Early Sunday morning Chris Borland appeared on Face The Nation to talk about the move that stunned the nation, his retirement from the NFL at the young age of 24 after a remarkable rookie season. If you have not seen the interview yet, here is the link:
Chris Borland on Retirement CBS News via Face The Nation
Face The Nation's Bob Schieffer asked Borland if there was one event that led him to walk away from millions of dollars. Borland replied "There was a moment in camp where I probably sustained a mild concussion, and it wasn't something that was detrimental to my health immediately, but changed the way I viewed the risks of my chosen profession." Borland did a lot of research about the possible detrimental effects that concussions could have on his future health. His response to NFL's Senior VP of Health and Safety, Jeff Miller's, statement that football is safer than it's ever been, was: "That may be true, however, football is inherently dangerous and that will never change." Borland continued by saying "I love visceral feeling of the violence of the game. I think everyone that plays at a high level is passionate about that. However, I don't think you should [sic] be uninformed, and I think you should have every opportunity to know all you can about the dangers of that feeling you love and the sport that you are passionate about." Borland also answered the question that many had asked following his retirement: would he payback the signing bonus of which he had earned only a portion of. He finished his interview confirming that his retirement was not the cash grab he has been accused of, and he will be repaying 3/4 of his signing bonus.
I am newer to covering the 49ers than most of my media colleagues, but I have been a fan my entire life. My first “foot in the door” gig covering the Niners was to go to Patrick Willis’ ProCamp. For those of you who don’t know, ProCamps is an organization that facilitates kids spending a day, sometimes two, with their favorite athlete. Upwards of 300 kids at a time attend camp, which is an organizational feat in itself. The kids are broken up into smaller groups, do warms ups, drills and even play in scrimmages. The campers get a chance to interact one on one with the pro athlete featured at the camp. My first ProCamp was also Patrick Willis’ first ProCamp.
At the start of the camp the player addresses the entire group and there is usually a Q&A and trivia about the player. The campers age range is 5-12 for most camps, 5-18 for others. As a result, some of the kids know everything about the athlete and others, simply know the team they play on. What impressed me the most was Patrick’s message to the campers. He talked about how being from Bruceton, Tennessee, he had really wanted to be attend the University of Tennessee. "They didn’t want me, but when someone doesn't want you, that doesn't mean you give up on wanting to go to school or wanting to pursue your dream, that just means you find a way to go get it somewhere else. That worked out at Ole Miss, they gave me a full ride and that's where I went, and here I am years later."
Willis also talked to the Campers about thanking the people that brought them to the camp, and what a great opportunity it is to be able to go to a program like ProCamps. He touched on his childhood a little bit and thanked everyone in the crowd himself. Patrick Willis is an anomaly. He is humble and grateful while being incredibly talented. He had every opportunity to take the wrong path during his challenging childhood (link to his E:60 piece), but did not. I consider myself very lucky to have had the opportunity to meet with Patrick and wish him the best in his retirement. He will be missed.
While most of country is recovering from Super Bowl euphoria, the 49er Faithful are attempting to survive the roller coaster ride of who will be a part of the new coaching regime since Jim Harbaugh's departure, and it isn't over yet. Breaking up is hard to do, especially when the good times were so good. It's only appropriate to explore the 5 Steps of Grief, as the Faithful are currently knee deep in it.
1. Denial: No one honestly believed that Harbaugh would really leave. From the early season whisperings of Harbaugh losing the locker room until deep into the season, few people really believed Harbaugh's tenure with the 49ers was coming to an end. After all, he had turned the team into a contender after being irrelevant for a decade. Three straight NFCC games and a Super Bowl appearance is nothing to turn your nose up at. With two weeks left in the regular season, no one in the media was talking about if he would stay, only about where he was going to go. Fans, however, up until his UM press conference were thinking/hoping/praying that there could be a some sort of miraculous 'burying of the hatchet' between Harbaugh and the front office. We all know how that played out. Denial is a temporary response that carries us through the first wave of pain.
2. Anger: There is a lot of it, towards the Front Office, towards owner Jed York and GM Trent Baalke for sending Harbaugh packing. Some of the 49er faithful are still lingering in this phase, not ready to let go of the past and look towards the future. During the frustrating 2014 season anger was directed mostly towards former OC Greg Roman who interestingly just said he could have made the 49ers the top rushing team in the league if he had wanted to, but with winning being the priority, a balance was needed. If that isn't salt in the wound, I'm not sure what is.
How could the organization let Harbaugh go? A coach who was named AP Coach of the Year in his debut season, a coach whose regular season record was 44-19-1 and post season record was 5-3. This is the stage of resentment. Anger towards who has caused this pain is natural and not being able to alter the circumstances only increases these feelings of frustration. You can see the manifestation of this stage on twitter and other various forms of social media. (search: Jed York)
3. Bargaining: Now that former 49ers QB coach Geep Chryst has been named OC, there is less bargaining to be done. "If they get a great OC, I won't be so angry," was the common theme among fans. Several notable coaches interviewed for the job, but it seemed like the front office was turned down more than a few times, most notably by the Philadelphia Eagles WRs coach Bob Bicknell who'd rather stay in his current position than take a higher level position with the 49ers. Chryst is known for calling the "Vernon Post" play that clinched the 2011 divisional playoff vs. the Saints, but the decline in QB Colin Kaepernick's production in 2014 doesn't create a bevy of confidence in this choice. It must be noted that there were seven different OL combinations used this past season and that greatly impacted the protection that Kaepernick had to work with. Missing OT Anthony Davis for nine games was a tremendous challenge to attempt to overcome.
