They are badly in need of a boost. The 49ers have lost three straight after a 5-0 start extended their regular season winning streak to 15 games. The pre-bye spiral provided a not-so-pleasant reminder about the challenges of remaining a top contender.
“You get reminded that almost every week in the league,” Coach Kyle Shanahan said at a midweek news conference. “I think we went awhile without getting reminded that. I think it’s good to get reminded. But I always tell our guys [that] getting a pat on the back or getting hated on, it’s all the same because none of it matters and both affect you. So you need to not let those help you or hurt you because they really have nothing to pertain with what we do on the field.”
The 49ers traded a third-round pick for Young, the No. 2 choice in the 2020 draft who had five sacks in seven games for Washington this season. Post-trade reports raised questions about Young’s work habits and on-field discipline. But there is plenty of incentive for Young to fit in with the 49ers as a pass-rushing complement to former Ohio State teammate Nick Bosa, aid the 49ers in a potential championship push and seek a lucrative contract as a prospective free agent this offseason.
He practiced with the 49ers last week and could play a significant role Sunday.
“I think he’s going to jump right in right away,” Shanahan said.
The 49ers began their skid with a Week 6 defeat at Cleveland in which Samuel, Williams and tailback Christian McCaffrey suffered injuries. Only Williams managed to finish that game. But while McCaffrey was in the lineup the following two games, Samuel and Williams were inactive. Samuel practiced fully this past week and is expected to return from his shoulder injury. Williams returned to practice on a limited basis Thursday and Friday and was listed as questionable because of his ankle injury.
Second-year quarterback Brock Purdy has struggled over the past three games, totaling five interceptions and three touchdown passes. The 49ers must hope that if the offense is back to something resembling full strength, Purdy will recapture the magic of his first 10 NFL regular season starts — all victories.
The 49ers face a difficult task against the Jaguars, who are on a five-game winning streak and also coming off their bye.
“It’s always a one-week season,” Shanahan said. “And it’s not about going on a run or anything like that. It’s about trying to beat a really good football team this week.”
Thomas arrested: New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas faces misdemeanor charges after being arrested Friday following an alleged incident with a construction worker, the Kenner (La.) Police Department said.
Thomas was released Friday night about three hours after his arrest, according to the police. He was charged with simple battery and criminal mischief. The case will be heard in Kenner Mayor’s Court.
The Saints play at Minnesota on Sunday. The NFL said Saturday that it had been in contact with the Saints but declined further comment. The league is not taking any immediate action related to the arrest and allegations. The team said Friday that it was aware of the incident and was gathering information.
The police said Thomas was “arrested without incident” and was “cooperative during the police investigation.” The arrest came after the police obtained a statement from the worker, who was working on a house being built in Thomas’s neighborhood.
According to police, the worker said Thomas “began yelling at him about parking in front of his house and verbally threatened to harm him.” Thomas became “upset” when the worker began recording the alleged incident, police said, and picked up a brick and threw it at a truck windshield, “causing little if any damage.” According to the worker’s account, Thomas approached the worker and “knocked the phone from his hands, shoved him and told him he did not want to be recorded,” police said.
Thomas is a three-time Pro Bowl selection who has spent his entire NFL career with the Saints, beginning in 2016. He led the league in catches twice and in receiving yards once. This season, he has 38 catches for 439 yards and one touchdown.
The Saints and Vikings take matching 5-4 records into Sunday’s game. The Saints lead the NFC South, while the Vikings hold the NFC’s seventh and final playoff spot.
NFLPA unhappy about fines: JC Tretter, the former center for the Cleveland Browns and Green Bay Packers who serves as president of the NFL Players Association, raised objections last week to the system used to fine players for on-field violations.
“Our members are voicing their concerns both privately and publicly that the NFL is excessively fining players,” Tretter wrote on the union’s website. “Furthermore, the league has control of the points of emphasis and their enforcement. By simply creating a new point of emphasis, the NFL can rack up hundreds of escalating fines on players. This is an approach that does not make sense and is leading to money coming out of players’ pockets for things that, often, they are being coached to execute.”
