Next Score View the next score

    NFC notebook

    John Abraham deemed OK to play by Falcons

    The Atlanta Falcons plan on having defensive end John Abraham ready to lead their pass rush on Sunday in the NFC title game.

    Abraham was limited in practice Friday for the third straight day, but he expects to start when the Falcons (14-3) host San Francisco (12-4-1).

    ‘‘I feel good,’’ Abraham said. ‘‘My workload was ramped up every day as the week progressed. Everyone is hurt at this time of year, but this is the NFC championship, so we all have to go.’’


    The Falcons’ injury report includes defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux (shoulder), strong safety William Moore (right hand), linebacker Stephen Nicholas (foot), and reserve cornerback Christopher Owens (hamstring).

    Get Breaking Sports Alerts in your inbox:
    Be the first to know the latest sports news as it happens.
    Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

    Babineaux and Abraham are listed as questionable. Moore, Nicholas, and Owens are probable, and all three participated fully in practice Friday.

    Though Abraham might not be at full strength, coach Mike Smith believes he can still push off his left foot well enough to help close the pocket on 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

    Smith said the medical staff recommended keeping Abraham on the sideline after he reinjured the ankle in the second quarter of last week’s divisional playoff win over Seattle.

    Abraham, the NFL’s active career sacks leader with 122, didn’t return to the game. He played just 15 snaps.


    ‘‘I think he can be very effective,’’ Smith said. ‘‘With the way the score was at that point and time, we felt like it was not in our best interest to put him back out there. He’s done a nice job this week. He’s participated in practice all week, so we’re anticipating he’ll be ready to go.’’

    Abraham led the Falcons with 10 sacks and finished the regular season with a career-high seven pass breakups.

    Babineaux had 3½ sacks, 5 pass breakups, and 1 interception.

    Moore, who picked off a career-high four passes and had eight pass breakups in 12 games, returned against Seattle after missing four games because of a strained hamstring. He declined to say this week how he hurt his right hand.

    Owens practiced Thursday for the first time since getting hurt Dec. 22 at Detroit.


    Nicholas has started 16 of 17 games this season.

    Crabtree investigated

    Police in San Francisco say they’re investigating a sexual assault allegation involving 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree.

    Police said in a statement released Friday night that the alleged assault occurred in a city hotel room early Sunday after the 49ers’ playoff victory over the Packers.

    The statement says Crabtree has been interviewed with his attorney present and has cooperated with the probe. The receiver hasn’t been detained or arrested, and agreed to be available for further questions in the future.

    Authorities didn’t release any further details. A spokesman for the 49ers was traveling with the team to Atlanta and couldn’t immediately comment.

    49ers cut Cundiff

    The 49ers released Billy Cundiff, making David Akers the only kicker on the roster heading into Sunday’s game.

    The move came hours before the 49ers boarded a flight to Atlanta. San Francisco signed Cundiff Jan. 1 to compete with the struggling Akers, a 15-year veteran who made 29 of 42 field goal attempts in the regular season.

    Cundiff had hoped for a chance at redemption in these playoffs. He missed a potential tying 32-yarder in the AFC Championship against the Patriots that might have kept Baltimore and 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh’s big brother, John, from reaching the Super Bowl last season.

    Cundiff was inactive for San Francisco’s 45-31 win over Green Bay in the divisional playoff. Akers made a 36-yard field goal in his lone attempt in the game.

    Secondary issue

    San Francisco’s Carlos Rogers had one word to describe what his homecoming in Atlanta will be like Sunday.

    ‘‘Expensive,’’ he said.

    The 49ers cornerback, born in Augusta and an offseason resident of Atlanta, grew up doing the ‘‘Dirty Birds’’ dance when the Falcons reached the Super Bowl during the 1998 season. He has paid for more than 30 tickets for friends and family as he makes an appearance in the Georgia Dome for only the third time in his eight-year career.

    ‘‘I was a fan of the Falcons. I'm still a fan of the Falcons,’’ Rogers said. ‘‘Just not this week.’’

    What Rogers and the 49ers will encounter on the field could be taxing, too.

    Julio Jones, Roddy White, and tight end Tony Gonzalez present all sorts of problems for San Francisco’s secondary to solve. The trio is part of what Gonzalez calls the PYP offense — Pick Your Poison — that has shredded defenses while catching Matt Ryan’s passes.

    It’s been long wait

    When center Todd McClure was drafted by the Falcons, they had just made it to the Super Bowl for the first time.

    ‘‘You think it’s going to be easy,’’ he remembered.

    It’s not, of course.

    Fourteen years later, McClure is still waiting for his first trip to the big game.

    ‘‘I tell the young guys on this team that we have to take advantage of this opportunity,’’ he said, ‘‘because it’s not a given that you'll be in this position again next year.’’

    McClure has gotten this close to the Super Bowl only one other time. During the 2004 season, when he was snapping the ball to Michael Vick, the Falcons came up one win short, losing at frigid Philadelphia in the conference championship game.

    Now, as the lone holdover from that team, McClure is back for another shot.

    With his 36th birthday right around the corner, he doesn’t want to let it slip away again.