NFL Nation: Ahmad Brooks

OAKLAND, Calif. – Observed and heard in the locker room after the San Francisco 49ers’ 24-13 loss to the Oakland Raiders at the O.co Coliseum:
  • Brooks
    Ahmad Brooks, who entered the day with a 60-game starting streak for the 49ers, did not appear in the game after missing a defensive meeting at 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday, the players’ day off, he said. Brooks said he was never told he would not play against the Raiders and figured it out as the game rolled on. He was on time, though, for the league-mandated meeting on domestic violence at 11:30 a.m., he said. “No, I don’t agree,” with not playing, Brooks said. “I’m just a player, a number.”
  • After initially saying there was no incident with a cameraman heading into the tunnel at halftime, quarterback Colin Kaepernick, a question later, acknowledged that something did, in fact, happen. “If I try to put something in you face, you’d try to move away, too,” said Kaepernick, who actually pushed the camera away by the lens.
  • The last player out of the 49ers’ locker room was running back Frank Gore, who takes losses especially hard and said this defeat was “shocking,” though not entirely surprising. “It’s been a tough year, up and down,” Gore said. “This is the lowest point … last year of [my] contract, I want to go out with at least a shot to hold that [Lombardi] Trophy.”
SANTA CLARA, Calif. –- Justin Smith is entering the home stretch of his standout 14-year career.

He’s just not sure if he’ll return to the San Francisco 49ers for a 15th season…yet.

Smith
“To be honest, I haven’t given it any thought,” Smith said this week. “It will be something I think about after the season.

“Hopefully we can get this thing rolling, get back on track and make a run at it.”

Smith, who plays end in the Niners’ base 3-4 defense, is tied with linebackers Ahmad Brooks and rookie Aaron Lynch for the team lead in sacks with five. The 35-year-old Smith has also taken advantage of having a veteran’s day off on Wednesdays from practice and has been taking Thursdays off as well to keep him fresh.

It’s paying off, though defensive coordinator Vic Fangio insists the breaks are not the difference. Smith being healthy is the key.

“Last year, he was playing with half an arm,” Fangio said. “I forget which arm it was. I think it was his left. This year, he’s playing with a healthy body.

“I actually see a better player than last year because of the health. And I’m sure he’s down a decibel or two from where he was in 2011, but not very much. It would be a shame if he did retire for all of us because he’s still playing at a very high level. I expect him to make the Pro Bowl again, and expect you guys to lead the charge five years when he’s done playing to get him up in Canton.”

Yes, as in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, after five (and counting) Pro Bowls and a first-team All-Pro selection. A partially torn triceps late in 2012 hindered him before he suffered a shoulder injury in training camp in 2013.

This year? As Fangio said, Smith has been healthy. And rested come Sundays.

This weekend, the 7-5 Niners will try to steady themselves against the Oakland Raiders, who have the worst record in the NFL at 1-11.

“I know I’m going against Donald Penn,” Smith said, “and he’s a heck of a football player. Everybody else can take them lightly, but the players in the locker room know what we’re up against.”

And Fangio knows how tough the road would be next season if Smith decides to retire. So he’s already scheming to bring him back.

“If I have to go to Missouri and drink a beer with him, I’ll do that,” Fangio said.

Added rookie linebacker Chris Borland: “I’ll be on the same flight.”

The defense, with Smith leading the charge, is already on the same page.
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San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh would neither confirm nor deny on Monday reports that linebacker Ahmad Brooks benched himself in the second half of the Niners' 16-10 victory over the New York Giants on Sunday in protest of his playing time being cut with the return of Aldon Smith.

All Harbaugh would say is the situation with Brooks is settled.

"Yes, we've addressed it and had those conversations," Harbaugh said in his weekly media conference. "Onward."

Asked if he could be more specific, Harbaugh went, well, Harbaugh.

"Yeah, I can be specific," he said. "I can be very specific. It's something I don't want to share with you or share publicly."

