Saturday, December 31, 2016

Colin Kaepernick Voted Recipient of 49ers’ Len Eshmont Award
By Eric Branch
SF Gate
Friday, December 30, 2016

Colin Kaepernick hugs punter Bradley Pinion before a loss in Chicago on Dec. 4.
Photo: Charles Rex Arbogast, Associated Press

It’s official: Colin Kaepernick’s controversial decision to kneel during the national anthem this season didn’t create a fractured locker room.

If there was any remaining doubt, it was erased when the 49ers announced Friday that Kaepernick received the Len Eshmont Award, their most prestigious honor, which is given to their most courageous and inspirational player.

The award is voted on by players and had been given to wide receiver Anquan Boldin, running back Frank Gore, inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman and defensive tackle Justin Smith the previous four seasons.

After Kaepernick’s national anthem stance became public in the preseason, he swayed skeptical teammates by passionately explaining in a players-only meeting that his decision was inspired by his disgust with racial inequality. In September, CEO Jed York matched Kaepernick’s $1 million pledge to community organizations, and head coach Chip Kelly strongly supported his quarterback.

“He’s shedding light on a situation that is heinous,” Kelly said of Kaepernick’s outspokenness on the killing of black men by police officers.

In other team honors, left tackle Joe Staley was given the Bill Walsh Award, which goes to the team MVP and is voted on by coaches. Staley, 32, was on pace to be voted to his sixth straight Pro Bowl before a hamstring injury caused him to miss the past three games.

Left guard Zane Beadles received the Bobb McKittrick Award (best offensive lineman), safety Antoine Bethea received the Hazeltine Iron Man Award (most courageous and inspirational defensive player) and defensive tackle DeForest Buckner received the Thomas Herrion Award, which is given to rookies or first-year players who take advantage of their opportunities. Bethea also received the Perry/Yonamine Unity Award, and nose guard Glenn Dorsey received the Ed Block Courage Award.

Injury report: Center Marcus Martin (ankle) and guard Andrew Tiller (ankle) were ruled out of Sunday’s season finale against the Seahawks, which means more shuffling along the offensive line.
Beadles is expected to make his second career start at center, and undrafted rookie Alex Balducci or Andrew Gardner will probably start at left guard. Staley is questionable and rookie John Theus will make his second career start if he can’t play.

Cornerbacks Rashard Robinson (hamstring) and Dontae Johnson (groin) are also questionable.
Eric Branch is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer.

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