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Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

49ers Notebook: Cam Newton wants Brock Purdy to win; George Kittleā€™s close friendship with Travis Kelce; Purdy recalls his shaky NFL debut vs. Chiefs; Super Bowl boombox song revealed

Feb 7, 2024 at 9:43 PM--

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The Super Bowl LVIII media circus continued on Wednesday for the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers, who have one more day of meeting with reporters on their schedule before Sunday's game (6:30 p.m. ET, CBS). Each team had their head coaches and a bevy of players speaking with media members from all over the world on Wednesday, and we'll have just a taste of what was said -- as well as some comments from the outside -- in this edition of 49ers Notebook.

Today we'll dive into the latest comments about 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy from Cam Newton, who suggests he'll be cheering for Purdy to get a ring Sunday night despite some of the remarks he's made about him in the past. We'll also discuss the latest round of respect between George Kittle and Travis Kelce, and much more, including the name of the song the 49ers have chosen to go with their boombox entrance for Super Bowl LVIII. Let's get into it...

Cam's a Purdy fan?

Former Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton has drawn the ire of some 49ers fans in recent weeks due to his remarks about Brock Purdy being a "game manager" and the tenth-best player on his own team. But while Newton has been among the key voices driving the much-discussed "game manager" label surrounding Purdy, he insisted during an appearance on the Dan Patrick Show Wednesday that he's a fan of Purdy and even seems to want Purdy and the 49ers to win the Super Bowl.

"I want Brock to win," Newton said. "Like I said on my show, I don't think the world is ready for Taylor Swift to garner a Super Bowl. What would that look like, right?"

Newton said that he's been impressed with Purdy but doesn't think Purdy should be included in the elite group of players he considers "game changers."

"I think we have to stop this narrative that I do not like Brock Purdy," Newton said. "That's not the case. I'm a fan of Brock Purdy. What he's been able to do has been wowing from a fan as well as a person who has played this game. But I just call it how I see it, and I think what he's been able to do with getting guys the football has been something we've seen a lot of people do but not at this level."

Newton went on to explain that there are only five quarterbacks that he'd consider to be game changers, and that it isn't always easy to be a game manager, based on his own personal experience.

"It's like tiers, right? And I think this game has only seen four to potentially five game changers in the 2023-2024 season: Aaron Rodgers, Lamar Jackson, Joe Burrow, Patrick Mahomes, and Josh Allen," Newton said. "So let's look at it through this lens. Game changer is at the top sphere of talent. Are you saying Brock Purdy is in that realm?"

Newton continued, "This is not coming from malice. This is not coming from hatred... I've held myself to that same standard. I did not play my best football when I was forced to just be a game changer. 'No, Cam, just be a game manager. C-Mac (running back Christian McCaffrey) is wide open. (Tight end) Greg Olsen is wide open. (Wide receivers) D.J. Moore, Steve Smith -- Just get them the ball.' I was not able to do that. So the great ones have that ability to say, 'Okay, the game is dictating me to manage the game. Now when everything is covered, I have to take it upon myself to impact the game.' And that's what the game changers do."

Perhaps Purdy will do something in the Super Bowl that will get Newton to bump him up into his "game changer" group. But for now, Newton isn't letting Purdy into that club -- nor is he backing off his belief that Purdy is only the tenth-best player on the 49ers.

"He is. And that's just the truth," Newton said. "We have to normalize the truth. I think that's where we're having a problem with digesting in sports, in media, and everything -- it's the truth."

Tight bond between tight ends

George Kittle and Travis Kelce spoke to reporters for around 70 combined minutes on Wednesday. In those 70 minutes, the subject of their friendship was bound to come up, which eventually happened when a reporter mentioned it to Kittle.

Kittle has been an admirer of Kelce since his days at the University of Iowa. Then, in his second NFL season, Kittle got the chance to meet Kelce in person. From there, everything clicked.

"My relationship with Travis kind of started out from afar and I watched his film when I was in college," Kittle said. "My senior year I had to break down his film and talk about it with my tight end room in Iowa. Then I got an opportunity to meet him in 2018 and he was nothing but incredibly kind with me. He traded jerseys with me, which was one of the coolest moments ever for me at that time.