Still, Harbaugh did say he expected Brooks, who has started 58 of the last 58 games in which he's appeared for the 49ers, to play this weekend against Washington at Levi's Stadium.

Brooks played the first two-plus series for the 49ers on Sunday, the first three snaps opposite Smith, before being replaced by rookie Aaron Lynch.

"Honestly, I don't know what happened there," Lynch said after the game. "I don't know what the deal was. I love the guy. He's a big brother to me. As far as what happened off the field, or on the field, I don't know what happened."

Brooks, who riled coaches by showing up to training camp heavier than expected and was at the center of a trade rumor that had him going to Cleveland last month, declined to talk after the game, saying, "I'm not taking questions today. Maybe later in the week ... yeah, we're working through something."

Harbaugh said the Niners "need Ahmad Brooks to win a championship" after the victory at the Meadowlands.
NEW ORLEANS -- Seconds after his strip-sack of Drew Brees was confirmed via replay, Ahmad Brooks was approached on the sidelines by a teammate.

“Karma is real,” the San Francisco 49ers player told Brooks.

His retort?

“I don’t believe in karma,” Brooks said.

[+] EnlargeAhmad Brooks and Drew Brees
Derick E. Hingle/USA TODAY SportsAhmad Brooks' strip-sack of Drew Brees in overtime all but won the game for the 49ers.
Niners defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, though, said “poetic justice” was served with the play.

“The referees got it right this time,” Fangio said.

A year ago, it was Brooks who hit Brees from the front and caused a fumble that was recovered by Patrick Willis to seal an apparent victory over the New Orleans Saints.

Until his clothesline tackle was deemed an unnecessary roughness penalty for a blow to the head and neck area of a quarterback and the Saints retained possession, kicked a game-tying field goal and then booted a game-winning field goal as time expired.

This time?

The call of fumble and recovery by rookie Chris Borland, who is playing in place of an injured Willis, was upheld and the Niners took over on the Saints’ 17-yard line.

And rather than run a play on offense, Phil Dawson was summoned, and he knuckled through a 35-yard game-winner with 5:14 remaining in overtime.

Last year’s score: Saints 23, 49ers 20.

This year’s final: 49ers 27, Saints 24.

“I was really surprised [Brees] held the ball as long as he did,” Brooks said. “I was rushing and turning the corner and thinking to myself, ‘Dang, is he going to throw the ball yet?’ But he didn’t, and I was able to make a play.”

Brees said he was targeting running back Travaris Cadet.

“But he was tripped up so he was on the ground and I couldn’t get it to him,” Brees said. “He was on the ground so I brought [the ball] back. Then I tried to throw it again as he started to get up. There was nobody around him; he could have run forever.

“I got hit as the ball was coming out.”

The Niners had been unable to get to Brees all day long.

But then Quinton Dial registered the 49ers’ first sack of Brees with about 6 minutes left in OT. One play later, Brooks rode to the Niners’ rescue, karmic comeuppance or not.

“It is ironic,” he admitted.

“That play was real similar to last year, in a sense.”

Just different outcomes.
As far as game- and season-changing plays go, this was Exhibit A as a flashpoint for the San Francisco 49ers last year.

Brooks
Brees
Niners fans cringe when it comes up but with the 49ers playing at the Superdome again this Sunday, the scab is still fresh.

It’s when Ahmad Brooks clotheslined New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees from the front with just over three minutes to play and the Niners holding onto a three-point lead. The ball, and thankfully not Brees’ head, was knocked loose and Patrick Willis recovered the fumble, seemingly sealing a victory for San Francisco.

Except…

Brooks was called for unnecessary roughness for a blow to the head and neck area of a quarterback. The Saints retained possession, drove for a game-tying field goal and, one series later, kicked a game-winning field goal as time expired.

Saints 23, 49ers 20.

“I don’t think he hit me as hard as he could have,” Brees said in a conference call with Bay Area reporters this week. “He just kind of caught me just right. My momentum was kind of going that way a little bit. It happened really fast.

“I’m just glad we kept the ball and were able to get points and another opportunity later to win the game.”

