeter’s 14th and final All-Star game. 

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Gore Should Still Rank Among NFL's Most Complete Backs]]> Tue, 15 Jul 2014 08:41:06 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/180*120/frgohrrr.jpg

Maybe it’s Frank Gore’s age. At 31, the 49ers’ running back should be slowing down – though he’s not shown any signs of it even after nine NFL seasons.

Or maybe it’s because Gore is on an offense with quarterback Colin Kaepernick and wide receivers Anquan Boldin and Michael Crabtree and a group of able running backs waiting to succeed Gore in the starting lineup.

Perhaps NFL observers already are penciling in Marcus Lattimore, Carlos Hyde and Kendall Hunter for more carries and snaps in 2014.

But for whatever reason, Gore – long considered one of the NFL’s most versatile and skilled running backs – was left off a list this week compiled by NFL.com analyst Bucky Brooks about the top 10 most complete running backs in the NFL.

Even though Gore had his third straight season of more than 1,100 yards rushing in 2013. Even though 49ers coaches consistently note that he’s perhaps the best-blocking running back in the NFL. Even though he’s caught 331 passes during his pro career – with five seasons of 40 or more receptions – Gore couldn’t crack the 10-man lineup of (from No. 10 to No. 1)  Eddie Lacy, Le’Veon Bell, Ryan Matthews, Reggie Bush, DeMarco Murray, Marshawn Lynch, Adrian Peterson, Matt Forte, Jamaal Charles and LeSean McCoy.

Gore of course is past the age when most running backs hit the wall.

But with one more year on his contract, Gore continues to punish himself with challenging offseason workouts to keep himself sharp, and his teammates marvel at his fitness and desire to stay at the top of his game.

“I really think Frank has three more good years,” 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh told Bay Area reporters this spring. “I truly believe that. But we’re in a game of taking it one year at a time.”

In the playoffs last season, Gore proved in a victory over the Packers what an all-around talent he is. He had a key block on a 42-yard Kaepernick run, had a 10-yard TD run and a key 11-yard reception on the 49ers’ drive to the winning score.

Said Kaepernick after that game: “He’s one of the best, whether it’s lead blocking on a scramble or pass protection. He’s one of the best in the league at what he does.”

Offensive tackle Joe Staley agreed, saying Gore is “willing to do anything to help the team.”

Gore says being an all-around back is something that’s very important to him, and he credits former 49ers running back and current position coac, Tom Rathman for helping him focus on being the best blocker he can be.

“I’d rather do whatever it takes, whether it’s running, catching, blocking, whatever it takes to be successful,” Gore said during the 49ers playoff run last season. “My coach, Tom Rathman, he’s really big on it.”

With Gore’s proven track record, plus his 1,269 yards from scrimmage in 2013, it’s surprising Gore didn’t make Brooks’ top-10 list. But, Gore has been proving skeptics wrong for years.

It’s very likely he’ll do it again in 2014.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Woodson Believes Schaub Can Rebound]]> Tue, 15 Jul 2014 08:18:00 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/181*120/schaubrebound.jpg

Terrelle Pryor, Matt Flynn and Carson Palmer couldn’t do it. Before them came a long list of other quarterbacks trying to solidify that position in Oakland, including Jason Boller, Kyle Boller, Bruce Gradkowski, JaMarcus Russell, Andrew Walter, Josh McCown, Aaron Brooks, Kerry Collins and Rick Mirer. And that’s not even the complete cast.

So with the Raiders’ recent history of failed quarterbacks, is there any reason to believe that Matt Schaub – run out of Houston last year after the worst season of his career – can miraculously turn his career around with the Raiders in 2014?

Charles Woodson, the Raiders’ most senior player and a future Hall of Famer, is one who believes Schaub can finally bring stability and production.

Woodson, who’s entering his 17th season in the NFL, has been lining up against Schaub in practice ever since the Raiders traded for Schaub this offseason. After organized team activities (OTAs) and the recent minicamp, Woodson, 37, believes Schaub will be good again in 2014 after a dreadful 2013.

“I think we’re counting on it,” Woodson said Monday in an interview on SiriusXM NFL Radio. “I think every man on the team is counting on him being the guy. You know, you bring him over from Houston, and it’s been duly noted about the struggles that he had last year. But you can’t discount the year that he had before last year, so we’re looking at last year as being an anomaly and that not being the true Matt Schaub.

