Ahmad Brooks, Aldon Smith limited in practice for 49ers


The good news for the 49ers is that linebacker Ahmad Brooks returned to practice on a limited basis Wednesday with a shoulder injury.  The bad news for the 49ers is that linebacker Aldon Smith also practiced on a limited basis.

Per a league source, Brooks will play on Sunday, despite missing practice last week with a shoulder injury suffered in the NFC title game.  Smith (pictured) also is expected to play.

All other injured 49ers fully participated in practice, including linebacker NaVorro Bowman (shoulder), cornerback Tarell Brown (shoulder), tight end Garrett Celek (foot), running back Frank Gore (shoulder, ankle), linebacker Clark Haggans (shoulder), guard Mike Iupati (shoulder), running back LaMichael James (finger), running back Bruce Miller (shoulder), defensive tackle Justin Smith (elbow, triceps), and linebacker Patrick Willis (shoulder).

Not listed at all on the report was cornerback Chris Culliver, who apparently has overcome his acute case of diarrhea of the mouth.

Hue Jackson apologizes for introducing Ray Lewis to S.W.A.T.S. owner


At  a time when Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis vehemently has denied any use of banned substances in connection with his recovery from a torn triceps or at any other time in his 17-year career, a former Ravens assistant has confirmed that he introduced Lewis to the owner of Sports With Alternatives To Steroids (S.W.A.T.S.).

The confirmation from Hue Jackson, now the Bengals running backs coach, came via Jackson’s apology for making the connection between the two men.

“First of all, I’m disappointed for the Ravens,” Jackson told Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun.  “You hate to ever put an organization in that kind of situation.  I never knew the young man [Ross] could be that way.  I apologize for the whole organization.  It should be about the Super Bowl.  I met the guy at the [NFL] combine in 2008. . . .

“I don’t get this because we’ve already addressed all of this before,” Jackson said. “It’s just not right. I feel very bad for making a mistake and bringing this guy around Ray and the other players.

“I regret that ever happened. You trust people sometimes, and they let you down. This is an absolute shame because it should be about football, not this stuff. . . .

“What happened is you think everybody is doing things for the right reason.  I knew there was nothing illegal based on information given by him.  He always talked about things, saying they were already approved by the NFL.  You live and you learn.  I dealt with that two years ago.  Anytime it comes up, my name is mentioned.”

In addressing the situation, Lewis has invoked the “two years ago” explanation, overlooking the fact that Mitch Ross, the owner of S.W.A.T.S., contends that Lewis contacted Ross in October 2012, after Lewis tore his triceps against the Cowboys.  According to Sports Illustrated, the call was videotaped.  According to Ross, he contacted Lewis immediately after the game.

“As soon as I saw him hurt his arm against the Dallas Cowboys, I texted Ray,” Ross told Wilson.  “He texted me back after the game and said, ‘Possible torn triceps.’ Once that was confirmed by the doctors, I asked Ray if he wanted me to set up a program for him and he said, ‘Yes.’  I got him set up and now he’s back on the field.”

The problem with the various media availabilities during Super Bowl week is that there’s no one interviewer who can ask specific questions with meaningful follow-ups.  Once the player or coach answers a question, there’s a likelihood that some other reporter will ask some other question.  This allows Lewis to avoid a situation in which he’s grilled in detail about the communications with Ross, the phone conversation, and any other specific information linking the two men not two years ago but three months ago.

In the grand scheme of things, none of it matters, since there’s no way Lewis would ever be suspended before Sunday’s game.  But there’s definitely a cloud over Lewis that won’t be pushed away simply because Lewis has issued a general denial without specific elaboration on the underlying contentions and allegations.

Harbaugh, Kaepernick credit the 49ers’ offensive line


Jim Harbaugh and Colin Kaepernick are getting most of the attention when the 49ers meet the media this week, but the 49ers’ coach and quarterback both say the attention should go to the offensive line.

Asked about the offensive skill position players today, Harbaugh quickly changed the subject to talk about the offensive line, and he made a point of mentioning all of his offensive linemen by name.

