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Niners didn’t want to get ‘left at altar’ by staying at No. 12, believe Jimmy Garoppolo gives them best chance now

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SANTA CLARA, Calif. — San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan came out of their offseason bunker Monday and shed light on their plans for the newly acquired third pick in next month’s NFL draft, what is to become of Jimmy Garoppolo and how they arrived at their decisions on all of it.

Speaking to the media for the first time since Jan. 4, Lynch and Shanahan spent 40 minutes detailing the how and why of the bold move they made Friday to acquire the No. 3 pick from the Miami Dolphins in exchange for the No. 12 pick this year, first and third-round choices in 2022 and a first-round selection in ’23.

Throughout, Lynch and Shanahan didn’t shy away from two widely held ideas: The Niners plan to draft a quarterback at No. 3 and they intend to hang on to Garoppolo, barring a significant trade offer for him.

“We’re in a situation where when you bring in a rookie quarterback, to me it’s always better, especially on the team that you have, if you’ve got a veteran starter there already who you like and you’re comfortable winning with, that’s usually the direction you want to go,” Shanahan said. “And not throw someone else out into the fire until they’re fully ready and that’s the situation we’re at … I think Jimmy, it’s going to be hard to find a quarterback who gives us a better chance to win than Jimmy right now, especially even a rookie in the draft… Now, if someone wanted (to give) something for (Garoppolo) and it could make our team better in a lot of other ways, you listen to that but it also depends on how good you feel about that rookie.

“And we’re not there yet right now. Odds are, we probably won’t be. That’s why we’re happy that we don’t have to be that way. We’ve got a guy in here who we know we can win with, a guy our players love, that we love and we’re excited to have him this year and we’re excited to have a hell of a quarterback right behind him learning for when the time is his.”

After San Francisco’s disappointing 6-10 season, Shanahan and Lynch and their respective staffs set a course in January to begin exploring all possible options at quarterback. While they believed in Garoppolo’s ability to win when healthy, they also knew they could no longer risk having entire seasons lost because he couldn’t stay on the field.

“It’s been tough the two years he’s missed, it’s been hard to compete the same way,” Shanahan said. “So, we knew we had to look into that this year.”

Among the options considered, Shanahan mentioned that the Niners looked at Matthew Stafford, who ultimately was traded to the Los Angeles Rams, and monitored Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson‘s potential availability.

The idea of trading up from No. 12 to take one of the draft’s top rookies and keep Garoppolo on board lingered but was largely dependent on a flurry of other things happening first. When free agency opened, their ability to keep many of their own key players such as left tackle Trent Williams and fullback Kyle Juszczyk offered the Niners two things they coveted: a roster that could compete immediately in 2021 and the unique position of having no glaring needs for the draft that would steer them away from a big move at quarterback.

Lynch said the Niners began talking to other teams near the top of the draft weeks ago in the belief that there were up to five quarterbacks who could become the future face of the franchise. Those quarterbacks — Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence, BYU’s Zach Wilson, North Dakota State’s Trey Lance, Ohio State’s Justin Fields and Alabama’s Mac Jones — all had at least some appeal to Shanahan and Lynch, who surveyed the quarterback landscape around the league and believed they would have no shot at any of them if they didn’t make a move quickly.

“We felt pretty strongly we were gonna get left at the altar sitting there at 12,” Shanahan said. “There are five guys that are kind of at this party a little bit and people are talking about them going everywhere. They’re all over in the first round. Our feeling is these guys were going to go a lot higher than people realize.”

Just before the deal became official, Lynch went to Niners ownership and laid out the plan to move all the way up to No. 3 and keep Garoppolo and his $26.4 million cap hit in 2021.

“We went to ownership and said, ‘Hey, things are looking good. We’d like to make this move but we also don’t want to say goodbye to Jimmy,'” Lynch said. “It was a stated goal that we needed to come out with the quarterback position being stronger this year and I think we’ve put ourselves in an opportunity to make that happen with this move.”

