49ers OT Joe Staley to return Sunday vs. Giants

Joe Staley is back.

Despite fracturing his orbital bone just two weeks ago during the team’s Week 8 loss to the Eagles, the 49ers left tackle is set to return Sunday against the Giants after a brief absence to heal.

“Yeah, I’m playing,” Staley said Friday, via USA Today. “Feels fine. I knew was playing on like Tuesday, but I didn’t know if I was supposed to give it away or anything. I was kind of being a butthead to you guys. But yeah, I’m playing. It’s good. I saw the doctor on Tuesday, everything was good.”

Staley was injured in Philadelphia when defensive tackle Fletcher Cox blocked Staley during cornerback Jalen Mills’ second-quarter pick six. Staley confirmed the next day that he suffered a fracture on the play, but will not require surgery.

After resuming practice on a limited basis beginning Wednesday, Staley was “adamant” about getting back on the football field. To protect the injury from further damage, he will don a protective visor on his helmet.

The 49ers are scheduled to host the Giants at 4:25 p.m. ET Sunday.

Seahawks, Russell Wilson reportedly violated concussion protocol

The Seahawks could be in for a major fine this week.

Seattle violated the NFL’s concussion protocol during Thursday’s win over the Cardinals by allowing quarterback Russell Wilson to re-enter the game without being cleared to return by a team doctor and an independent physician, ESPN reported.

According to the report, the Seahawks can be fined up to $150,000 for the infraction, though it remains unclear what punishment the team will face.

The NFL confirmed Friday that it is conducting a “thorough review” of whether the Seahawks properly followed the league’s concussion protocol after Wilson endured a pop to the chin from linebacker Karlos Dansby. Referee Walt Anderson sent Wilson off the field for a concussion check, but Wilson spent just one play on the sideline before running back onto the field.

Wilson told reporters after the game he was fine after the hit and only stayed on the ground because he thought his jaw might be stuck.

“I think I was kind of like laying down on the ground for a second just trying to get my jaw,” Wilson said, “and I think Walt thought maybe I was injured or something like that. I told him I was good, I was good, and he said, ‘Come off the field.’

“I think Walt did a great job first of all. He made the smartest decision. I was fine, though, 100 percent fine. And then they finally went over through the whole concussion stuff and all that. We went through every question you could imagine, and I answered even some more for them just so they knew I was good, and then went back in there.”

The Seahawks will return to action when they host the Falcons for Monday Night Football at 8:30 p.m. ET in Week 11.

Ezekiel Elliott leaving country to ‘clear his head,’ report says

Ezekiel Elliott will be heading out of the country as his suspension begins, NFL Network reported.

Elliott’s destination isn’t known, but the Cowboys running back will reportedly be training and trying to “clear his head.”

His suspension was upheld Thursday after the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied his request for an emergency injunction.

The six-game suspension begins Sunday, when the Cowboys head to Atlanta to take on the Falcons. The next time Elliott will be able to play in a game is Dec. 24.

Another stipulation of the suspension is Elliott can’t be at the Cowboys’ facilities to train or have any contact with the team, which is likely why he is leaving the country to train elsewhere.

Teams pursuing Vontae Davis with hope of return for playoffs, report says

Could Vontae Davis make a comeback later this season?

According to ESPN, a number of teams, including two involved in the playoff chase, have reached out in the interest of pursuing the veteran cornerback with the hope that he can rebound from groin surgery and return for the postseason.

Davis was released by the Colts on Thursday after nearly six seasons with the team and is scheduled to undergo season-ending groin surgery that it is expected to sideline him six to eight weeks. Still, Davis doesn’t rule out getting back on the football field this year.

“It is a possibility,” a source said of the chance that Davis plays again this season.

After missing the first three games of the season with a hamstring injury, Davis was held out of the Colts’ Week 9 win over the Texans for a what the team announced as a non-injury related issue. He wasn’t pleased with the way the move was handled and said he felt more like he was benched than given time to heal.

Davis, 29, was set to become a free agent at the end of the season after signing a four-year contract worth $36 million with Indianapolis. He had been with the Colts since 2012 after the Dolphins originally selected him with the No. 25 overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft.

Jimmy Garoppolo to debut as 49ers starter in Week 12 vs. Seahawks

Jimmy Garoppolo is ready to take on his new role.