Indeed, had the 5-foot-11 Brees been an inch or two taller, the blow would have come at his chest and thus, no penalty.

And if you’re down to play some extrapolation, the Niners win the game and they, rather than the Seattle Seahawks, have home-field advantage in the playoffs last season, instead of going on the road to Green Bay, Carolina and, finally, Seattle.

No wonder it still sticks in the 49ers’ craw. So much so that defensive coordinator Vic Fangio showed the play in a meeting to players this week, according to the Sacramento Bee.

“And everybody was like, ‘Yeah, that’s how you hit a guy,’” Brooks, whose initial fine of nearly $16,000 for the hit was later overturned by appeal, told the Bee.

“But that was last year.”

Said Brees, with a nervous laugh: “I haven’t thought about it for about 360 days.”
METAIRIE, La. -- It's hard to say what was the most memorable part of San Francisco 49ers linebacker Ahmad Brooks' controversial sack against New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees last season: the league-wide debate that raged over whether Brooks should have been penalized? Or Brees' neck?

Brees' neck stretched so far when Brooks clotheslined him around the shoulder/neck area that it looked as though it was staged through special effects.

[+] EnlargeDrew Brees and Ahmad Brooks
AP Photo/Dave Martin"After the fact, the fact that you're still alive and win the game, it's all good," Drew Brees said of Ahmad Brooks' hit on him last season.
"Yeah, people had a lot of fun with Photoshop with that. I had the 'Go Go Gadget' neck," Brees told the San Francisco media Wednesday, in advance of Sunday's rematch in New Orleans. "I got a good laugh out of it, too. ... After the fact, the fact that you're still alive and win the game, it's all good."

It was one of the most controversial and critical plays of the entire 2013 NFL season. Instead of a sack and fumble that could have helped San Francisco protect a three-point lead, the penalty gave New Orleans new life en route to a 23-20 victory.

The penalty was widely criticized, with ESPN analysts Ray Lewis and Tedy Bruschi both offering to help pay Brooks' fine (a fine that was later rescinded on appeal).

Brooks' hit started out looking clean, with his arm initially hitting Brees high across the shoulders. But as the hit continued, his arm wrapped around Brees' neck and Brees wound up with a bloody mouth. At the time, Brooks said he couldn't help it since Brees is only 6 feet tall. Brees said he didn't think there was anything malicious or intentional about the hit, but that it was definitely a penalty.

A year later, Brees insisted that he hadn't even thought about the hit for "the past 364 days" until it popped up when he was watching game tape and when he met with the media.

"It mixes together with a bunch of others," Brees said. "So I wouldn't say it is something that I think about all that often."

When asked if he thinks the 49ers will still be salty because of the memory, Brees said, "I don't know. Ask them about it. From our perspective, that was a game that went back and forth. I think there were maybe breaks on both sides throughout the game. And the bottom line is we were down six points in the fourth quarter and we found a way on three consecutive possessions to go down and get points and win the game.

"A lot of things are gonna happen throughout the course of the game. And you just want to have a chance to win at the end. And the team came together and really fought hard to get that win," Brees continued. "And that's all I can say about last year. But we're really focused more on this year and the type of team we have this year, the type of team they have this year and how we can put together a great game plan and go out and execute that on Sunday."
SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Three San Francisco 49ers players appear in the #ESPNRank project between Nos. 60 and 51 among offensive players. That part of the rankings was released Friday.

Crabtree
Iupati
Boldin
Receiver Anquan Boldin was No. 54, a year after being No. 83.

“Boldin led the NFL in third-down receptions (33), receiving yards (529) and first downs (529) last season,” according to ESPN Stats & Info. “His 1,179 receiving yards in 2013 were the most by a 49er since Terrell Owens in 2002.”

Left guard Mike Iupati was No. 53 (he was 32nd last year) and receiver Michael Crabtree was No. 51, improving from No. 78.