“I’d like to talk a little bit about our offensive line, if that’s OK,” Harbaugh said. “That’s been a phenomenal group for us, and I’d call them offensive weapons as well. Joe Staley, a very talented player. Tremendous leadership within the group. How exciting for Jonathan Goodwin, being back at the Saints facility yesterday. Memories had to be thick for him. I know he visited with Sean Payton and some of the staff there. What he’s meant to our football team when he first arrived here, we were void at the center position. Jonathan Goodwin has stepped in and started every game, been a great player for us. Anthony Davis’ emergence at right tackle from a toughness standpoint, from a strength standpoint, and just the way he continues to grow and grow and grow as a player. Also, Mike Iupati has gone to the board as one of the top guards in the National Football League. Really excited for Alex Boone as an ascending player, as a tough player, as a leader on our football team. Finally, just the way they have all stayed healthy. They’ve all played well together. It’s really been a strength and a center for our football team. Also, Leonard Davis and what he’s brought to us along with Daniel Kilgore as the sixth and seventh linemen. They’ve been instrumental all year in our extra O-Linemen packages, contributions on special teams. The way they have plugged in at guard, tight end and at the extra tight end position has been huge for us.”

Kaepernick also made a point of crediting the offensive line for his own success.

“They have been doing a phenomenal job blocking people,” Kaepernick said. “In pass protection, I’ve barely been touched. In the run game, they’re opening up huge holes for our running backs. They open up the edges for me when I’ve been running. As an offensive line, they’ve been playing lights out.”

Harbaugh said that the 49ers want to be a team known for dominating the line of scrimmage.

“That’s what our football team wants to be about,” Harbaugh said. “Talking about our offensive line, talking about our defensive line, I think on a football team that’s the character of your football team.”

Jim Harbaugh: Alex Smith’s feelings “absolutely” impact 49ers decision


49ers CEO Jed York said on PFT Live Tuesday that the 49ers hope to keep both Colin Kaepernick and Alex Smith for next season.

That’s a different approach than anyone’s been predicting and it is one that 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh seemed to dismiss at the Super Bowl on Wednesday. Harbaugh responded to a question about Smith wanting to be released, which we reported over the weekend, by saying that Smith’s feelings “absolutely” will be part of the equation of how they handle things this offseason. And nothing he said suggested they won’t be handling things by letting Smith go one way or the other.

“We won’t get into talking about the speculation or the what-ifs,” Harbaugh said, via NFL.com. “I’m sure that will play out, but he is a starting quarterback. He’s got a desire to be a starting quarterback, and I’m sure that will play out.”

Smith’s made that desire clear this week while simultaneously talking about being ready to help the 49ers should circumstances force him into the game. It’s a fence he shouldn’t have to straddle after Sunday’s game since there seems to be agreement from both sides — even York said Smith deserves the chance to figure out what he wants to do — that his future isn’t in San Francisco.

Justin Smith needs surgery soon, but won’t retire


The 49ers were fighting with one arm behind their back without defensive tackle Justin Smith, and he’s currently playing with about half an arm.

Smith said he has a tear of about 50 percent of his left triceps tendon, which will require surgery shortly after the season ends.

But he told Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com he still planned to return for next season.

I’m not going to retire after this year,” Smith said. “I would like to come back and try to get here [the Super Bowl] again. I realize my career is definitely winding down. I’m not saying I’m going to play another eight years or something like that. I want to play at a high level.”

Smith said he wanted to continue to play as long as he could play at a high level, though he does enjoy the teaching role he plays with some of the 49ers young linemen.

“I don’t want to just be a backup guy — a mentor-guy,” Smith said. “I want to help the guys as much as possible, show them all of the stuff I’ve learned from other guys.

“It’s all just passing the torch, everything you learn from the coaching staffs. I want to do that while I’m playing. These guys will be in good hands. I mean, that room is a good group of guys, good football players and a good football coach in [line coach] Jim Tomsula. Any time you’ve got a Ray McDonald in your room, you’ve got Issac [Sopoaga] in there, Ricky Jean [Francois] coming up, they are in good hands.”