According to ESPN, the 49ers are eyeing their Week 12 matchup against the Seahawks for the newly acquired quarterback’s starting debut for San Francisco.

Garoppolo is set to serve as backup to rookie quarterback C.J. Beathard for the second straight week Sunday against the Giants, but could lead the team under center following the 49ers’ bye week.

Reports of Garoppolo’s potential debut comes after 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan suggested that it could be a while before the fourth-year quarterback got more involved with the team. Shanahan indicated that he wanted Garoppolo to get a better understanding of the playbook before being thrown into a situation he couldn’t handle.

“I can’t promise you guys that he’ll play this year,” Shanahan told reporters earlier this month.

Garoppolo was traded from the Patriots to the 49ers on Oct. 31 in exchange for a second-round draft pick. He started a pair of games in 2016 while Tom Brady was serving a four-game suspension, but otherwise served as the franchise quarterback’s backup since being selectd by New England in the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft.

The 49ers are scheduled to host the Giants at 4:25 p.m. ET Sunday.

Jerry Jones losing backing from NFL owners over outbursts, report says

It seems that Jerry Jones is losing an uphill battle when it comes to his gripes with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.

The Cowboys owner is losing credibility and backing among the other NFL owners due to his recent outbursts, according to CBS Sports.

The other owners reportedly think that Jones’ public bashing of Goodell and threats to sue the NFL over giving Goodell an extension are creating a distraction and are a retaliation for the NFL upholding Ezekiel Elliott’s suspension.

“This is way over the top,” one league source said. “You don’t threaten to sue your business partners because you are pissed off that your running back got suspended. That’s not how business is conducted in the league. Jerry already had only a handful of guys backing him on this (calling for Goodell’s job), and he is isolating himself more and more by doing things this way. This isn’t how you try to get your way in the NFL. It’s not going to work.”

According to the sources, only about three of the league’s other 31 owners are backing Jones for his quest to halt Goodell’s contract extension.

“Jerry was fully on board with this right up until (Elliott’s) suspension came down,” one ownership source said. “That isn’t lost on us.”

Jimmy Garoppolo’s next contract will be the real risk for the 49ers

Jimmy Garoppolo’s next contract will be the real risk for the 49ers

A second-round pick is nothing in the long run. But a bad contract could haunt the team.


Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The San Francisco 49ers took a big swing at solving their offensive woes by trading for quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo at the end of October.

Despite reports that the 49ers may consider Garoppolo a valuable piece who could be used as a potential trade piece, general manager John Lynch told KNBR that the teams sees the 26-year-old quarterback as their passer of the future.

“I think a lot of people throughout this league feels like we got a tremendous deal on a guy that has all the makings of a franchise quarterback,” Lynch said. “We’re thrilled to have him, and that’s what Jimmy Garoppolo is to us.”

He may even see the field soon with his new team, although that may be ill-advised considering the way C.J. Beathard is getting destroyed behind the San Francisco offensive line. But at some point, the 49ers — still searching for their first win of the season — will turn over the reins to Garoppolo.

The former New England Patriots quarterback was a 2014 second-round who spent more than three years learning from the best: Brady and Bill Belichick.

So acquiring such a promising, young quarterback for just a second-round pick — albeit a really early one — was a steal. But the real risk will come in the next four months, with Garoppolo’s rookie contract set to expire in March.

San Francisco will pay him and won’t let him leave. But the quarterback is the one with a lot of leverage and it won’t be cheap. So how much is it going to be and how can the 49ers avoid getting stuck with a bad deal?

How much is Garoppolo actually worth?

This is the hard part to figure out, and it might not matter.

Garoppolo has thrown a grand total of 94 passes over more than three and a half seasons in the NFL. A majority of those — 63, to be exact — came in his only two career starts: Weeks 1 and 2 of the 2016 season while Brady was serving a suspension.

In those starts he completed 68.3 percent of his passes with four touchdowns and no interceptions, leading the Patriots to a 2-0 start with wins over the Cardinals and Dolphins.

His run as New England’s starter ended early due to a shoulder injury, which is another reason for the 49ers to have concerns about their commitment to Garoppolo.

