49ers arrive in New Orleans


49ers arrive in New Orleans

From Comcast SportsNetNEW ORLEANS (AP) -- Jim Harbaugh stepped to the podium, smirked a bit, and greeted his first news conference as a Super Bowl coach."We're super happy to be here," he said Sunday night as his NFC champion San Francisco 49ers arrived in the Big Easy for the big game."I think this team has the best focus on unity and winning I've ever been a part of."Considering that Harbaugh was an NFL quarterback for 14 seasons and a successful college coach before joining the 49ers, he knows something about winning.Under Harbaugh, San Francisco has been to two NFC title games and, now, to its first Super Bowl in 18 years. The Niners (13-4-1) will play Baltimore (13-6), coached by Harbaugh's older brother, John, in next Sunday's Super Bowl.He is certain his team is ready for the task as the 49ers seek their sixth Vince Lombardi Trophy; they are 5-0 in Super Bowls."These are uncharted waters for a rookie Super Bowl coach," Harbaugh said. "But that's exciting. It's a great thrill, and we have a desire to be in uncharted waters. We always strive for that kind of challenge."Earlier in the evening, with a team flag waving from an open window of their chartered plane, the 49ers arrived in a businesslike manner. The players calmly walked off the airplane -- no video recorders or cameras, no waves to onlookers.Most of the team's veteran players disembarked first, including center Jonathan Goodwin, who won a Super Bowl three years ago with the Saints."You get to go to the Super Bowl with your childhood team, so that's something special to me," he said. "So hopefully I can find a way to win the Super Bowl with my childhood team."Quarterback Colin Kaepernick, wearing a red wool cap sporting "49ers" on it, mouthed the words to a song on his headphones as he walked on the tarmac.He seemed just as relaxed 90 minutes later as he met the media."Pressure comes from a lack of preparation," said Kaepernick, who took over as the starter when Alex Smith got a concussion in November and has been sensational in keeping the job. "This is not a pressure situation. It's a matter of going out and performing."Harbaugh said the 49ers came to New Orleans on Sunday to simulate a normal week. He likened their trip to his strategy the last two seasons when the 49ers spent a week in Youngstown, Ohio, between Eastern games rather than return to the Bay Area.He liked the way the players and coaches bonded during that experience."Same approach," Harbaugh said. "Enjoy the moment and the preparation. I think our team enjoys that the most: the meetings, the preparation and then, especially, the competition."

Northwestern defensive back Matthew Harris opts to retire from football


Northwestern defensive back Matthew Harris opts to retire from football

Northwestern defensive back Matthew Harris has decided to end his football career, the team announced Monday.

Injured in the second game of the season, the senior Wildcat was still in the concussion protocol as of last week when he made the decision, and has suffered multiple injuries that have knocked him out of games throughout his time in Evanston.

“This is an incredibly difficult decision to reach, but it is the right one for me and for my future,” Harris said in the announcement. "I'm so thankful for (head coach Pat) Fitzgerald, (defensive backs coach Jerry) Brown and the rest of the staff that brought me to Northwestern and have mentored me over the last several years.

“My teammates are like brothers, and while not being on the field with them has been frustrating and challenging, I'm so proud of the group and what we've helped build together. I owe thanks to our athletic training and sports medicine staffs, whose care throughout my Wildcats career has been outstanding.

“Finally and most importantly, I can never appropriately express the love and gratitude I have for my family, which has supported me on every step of this journey and will continue to for years to come.

“There are few things I love more than playing the game of football, and the game has provided me with so many opportunities, including the chance to attend this university. It has been a blessing to be a part of this community and learn so many lessons. Northwestern has given me so much, I look forward to taking full advantage of my chance to give back to the world around me in the future.”

A team captain this season, Harris was a stellar player, earning All-Big Ten honors last season. In his career, he recorded 161 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, six interceptions and three forced fumbles in 37 games.

Harris, a native of La Grange Highlands and product of Lyons Township High School, earned praise from Fitzgerald and his teammates Monday, who talked glowingly about his character and involvement in the community, as well as his involvement in Northwestern and Big Ten athletics. This past summer, he created a multi-day program for underprivileged young men in Evanston. Harris is also one of the heads of Northwestern’s student-athlete advisory committee and serves on the Big Ten’s student-athlete advisory committee.

“It’s been a long road for Matthew from a standpoint of injuries,” Fitzgerald said during his weekly press conference Monday. “As we sat there and looked at not only the right now, but I talked to him and said, ‘I want to think about what it’s going to be like to be 42. Put yourself in my shoes and have three kids. Where do you want your life to be not knowing a lot but what you can control?’ And so I think he put great thought into it. I know he’s a man of faith, and I think he put his trust in that and relied heavily upon his family and our doctors. I fully support his decision. I think it’s the right thing for the short term and long term.

“Very thankful for what Matthew brought to our program. A young man that from the minute he stepped into our program was an instant impact as far as a person. Just a terrific, terrific young man, a great attitude, an amazing work ethic. And then his play speaks for itself. He was such a great teammate, giving of himself for everyone on the squad. The team gave him a standing ovation this morning when he announced it to the team, which I think shows you the impact that Matthew not only has had on our team but will continue to have on our team.

“He’s in great spirits. He actually made the decision last week. He didn’t want to have a distraction from the team late in the week. That just shows you who he is. He’s a special guy.”

Cubs-Indians World Series matchup makes things awkward for Jason Kipnis' family, friends

Cubs-Indians World Series matchup makes things awkward for Jason Kipnis' family, friends

When the Cubs defeated the Dodgers to advance to the World Series it put Indians infielder Jason Kipnis, his family and friends all in a very strange situation. The Northbrook, Ill. native and lifelong Cubs fan suddenly faced an inner struggle of how to react.

"The 10-year-old boy in me is saying, 'Why does it have to be the Cubs?'", Kipnis told Cleveland.com on Sunday.

"I even teared up because I didn't know how to handle it," Kipnis said. "I didn't know what to think."

Many of Kipnis' friends are Cubs season-ticket holders and his three siblings also have allegiance to the Cubbies. Torn between choosing her littler brother or her favorite team, Kipnis' older sister Amanda attempted to explain herself on Facebook.

Sooo, I'm going to a Cubbies World Series at Wrigley Freaking Field, and my little brother is playing for the other...

Posted by Amanda Kipnis on Saturday, October 22, 2016

[SHOP: Buy a "Try Not to Suck" shirt with proceeds benefiting Joe Maddon's Respect 90 Foundation & other Cubs Charities]

The Cubs start out the series in Cleveland, but when Kipnis and the Indians head to Wrigley Field as the series shifts to Chicago, you know things are only going to get even more complicated for his family members and closest friends.