"I got asked what was the coolest thing to happen to me in 2018. I was like, 'Well, Travis Kelce followed me back on Instagram.' That was a big deal for me. Just for him to become a friend of mine, it's been awesome."

Since 2018, Kittle and Kelce have become good friends and even came together with former NFL tight end Greg Olsen to form the now-famous offseason program Tight End University. Kelce even went the extra mile for Kittle a while back when he made a special appearance on his family's podcast.

"Me and my family, me and my dad and my sister, we have a podcast," Kittle said. "And he flew in just to record the podcast at my house and flew out. Not a lot of people would do that. So he's incredibly respectful."

Kittle will be looking for his first win over Kelce on Sunday night after losing to the Chiefs during the regular season in 2018 and 2022 as well as in Super Bowl LIV in February 2020. Regardless of what happens in Super Bowl LVIII, don't expect there to be any hard feelings coming from either player.

"I've never had a bad experience with Travis," Kittle said. "I've had a bunch of fun memories with him. It's really fun to be able to play with, compete against (him) and bounce ideas back and forth."

A day to remember (and forget)

The meeting between the Chiefs and 49ers in 2022 carries special significance for Brock Purdy, even though not every memory from that day was a positive one.

Purdy made his NFL debut during that game, as he was inserted in the late stages of a 44-23 blowout win for the Chiefs at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara. The 49ers jumped out to 10-0 first quarter lead in that game, then the Chiefs went on a 44-13 run to close the game behind 423 passing yards and three touchdowns from quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Purdy finished the game for then-49ers starter Jimmy Garoppolo and completed 4-of-9 passes for 66 yards with zero touchdowns and one interception.

On Wednesday, Purdy looked back at that game and admitted his head was spinning a bit, while he was also in awe of the defensive players that were on the other side of the ball.

"I'm not going to lie, it was going pretty fast," Purdy said. "It was my first NFL action and I'm dropping back... I don't know if Chris Jones was in, but I was like, 'Man, Chris Jones is there. Frank Clark on the edge.' So for me, my mind was racing pretty fast and I was trying to get through reads pretty quickly and definitely did feel rushed. I'm not going to lie, I did."

Purdy did make some positive plays during the game but also had a regrettable end to his debut when a pass intended for wide receiver Jauan Jennings landed in the arms of former Chiefs safety Juan Thornhill.

"There were some plays where I was able to make some throws and get into a rhythm and then obviously at the end I sailed one over Jauan's head for an interception," Purdy said. "But just where the game was at was a little weird. It was out of reach and then I was just trying to go in and get my first action and get into a rhythm."

No one would have guessed that the seeds would be planted that day for Purdy to step into the starting spot late in the season after an injury to Garoppolo and play well enough to hold onto that starting spot for good. But that's exactly what happened, thanks in part to that brief up-and-down outing in a blowout loss.

"I learned from it and feel like when Week 13 came around, that game and those reps actually did help me be prepared for my opportunity," Purdy said.

Eventual acceptance

Purdy's ascension to the starting quarterback job wasn't the only thing that would have come as a surprise to those who watched that loss to the Chiefs in 2022. The 49ers fell to 3-4 in that game and looked bad enough in doing so that it was fair to question whether or not they were even postseason material.

But after that, the 49ers got as hot as a team can get and rolled off 12 consecutive victories before falling to the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC Championship game. Purdy stepped into the lineup after Garoppolo was injured against the Miami Dolphins in Game 5 of that streak, then he held onto the reigns until suffering a season-ending injury against the Eagles.

Purdy's teammates were clearly excited about his success last season and seemed to rally around their new quarterback during their stretch run. But Purdy wasn't completely sure he had fully won over his teammates until going through some adversity several months later.

"Last year when I stepped in, we were on a roll as a team," Purdy said Wednesday. "Just obviously we had the Super Bowl on our minds and for me, really, it was like, all right, we're rolling. I'm just continuing to do what Jimmy had done before and didn't want to lose a step or take a step back as an offense. So for me, I didn't really know or understand until probably this year."

The adversity in question came after the 49ers' hot start to the 2023 season when the team went on a three-game losing skid. Those losses were the first regular season defeats for Purdy as an NFL starter, and they also showed him that his teammates weren't going to give up on him just because of a few struggles.

