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Defending the Receivers - By Bryan Hersh

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It is amazing how losing can divide a locker room. The 49ers locker room has never been the calmest place in the world. Charles Hayley, Terrell Owens, the feud between Kevan Barlow and Fred Beasley, things have never been completely quiet. Even still, so long as the 49ers were winning the divisions in the locker-room have been minimal and rarely were disputes made public through the media. The 49ers losing season has changed this though, as Fred Beasley has gone public with some of his concerns for the team.

Since the 49ers loss last Sunday, Fred Beasley the 49ers starting fullback has been calling out offensive players for not giving 110%... he cited players talking about how much ‘bling’ they had rather than how to win and get better. Beasley does not believe the desire of many of the young players, and in particular the starting receivers on the team have the same desire as him and some other veterans to win. While Beasley is free to take his shots at the team, I 1) do not think he should be taking issues to the media, 2) question his leadership ability and 3) question the validity of his statements.

The 49ers clearly have enough problems this season. The last thing this team needed was another distraction. A big reason why Terrell Owens was allowed to leave was simply, he was a distraction. To win the 49ers need to be a cohesive unit, as they have been in the past, a few interruptions is one thing, but taking disputes to the media is flat out wrong. I also think it is a poor way to motivate and lead a team. Beasley should be a leader of this team, not a distraction. Beasley claims he and others have tried talking to the group of youngsters but that there is no point, that they do not listen. Interestingly, Rashaun Woods the 49ers first round draft pick at receivers (who may or may not have been a target of Beasley’s allegations) claims that Beasley has never even spoken to him. Even if that is true I do not believe that Beasley should have gone to the media with his problem.

The comments are indeed so distracting that today Kevan Barlow chimed in with similar words. What in the world gives Barlow the right to criticize others when he cannot even average three yards a carry? This was a ridiculous statement made by Barlow. He went on to say: "If we're a better team without T.O., you don't call other players out, especially in the locker room, or talk behind their backs, and then when they appear, you want to talk to them? That's not being a man. That's being a girl." And so I ask… what exactly did he just do? He completely contradicted himself with this statement. It is simply ridiculous to have a man executing so poorly this season trying to lay blame on anyone other than himself.

I think what I take the most issue with is Beasley’s and Barlow’s belief that these players do not have the desire to win - that they do not give their all in practice and on the field. I take issue with this argument because of what I saw this summer in my visit to training camp. I saw Cederick Wilson working non stop between his repetitions on the practice field. I saw Rashaun Woods working non stop (in his one healthy day while I was there), running extra sprints. I saw Brandon Lloyd working non stop with the martial arts experts between his repetitions. I also Curtis Conaway motivating and moving this group along. Beasley did not question the heart of Arnaz Battle, in fact I thought he excluded him from his rampage, but even still Battle also put in extra time at practice.

What did Beasley and Barlow do after practice? They did not stick on the field to catch extra balls (at least now while I was there). They did not come over to sign autographs for the fans while I was there either, (in fact, only after a youth groups specifically requested Kevan Barlow to come sign autographs did he make a disgruntled appearance before the fans), unlike most of the players on the team. They each took off on their own ways, sitting in ice sometimes, other times just running into locker room as if a heard of hyenas were chasing them off the field.

Dennis Erickson, when referring to this ugly situation said: "That's between Fred and (Lloyd)". Erickson went on to down play the situation. In not addressing this situation Erickson is making yet another coaching mistake. He needs to stand up in front of this team and rally troops together rather than let them continue to fall apart. Personally, I do not think Erickson is up for this task, and that is why he sits idly by.

I believe different players express their desire to win in different ways. I have no problem with Beasley and Barlow speaking with and trying to motivate young players. Trying to get them to see things his away. I am a Beasley fan too. But I hate that he called these players out in the media. I think that is flat out insulting and disruptive. It does more harm than good, and quite frankly neither should not have done. I also believe that these players are giving ‘it’ their all. From what I have seen the 49ers receivers work their tales off. They might not be getting all the production they need on the field. Perhaps the best player or the biggest impact players are not even starting on Sundays – but to call them out for a lack of effort, I just do not buy that.

The Point After:
Jerry Rice has remarked on several occasions this week that he thinks he may get some boos when he returns to the ‘Stick this weekend. Here is what I have to say… no one in their right mind should boo Jerry. He is a 49ers icon, and always will be. He has recently re-affirmed his desire to retire a 49ers, and he is was, and forever will be one. Booing Rice would be classless, tactless, and flat out disgusting. While I personally think the place should erupt with cheers when he takes to the field, I recognize others may resent him for leaving San Francisco. If you are one of these few people, I encourage you to just sit quietly, and let one of the best players to ever play the game of football receive his due reception.

Dennis Erickson continues to show that he does not know how to win football games. When asked about the possibility of giving Arnaz Battle more playtime with the offense, Erickson remarked: “The problem we have with Arnaz right now is that he is on all the special teams. He is a warrior; he's as good an all-around special teams player as I've ever been around in my career,” Erickson said. "We have got other receivers. It is something you evaluate at the end of the year. He makes so many plays on special teams. He gets obviously a little tired and a little worn out. That doesn't mean we can't get him on the field more on offense and still keep him with what he's doing.” While I do not want to minimize the importance of special teams, I think it is obvious to everyone that if you do not have a good offense, your special teams are not going to allow you to win football games. If improving the offense comes slightly at the expense of the special teams, then you do it. Giving Battle more offensive play time makes sense if you are trying to win football games, it is not a move you make at the end of the season, it is a move you make as soon as you realize it can help your football team win.

 
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