4. Depression: Sadness, hopelessness, dejection. Please note: depression is not a sign of mental illness. This is a natural feeling after a great loss. Now that the coaching staff has been set and skepticism is the predominant emotion, a football season without Harbaugh, olive jar references and Dalai Lama quotes just seems pointless. Grief is a process and depression is a very necessary step towards healing. The worst part about football is the long offseason where these feelings can linger and manifest.
5. Acceptance: This may not happen for some until the 49ers win, for others the seed has already started to germinate, because after all, you can't change the past. Harbaugh is now the HC of the Michigan football team, and when he comes back to the NFL (which he will) he will be on the opposite side of the field upon his return at Levi's Stadium. It will be a much shorter timeframe for a Vic Fangio sighting on the opposing sideline as the 49ers will head to Chicago in 2015.
There will be good times and bad, good games and bad. What has been lost can never be replaced. Adjusting and learning to live with the new regime will take time. The addition/rehire of Tom Gamble as Senior Personnel Executive has already helped accelerate the acceptance process. A good draft class and a successful free agency wouldn't hurt either. Resisting acceptance will only prolong the natural process of healing and in due time, the Faithful will heal and move forward.
Ed Szczepanski, USA TODAY Sports
No loss is pretty, but when you are held scoreless for over 40 minutes, it's UGLY. The worst part about this loss is that the 49ers actually had a chance to win it at the end. Questionable calls occurred throughout the game but the two that really burned were the two that twice negated a touchdown at the goal line with less than a minute left.
This was the first play that should have been a touchdown. The catch was ruled complete but they marked him down at the one. Clearly the ball crossed the plane of the goal line.
This is a screen shot of the second play at he goal line where Kaepernick actually recovered a not securely snapped ball and then crossed the goal line before he fumbled, not to mention the hand inside his face mask.
Those two calls aside, (and the safety that was not called) I am a firm believer that a team needs to play at a level where the refs are unable to alter the outcome of a game. The 49ers did not do that. The OL allowed a season high eight sacks while the 49ers defense only recorded one. The 49er offense was ineffective, only converting third downs 3 of 12 times and they went 0-2 in the red zone. Phil Dawson uncharacteristically missing a FG attempt added to the offense's woes.
Things aren't going to get any easier for the Niners who have a two game road stint next, heading to the Superdome where the Saints flourish and to the cold in MetLife to meet the NY Giants the following week.
It was a much needed bye week for the 49ers with several of the players rehabbing injuries. A few players took the opportunity to visit family, their alma maters and/or just get away for some R&R.
Vance McDonald headed to nearby Lake Tahoe for a beautiful change of scenery. IG vancemcdonald89
Carlos Hyde returned to Ohio State, Urban Meyer tweeted that it was good to have him back @elguapo
Michael Wilhoite returned to Washburn University and attended practice. @MichaelWilhoite
Bruce Ellington returned to Moncks Corner, SC @_Elling10
Chris Culliver spent time in the big apple, NYC @Cullyinthehouse
Anquan Boldin stayed in the bay area and even asked his twitter followers if they had suggestions on where to watch the World Series @AnquanBoldin
Ian Williams returned home to visit family.
"Enjoyed the much needed bye week by going home to see family! Blessed to have so many amazing people in my life. Can't wait to get back to work tomorrow on finishing this season strong #questforsix"
Bruce Miller returned to Orlando for UCF's homecoming with his lovely lady Leanne Massey. The Knights enjoyed a 34-14 victory over Temple.
Eric Reid celebrated an early Halloween with his family.
Stevie johnson stayed in the Bay and enjoyed some of the traditional fare at Fisherman's Wharf while also staying on top of all of the World Series action. #SFUnite
Nick Moody returned to Florida, spent some time with his adorable daughter Elena and ate some pretty tasty BBQ.
Kaepernick spent some time at his favorite charity Camp Taylor. They even had an early birthday celebration for him. His actual bday is 11/3.
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
No one on the 49ers team or staff made any excuses that injuries were a part of the loss to the Denver Broncos but even Peyton Manning acknowledged that they were a factor. Manning after the game: "They have some injuries that I think put some pressure on their defense and we were able to take advantage of that."
The resounding theme amongst Harbaugh and the players was the 'Next Man Up' mantra regarding how "Players need to be ready whenever their number is called," Antoine Bethea
Patrick Willis: "It's been a season of injury but we make no excuses. When one man goes down it's another man's opportunity to step up. Our guys have done a great job at that."
Vernon Davis: "It's been tough for us but we can't blame it on the injuries. We still have to play. We have guys that can back certain guys up and we believe in them."
