Niners notebook

Before being elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame last week, Steve Young admitted his retirement five years wasn't for reasons given at the time.

The former 49ers quarterback, one of the elite players of his NFL era, was elected by the Hall's selection committee in his first year of eligibility - a true measure of his greatness.

But Young, who still was playing at a high level at age 38 when he suffered a concussion that sidelined him early in the 1999 season, said last week that he did not retire in the spring of 2000 because of an alarming history of concussions.

Instead, he said his decision was made because of the club enacting a different philosophy. He retired because the 49ers were no longer going to employ a win-at-all-costs attitude, he said.

"A lot of the reason I retired was because it was made clear to me that we weren't going to do that any more," said Young, who posted career-best totals of 4,170 yards passing and 36 touchdowns in 1998 - his last complete NFL season.

"They told me they were going to reconfigure things," Young continued. "I was at a place where if we weren't going to have that Super-Bowl-or-bust mentality, it would've been hard to accept."

Young suffered a concussion in San Francisco's third game of the 1999 season and did not play the remainder of that year. After a 3-1 start, the 49ers imploded to a 4-12 finish without Young - ending their NFL-record string of 16 consecutive seasons with at least 10 victories.

Bill Walsh, who was the 49ers' general manager at the time, confirmed the condition of the football team - and not the condition of Young's head - was the reason the star quarterback did not return for the 2000 season.

"Because of the salary cap, we were forced to release so many players and we had a lot of aging players," Walsh said. "Steve would have been on an awful football team for a couple years. I just didn't want Steve to go through that."

--- Young admitted that it was difficult to sit behind Hall of Famer Joe Montana for four years. The two men, both of whom desperately wanted to be the starter, shared a cool relationship during most of their time together.

Young said his relationship with Montana was as good as it possibly could have been under the circumstances. He said there was "never a cross word" spoken between the two teammates.

"It worked out for the 49ers," Young said. "And for me, I took it as a positive in the long run to have that experience. I cannot minimize the impact of watching and learning from Joe. There is no way I can say with a straight face that a huge piece of the puzzle was not witnessing how you play great football.

"I was attracted to the ideals and the standard that was set with the 49ers. I wouldn't have stayed if I didn't embrace it."

Young stayed, and now the 49ers officially have back-to-back Hall of Fame quarterbacks.

--- Montana underwent surgery last Friday after an MRI examination showed a pinched nerve in his neck. He spent most of the week in Jacksonville, Fla., where he spoke about high blood pressure and cholesterol awareness.

--- The 49ers filled another position on coach Mike Nolan's support staff Friday, naming Johnny Parker as the team's new strength and conditioning coach.

Parker, an 18-year NFL coaching veteran, joins San Francisco after spending the past two seasons in the private sector following a year with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2002) in which the Buccaneers captured their first Super Bowl title.

Parker replaces Terrell Jones, who was the team's strength development coordinator the past five seasons.

Parker began his NFL career in 1984 with the New York Giants (1984-92) prior to joining the New England Patriots (1993-99). As a member of Bill Parcells' staff, Parker helped guide the Giants to appearances in Super Bowls XXI and XXV and the Patriots to an appearance in Super Bowl XXXI. He has been apart of three Super Bowl Championship teams and one runner-up.

Following the 1994 season, the Professional Football Strength and Conditioning Coaches Society named Parker the recipient of their President's Award, presented annually to the top strength and conditioning coach in the NFL.

--- LS Brian Jennings has been on a crusade for several seasons to get long-snappers included on the Pro Bowl roster. He hasn't officially succeeded, but he will be a member of the NFC Pro Bowl team.

Atlanta coach Jim Mora, coach of the NFC team, named Jennings last week to his club's roster as a "need player." Jennings is considered one of the league's better long-snappers. Last year, the 49ers re-signed him to a six-year, $4.86 million contract that included a $1.1 million signing bonus.

"It's a team sport, so how can you leave a position unfilled?" Jennings told the Sacramento Bee, complaining that the Pro Bowl does not have a position set aside for his discipline.

"I've always been a guy who says, 'I can play, just (give) me a chance and I'll show you.' And now I'm being recognized. It feels pretty good."

With Jennings' late addition to the squad, the 49ers will continue a streak of having at least one player selected to the Pro Bowl team since 1980.

--- When 49ers coach Mike Nolan was hired last month, one of his mentors, Dan Reeves, said he would be happy to join the 49ers in any role, if he thought he could help Nolan.

Nolan said he will continue to consult regularly with Reeves but he has no plans to officially make Reeves part of the 49ers organization.

"I consult him on a lot of things and I'll continue to do that," Nolan said. "If it has to get extensive and if we feel someone like that can help us, I could possibly. Right now, it does not look like it. I'm able to call on people like Dan and (Bill) Parcells and all of those guys. I call a lot of guys. Out of friendship, we talk about a lot of things. But as far as being on board, no."

--- Nolan's courtship of his new defensive coordinator, Billy Davis, didn't last very long before Davis was hired for the job.

Nolan received permission from Giants coach Tom Coughlin last Friday to interview Davis. Nolan and Davis then had dinner Saturday night in Baltimore after Nolan flew there from a brief visit to the Super Bowl in Jacksonville.

Davis and Nolan then met for six hours on Super Bowl Sunday, after which time Nolan offered Davis the job and he quickly accepted.

--- Nolan still has vacancies to fill on his staff for the defensive line, running backs and tight ends, as well as several other support assistants. He said he might wait until the NFL Combine to fill some of those spots.

"I felt there was some time to get my offensive coaches in order," Nolan said. "I have about a dozen people that I have already talked to with regard to the other positions, but I have not hired anybody yet. So, some of it is just trying to utilize the timing and spend the time on the people I know I have to get right away because whether they are being pursued by others or whatever the different reasons are."

--- The 49ers hired a player personnel director who is intimately knowledgeable about the draft-eligible prospects. Scot McCloughan, formerly the Seahawks' college scouting director, said he is excited about the upcoming draft. The 49ers will have the No. 1 overall pick. They also have picks at the top of each round, and a sixth-round pick from the Eagles in the Brandon Whiting-for-Terrell Owens trade. Additionally, the 49ers are expecting three or four compensatory picks.

"By the time this draft comes around with all of us being together and working toward the right goal, we're going to be ready to go," McCloughan said. "It's not going to be any Saturday morning panic here and there. Now, some trade stuff might evolve, who knows? But we're going to be ready to go and we'll take the best player."

--- The 49ers have allocated six players to NFL Europe, none of whom spent any time on the team's active roster last season.

Among the players sent to the developmental league are cornerbacks Allan Amundson and Randee Drew. Amundson, who played running back at Oregon, played cornerback last season for the Frankfurt Galaxy. Drew was among the 49ers' final cuts last season as a rookie.

Another intriguing player the 49ers have allocated to NFL Europe is 260-pound fullback Brian Johnson, who saw time last season with the San Jose SaberCats of the Arena Football League. Johnson, a former defensive tackle at University of New Mexico, was on the 49ers' roster for part of training camp.

Other players sent to NFL Europe are wide receiver Wendall Williams, tackle Brendan Darby and kicker Chace Long.


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