“And the one thing I notice about him is he’s always talking to (defensive coordinator) Jason Tarver after practice. So this is a guy that understands how to get better, knows what to look at, and in order to make himself better he’s talking to the right people to help him get better. So we expect big things of him.”

It figures, too, that Tarver won’t be shy about putting a lot of pressure on Schaub during practices this summer to test his mettle. The Raiders, with a revamped defensive line and pass-rushing linebackers such as Khalil Mack and Sio Moore, figure to be able to put plenty of heat on opposing quarterbacks to get Schaub tuned up early for the regular season.

As Woodson mentioned, Schaub’s numbers just one season before his 2013 meltdown were very good: 4,008 yards passing, 22 TD passes vs. 12 interceptions and a 90.7 quarterback rating while leading the Texans to a 12-4 record.

Ever since acquiring Schaub for a sixth-round draft choice, the Raiders have been pumping up the veteran QB as the man to lead them to improvement in 2014 – though many outside the organization are skeptical.

Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie agrees with Woodson and says he totally believes Schaub can rebound.

“A veteran can chalk it up as a bad year and shake it off,” McKenzie told Bay Area reporters after trading for Schaub. “He’s ready to bounce back.”


Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Former Oakland A's Player Was LGBT Pioneer in MLB]]> Tue, 15 Jul 2014 07:48:44 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/160*120/GLENNBURKE_640x480.jpg

Former Oakland Athletics outfielder Glenn Burke, who claimed credit as the originator of the high-five, was also the first former major leaguer to come out as gay publicly after leaving the sport.

Teammates knew all about it and supported him -- management didn't.

The Los Angeles Dodgers traded him to the A's because he was gay, the New York Times suggests, one of the many homophobia-fueled slights that contributed to his early exit from the game.

Now, 30 years later, no active players have come out as gay. Burke is still an LGBT MLB pioneer with no peer. This year, during the All-Star break, MLB is trying to make right by honoring him and his surviving family, who have been invited to attend the annual best-of-the-best game, the newspaper reported.

His sister, Lutha Burke, 66, who nursed Burke while he was dying of complications from AIDS in 1995, and Lutha's daughter, Alice Rose, will go to the game in Minneapolis, where the family have also been focal points at a gala Monday, plus a planned news conference with Commissioner Bud Selig.

Burke came out in 1982, two years after leaving baseball. He broke into the majors at 23 with the Dodgers in 1976, and played in 225 games.

<![CDATA[David Quessenberry, SJSU Alum, Wages Fight Against Lymphoma]]> Mon, 14 Jul 2014 14:38:32 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/David_Quessenberry.jpg

San Jose State University alum-turned-Houston Texans offensive lineman David Quessenberry was living out his NFL dreams when he was drafted in the sixth round of the 2013 draft.

But the 23-year-old's career was put on hold earlier this year after he was diagnosed with lymphoma in June. The team placed him on the Non-Football Illness list.

“I am hanging tough,"Quessenberry said in a recent phone interview.  "No one is prepared to get the information I got."

Originally from San Diego, Quessenberry walked on to the San Jose State football team in 2008 and received an athletic scholarship in 2010.  During his career as a Spartan he became the first player to be selected to play in the Senior Bowl and chosen for the Rotary Lombardi Award watch list. 

He was more than thrilled when he went straight from the South Bay campus to being drafted as an offensive lineman for the Texans.

“The team has welcomed me with open arms. You’re a rookie in the NFL, it is something you have worked for your whole life,” he explained as the emotions of being on the field for the first time.

But, after returning to summer practice, Quessenberry began to feel his stamina weaken and had a cough that would not go away.  The Texans' medical staff found fluid in his lungs that led to more testing.

Doctors told Quessenberry he had non-Hodgkins T Lymphoblastic Lymphoma and the odds are in his favor that he'll soon recover and take the field, though he hasn't been told when. 

Now he is being treated at MD Anderson Cancer Center - a premier research organization at the University of Texas.

For now, Quessenbery can't play, but he is keeping his spot on the team. 

What most people would see as a setback, Quessenberry views as motivation.

