NFL Wire News

Guessing 49ers to make curtain calls in season finale


SANTA CLARA, Calif. — San Francisco 49ers fans expect to witness Jim Harbaugh’s final game as the team’s coach in a Sunday season finale against the Arizona Cardinals at Levi’s Stadium.

He is not the only major contributor to the team’s recent run of success who might not be returning to the 49ers next season.

Four veteran players stand out as guys who might retire or sign elsewhere in the offseason:

–Running back Frank Gore. The 49ers used a second-round pick on Carlos Hyde last offseason with an eye on the former Ohio State standout eventually replacing the 31-year-old Gore. That could happen as early as next season, especially with Gore’s production (962 rushing yards, four touchdowns) significantly down this year.

–Wide receiver Michael Crabtree. The wideout has been a huge disappointment this season, currently ranking 37th in the league in receptions (64) and 64th in receiving yards (657). No doubt, the 49ers wish they had cut the cord on Crabtree a year earlier, given the number of outstanding wide receivers that were available in last year’s draft.

–Defensive end Justin Smith. He’s talking about retiring at age 35, although his teammates are fighting hard to talk him into at least one more season. The club already needs to replace one defensive end due to the termination of Ray McDonald’s contract. Replacing two could cause the unit to take a big step backward.

–Outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks. It would be shocking if Brooks were back next season given his meager production (just 30 tackles and six sacks) and his issues with playing time and attendance at team meetings. Impressive rookie Aaron Lynch is a candidate to replace Brooks, although the club might have to consider moving NaVorro Bowman outside (his college position) in order to keep Chris Borland and Patrick Willis on the field.

SERIES HISTORY: 47th regular-season meeting. 49ers lead series, 28-18. The 49ers had a four-game winning streak against the Cardinals snapped in Week 3 when Arizona recorded a 23-14 home win. The 49ers have won five in a row at home in the series, but the margin of victory has gone from 31 to 16 to 14 to 12 the last four years.

–The 49ers didn’t have any individual standouts in 2014, so it’s no surprise that their two Pro Bowl selections — guard Mike Iupati and offensive tackle Joe Staley — were honored more for their reputations than anything else.

The honor is the third straight for Iupati and fourth in a row for Staley, who were much more heralded while the 49ers were marching to three consecutive NFC Championship Games the past three seasons.

Despite a losing record (7-8) so far in 2014, the 49ers have had one of the best rushing attacks in the NFL. They currently rank sixth in yards per game (131.3), with Iupati and Staley leading the way.

Both were honored to be chosen again.

“It’s all about respect,” said Iupati. “If you love playing the game, then people in front of you respect you as a player. It’s hard work.”

Added Staley, “It’s an honor. It’s nice to be respected by your fans and your peers.”

Five 49ers were selected as alternates: running back Frank Gore, guard Alex Boone, defensive end Justin Smith, inside linebacker Chris Borland and strong safety Antoine Bethea.

NOTES: Among those not practicing Wednesday were running back Carlos Hyde (knee), wide receiver Stevie Johnson (knee), cornerback Perrish Cox (shoulder), safety Eric Reid (concussion) and center Marcus Martin (illness). … Among those limited in practice were wide receiver Bruce Ellington (hamstring), outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks (thumb), cornerback Tramaine Brock (hamstring). … Nose tackle Garrison Smith was signed to the 49ers’ practice squad.

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