They’re in better hands with Smith on the field, as his absence made Aldon Smith much less productive, and diminished the 49ers defense as a whole.

NFL Referees Association congratulates officials selected for Super Bowl XLVII


An unexpected controversy has arisen regarding the selection of referee Jerome Boger to wear the white hat for Super Bowl XLVII.  Some think that he didn’t earn it, the league says he did.

Regardless, the NFL Referees Association has congratulated him and the other men who will officiate the game.

Tim Millis, the NFLRA Executive Director, said in a release, “The Super Bowl XLVII crew, led by referee and crew chief Jerome Boger, all had an excellent 2012 season.  This is a well-deserved honor for each member of the crew.  Every NFLRA member wishes them the best of luck officiating an outstanding Super Bowl game.”

The release, issued initially by the NFL Referees Association, also has been released by the NFL, which surely is hoping to turn the page on any talk that Boger didn’t earn the assignment.  In our view, the NFL shouldn’t care; if the league is comfortable entrusting its marquee annual event to Boger or anyone else, it’s the NFL’s business.

For the 2012 season, Boger is best known for not ejecting Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, who had bumped Boger after Boger failed to throw a flag for roughing the passer.

Ultimately, the blame for this entire incident should fall to Ed Hochuli.  The minute he tightened his shirts and extended his explanations, we noticed officials like never before.   We shouldn’t.  Though part of the NFL’s infrastructure, they also should be part of the background.

On Sunday, if Boger’s crew makes any bad calls, they’ll be front and center for the scorn of the fans of the team against which the bad calls go.

Ed Reed could “definitely” see himself as a Patriot

Getty Images

Ravens safety Ed Reed is an impending free agent, and it’s become popular to dot-connect Reed to New England as a match with longtime admirer Bill Belichick.

The speculation was fueled when Peter King of SI.com predicted on last Sunday’s Pro Bowl pregame show that Reed will indeed sign with the Patriots. King likened the hypothetical signing to Rodney Harrison’s with the Pats, back in 2003.

Reed was specifically asked by reporters Wednesday whether he could envision himself playing in Foxboro.

“Yeah, oh yeah man,” said Reed, per the Boston Herald. “I could definitely play for coach Belichick. He is a great coach. I’m sure he can help me to expand my football knowledge even more as a player and as a coach, so if I’m ever able to be around him, just like I was at the Pro Bowl, it’s huge.

“It’s the reason why I wear my sweater cut off a little bit. He’s the first guy I saw like, ‘That’s cool.’ You know, that’s cool. He cuts those sweater sleeves, and he’ll be comfortable.”

Sunday’s Super Bowl game against the 49ers is tentatively expected to be Reed’s last in a Ravens uniform.

Brett Favre to join NFL Network for Super Bowl


Brett Favre is coming back.

To television. The Associated Press reports that Favre will be part of the NFL Network team providing 10-plus hours of coverage from New Orleans on Super Bowl Sunday. We haven’t heard much from Favre since the Saints bounty allegations first broke, a long stretch without a player who had been a constant part of the football world for the previous two decades.

Favre will be returning to the town and stadium where the Saints beat him in the NFC Championship Game that became a centerpiece of that bounty investigation. It’s also where he and the Packers won Super Bowl XXXI, so there’s a variety of memories of New Orleans for Favre to draw on during his television appearance.

In an email to AP, Favre wrote that he doesn’t miss the “grind and stress of day-to-day football, but I do miss my teammates and coaches.” He also said he’s looking forward to reconnecting with NFL fans and offered no word on whether he’s interested in a more regular television gig.

Ray Lewis: PED accusation is “the trick of the devil”


Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis has been quick to credit God for the successes in his NFL career. Now that an allegation of performance-enhancing drug use is arising just as his NFL career is coming to an end, Lewis is blaming the devil.