Even though he receives chemotherapy two to three times a week, Quessenberry still manages to fit in workout sessions, lifting weights and running so that he can keep up with his teammmates. He refuses to let the cancer influence his positive attitude. When he's tired from his treatments, he catches up on TV shows with his mom, who flew out from San Diego to help her son as he battles the disease.

“I am working out as much as I can," he said. "The motivation is one day I will be back on the field.  I will be stronger through it. Not everyone can get this news and fight this fight.”

Joe Nigos, a former teammate and roommate of Quessenberry at San Jose, is trying to keep his buddy's spirits strong.  He is one of many friends who is rooting for Quessenberry's health to return, both in person and on social media by using the hashtag #dqtrong.

“David has unbelievable support that is helping him get through it,” Nigos said. 

Nick Kaspar, another former San Jose State teammate, spoke to Quessenberry recently and believes his friend's mental state will carry him through the physical struggle.

“David is fighting through with high spirits," Kaspar said. "I try to talk to him about other things going on like the waves at the beach because we both like to surf.” 

Quessenberry realizes he has "an army behind me, everyone is reaching out,” and he said he feels lucky for the support, because he knows he's not fighting alone.

“I look forward to living a long time with the ones I love," he said, "and playing a long time in the NFL.”

<![CDATA[AT&T Park Reclaims Title of Most Vegetarian-Friendly]]> Mon, 14 Jul 2014 18:00:17 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/168*120/-062314-SM087.JPG

The home of the San Francisco Giants is once again the most-friendly ballpark for vegetarians, according to People for Ethical Treatment of Animals.

Helping AT&T win back the title last claimed in 2011 are the meat-free frankfurters and burgers made by Field Roast, a veggie-and-bean bowl, bean tacos and burritos, and portobello mushroom sandwiches, according to PETA.

Next up? Philadelphia with Pittsburgh right behind it.

Photo Credit: ©2014 S.F. Giants/Mitchell]]>
<![CDATA[San Jose Sharks Fans Protest Sexy "Ice Girl" Uniforms]]> Tue, 15 Jul 2014 10:36:19 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/ice+girls.jpg

The San Jose Sharks are taking a hit on social media over their decision to recruit midriff-baring "ice girls" to sweep away the ice, which some fans say is exploitative of women's bodies.

Online petitions, tweets, and a Facebook page called "Say NO to Sharks Ice Girls," have already begun to circulate, calling for the team's management to reconsider the design of the ice girls uniforms, the San Jose Mercury News reported Monday.

The ice team, which is "devoted to maintaining excellent ice conditions and energizing the crowd," according to the team's audition page, will include both men and women. But while the men's uniform would include a zip-up jacket, the women would wear cropped long-sleeve shirts, exposing their midriffs.

Under the Frequently Asked Questions section of the Shark's ice team auditions web page, the guidelines state that there is no height or weight requirement for auditions, but "please be aware that uniforms may be form fitting with some skin exposure," and the list of requirements calls for a "physically fit/athletic appearance."

The "Say NO to Sharks Ice Girls" Facebook page calls the outfits sexist and objectifying, stating, "Their decision to change the women's uniform, but not the men's, is inherently sexist and only reinforces a negative double-standard where men are taken seriously but women are sexualized and objectified." 

As of Monday morning, the Facebook page has 705 "likes" since it was created on July 2.

"If the guys are not going to be wearing tightfitting clothing, then why are the girls wearing tightfitting clothing? I don't know where the trade-off is," Jarrod Hicks of San Jose told NBC Bay Area. "And also, it won't make us win a cup, and that's what San Jose wants."

Another Sharks fan tweeted at the San Jose Sharks, "My 6 year daughter plays hockey and Ice Girls is not how I want her envisioning herself. #saynotoIceGirls #SJSharks," Tania Chadwick tweeted.

Other Sharks fans find the ice girls to be a positive addition to hockey.

Michael Alameda, 25, of San Jose told the Mercury News he likes the idea.

"Every sport has cheerleaders, and it's kind of like a cheerleader," he said

In the National Hockey League, 21 other teams have ice girls, many of which have female uniforms that are more revealing than the Sharks', according to the Mercury News.

Sharks management says the current design for the uniforms is not set in stone.

"Once all of the final details are in place, we're confident the final version of the ice team will be very tasteful and appropriate for the city of San Jose and the Sharks," John Tortora, the team's chief operating officer, said in a statement.

