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49ers' Jennings recalls teammates' reaction during post 9/11 visit to N.Y.

Published: Sunday, Sep. 11, 2011 - 12:00 am | Page 1C
Last Modified: Sunday, Sep. 11, 2011 - 11:16 am

SANTA CLARA – Brian Jennings' first trip to New York City came in 2001, three weeks after the twin towers fell in that stunned city.

"I remember riding in the bus to the game and listening to the veteran guys, guys that had played in New York," said Jennings, whose 49ers team played the Jets that week. "Their reaction to the change in the skyline – it gave me chills. Guys who I really admired and respected were overwhelmed by the magnitude, by the gravity of it."

As a testament to how quickly NFL rosters turn over and team identities change, Jennings, who was in his second season at the time, is the only 49er remaining from the 2001 team.

There's always a special energy just before Week 1, but this year's opener promises to be even more highly charged as every NFL stadium remembers the terrorist attacks, those who lost their lives and those who served in response.

Before today's game against Seattle at Candlestick Park, F-16s from the 144th Fighter Wing of the Air National Guard in Fresno will fly over the stadium following the national anthem. An American flag will cover the length of the field. Taps will be played at Arlington National Cemetery and piped in through the stadium's video boards.

For Jennings, the 49ers' long snapper, the ceremony will be doubly poignant. He was a teammate and friend of Pat Tillman, the former NFL safety who was killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan in 2004. They played together at Arizona State.

"Obviously we've been at war ever since (Sept. 11)," Jennings said. "I lost a friend over there, Pat Tillman, in Afghanistan. It was very impactful even in my life on a personal level."

The attacks occurred on a Tuesday, a day off for NFL players. Jennings, who was rooming with former 49ers tight end Eric Johnson at the time, was sleeping in while Johnson was watching the events unfold on television.

"I thought there was a Bruce Willis-type movie on, you know?" Jennings said. "It never occurred to me that it could be real. And I remember going in and out of sleep thinking, 'Why does he keep watching the same scene from this movie?' Because I could hear the news reporters come on, and when they announced it, they would show the replay.

"I finally got up, and I'm like, 'What are you watching?' And he's like, 'This is happening. It's real.' It really took awhile for it to sink in. We sat there for a long time."

Et cetera – Dashon Goldson (knee) did not practice this past week, meaning Madieu Williams is likely to start at free safety today. Another safety, Reggie Smith, only recently returned to practice after suffering a knee injury.

• Police in Michigan said Friday they will not file charges against wide receiver Braylon Edwards in relation to an Aug. 1 bar brawl that left two bouncers with stab wounds. Members of Edwards' group were charged in the fight, and Edwards flew to Michigan last month to speak with police about the incident.

• Coach Jim Harbaugh said he will be the one relaying plays from offensive coordinator Greg Roman, who will be in the coaches' booth, to the radio receiver in quarterback Alex Smith's helmet. Harbaugh said it will allow him to participate in the play-calling duties just as he did at Stanford.

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