In the hours before the trade was announced, Shanahan spoke with Garoppolo, explaining to him what the Niners were about to do. According to Shanahan, Garoppolo wasn’t thrilled with the idea of the team drafting his future replacement, but Shanahan said he seemed to understand the plan to bring him back and to give it one more go and possibly rehabilitate his value in the process.

“I’m sure Jimmy was a little pissed off from it, just like I would be, too,” Shanahan said. “The more mad Jimmy gets, usually the better he gets. Jimmy just gets madder and stays healthy, this is going to be a good thing for Jimmy too, which could be a great problem for the 49ers.”

The next step for the 49ers is actually drafting their quarterback. Lynch and Shanahan said they have no intel on what’s going to happen in front of them aside from what’s viewed as the common knowledge — that Jacksonville will take Lawrence and the Jets will choose Wilson.

Shanahan acknowledged that the Niners are already comfortable with three quarterbacks on the list becoming the franchise’s future, though he obviously declined to say which ones, and that he could get there with four and five.

The Niners will spend the next few weeks doing their diligence on the top quarterbacks. Shanahan and Lynch are headed to Alabama’s second pro day to see Jones on Tuesday, while assistant general manager Adam Peters will be in Ohio to see Fields.

Shanahan said he plans to see Fields in person later after speaking with his agent, and there are plans for an up-close look at Lance, as well.

All of that, of course, will be happening in an odd offseason in which teams can no longer do private workouts, visits or dinners because of continued COVID-19 restrictions. If nothing else, the Niners at least no longer have to do any of it in secret.

“You get to three, you don’t have to mess with that stuff,” Shanahan said. “And I think that gives us a better chance now to do our due diligence because we don’t have to really play any games in that way.”

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NFL role worries lawyer for women suing Deshaun Watson

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Tony Buzbee, the attorney for the 22 women suing Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson, expressed concern to a Houston television station on Wednesday over how the National Football League is handling its investigation.

Buzbee, in speaking to FOX26 in Houston, said “some of the women did not feel like they were being respected” during their first three meetings with NFL investigators, which he told FOX led to him attending the four meeting between the league’s investigative group and his clients.

Buzbee told the television station four of his clients met with the league’s lead investigator, Lisa Friel, and he has “probably four more women who want to meet with the NFL,” but he’s not sure if he’s going to let them speak with the league’s investigators.

In his interview, Buzbee did not say what the league did to potentially make his clients feel that way. Watson is being sued by 22 women in civil court and being investigated by the Houston Police Department into claims ranging from inappropriate touching to sexual assault of massage therapists from March 2020 until March 2021.

“The allegations are very concerning and the league immediately began investigating the matter under the NFL’s Personal Conduct Policy,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said in an email to ESPN on Thursday. “The investigation includes gathering information, monitoring law enforcement developments and conducting interviews with relevant people willing to participate with counsel present.

“Throughout her decades-long career as the chief of the sex crimes unit in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office and most recently as the NFL’s special counsel for investigations for the last six years, Lisa has earned a stellar reputation as a consummate professional who conducts investigations and interviews with compassion and fairness in an effort to determine the truth.”

Buzbee also told FOX26 that eight-to-10 of his clients have met with the Houston Police Department and he was pleased with how the Houston PD has worked with his clients. In March, Buzbee had publicly said he wasn’t comfortable with his clients going to the Houston police. After a complainant went to the Houston Police Department, however, an investigation into Watson was opened.

On Thursday, a Houston Police Department spokesperson said “it remains an ongoing investigation” into allegations against Watson, but would not say how many women have spoken with police.

Buzbee also told FOX there are no plans to settle the case between Watson and the women suing him.

ESPN reporters John Barr and Sarah Barshop contributed to this report.

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Tom Brady Sr. says he’s ‘salivating’ over Tampa Bay Buccaneers-New England Patriots Week 4 matchup

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady couldn’t contain his excitement with the NFL schedule release, posting on Instagram, “9/9 can’t come soon enough” when it was announced the Bucs would play the Dallas Cowboys in the NFL Kickoff Game.