“Crabtree’s drop percentage has gone down each year of his career (3.2 percent last season),” ESPN Stats & Information wrote. “He averaged a career-high 7.0 yards after the catch (per reception) last season despite coming off an Achilles injury.”

Other 49ers players already listed: right tackle Anthony Davis, who was No. 81 among offensive players. Strong safety Antoine Bethea (No. 97), linebacker Ahmad Brooks (No. 74) and free safety Eric Reid (No. 71) are in the rankings of defensive players so far.
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Two more San Francisco 49ers players check in Wednesday on ESPN.com’s Top 100 players list.

Linebacker Ahmad Brooks is No. 74 among defensive players while safety Eric Reid is ranked No. 71.

"Brooks recorded a postseason-best 4.5 sacks last year, the most in a postseason since 2010 (Terrell Suggs, five)," read the list. "During the regular season, Brooks also set a career high with 8.5 sacks."

Reid, meanwhile, has become an elder statesman, of sorts, in the 49ers' secondary with fellow safety Antoine Bethea currently concussed.

"Eric Reid intercepted four passes in 2013," the report read, "second-most among rookies last season."

Brooks and Reid join Bethea and right tackle Anthony Davis, who were ranked No. 97 and No. 81 on the defensive and offensive lists, respectively.
Examining the San Francisco 49ers' roster:

QUARTERBACKS (2)

Because of heavy competition elsewhere, the 49ers will likely only carry two quarterbacks. They finished last season that way. The competition will be to see if undrafted rookie Kory Faulkner can take McLeod Bethel-Thompson's spot on the practice squad.

RUNNING BACKS (5)

The fact that the 49ers drafted Hyde in the second round and Lattimore is healthy means some tough decisions will have to be made. Hunter is too valuable to let go. That means 2012 second-round pick LaMichael James will have difficulty making the roster.

WIDE RECEIVERS (6)

The 49ers are so much deeper here this year than last. That means they will likely have to keep six receivers. Lloyd may look good and Patton has too much potential to give up on. That means it could be tough for Kassim Osgood to make it even though he is a special teams cog.

TIGHT ENDS (3)

If Davis ends his holdout, I can't see the 49ers keeping more than three tight ends because of the glut at receiver. Unless Garrett Celek has a big camp, he may be in trouble. Carrier intrigues the 49ers because of his size and speed.

OFFENSIVE LINE (8)

Assuming Boone ends his holdout, this is a pretty nice group of eight players. It's improved from last year. A solid veteran like Adam Snyder and a promising youngster like Ryan Seymour will have trouble making the team.

DEFENSIVE LINE (9)

This is another power spot. It's deep. Players like Jerod-Eddie and Dial are too valuable to cut. Ramsey has looked good and I have a hunch the 49ers may like him too much to expose him to the waiver wire. That means Demarcus Dobbs could be in trouble.

LINEBACKERS (7)

Most teams carry six linebackers but the 49ers are stacked here, especially with NaVorro Bowman out for about half the season. Because fifth-round pick Lynch is promising he should make the roster. Dan Skuta is an excellent player, but there might not be any room for him. I could see him being one of those later-summer Trent Baalke trade specials because he has value.

CORNERBACKS (5)

This unit is in flux, but I see Johnson making it. Don't be surprised if there is some in-camp jockeying as the 49ers look for the best mix.

SAFETIES (5)

Ward, the 49ers' first-round pick, will play nickel cornerback as a rookie, but projects long term as a safety. Ventrone and Spillman should stick because they are great on special teams. Craig Dahl could be in trouble.

SPECIALISTS (3):

This group is set and it's excellent.
Malcolm Jenkins only echoed what others have said about Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III. And the new Philadelphia Eagles safety didn't question Griffin's game, but, rather his ability to stay healthy. At this point, it's a fair topic. Of course, maybe it's not one a player new to the division might want to address. But then again, it was tame compared to his thoughts on the Dallas defense.