But the marketplace of free agency ultimately decides how much a player is worth and if Garoppolo reached the open market, he’d fetch a huge amount. There are plenty of teams — like the Browns, Jaguars, Cardinals, and Jets — who’d be in the market for a young, starting quarterback, and be willing to part with gobs of money to get one.

That means Garoppolo has no reason to sign a below-market deal with the 49ers out of good faith.

How much will the 49ers need to pay to keep him?

Thanks to the franchise tag, the 49ers aren’t going to lose Garoppolo. Even if he spurns every contract offer from the team before free agency begins in March, the tag can be applied and that would guarantee he gets a one-year deal that will likely be worth about $22 million.

That’s expensive and a scenario San Francisco would prefer to avoid.

But it’s not going to be cheap to convince Garoppolo that he’s better off taking a long-term deal when saying no is such a lucrative option.

The 49ers’ best model to copy may be the four-year, $72 million deal the Houston Texans gave Brock Osweiler during the 2016 offseason. He, too, was an inexperienced quarterback who spent the beginning of his career behind a legend.

Ultimately, it didn’t work out at all for Houston. The front-loaded contract guaranteed Osweiler $37 million in the first two seasons, though. After that, the Texans were free to release the quarterback and absorb just $6 million in dead money in 2018 and $3 million in 2019.

Houston made him somebody else’s problem with a trade to the Cleveland Browns, but even that deal was made more possible by the Texans protecting themselves for the future in the event that Osweiler turned into a pumpkin.

It will likely take a similar deal with money up front to get Garoppolo to sign, but expect the 49ers to give themselves similar protections in the latter half of the deal. It’s a roll of the dice that will only really work out if the former Patriots quarterback is the future of the franchise, but hey, that’s what San Francisco signed up for.

Which ‘can’t miss’ NFL predictions were we laughably wrong about?

Which ‘can’t miss’ 2017 NFL predictions were we laughably wrong about?

It’s time to revisit what we thought would happen before the season began.


Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Back in August, the SB Nation NFL writers labeled our projections for the season preview as “can’t-miss predictions.” We’re obviously experts in our field and are rarely, if ever, wrong.

OK — I barely got through writing that sentence without laughing. Trying to project what could happen in a sport as unpredictable as the NFL is a fool’s game. But it’s still fun to take a look back at what we said then now that we’re more than halfway through the season.

So without further ado, let’s revisit our predictions and see how they look heading into Week 10.

MVP

It was impossible to know going into this that Aaron Rodgers would end up on injured reserve with a broken collarbone. He’s usually a safe bet to be considered for this award every season. The other two are still in the running, though Brady has a much better shot.

Harry Lyles Jr.: Aaron Rodgers

I was feeling so good about my pick, especially after he ripped the hearts out of the Dallas Cowboys in early October. I should get half of a win here, honestly.

Jeanna Thomas: Tom Brady

He’s a perpetual candidate. He got off to a shaky start in Week 1, but he’s playing like Tom Brady now.

Adam Stites: Dak Prescott

The thought at the time of the prediction was that he’d have to lead the Cowboys through the suspension of Ezekiel Elliott. So, uh, here we go. It’d be a surprise if he got in the mix with his efficient, but just decent numbers, though.

Most improved player of the year

Adam certainly came the closest here. What a difference a year — and a new head coach and offensive coordinator, as well as a resurgent Todd Gurley — can make.

Harry: Austin Hooper

Welp, this one hasn’t gone well. Hooper has been the least of the Falcons’ worries in an offense that has been nothing like it was in 2016.

Jeanna: Grady Jarrett

Jarrett has played well for the Falcons this season. But he doesn’t hold a candle to the magic Jared Goff is making behind center for the Rams.

Adam: Jared Goff

This pick is worth a victory lap. I thought he’d take a step forward, but it was tough to imagine he’d go from bustville to offensive juggernaut like that.

Hoss of the year

At this point, it’s got to be Joey Bosa. Von Miller is just one-half of a sack behind him, but the second-year Chargers defensive end is the only player in NFL history to record 19 sacks in his first 20 games.

Harry: Von Miller

Miller has had a good season with eight sacks. He’s three behind league leader Calais Campbell, and could catch fire and make a second-half push.

Jeanna: Khalil Mack

Mack is still the best player on that side of the ball for the Raiders. His contributions just aren’t showing up on the stat sheet this season.