His father, Tom Brady Sr., is eyeing a different game though — Week 4 when the Bucs travel to play the New England Patriots, marking his son’s return to Foxborough after leading the Bucs to a Super Bowl win in his first season after 20 seasons with the Patriots.

“I saw the schedule come out last night and I started salivating when I saw that we play the Patriots in the fourth game of the season, and that we’re coming up here to make our record 4-0 after the fourth game,” Brady Sr. said on the “Zolak and Bertrand” radio show on 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston on Thursday morning.

Shortly after his father’s surprise radio appearance, Brady tweeted about the game with a nervous grin, saying, “It’s like when your high school friends meet your college friends.”

Brady Sr., who lives in California, called Boston their “second home” and called the Patriots their “second-favorite team,” expressing love for the organization and its fanbase. But he didn’t mince words, showing the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree when it comes to being competitive.

“We expect to beat the Patriots rather handily, frankly,” Brady Sr. said.

“It’s not a matter of walking out of town and being unhappy. He had a happy 20 years there and most successful 20 years there. Now he’s in another place with another opportunity to win. That’s great. And the Patriots have reloaded and they’re gonna be fit to bear as well,” Brady Sr. said.

“From my take on it, I think it’s gonna be great. I get to have a favorite team in the AFC and a favorite team in the NFC. And then they play on the fourth week of the year. It’s been a really — I’m thrilled for this.”

As far as the possibility of Brady breaking the single-season passing record at Gillette Stadium (Brady is currently 1,154 yards behind Drew Brees), Brady Sr. said, “I think that the fans at Gillette will embrace him until the opening kickoff, and then they’re gonna boo the hell out of him, which is great.

“I think the fans appreciate everything he’s done. I assume that the fans have appreciated everything he’s done for them for 20 years, but at the same time they’re Patriots’ fans, they’re not Buccaneers fans. So while you’re rooting for Tommy, you’re rooting against the Buccaneers.”

Brady Sr. expressed great sentiment for his family’s time in New England.

“How do you do anything but appreciate everything what the Krafts have done for him, and Belichick has done for him? The coaching staff — these guys have been in the trenches for 20 years together,” Brady Sr. said.

But even dad isn’t clear how long his son will continue playing. He signed a contract extension this offseason to free up cap space — which was largely responsible for the Bucs being able to return all 22 Super Bowl starters on offense and defense — and it will keep him in Tampa Bay for two more years. But father time waits for no one.

“While he’s happy now, I think he’s starting to realize that the end of the career is coming to an end and he’s just savoring every moment as he walks down the final stretches — whether it’s next one year, two years, or 12 years,” Brady Sr. said.

According to Vivid Seats, the average ticket price for the game on Oct. 3 is $1,370 with prices as high as $12,000 on Ticketmaster.



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Baltimore Ravens sign Donte Sylencieux, high school teammate of QB Lamar Jackson

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OWINGS MILLS, Md. — It may be graduation season, but the Baltimore Ravens have a high school reunion planned for quarterback Lamar Jackson.

Wide receiver Donte Sylencieux, one of nine undrafted rookies signed by the Ravens on Thursday, was Jackson’s favorite target when they played at Boynton Beach High School in Florida. Sylencieux caught 10 touchdown passes in two seasons with Jackson.

Sylencieux totaled 59 catches in three seasons at Graceland University — an NAIA school in Iowa – and is considered a long shot to make the Ravens. Baltimore selected two wide receivers in this year’s draft, including first-rounder Rashod Bateman, and added Sammy Watkins in free agency.

The Ravens are doing and saying all the right things lately as they pursue a lucrative extension with Jackson. General manager Eric DeCosta said the team would work “tirelessly” after the draft to get a new deal done with Jackson, and he recently told the team’s website that Jackson is “the kind of guy you’d be very proud of to have as a son.”

This isn’t the first time the Ravens have reunited Jackson with one of his former wide receivers. In 2019, the Ravens signed Jaylen Smith, Jackson’s top target at Louisville, as an undrafted rookie. Smith was cut before the regular season that year.

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