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[Little Ellington Has Big-Impact Potential]]> Mon, 14 Jul 2014 09:24:49 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/178*120/bruceEll.jpg

With Michael Crabtree, Anquan Boldin and Stevie Johnson as wide receivers, 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick won’t have a shortage of targets in 2014.

Throw in one of the best tight ends in the league in Vernon Davis, as well as a couple of other wide receivers in Brandon Lloyd and Quinton Patton, and the Niners’ receiving corps looks outstanding.

But where does that leave Bruce Ellington?

On almost any other team Ellington, a fourth-round pick of the 49ers out of South Carolina, might be in the running for significant playing time in 2014.

But even if the 49ers love what he does – and so far, they do – it’s going to be tough for the 5-foot-9, 197-pounder to work his way into the lineup.

Training camp will open next week for the 49ers, so Ellington’s rookie year will truly get under way. But through organized team activities (OTAs) and the recent full-roster minicamp, Ellington has been impressive.

He may be small, but Ellington has exceptional quickness and deep-threat speed. Kaepernick certainly has noticed him.

“Bruce has been amazing out here,” Kaepernick recently told a reporter. “He’s picked up very quickly. Good route runner. Very good feel for the game and he’s made plays when we’ve given him the opportunity.”

Ellington, who played both football and basketball (point guard) at South Carolina, had 106 catches for the Gamecocks for 1,586 yards and 16 touchdowns, and also returned kicks (something he could do for the 49ers).

Speaking recently at a youth football camp in South Carolina, Ellington said he’s not worried about the rest of the 49ers roster or anything out of his control.

“I’m just going to work hard, give it 100 (percent) every time I step on the field and keep on chasing the dream,” he said.

But Ellington has something the other wideouts with the team don’t have – true deep-threat speed.

“I feel like he has game speed,” Kaepernick said. “He’s faster than he looks and he can separate. So we’re very excited about what he can add to this team.”

Ellington’s high school coach, Jerry Brown, doesn’t see Ellington’s size as holding him back.

“Football’s played on a big field and it’s hard to track someone like Bruce who’s got so much agility,” he told the Associated Press.

Kaepernick says the addition of so many pass catchers – including Ellington – gives the 49ers offense an opportunity “to do a lot more” this coming season.

General manager Trent Baalke cited Ellington’s two-sport skills when he talked about why the 49ers drafted him and what his potential may be in the NFL.

“You don’t play two sports and major college football at the level he did without having something special about you,” Baalke said after the draft. “He’s a skilled athlete. He’s a competitive athlete. He’s a smart and instinctive athlete. If  you put all that together, you’ve got a pretty good package.”

The question is, how much use will that package get in Ellington’s rookie year?


Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[49ers to Offer Fans Custom Directions to Levi's Stadium]]> Tue, 15 Jul 2014 23:23:43 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/01-06-2014-levi%27s-stadium-sign.jpg

The 49ers are sparing no expense in getting Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara ready for its grand opening next month, with custom driving directions for each parking spot holder, according to reports.

The San Jose Mercury News reports drivers will receive down-to-the-detail directions -- and they'll also be coupled with timed lights in order to make less-traveled routes even quicker.

Traffic will be shared among "a half-dozen freeway off ramps," the newspaper reported, and lights will be upgraded as well.

Fred Santillan, a longtime season ticket holder, has been assigned to the "tailgating" parking lot. He was given a designated parking lot and a corresponding route after a two-year study by the 49ers and Santa Clara traffic engineers.

The team asked Santillan several questions, including if he planned to tailgate and where he would be coming from.

"You're coming to the stadium from the north," he said. "They give you a parking lot on the north side of the stadium."

In addition to the personalized parking and driving directions, the 49ers will have reserved parking for Uber drivers and "two lots [with] spots for bicycles," the newspaper reported. Trains will also run every 10 minutes.

The idea is to avoid a repeat of the Candlestick Park "logjam," with few routes available for 20,000 cars.

The 49ers also plan to unveil a new app that will coordinate all the parking information and driving directions.

There are 30,000 parking spaces spread over 28 lots at the $1.3 billion Levi's Stadium. Officials say offering each driver the custom-made directions is "unprecedented."

Robert Handa contributed to this report.

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>