John Lynch says anthem protests ‘divisive,’ respects players’ reasons

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — While every member of the 49ers stood for the national anthem before last week’s preseason opener, that didn’t prevent other players around the league from continuing the silent protest that originated in the San Francisco Bay Area a year ago.

Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett and Oakland Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch sat during the anthem before their respective preseason openers, and Bennett later confirmed he sat in protest. Lynch has yet to comment on sitting.

On Wednesday, Niners general manager John Lynch was asked if he supports, tolerates and/or has concerns about those silent anthem protests.

“We had a great deal the other day where we had four chairs up here, and there was Steve Young and Jerry Rice,” John Lynch said. “And they talked about ‘The 49er Way.’ And I always thought that’s one of the great things about this league. As a matter of fact, I think it’s a great beacon for the rest of culture, in terms of the way it should be. You strive for a common goal, and you have unity.

“And I think this game brings people together. So I think personally when I see that, I think that’s divisive. And I understand guys see things and they’re not happy. They have that right. And I think we’ll always respect people’s rights. That doesn’t mean I believe that. I believe this game should be celebrated for what it is. I think [it’s] a tremendous unifier for our country and for the way things should be.”

Kaepernick is a free agent after opting out of his contract in March, whereas Reid and Harold remain with the Niners. Reid and Harold have said they intend to stand for the national anthem this season, while Kaepernick is still searching for a roster spot.

Asked if he would feel the need to talk to any 49ers who might decide to protest this season, Lynch said he would.

“I think we’ll always communicate,” Lynch said. “We think overcommunicating is a good thing. We haven’t faced that situation. If we do, we’ll communicate.”

New Rams WR Sammy Watkins ‘sharp’ in practice, Jared Goff says

IRVINE, Calif. — Sammy Watkins has been on the field with the Los Angeles Rams for three days and has been an active participant in only two practices. But he has already impressed starting quarterback Jared Goff with his grasp of the offense.

“He’s been sharper than I’ve expected,” Goff said Wednesday. “That’s not saying anything negatively about him, but it’s a new system for anybody. He’s been on it. He’s been sharp. It’s been a really pleasant surprise.”

The Rams officially acquired Watkins from the Buffalo Bills on Friday morning in exchange for cornerback E.J. Gaines and a second-round pick in next year’s draft. Watkins didn’t join his new teammates until Saturday afternoon, three hours before their preseason opener against the Dallas Cowboys. He had no idea how he would fit then, saying, “I don’t even know the offensive plays yet.”

But Watkins has been a quick study. He’s rooming with fellow receiver Robert Woods, his teammate in Buffalo the past three years. And assistant receivers coach Zac Taylor has been guiding him through the scheme.

Rams coach Sean McVay said he felt confident Watkins could learn the plays relatively quickly because there’s some carryover with what Bills offensive coordinator Rick Dennison implemented. Watkins estimated Monday that it would take him “a week and a half” to get fully up to speed with the way McVay attacks defenses.

Rams coach Sean McVay is learning a little bit more about Sammy Watkins every day. “You can feel his speed and his juice down the field.” Watkins caught several intermediate throws from Jared Goff today and was constantly matched up with Trumaine Johnson.

On Wednesday, Johnson intercepted Goff for the second time in three days. He was the underneath corner in zone coverage and Goff threw it right into his chest while attempting to hit Watkins in stride. Johnson also intercepted Goff on Monday while in the red zone during 11-on-11 work when he jumped a curl route from Robert Woods.