Former players James Thrash and Derrick Brooks review players’ appeals of on-field discipline. They are jointly appointed by the league and the NFLPA.
According to Tretter, one player was fined $50,000 after being accused of faking a concussion. That fine was overturned on appeal, Tretter wrote.
“The team’s medical staff told him to go down on the field,” Tretter wrote. “He came out of the game for a concussion evaluation, which was required … because of the blow to the player’s head. He was evaluated for a concussion and missed the following two series. Despite the emphasis on players’ self-reporting this most serious of injuries, the NFL determined in their review process that a $50,000 fine was warranted. After his appeal, this fine was also rescinded in full.”
Effect of protocol change: Allen Sills, the NFL’s chief medical officer, said last week that the changes to the concussion protocols — enacted last season in response after a head injury suffered by Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa — have affected the evaluations of some players.
Under the change, doctors no longer can clear a player to return to a game if he demonstrates abnormal balance, stability or motor coordination, as Tagovailoa did when he stumbled following a first-half hit in a September 2022 game against the Buffalo Bills.
Before that modification, a player demonstrating “gross motor instability” could be cleared to reenter if doctors determined the instability was not neurologically caused. Under the change announced in October 2022, the NFL and NFLPA said that ataxia had been added to the list of mandatory “no-go” symptoms. That is defined as “abnormality of balance/stability, motor coordination or dysfunctional speech caused by a neurological issue,” the league and union said.
“We have seen situations where players were diagnosed with a concussion because of ataxia,” Sills said Thursday during a video news conference. “That ataxia change that we made last year is one of our no-go criteria now, which simply means it’s sufficient to make the diagnosis of concussion and remove the player from the game. So we have seen that come up. We did a lot of training on that.”
Change to draft process: The NFL made a change last week to the pre-draft player evaluation process. The league informed teams that college underclassmen who declare themselves eligible for the draft will be allowed to participate in postseason all-star games such as the Senior Bowl, the East-West Shrine Bowl and the HBCU Legacy Bowl.
That group could include Southern California quarterback Caleb Williams, North Carolina quarterback Drake Maye and Ohio State wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. this season.
Last year, 69 underclassmen were granted NFL draft eligibility.
“We’ve been building our board with underclassmen in anticipation of this potentially happening,” Jim Nagy, executive director of the Senior Bowl, wrote last week on social media.
Patriots in Germany: The New England Patriots have lost five of their past six and take a 2-7 record into their game in Germany against the Indianapolis Colts at 9:30 a.m. Eastern time Sunday.
The Patriots’ woes have created ever-increasing speculation about the future of Bill Belichick, the franchise’s six-time Super Bowl-winning coach. Patriots owner Robert Kraft has been quiet publicly on the topic. Few in the league seem to believe there will be a resolution before the end of the season, even if a parting is considered.
Sunday’s contest is the last of the NFL’s five international games this season.
Ravens facing tests: Baltimore outscored the Detroit Lions and Seattle Seahawks by a combined 75-9 while winning their past two home games.
They host two AFC North foes, the Browns and Cincinnati Bengals, at M&T Bank Stadium over a five-day span beginning Sunday.
The Browns enter Sunday’s matchup with three victories in their past four games. Quarterback Deshaun Watson played well in a triumph over the Arizona Cardinals last Sunday after missing most of the previous four games with a shoulder injury. But the Browns’ offensive line is depleted by injuries, and the Ravens lead the NFL with 35 sacks.
All four AFC North teams begin Sunday holding playoff positions. The Ravens are the conference’s No. 2 seed; the Pittsburgh Steelers, Browns and Bengals hold the three wild-card spots.
Kyler Murray returns: The quarterback will be back in the Arizona Cardinals’ lineup Sunday after suffering a torn ACL in his right knee in December.
Coach Jonathan Gannon announced Friday that Murray will start Sunday against the visiting Atlanta Falcons. The Cardinals have lost 12 of their 13 games since Murray’s injury and are 1-8 this season.