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Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Ronnie Lott pays tribute to Jack Tatum

By Mike Sando

The blog feels a bit like a radio station lately with several recent entries dedicated to audio.

Here's another one: San Francisco 49ers great Ronnie Lott on KNBR in San Francisco, paying tribute to former Oakland Raiders safety Jack Tatum, who died Tuesday.

A clearly emotional Lott credited Tatum for establishing a style and level of play for younger safeties to emulate. NFL.com has made available this video ranking Tatum as one of the most feared tacklers (Lott was fourth and that video is here, complete with the collision that cost him his pinkie finger).

The Arizona Cardinals' Adrian Wilson is the one current NFC West safety with some of the same characteristics in terms of physical play and hitting ability (hits on Vernon Davis and Trent Edwards come to mind).

My all-time list of big-hitting NFC West safeties -- those who played for teams currently aligned with the division -- would feature Lott, Wilson, Cardinals Hall of Famer Larry Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks' Kenny Easley. Chuck Cecil played only one season for the Cardinals, but he also deserves mention.

There have certainly been others. Who's missing?

There's more to playing the position than hitting, of course. Lott has pointed to his understanding of the game as his most important attribute. He touched on that aspect during the KNBR interview when recalling what made Tatum an excellent player. Delivering crushing hits frequently requires getting in position to make those hits, which requires understanding situations.

Lott and Tatum did that better than most.