Eric Reid on what the game would have been the outcome with all of the starters playing: "That's something we can't worry about. It's a hypothetical situation that isn't real right now. No matter what the situation is, we got to go out there and play."
I think Ahmad Brooks summed it up the best saying about the injuries "It probably caught up with us today. We have a lot of key guys out."
Billy Hurst - AP
It was a questionable start for the Niners letting the Rams get a 14 point jump on them in the first quarter. 24 unanswered points and a pick six for rookie Dontae Johsnon sealed the win. Unfortunately for the 49ers, this win came at a cost.
Patrick Willis left the game with a toe injury due to the turf and was seen later on the sidelines in a walking boot. More will be known once the team returns to the bay area.
Jimmie Ward injured his quad.
Mike Iupati left the game with a concussion.
Stevie Johnson took a direct hit by a knee to his hip and left the game but per the 49ers twitter account, it isn't serious.
The Niners are already without key players: Navorro Bowman, Aldon Smith, Anthony Davis and Tramaine Brock so the Next Man Up motto has already been in full effect. Expect to see much more from Dontae Johnson and Chris Borland this Sunday when the 49ers face the Denver Broncos.
Peter Aiken/Getty Images North America
It's a fantastic accomplishment to be named special teams player of the week after successfully knocking in five field goals in one game. It's even more impressive that two of those FGs were from longer than 50 yards away (52 & 55). Phil Dawson came through with 15 of the 22 points that the Niners scored in their victory over the Chiefs but what does not go unnoticed is that the Niners have not been able to convert in the red zone.
Six of the nine offensive drives resulted in points. (One of those drives was the end of game/victory kneel down) Only one of those drives ended with a touchdown to Stevie Johnson. This is not new for the team. David Akers was the leading offensive scorer during his tenure with the Niners. In the 2011 season Akers scored a total of 166 points.
There's a great Niners Nation article breaking down the 49ers red zone plays vs. Chiefs that shows where missed blocks and the lack of development in plays, including Kaepernick not always seeing open receivers, have stunted the Niners offense at the end of drives. Kap, however, is developing through his progressions more this season and adding WR weapons may be a part of it. Crabtree, Boldin, Llyod, Johnson and Patton are a formidable group of weapons not to mention Miller at FB and Davis at TE when he's healthy. Obviously a win is a win, but to allow teams to stay in the game with a chance at a winning drive is not the optimum situation. The defense can clearly win games for the team, but relying on them to do so shouldn't be the expectation.
Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports
For the third week in a row the 49ers played heavily penalized football. The stats are startling.
vs. Cowboys 11 penalties for 78 yards
vs. Bears 16 for 118 yards
vs. Cardinals 9 for 107 yards
Luckily in week one, the offense was able to out-play the penalties, and/or the Dallas defense was that bad. Losses in the last two weeks, however, are already trying the nerves of the players and coaches and the resulting tension is boiling over on the field.
At the risk of sounding cliche, I do believe that players need to play at a level where bad calls cannot determine the results of the game. Unfortunately, it's becoming nearly impossible to do that. Although I believe that some of the calls have been legitimate, many have been superfluous and unnecessary and the flow of the game is being interrupted.
Leaning on the side of safety, there have been more calls for late hits and targeting, which is understandable, but under review, even Mike Pereira has admitted to some blown calls. The problem with this is that the path of the game is being altered without the chance for a review or correction. If the NFL is so determined to get it right and keep players safe, why not get it completely right and make those calls reviewable?
Deep in the 3rd quarter, Patrick Willis came up the middle as the pocket was closing on Drew Stanton, he put his head to the side of Stanton's chest as he wrapped his arms around him and took to the ground, clean tackle. Flags were thrown for roughing the passer, resulting in a first down.
After the game Willis said that the team needed to watch film and see where they can do better. He also included, "I never go out there with any bad intent. I'm just going to play football the way I know how. I'm just going to go out there and be physical and tough."
It had all of the trappings of a fabulous opener in the newly minted Levi's Stadium; celebrity attendees, fantastic weather and a full house, but it was not meant to be.
It was a tale that could have had a happy ending, if only the game could have ended after the 3rd quarter, despite a multitude of penalties and mistakes. At the start of the fourth quarter the 49ers led by 13 points, but it's how you finish, and that's exactly what the Bears did. Three possessions in the final quarter that all led to touchdowns, and a spoiled opener.
It was a very undisciplined game that included 16 penalties for 118 yards, and four turnovers for the 49ers. The Bears were slightly better with 10 penalties for 58 yards. The glaring difference? Turnovers. Chicago didn't commit any. After the game Harbaugh, Kaepernick and Willis all spoke of the team loss and team responsibility. "We all had fingerprints on it." was the phrase used by both Harbaugh and Willis.
Boldin and Gore both expressed feelings that the team didn't finish.
"When you have a team team down you definitely have to put your foot on their throat because nobody is going to quit in this league." - Anquan Boldin.
"We started fast but we laid off, as a team. I just think we have to finish." - Frank Gore
49ers have a week to work on cleaning things up, they travel to Arizona on Sunday to face the 2-0 Cardinals.