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There’s some logic in the lineman’s decision to step away in the middle of his prime. Plus, thoughts on Kam Chancellor’s brother, Steve Smith Sr.’s retirement, T.Y. Hilton getting paid and a bright spot for those hard-luck Niners

By Emily Kaplan
August 14, 2015

1. I think offensive lineman Anthony Davis vowing to return to the NFL in 2016 has me thinking about players taking “bye years”—time away to realign their mind and body, or just decompress from the stresses of a brutally taxing game. It would involve voluntarily stepping aside in the prime of a career with no guarantee you’d be welcomed back, or want to come back. But imagine the tremendous effect it could have on a player’s well-being, or his longevity. Maybe Davis is on to something (though I doubt many will follow).

• THE CONVERSATION THE NFL DOESN’T WANT TO HAVE:  Is the spate of surprising retirements by 49ers players this offseason an outlier or the start of a trend?

2. I think I was amazed to learn Kam Chancellor’s half-brother is among the players competing for his roster spot as the safety holds out from Seahawks training camp. Talk about awkward family dynamics. Keenan Lambert (who has the same mom as Chancellor) is a long shot in the competition, as DeShawn Shead and Dion Bailey are taking most of the first-team reps. But just think about it: Chancellor is a Super Bowl champion, a millionaire seeking a significant raise. Lambert is an undrafted rookie out of Norfolk State who chose Seattle over other offers because his brother was there. He is getting the chance to realize his dream, but once his brother’s holdout reaches a resolution—whether it is happily accepting a restructured contract or frustratingly returning on the same deal—that dream could end.

3. I think Steve Smith Sr. announcing he will retire at the end of the season is admirable. Here’s why: At 36 he’s still extremely effective. In the Ravens practice we watched two weeks ago, Smith laid out on a post route to make a one-handed catch. On the first day of training camp, on a broiling day, Smith, the oldest man on the entire roster, was setting the tone. His decision is about pride and meaning. Too many of his friends have let circumstances dictate when they leave football. He decided when he will walk away, and he will not let himself get to the point where he’s a shell of what he was. Plus, he will get to spend more time with his family (they are still based in Charlotte) and pursue a life outside the confines of the NFL.

Andrew and T.Y.: Together Forever. (Damian Strohmeyer/Sports Illustrated)

4. I think Green Bay’s cap management continues to amaze me. Colts receiver T.Y. Hilton received $39 million guaranteed. Packers receivers Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb are guaranteed $24.5 million. Combined.

5. I think the Hilton deal is great for Indianapolis, regardless of the fact that they already have an embarrassment of riches in the receiving corps. Securing Hilton as a cornerstone along with Andrew Luck will allow the two to grow and flourish together, similar to Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne’s relationship with Peyton Manning in the 2000s. That’s not a bad path to follow.

6. I think I’m a bit late, but I was really impressed with how 49ers coach Jim Tomsula handled his press conference following Aldon Smith’s release. Whether it was right or wrong for the coach (rather than the general manager) to address the media, the important thing was for San Francisco to have one strong voice cut through yet another moment of turmoil.

7. I think for however many offseason losses the 49ers have gone through (at this point it’s hard to keep up) we often forget about one of their biggest gains: linebacker NaVorro Bowman, who is expected to play in the preseason opener on Saturday. It will be his first action since tearing ligaments in his knee in the NFC Championship Game loss at Seattle in Jan. 2014 (that’s right, when San Francisco was one deflected pass away from back-to-back Super Bowl appearances… oh how the tides have shifted). At the time, Bowman was perhaps the best linebacker in football, on the best front seven in football, and I’m excited to see the impact he can have when he’s back on the field.

• PROFILING JIM TOMSULA: Emily Kaplan on the 49ers coach’s unconventional approach and unusual style

8. I think I wonder when Miami will just sign Evan Mathis and get this whole dance over with.

• A JANUARY WEEKEND IN GREEN BAY: Jenny Vrentas’s 36 hours in Packer country in the lead-up to the playoff game with Dallas

9. I think there is something magical about stepping on Lambeau Field, as I did for the first time last week. History is so richly preserved in one of football’s greatest cathedrals. Patches of cement from the original tunnel, as well as pieces from the door frame of Vince Lombardi’s office, are embedded in the stadium.

10. I think I’m nostalgic now that my time on The MMQB Training Camp Tour has come to an end. While I may lay off “Shut Up and Dance” for a while (Peter King’s unequivocal song of the summer), and would prefer not to sit in a van, look at a van, or hear the word van for a couple months, the experience was incredible. Seeing teams in succession, I compared camps and people and learned so much about the fabric of the NFL. I shared thoughtful brainstorming and journalism discussions with Jenny Vrentas and Robert Klemko, admired John DePetro as he captured slices of Americana (and EA gaming, see below) so eloquently, and welcomed our new hire, the peerless Kalyn Kahler, who always found a way to get the job done.

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