"We went on a roll," Purdy said. "We're 5-0, and then, honestly, when we went on a streak of losing some games, that's I feel like when you start questioning and seeing how guys respond to you and my team had my back. Even through those three games that we lost in a row, you had guys on defense, (linebacker) Dre Greenlaw, Fred (linebacker Fred Warner), (defensive lineman) Arik Armstead, like all those guys continue to come up to me and say, 'Dude, we got your back. This is the NFL. It's not easy.' And so it was in those moments that I knew I was all right. These guys got my back and we can go."

GOAT talk

Is 49ers left tackle Trent Williams the best offensive tackle to ever play in the NFL? He's got a lot of competition for that distinction, including Hall of Famers such as Anthony Munoz, Jonathan Ogden, and Walter Jones. But there are at least a few football folks out there who feel Williams may just be the best, with one of those apparently being former NFL offensive tackle and three-time Pro Bowler Taylor Lewan.

Williams was informed by a reporter on Wednesday that Lewan this week referred to him as the greatest left tackle of all-time. Williams was clearly humbled to hear that news, especially considering it came from a player who was one of the league's best at his position during his playing days.

"It means a lot," Williams said. "It's one thing when your mom tells you or your dad tells you that or your best friend, but getting it from peers and guys who know how difficult it is to play this position, know how difficult it is to maintain longevity in this league, it means a lot."

Williams will eventually join Munoz, Ogden, Jones, and other great left tackles in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, at which time the debate should start to kick in about where he ranks. Williams is still writing his legacy, however, so it's understandably flattering when someone like Lewan believes he already ranks at the top.

"It really means a lot to me," Williams said. "Hearing things like that is one of the things where thank God every day for that."

Purdy does comedy too... every now and then

Brock Purdy seems like one of the most serious players on the 49ers' roster, but once in a while he shows the ability to provide some comic relief.

Williams told reporters Wednesday Purdy is usually locked in on his job, but on the rare occasions when he loosens up, he can be good for a laugh.

"He's one of the guys," Williams said. "Anytime you can kind of get him to break his concentration and take a little break to give us a little spark or add some remarks, it's always funny. He's ultra-serious, and I get it. The playbook is very, very complicated. Calling the plays is extremely complicated. That one percent of the time you can get him where he's not serious, he's one of the guys. He's fun to be around."

Purdy apparently has a gift for impressions, which he showed off during Super Bowl Opening Night with a quick impromptu impression of Spongebob Squarepants. On occasion, Purdy will break out an impression in a huddle to lighten the mood.

"Growing up, my dad was pretty good with impersonations and so I think I picked up from him just whether it was family, friends, teammates," Purdy said. "I feel like I've always done some impersonations and they've been pretty well. But I don't know. I'll do it sometimes when we're in the huddle or something to sort of just show them that 'All right Brock's calm, he's cool and collected here. He's joking around.' So it's all good. So I feel like there's times and moments where I do it, but I don't go around trying to impersonate everybody."

The Super Bowl Boombox is set

When the 49ers carry on their gameday boombox tradition on Super Bowl Sunday, they'll be doing so to a new song.

The boombox tradition was started in 2017 by former 49ers offensive tackle Trent Brown, who played rap songs on his boombox at halftime during a win over the New York Giants. The 49ers followed that by marching to the field from the locker room before games while accompanied by a boombox, a ritual that in recent seasons has been led by Williams and wide receiver Deebo Samuel.

Samuel revealed Wednesday that the 49ers will be entering the field at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas Sunday night to the song "Green Dot" by rapper NBA YoungBoy.

There are a number of videos available on YouTube that show the 49ers' pregame ritual in action (chances are you won't see any footage like that on live TV due to the explicit nature of the songs the 49ers listen to). Tight end George Kittle gave his description of the boombox entrance on Wednesday, saying he usually isn't a direct participant but manages to get fired up from it nonetheless.

"I'm usually at the back of that line," Kittle said. "But I do enjoy it. I see all the videos. When you have Trent Williams and Deebo coming out with the music and their swagger, their energy, it's very infections. When you're following behind those two guys who play at a very high level and bring it every single play, it just kind of encourages everyone to step it up. It also kind of gives you this sense of confidence when you see that. So that's kind of my thing with it. I love it. I don't partake in the front very often, but I can feel the energy move through the entire team, and that's what I appreciate about it."

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