Jenkins
When Jenkins appeared on the NFL Network, he discussed the other three teams in the NFC East. He took a shot at Dallas' defense, as well as the New York Giants' ability to protect Eli Manning. Here's what he had to say about Griffin:
"I think the biggest thing we're going to see is [Robert Griffin III] take that next step as far as the cerebral approach to the game. But the biggest concern I have with RG3 is, will he protect himself? And that's a thing he hasn't done early in his career.

"He scrambles, he gets those extra yards, he makes those throws out of the pocket, but takes a lot of unnecessary hits. We've seen the toll that has had on him.

“Last year he really wasn't himself, still trying to recover from that injury. Those kind of hits, when you talk about a QB, it's all about accountability and availability. He's very very accountable, but availability is going to be an issue if he continues to play the style of football that he's used to."

Jenkins isn't the first opponent to wonder about Griffin's durability or his health. In the past year, several players did just that, including Dallas corner Brandon Carr, San Francisco linebacker Ahmad Brooks and New York Giants safety Antrel Rolle among them.

But Jenkins is new to the division and his yapping does two things: endear him to Eagles beat reporters and mark him as a target for other teams. With Griffin, there's only one way to prove Jenkins and many others wrong. He needs to stay healthy; it's not about one game or one throw, it's about a season and then a string of them. And Jenkins didn't knock his game, just questioned his durability.

Dallas' defense might feel a little differently about Jenkins. But when a defense ends the season ranked 32nd in yards allowed and 26th in points allowed, and then loses its best pass-rushers (Jason Hatcher, DeMarcus Ware), well, it leaves little room for anything but criticism. So here's what Jenkins said:
“A couple years ago, their scapegoat was Rob Ryan, and they got rid of him, and he was the cause of all their problems. He went to New Orleans and took the worst defense in NFL history and turned them into a top 5 defense. So he couldn't have been the problem.

“And then you look at this year, I had the best seat in the house when I watched the Saints get 40 first downs in one game. Forty. In one game. So it must be the players.”

And then Eli Manning was the topic. Again, good, honest stuff.
"I think the problem is he was sacked 39 times, a career high last year. If that continues, Eli's best days are behind him. If they can protect him, then maybe, but it doesn't look like it."

When Jenkins played for Ohio State (my alma mater, as you might know), I preferred that he keep quiet. Typically his game spoke volumes. In the NFL, he's been up and down, but there's no doubt he now has a role as a future analyst. As a reporter, I'll never knock a guy for giving an honest opinion. Sort of helps the job, you know?

Arrow indicates direction team is trending.

Final Power Ranking: 4
Preseason Power Ranking: 2

Biggest surprise: The impact that Michael Crabtree's injury and then his return had on the team. When Crabtree suffered a torn Achilles in May, the 49ers knew it would affect their offense. But his absence was felt dramatically during the 11 games he was out. The 49ers had essentially nothing behind receiver Anquan Boldin and tight end Vernon Davis in the passing game. However, when he returned Dec. 1, the 49ers were instantly a better, more varied, dangerous offense. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick was more confident. The difference was stark.

Biggest disappointment: The loss at New Orleans on Nov. 17. The 49ers appeared to have sealed the game when linebacker Ahmad Brooks sacked and forced New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees to fumble late. But Brooks was called for a questionable personal foul. The Saints rallied to win. It was a major storyline in the NFL that week. Had the 49ers won, they would have finished 13-3, won a tiebreaker over Seattle in the NFC West and would not have had to play at Seattle in the playoffs.

Biggest need: The 49ers are deep. They don't have many holes. But they can use another young receiver. Boldin is 33 and a free agent. Fourth-round pick Quinton Patton looks promising, but San Francisco will likely take a speed receiver early in the draft. Expect the team to take a cornerback fairly early as well. The 49ers need to develop a young player there.

Team MVP: Inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman. The 25-year-old had an amazing season. He is an NFL Defensive Player of the Year candidate. He was dominant in virtually every game. He is a special playmaker. It was a sad sight seeing him being carted off in the fourth quarter of Sunday's loss at Seattle with a major knee injury. Bowman is expected back next season. The 49ers need him.