“That’s the trick of the devil,” Lewis said when asked about allegations that he used a banned performance-enhancing substance during his recovery from a torn triceps. “The trick of the devil is to kill, steal and destroy. That’s what he comes to do. He comes to distract you from everything you’re trying to do.”

Lewis said that when the devil is trying to tear you down, all you can do is trust God to build you up. Lewis said that’s what his mother taught him from a young age and what he has tried to practice in his life, and to have an impact on others through his Christian faith.

“My mom taught me to put my complete faith in God,” Lewis said. “I truly believe impact and success are two different things. Anybody can have success. Impact is totally different. You talk about the walk of Jesus, his whole walk was impact. So that’s what my life is based on.”

Ed Reed: Junior Seau knew what he was signing up for

Getty Images

Ravens safety Ed Reed hasn’t been shy when it comes to expressing his thoughts about the NFL’s attempts to increase player safety.

Reed said earlier this season that the only way to stop concussions it to stop playing football and the topic came up again in New Orleans. Reed admitted that he has days where he wakes up and wonders where his memory went, but said that he signed up for that by choosing to play a violent game. Reed said that every player signed up knowing that there were repercussions for it, leading to Jerry Sullivan of the Buffalo News asking if the late Junior Seau signed up for it.

“Did he sign up for it?’ Yeah, he signed up to play football. Things are going to happen. Do I want it to happen? No. When I was on a golf course, did I want to hear about Junior Seau? No, I didn’t want to hear that. I grew up watching him play. That was a sad day, a sad day,” Reed said. “Junior gave everything to football, and I’m sure he’s looking down with no regrets.”

Bernard Pollard, Reed’s parter in the Ravens secondary, said this week that he fears football won’t exist in 30 years. Reed’s comments are a pretty good argument against that view. As long as there are people willing to accept the repercussions of football in exchange for a well-paid job, the sport is going to continue to exist.

Kyle Williams “shocked” NFL didn’t investigate Giants targeting him

Getty Images

Wide receiver Kyle Williams won’t be playing in the Super Bowl because of a torn ACL, but he’s in New Orleans with the 49ers and answering questions about his last playoff appearance.

That would be last year’s NFC Championship Game loss to the Giants, which featured a pair of Williams fumbles on punt returns that helped the Giants advance to the Super Bowl. After the game, a couple of Giants players said that they wanted to put hits on Williams that would bring his concussion history into play. Former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams also talked about targeting Kyle Williams’ head in the infamous audiotape from the previous week’s game and the 49ers receiver said Wednesday that he was “shocked” that the Giants’ comments weren’t investigated by the league.

“When the bounty stuff came out and Gregg Williams had said the same things, basically, they went for his neck with that and they took that to the absolute highest level they could. But it was almost like when the Giants said it, it was not a big deal,” Kyle Williams said, via Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News. “That’s the only thing that kind of shocked me. I thought that would have the same reaction because it was the same exact thing.”

Williams said that he did get hit in the head during the game, though he doesn’t think that they led to either of his fumbles, and that he doesn’t know whether the Giants were targeting him or not. He was surprised that the comments didn’t draw more attention from the league in relation to what went on with the Saints, but he also made it clear that he wasn’t upset about it.

“Guys try to put guys out of the game every single game,” Williams said.

Ahmad Brooks has Grade 1 shoulder sprain

Getty Images

Near the end of the 49ers’ 28-24 NFC Championship Game win against the Falcons, 49ers linebacker Ahmad Brooks hit Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan and left Ryan with a sprained AC joint in his left shoulder.

Brooks can empathize with Ryan’s plight since he wound up with the same injury after the game. Albert Breer of the NFL Network reports that Brooks said Wednesday that he suffered a Grade 1 sprain of the joint, which is why he wasn’t a participant in practice two days last week.

He suffered the injury early in the game against the Falcons, but aggravated it on the fourth quarter hit that left Ryan injured as well. A Grade 1 sprain is the least severe, which explains why Brooks said he would have been able to play if there was a game last weekend and why there’s not much fear that Brooks will miss the Super Bowl.

