San Francisco 49ers

49ers notes: Team bears ‘heart’ for former players

Former San Francisco 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo Jr., right, has contributed $1 million toward a fund that helps former 49ers players. The current owners have done the same.
Former San Francisco 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo Jr., right, has contributed $1 million toward a fund that helps former 49ers players. The current owners have done the same. AP

Former 49ers Harris Barton, Ron Ferrari and Brent Jones watched Wednesday’s practice before heading into Levi’s Stadium’s auditorium to announce a new program, the Golden Heart Fund, designed to help former players in need.

Both the team’s current owners, the York family, and its previous owner, Eddie DeBartolo Jr., have pledged $1 million toward the fund. The money will be used to help alumni and their families who are dealing with mental or physical health issues, disaster relief and financial problems.

“Make no mistake. History has its eyes on all of us,” said DeBartolo, who was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame this year. “It is about the respect and gratitude that we have for these athletes who have given their all to this game.”

Barton, Ferrari, Jones and former safety Ronnie Lott, who was on hand for the announcement, are part of the fund’s alumni board. Several other former players and current players attended Wednesday’s gathering.

“I think this is a great deal,” guard Zane Beadles said. “I’ve never heard of another organization having anything like this. It speaks to the ownership and the leadership within this organization to do something like that for former players. I think it’s an incredible thing, and I’m glad to be a part of it.”

McDonald mending – Three days after signing a five-year contract extension, tight end Vance McDonald was cut-blocking a Jets linebacker on an outside running play when he felt an excruciating pain in his left shoulder. The diagnosis: a broken scapula that ended his season.

“It didn’t feel good, that’s for sure,” said McDonald, who has his left arm in a sling.

The injury doesn’t require surgery, but McDonald said he didn’t know what his prognosis is at this point. He’ll have the shoulder re-examined in two weeks.

The 49ers signed him to a five-year contract extension because he is one of the few pass catchers on the roster capable of making big plays and because he seems to be a good fit with Chip Kelly’s offensive system.

“The longer Chip’s here, the more comfortable we’ll get with this offense,” McDonald said. “Still, I’ve only played a full season and few games as a starting tight end. So I think there’s a ton to build on.”

The 49ers placed another starter, center Daniel Kilgore, on injured reserve this week as well. Kelly said that Kilgore tore his right hamstring and would require surgery. Marcus Martin will start Sunday in place of Kilgore; Je’Ron Hamm or Blake Bell will take McDonald’s place in the lineup at tight end.

Injuries – Receiver Torrey Smith (concussion) and left tackle Joe Staley were the only 49ers who didn’t practice Wednesday. Rookie Aaron Burbridge, who is a possible starter at wideout if Smith can’t play Sunday, was limited with a hamstring strain.

Matt Barrows: @mattbarrows, read more about the team at sacbee.com/sf49ers.

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