In the wake of another weary week

On scandalous videotapes, damage control, public power powwows, positive steps and diversity training, player walkouts, extenuating circumstances, canceled minicamps, scattering to offseason homes, quarterback questions settled in September, and futures starting at the end of July.

--- Another week, another scandalous videotape. When will it all end for the 49ers?

--- Not any time soon. In their latest stab at damage control, 49ers owner John York and two team vice presidents will conduct a second community meeting with leaders of the San Francisco Bay Area Asian community – including Supervisor Fiona Ma and San Francisco city administrator Ed Lee – on Tuesday at the Chinese American Citizens Alliance in San Francisco.

--- As if they haven't already been discussed enough, the two in-house training videos that have become a very public embarrassment for the Niners will be the primary topic at – and reason for – this powwow to discuss the team's commitment to the diversity and tolerance that makes San Francisco such a unique area.

--- Yes, there are people out there that need to be convinced of that commitment.

--- York and his wife, Denise, have watched with aghast as the latest developments have taken some of the shine off an otherwise progressive offseason for the team. "We are taking positive steps to improve our diversity training, both with players and front-office staff," the team owners said in a statement. "We are personally committed to the phenomenal values of diversity and tolerance that we see every day in the Bay Area."

--- Except that, as Ohio residents, they hardly are on the scene "every day" to see it. Or even every week, for that matter.

--- The second inappropriate video to surface this past week wasn't overkill. It was pre-kill.

--- That video from 2003 was relatively tame compared to the shocker that came after it. But it made headlines in its own right, and had Ed Goines, the team's general counsel, apologizing for a media tape "offensive in every manner," and saying on behalf of the team, "We deeply regret that anyone from our organization would produce such senseless, inexcusable material."

--- The final words (hopefully) on Video-Gate II, from Goines: "Policies have been put into place to ensure that nothing like this happens in the future. The individuals responsible for the video are no longer employed by the team. The content of this media tape was never cleared by an officer of the organization and is absolutely contradictory to the ideals and values of the San Francisco 49ers. This incident is not reflective of our franchise, our organization, our team or the millions of families that support the 49ers."

--- The thing is, this incident IS reflective of the franchise, or at least the dysfunction and turmoil that has prevailed over the 49ers during the past 12 months, one very long year for the organization, indeed.

--- Mike Nolan is here to change all that. But, obviously, there are some skeletons in closets he'll have to deal with.

--- Maybe even some he still doesn't know about.

--- In an ironic twist earlier this week, almost half the team walked out on a diversity-training meeting midway through the session. Think that would have happened if they knew the session would end with a racy video such as the one they were shown last August?

--- There were extenuating circumstances for the walkout, however. The team attempted to cram the session into the end of Tuesday's organized team activity, and the players weren't informed of the meeting until after the completion of their approximately 80-minute practice earlier in the day. Under the NFLPA's collective bargaining agreement, practice and meeting time during organized team activities is limited to six hours daily, and the whistle on that deadline went off in the middle of the diversity-training meeting.

--- Cornerback Ahmed Plummer, the 49ers' union representative, felt obliged to tell players they could leave the meeting because, "it's my job to inform the guys that they are over the time," he said. Plummer told players they could stay for the remainder of the session if they desired. A few minutes later, there were a lot of empty seats in the room.

--- More extenuating circumstances: Nolan said the session had been planned for months, but it originally had been scheduled for Thursday, the final day of the team's spring OTAs. Realizing that several players would be looking to make a quick exit from team headquarters to return to their offseason homes after the final day of practice, Nolan hastily moved up the meeting two days, and several players apparently already had made previous plans as the session stretched into the late afternoon.

--- By canceling the team's final spring minicamp originally scheduled for June 13-15, it might seem like Nolan is attempting to get his team out of Dodge and deflect media attention in the wake of the tape scandals of the past two weeks. That wouldn't necessarily be a bad strategy, but it's not the way things went down. Nolan said back at the team's early-May minicamp that he might cancel the final minicamp if the team accomplished what he wanted it to during a month of OTAs. He also indicated then that if the June camp did take place, it might only be a passing camp.

--- It would seem anticlimactic to have the minicamp now, and it's a good move by Nolan to send his team off into an extended vacation before the real work begins July 28.

--- That's the reporting day for training camp, and the next time the 49ers will be assembled as a complete unit.

--- Who will be the starting quarterback when the 49ers reconvene? The answer is the same as it is today: Nobody really knows for sure.

--- Nolan is going to let prized No. 1 draft pick Alex Smith fight it out with incumbent Tim Rattay all the way through training camp and preseason games, and probably won't make his decision until early September.

--- Smith has made a lot of progress since the May minicamp, and it seems like he can only gain ground in the months to come on Rattay, who basically looks like the same quarterback he was last year.

--- Except that he has remained healthy into June this time around.

--- Even at this early juncture, the 49ers are serious about keeping four quarterbacks on their roster this season, so that their QB situation will be much more concrete in 2006 than it is today.

--- Which means that the team's three seventh-round veterans will be auditioning in 2005 for a future with the team just as much as the hotshot first-rounder. The difference is, Smith's future in San Francisco's is assured. That's not the case for either of the other three beyond this season.

--- But each has a future starting at the end of July, along with about 80 other hopefuls who will begin reshaping the franchise on the field.

--- Between now and then, the team will do some reshaping of its image off the field. Suddenly, that needs a little more work.


Niners Digest Top Stories