Brooks is also playing with a dislocated finger that he picked up early in the season, although that didn’t stop him from playing a key role on the San Francisco defense in the regular season. It doesn’t sound like his shoulder sprain is going to stop him from doing so this Sunday either.

Ravens’ Ed Dickson: 49ers’ defense has a lot of holes we can exploit


Ravens tight end Ed Dickson is watching tape of the 49ers, and he likes what he sees.

Dickson said at Super Bowl Media Day that watching the 49ers’ defense give up 24 first-half points to the Falcons in the NFC Championship Game, the Ravens became confident that they’ll have similar success.

We’ve seen the success that Atlanta had,” Dickson said, via CSNBayArea.com. “We’re not going to be naïve. I’m sure they’ve made corrections. In the end, it’s all about us and the things that we do well with running the football and passing the ball, just being a balanced offense. We’ve seen a lot of things on film we can exploit, and we’ll go after those things.”

Of course, the 49ers’ defense also shut the Falcons out in the second half, so the things the Ravens think they can exploit may have already been corrected. But Dickson, who was held without a catch in the AFC Championship Game, seems to think he’s going to get a lot more opportunities in the Super Bowl.

Jim Harbaugh calls Greg Roman’s offense “revolutionary”


San Francisco head coach Jim Harbaugh says his offensive coordinator, Greg Roman, is changing the way people think about offensive football.

At his press conference on Wednesday morning, Harbaugh made a specific point of bringing up Roman when asked about the team’s offensive success, saying that Roman has done things no offensive coach had done before in combining aspects of the read-option that quarterback Colin Kaepernick runs out of the pistol formation without losing the power game with fullbacks and tight ends that the 49ers like to run.

“I think Greg Roman has done a job that is revolutionary in football,” Harbaugh said. “I think the way he has mixed the trap, the power, the wham plays, into the pistol offense and into our conventional offense has been revolutionary in many ways.”

Harbaugh said he doesn’t know if the type of offense the 49ers run will become the norm in the NFL, but the 49ers do have the right players and the right coaches to make it work for them.

“It’s possible that it is here to stay. I won’t make any predictions on that,” Harbaugh said. “I think that it’s been successful for us because of the players we have executing it. I think they’re extremely good at it.”

If the 49ers win on Sunday, they’ll have become Super Bowl champions while running an offense unlike any Super Bowl champions before them.

Smith never considered lying about his concussion symptoms

Getty Images

There’s a reasonable chance that if Alex Smith had simply lied, he’d still be the starting quarterback of the 49ers.

But he said Tuesday he had no regrets about revealing his concussion symptoms, which opened the door for Colin Kaepernick, and the door was subsequently slammed in Smith’s face.

Smith suffered his concussion Nov. 11 against the Rams, when Jo-Lonn Dunbar hit him hard enough to cause blurry vision, but Smith said he had no regrets about telling coaches and trainers about the symptoms.

No, no, no, not at all,” Smith said, via Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News. “I mean, we’re all going to be done with this game at some point. We’ve got a lot of life ahead of us. You err on the side of caution with that head stuff.

“There’s no brain transplants that I’ve ever heard of. You only get one. It’s not something to mess around with.”

Smith’s demotion shows how fine a line it can be in a performance business, but his grace in dealing with the situation shows how hard it is to succeed in the business of being a human being.

He admitted it was hard to watch the team win without him after they won so many with him.

“I’m not going to lie about any of that. It’s tough at times, for sure,” he said. “Tough to accept. Tough to watch.

“But we’re in the Super Bowl and it’s been an amazing experience. I love being a part of this. I’ve said this before. It’s bittersweet a little bit, but it’s a great thing to be a part of.”

Smith might not be the best quarterback in the league, but he’s good enough to help many teams, and his leadership and attitude he’s shown in the last two months will lend a maturity to whatever team he plays on next, since this door is effectively closed to him now.