Adam: Joey Bosa

Through eight games, Bosa has 8.5 sacks. That’s pretty damn good. It still feels like his season is flying under the radar, though. Maybe that’s because of the Chargers’ 3-5 record and struggling run defense.

Most disrespectful blocker of the year

This one was harder to project. Trent Williams did get the nod in Week 1. And the Cowboys offensive line is gelling at just the right time for Tyron Smith’s crew to get a mention after Week 9.

Harry: Tyron Smith

Smith is still one of the best left tackles in the game, but he’s dealt with back soreness for most of the season and will miss his first game of the season in Week 10.

Jeanna: Ryan Schraeder

He hasn’t landed in Geoff Schwartz’s Disrespectful Blockers of the Week roundup yet. But his absence was felt when he was sidelined with a concussion during the Falcons’ narrow win over the Lions and their loss to Buffalo.

Adam: Trent Williams

It’s been a good, not great year for Trent Williams who has dealt with knee problems for much of the year. A decent year for the Washington left tackle is better than most people’s best years, but 2017 has been forgettable by his standards.

Rookie who will make the biggest impact

Another category swayed by injury. Dalvin Cook was off to a promising start, but his rookie season was cut short by a torn ACL. The Panthers haven’t used McCaffrey to his full potential, and an injury delayed the start of Myles Garrett’s rookie season. Deshaun Watson would have been a shoo-in over every candidate listed here, but he’s out for the rest of the season with a torn ACL, too.

Harry: Dalvin Cook

I would like to take this time to personally apologize to Dalvin Cook and Aaron Rodgers. Clearly I jinxed you both.

Jeanna: Myles Garrett

I still think Garrett can live up to his first overall pick billing. He has four sacks through three games, which is a pretty great start.

Adam: Christian McCaffrey

He’s near the league lead in receptions so he’s making some kind of impact in Carolina. But 2.9 yards per carry and just three touchdowns is pretty underwhelming. Meh.

First coach to be fired

Remember when we all thought the Jets were definitely tanking? Well, they’re not. They’re 4-5. Bowles is not likely to go, but another coach in New York State may want to watch his back. Looking at you, Ben McAdoo. Adam may be right here by default. The Colts are a disaster.

Harry: Todd Bowles

If anything, I would argue Bowles has pretty much secured at least one more year with the team. Nobody saw them being as good as they’ve been. It will be interesting to see how much better they can be when they get long-term pieces in place.

Jeanna: Todd Bowles

The Jets are actually not bad, and Bowles has been able to coax a 4-5 performance out of his guys despite not having a ton of talent to work with.

Adam: Chuck Pagano

It’s actually kind of shocking the Colts have three wins considering they’re bad at, well, everything. Kudos to Pagano for that, I guess. It’s hard to imagine he’s the team’s coach in 2018, though.

The Dak Prescott Award for a rookie who came out of nowhere

Kareem Hunt. JuJu Smith-Schuster. Tarik Cohen. There are plenty of guys we should have named instead of the players we chose. But the whole point of a rookie who comes out of nowhere is that it’s almost impossible to project. None of the choices we made are getting a ton of opportunities.

Harry: Samaje Perine

Perine has had an up-and-down rookie year. When Rob Kelley was sidelined with an injury, Perine got his chance to be the lead back, but he didn’t make a huge impact. Chris Thompson’s breakout season has also taken away some of Perine’s opportunities.

Jeanna: Chris Godwin

Godwin hasn’t done much this season, though he hasn’t really gotten a shot. Maybe that will change in Week 10, when Mike Evans has to serve his one-game suspension for a fight with the Saints’ Marshawn Lattimore. Godwin will have Ryan Fitzpatrick throwing to him, but he still has a chance to make an impression.

Adam: Chris Carson

I should’ve known better than to pick a Seahawks running back. He looked good for about four games until the Seattle curse claimed him and he went on IR, because they’re not allowed to have good running backs, apparently.

Team that will most regret not signing Colin Kaepernick

Look: We weren’t wrong. It’s just that there are a lot of teams that should regret not signing the most experienced, talented free agent quarterback available. The Cleveland Browns, Houston Texans, Miami Dolphins, and Arizona Cardinals all come to mind. But the Jaguars are still an accurate and perfectly acceptable answer.

