, San Francisco 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman criticized the league for rules that he says unfairly favor offenses.The four-time Pro Bowler said defenses are at a severe disadvantage given the rules geared toward protecting quarterbacks."This is what the league wanted though. They wanted record passing numbers," Sherman said. "You can't touch (the quarterback). You can't tackle him. You can't hit him high. You can't hit him low. You can't knock him down to the ground hard."You can't hit a receiver high. You can't hit him low. You can't push him, you can barely press him. It's making it really difficult on teams to combat it because every rule in the book is designed to make sure you don't get them stopped."There's no debating the video game-like numbers being posted. Through the first four weeks, the totals for points scored (3,030), touchdowns (344) and touchdown passes (228) are all the highest in NFL history.The frequency of roughing-the-passer penalties has been criticized."The roughing (penalty) is the biggest one right now," Sherman said. "But most of the tackling rules have changed. They're just trying to make it impossible for guys to play defense."The league's goal is to reduce the injuries to the starting quarterbacks. This affected the 49ers as Jimmy Garoppolo will miss the rest of the season after tearing the ACL in his knee against Kansas City on Sept. 23. He was hurt scrambling to the sideline."My suggestion is to put flags on the quarterbacks," Sherman said jokingly. "If you don't want them touched, don't want them getting knocked down. These D-ends and D-tackles and linebackers have long arms. They'll be able to snatch these flags off without even having to touch these guys half the time."Sherman hopes to get back on the field. After sitting out Sunday against the Los Angeles Chargers because of a strained left calf, the veteran practiced in limited fashion Thursday and wouldn't rule himself out for Sunday's home game against Arizona.After Sherman was injured in Week 3 against Kansas City, San Francisco coach Kyle Shanahan said the expectation was that Sherman likely would miss "a couple" games.The 49ers have started Jimmie Ward in Sherman's place, although Greg Mabin rotated in at cornerback with both Ward and Ahkello Witherspoon against the Chargers. Mabin forced a fumble and earned praise from the coaching staff.He showed "great physicality, competitive toughness San Francisco 49ers T-Shirt
, communication skills," defensive coordinator Robert Saleh said. "He did play very well in the game."Saleh said Mabin would rotate in at cornerback again. If Sherman can go, that will affect things one way or another.NOTES: Left tackle Joe Staley (knee) did not practice Thursday. But two of the 49ers other starting offensive linemen battling knee injuries, center Weston Richburg and right tackle Mike McGlinchey, practiced in limited fashion. Running back Matt Breida (shoulder) and receiver Marquise Goodwin (quadriceps, hamstring) also were limited. ... The starting safety tandem of Adrian Colbert (hip) and Jaquiski Tartt (shoulder) participated fully as did running back Alfred Morris (knee). Nike caused an uproar earlier this month with its ad featuring former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick that debuted just as the football season was about to begin. But the shoe maker's stock is up and sales have been steady.The furor seems to have largely died down and the company reported an earnings beat on Tuesday.While purpose-driven marketing can be a land mine for some companies, others like Nike have found it a useful way to appeal to their core demographic and differentiate themselves in an increasingly polarized political landscape."I don't think it was a big gamble. Historically, Nike has always done this so it was no shock," said Antonio S. Williams, who teaches sports marketing at Indiana University. "They're the king of emotional marketing so everything they do, they do it with emotion."For the quarter ended Aug. 31, Nike's net income rose 15 percent to $1.09 billion, or 67 cents per share San Francisco 49ers Hats
, from $950 million, or 57 cents per share in the prior-year quarter. Analysts expected 63 cents per share. Revenue rose 10 percent to $9.95 billion, edging past analyst expectations of $9.93 billion, according to FactSet.The results don't have anything to do with the Kaepernick ad, which came out shortly after the quarter ended. Instead, the quarter benefited from the FIFA World Cup of soccer that showcased many players and teams wearing its clothing and shoes, as well as the "athleisure" trend that continues to be strong.But Nike has long boosted its global brand with edgy visual ads. On Monday, it celebrated another controversial athlete, Tiger Woods, who Nike stuck by during a 2009 sex scandal. Its latest campaign, a two-image Instagram ad celebrating Woods's first PGA Tour win in five years, went viral. The first image shows his back, with the words San Francisco 49ers Hoodie
, "He's done." But a swipe through to the second image shows the front of him giving a fist pump and the words "it again."The Kaepernick campaign included a print ad that featured a close-up of his face and the words, "Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything," as well as a TV ad that featured many Nike athletes and a voiceover by Kaepernick in celebration of the 30th anniversary of Nike's "Just Do It" tagline. Kaepernick was the first NFL athlete to take a knee during the national anthem to protest police brutality.People online were divided over the ads. Some burned their Nike socks and threatened boycotts while others saluted the company's message. Overall, revenue hasn't been dampened and the boycotts seem to have fizzled out. This week, in fact, a Rhode Island town council that had approved a nonbinding resolution to boycott Nike products reversed course .In a call with analysts, Nike CEO Mark Parker said the campaign has inspired "record engagement with the brand," and an uptick in traffic and engagement "socially and commercially," although he did not give specifics.He said Nike marketing is always about addressing "how do we connect and engage in a way that is relevant and inspiring to the consumers we're here to serve."Taking a political or social stand is anathema to most brands, who aim to appeal to the broadest amount of people possible in order to get them to part with their dollars. They don't always work out. For example, Etsy, the craft-centric e-commerce company, rose to prominence as a B Corp. Youth Customized San Francisco 49ers Jerseys
, a type of for-profit company that has been certified to meet social sustainability and environmental performance standards. But once Etsy went public, its board voted to give up its B Corp. status to maintain its corporate structure.In another case, an 84 Lumber Super Bowl ad in 2017 that tried to tackle immigration came across as overly complicated and tone deaf. Similarly, a 2017 Airbnb Super Bowl ad that aimed to celebrate diversity ended up inadvertently echoing Airbnb's own problem with combating discrimination by some hosts.But if it fits with the brand, a social stance can work. Outdoor clothing company Patagonia has had success taking a stand on environmental issues because that resonates with its main customers: buyers of high end outdoor clothing gear. And as opposition swelled against the Trump administration policy to separate migrant families, American Airlines and United Airlines, as well as other carriers, issued statements that said they did not want to use their flights to carry migrant children to temporary shelters.As for Nike, "they hit it out of the park with the Kaepernick ad," said Bob Phibbs, CEO of New York-based consultancy the Retail Doctor. "This ad is completely in line with who Nike is and what they stand for. That authenticity resonated and will continue to resonate with their customers."