49ers veterans try to keep team together down the stretch
SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) Ahmad Brooks sees no need for a chat with 49ers coach Jim Tomsula after the linebacker's suggestion that San Francisco overlooked Cleveland last week and might have been ''big-headed.''
''When you play professional sports you've got to have a short-term memory,'' Brooks said Wednesday. ''Cleveland was last week. We're going to leave Cleveland in Cleveland. ... Hopefully we can overcome what we didn't perform good last week.''
After the 24-10 loss, Brooks said the 49ers (4-9) might have looked past the lowly Browns, who snapped a seven-game losing streak - begging the question whether these Niners have enough leaders to make sure such mental breakdowns don't keep happening.
Especially in a lost season.
There are three games left, including the 10-3 Bengals visiting Levi's Stadium on Sunday trying to wrap up the AFC North title.
San Francisco's front seven held its weekly meeting Wednesday and discussed what went wrong, such as positioning on runs.
''Last game we were out of position a lot of the times and that's why they had so many yards,'' Brooks said. ''It was one particular play they had in the game where it looked like he couldn't get through the gap but he squirted through the gap somehow, some way. It was just little things like that we need to correct.''
San Francisco is clearly still finding its leaders in a locker room missing the presence of retired defensive stars Patrick Willis and Justin Smith and franchise rushing leader Frank Gore, who left for the Colts.
''Well, I think we're in the process of that,'' Tomsula said. ''There's a core of young guys that you're really excited about. We keep talking about them, that you see that in them and it's growing. And, I think that is what we are in the process of building. If there's something we're building, that's what we're building. Those guys, those people. And, that's why I have a lot of faith in the locker room. I do. There's the right mentality and the right people.''
Center Daniel Kilgore is calling for faster starts by everybody, from the first whistle.
That means every player taking it upon himself to be prepared every play.
''We don't put all this work in in the week and just go out there and lay an egg,'' Kilgore said. ''This is the NFL. You're a grown man, get yourself ready to go, handle your stuff on and off the field.''
Quarterback Blaine Gabbert is ready to take on more of a leadership load.
''Regardless of having a flat game or not, the quarterback's always in a position of leadership and it's my job to rally the troops,'' he said. ''It's my job to provide that spark and that juice to this football team, and that's what I'm going to do this week. The guys are coming in, they're eager, and like I said, I take it upon myself to provide a spark for this team.''
An offensive line that contributed to nine sacks on Gabbert against the Browns has lost left guard Alex Boone, likely for the remainder of the season. While an MRI exam Monday showed a sprained medial collateral ligament in his right knee, he must use crutches for up to two weeks. He is relieved he didn't tear the anterior cruciate ligament as he immediately feared when he got injured in Sunday's defeat.
''Everyone's got to be accountable to each other,'' Boone said. ''I think it was one of those days we didn't have that. It's got to get better. We were doing well for a while and now we've taken a couple steps back. You can't have that happen in the NFL.''
Boone, who is formally being listed as week to week, hopes to return to the 49ers.
''Of course, it's my home, these are my brothers, they're my family,'' Boone said. ''I'll listen to anything. I'm excited about free agency but at the same time I'd love to hear an offer from the Niners.''
Might he consider accepting a hometown discount?
''No,'' Boone said.
NOTES: QB Colin Kaepernick, who underwent surgery on his non-throwing left shoulder last month to repair a torn labrum, is attending meetings. ''Three weeks after surgery, it doesn't feel good,'' he said at his locker. ... WR Torrey Smith had the day off practice to undergo treatment for back spasms. ... RB Kendall Gaskins is still in the concussion protocol.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL