49ers Blog and Q&A

News, notes and reader questions about the San Francisco 49ers

One of Mike Nolan's best legacies will be on display tomorrow when the 49ers finish out their season against the Redskins. Nolan, you see, hated injuries, and when he arrived in 2005, he first reshuffled the weight-and-conditioning program and then the training staff in order to minimize the sprains, pulls, tweaks and tears that can demoralize a team. With two major exceptions - tackle Jonas Jennings and quarterback Alex Smith - Nolan can claim mission accomplished. (That's probably a poor choice of phrase). The 49ers began the season with four players listed as probable on the injury report. They'll end it with six players listed as probable on the injury report. Sure, some key players have missed time along the way while others are on injured reserve, but compared to other teams (See: 2007 Rams, 2008 Seahawks) the 49ers by and large have been a resilient bunch in recent years.

Speaking of injuries, it seems that it's almost a given that rookie receivers miss time during the season. Just when it appeared he was ready to break out this season, Josh Morgan went down with a groin strain that is still bothering him. Rookies simply aren't accustomed to the amount of running they have to do on the NFL. Jason Hill, Rashaun Woods, Derrick Hamilton, Arnaz Battle -- all of them struggled with injuries their rookie season. About the only rookie receiver I've covered who hasn't had a problem - Brandon Lloyd. Go figure.

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Congratulations to center Eric Heitmann, who won the local beatwriters' Garry Niver Award. Heitmann is smart, approachable and thoughtful, and that's pretty much the essence of the award. Savvy veteran Takeo Spikes and Vernon Davis, who to his credit did not shy away from controversial subjects this season, also were in the running.

-- Matt Barrows

MATTHEW BARROWS

Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.

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