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- There will be a San Francisco 49er in the Pro Bowl after all.

After all eight of the players originally selected withdrew – linebacker Ahmad Brooks was the last to withdraw on Tuesday – the team announced rookie safety Eric Reid is going to play in the game Sunday.

The honor culminates a strong rookie season by the safety. Reid looked like a polished veteran all season and was a great fit for the 49ers’ aggressive defense. The team did not miss Dashon Goldson, who went to Tampa Bay in free agency.

The 49ers deserve credit for moving up from No. 31 to No. 18 to take Reid in last year's NFL draft. It looks like there may be many more Pro Bowls to come for him.

Brian Orakpo will play in Pro Bowl

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Brian Orakpo's strong finish could result in a hefty contract this offseason. Turns out it also will result in a trip to Hawaii.

Orakpo
Orakpo was named to the Pro Bowl team as a replacement for San Francisco linebacker Ahmad Brooks, who pulled out of the game Tuesday. The 49ers had eight players chosen for the Pro Bowl this season, but none of them will play in Sunday's game. The 49ers lost to Seattle in the NFC Championship Game this past weekend.

But that's beneficial to Orakpo, who will play in this game for the third time in his first five seasons and his first since 2010. Orakpo missed all but two games in 2012 because of a torn pectoral muscle and he admitted it impacted his play in 2013. Orakpo said it took him a while to trust his arm (he had torn his pectoral muscle at the end of the 2011 season as well). Though the coaches were pleased with his play, his sack total was down for the first half of the season with four in the first eight games. But he recorded six sacks in the next seven games and finished with 10 overall. It marked the second time in his career that he finished in double digits; he had 11 as a rookie in 2009 en route to a Pro Bowl berth.

Orakpo will be a free agent in March, but needs to be a priority for the Redskins to re-sign. The coaches like how he's developed in other areas as a 3-4 linebacker, but they also lack a strong option should he leave. Rob Jackson also is a free agent, but even if the Redskins re-sign him, he's not viewed the same as Orakpo in terms of his all-around game. And in the 3-4 played by Washington, the outside linebackers must do more than just rush the passer. But having a strong pass-rusher at both outside linebacker spots is imperative. With Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan, they have two linebackers considered to be good pass-rushers.

Small 49ers' Pro Bowl group

January, 21, 2014
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There will not be a big San Francisco 49ers' contingent at this weekend's Pro Bowl.

Linebacker Ahmad Brooks told the San Jose Mercury News he expects to be the only 49er there. Eight 49ers made the team, which was announced in December. It was tied for the most with Kansas City.

Linebacker NaVorro Bowman (knee) and guard Mike Iupati (leg) were seriously injured in the 49ers' loss at Seattle in the NFC title game Sunday. Left tackle Joe Staley suffered a minor thumb injury.

Brooks told the paper running back Frank Gore, defensive tackle Justin Smith and linebacker Patrick Willis aren't planning on playing and tight end Vernon Davis told reporters nagging injuries will keep him out.

All the bail outs are not surprising. Often players, especially players who have been to the Pro Bowl in the past, choose to rest rather to go to the Pro Bowl. It is especially not surprising in the 49ers' case. They just ended a three-week window in which they played three road playoff games.
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- All 53 San Francisco 49ers practiced Thursday as they close in on preparations for Sunday's NFC Championship game at Seattle.

Pro Bowl linebacker Ahmad Brooks appears to be on track to play Sunday. He missed Wednesday's practice with what he said was a "severe head cold." However, he practiced fully Thursday. Barring a setback, Brooks should be fine.

Cornerback Carlos Rogers (hamstring) and fullback Will Tukuafu (knee) remained on track to play as they were limited for a second straight day. Barring setbacks, they too should be ready to play Sunday.

Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio wouldn't say how much Rogers, who hasn't played since Week 17, would play. Perish Cox has done a nice job since taking over for him.

"We’re hoping that he can get 100 percent healthy," Fangio said of Rogers. "And then we'll see exactly what his role will be at that point."

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