Harry: Jacksonville Jaguars

While they could have certainly benefitted from Kaepernick through the first half of the season, I think it’s safe to say the Broncos are the team regretting it the most at this point. The Texans will be a strong contender moving forward with Deshaun Watson out.

Jeanna: Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jaguars’ defense is good enough to overcome Blake Bortles at quarterback to an extent. But this team might be unstoppable with a good signal caller.

Adam: Jacksonville Jaguars

There are bad teams that need Kaepernick more right now, but this prediction will 100 percent ring true if Bortles looks terrible in the playoffs and the Jaguars get bounced right away. That scenario is very realistic.

Playoff team nobody predicted

The Lions kept themselves in the mix for the postseason with a Week 9 win over the Packers, and the Eagles are the best team in the dang league right now. The other team is the Browns.

Harry: Philadelphia Eagles

Well now, I didn’t see them being the best team in the NFL through the first half of the season, but I’ll take all the credit. After all, not all my predictions have to be bad news for the selected, right?

Jeanna: Cleveland Browns

Sigh. Wishful thinking. Maybe next year, Browns fans.

Adam: Detroit Lions

I thought the Lions would be better than last year. They’re not. But they’re 4-4, navigated a tough schedule early, and have to get through Case Keenum, Brett Hundley and Mitchell Trubisky now. Things could be much worse.

Team that didn’t come close to meeting high expectations

The Raiders are 4-5, while the Falcons are 4-4. The Cowboys are 5-3, and Ezekiel Elliott’s suspension will finally start in Week 10. That makes this a much tougher road for Dallas. We’re all pretty much correct.

Harry: Oakland Raiders

I didn’t expect the Raiders to be as poor as they’ve been this season, but this holds up. Adam certainly appears to have this one locked up at this point, but things could always change.

Jeanna: Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys have been good, but not as good as last season. And they trail the Eagles by 2.5 games in the division.

Adam: Atlanta Falcons

Losing in the Super Bowl has a knack for bringing teams back down to Earth. Being 4-4 really isn’t that bad.

Most overrated player

Jeanna: Drew Brees

Brees ranks fifth in the league for passing yards this season and the Saints may not finish 7-9 for the first time in recent memory. I was wrong.

Adam: Derrick Henry

It doesn’t feel like anyone is talking about the Titans running back, so I don’t think overrated would be an appropriate label. Also, he’s been pretty good. Swing and a miss on this one.

Who will stop the Patriots?

As usual, it’s looking like nobody and nothing can stop the Patriots. Maybe the Eagles, if they both get to the Super Bowl. But it sure wasn’t the Falcons, and age isn’t slowing Brady down, either.

Harry: Pittsburgh Steelers

After all this drama they’ve gone through this season, the Steelers are genuinely one of the most fun teams to watch in the NFL. I’m feeling good about this one.

Jeanna: Atlanta Falcons

Yeah, the Patriots beat Atlanta 23-7. This didn’t work out.

Adam: Father Time vs. Tom Brady

Nope. Father Time lost this battle so bad that the Patriots traded away a 26-year-old quarterback just to rub it in.

Which player will be first to get fined for celebrating?

Wrong, wrong, and wrong. It was Steelers linebacker Bud Dupree, who was fined for a sack celebration involving hip thrusting. Three pumps still gets you a fine, Bud.

Harry: DeSean Jackson

I tried!

Jeanna: Josh Norman

Nobody would have guessed Dupree. I was torn between Norman and Odell Beckham Jr., and I would have been closer with OBJ.

Adam: Josh Norman

In a year that’s had fights and trash talk, who would’ve guessed that Norman would be on his best behavior?

MVP, Most Valued Punter

Both good choices. You can’t go wrong with two of the most entertaining punters in the league.

Harry: Marquette King

Marquette’s been pretty busy this season with the Raiders not as sharp as they were last season. But Johnny Hekker is clearly a generational talent at the position.

Jeanna: Marquette King

The Falcons’ Matt Bosher is a close second for the way he lays people out on the field. But Marquette King is always going to have my vote for this.

Adam: Johnny Hekker

He now has 36 punts downed inside the 20 and just two touchbacks since the beginning of 2016, but who’s counting? If you really aren’t convinced Johnny Hekker is a Madden cheat code at punter, look at his trick shot called “The Banana.”