San Francisco 49ers: Justin Smith

ARLINGTON, Texas -- So, was the San Francisco 49ers' defense forcing turnovers in Sunday’s season opening 28-17 victory, or were the Dallas Cowboys merely presenting the ball to the vistors on a silver platter?

Smith
Depends upon your perspective, obviously, but the result is the same, and the 49ers were only too happy to ride four first-half takeaways into a 28-3 halftime lead. Especially with so many questions surrounding the Niners’ defense heading into the game.

Three starters were already out -- nose tackle Glenn Dorsey (biceps) and linebackers Aldon Smith (suspension) and NaVorro Bowman (knee) -- and the 49ers would lose both starting cornerbacks to injury -- Tramaine Brock (toe) and Chris Culliver (concussion).

"We always go out one game at a time," said defensive lineman Justin Smith. "We just do our deal. We got a lot of guys banged up and nicked up ... there are definitely some things we can improve on defensively from that game. Take it, learn from it and move on to next week."

Aside from Culliver’s scoop and score from 35 yards out on the third snap of the game, Smith might have had the key play of the game, the one that set the tone for the rest of the afternoon.

With the 49ers leading 7-0, the Cowboys drove with relative ease from their own 20 to the Niners' 2-yard line and were facing second and 1 when they called a timeout. Six feet away from tying the game and regaining momentum, the Cowboys could only look on in horror as Smith burst through the line to sack Tony Romo for a nine-yard loss.

Two plays later, the Cowboys had to settle for a field goal and, really, the defense-fueled rout was on.

"We made some big plays today," said Smith, who had six tackles, with two sacks for 20 yards.

"It wasn’t one of our better performances by any stretch of the imagination. I think we are going to use this as a learning experience to get better on."
Nine San Francisco 49ers players have already been listed on our #NFLRank Top 100 players ranking, and left tackle Joe Staley and defensive tackle Justin Smith are the 10th and 11th.

Smith
Staley
Staley, who is entering his eighth season, checks in at No. 24 among all offensive players, a year after being No. 25.

“Staley has started every game and made the Pro Bowl in three straight seasons,” per ESPN Stats & Info. “The 49ers scored a league-high five rushing touchdowns on designed runs outside the left tackle last season.”

Smith, meanwhile, is No. 26 among defensive players. He was No. 11 in 2013.

“Last season, the 49ers recorded a sack on 7.4 percent of pass attempts with Smith on the field compared with only 4.3 percent when Smith was on the sideline,” according to ESPN Stats & Info. “Since Smith joined the 49ers in 2008, opposing quarterbacks’ Total QBR is nearly 20 points lower when he is on the field (42.9) compared with off (60.5).

Following are the 49ers players listed so far on the #NFLRanks project, and their respective rankings.

OFFENSE

No. 81: RT Anthony Davis

No. 54: WR Anquan Boldin

No. 53: LG Mike Iupati

No. 51: WR Michael Crabtree

No. 43: RB Frank Gore

No. 33: QB Colin Kaepernick

No. 24: LT Joe Staley

 

DEFENSE

No. 97: SS Antoine Bethea

No. 74: LB Ahmad Brooks

No. 71: FS Eric Reid

No. 26: DT Justin Smith
Examining the San Francisco 49ers' roster:

QUARTERBACKS (2)

Because of heavy competition elsewhere, the 49ers will likely only carry two quarterbacks. They finished last season that way. The competition will be to see if undrafted rookie Kory Faulkner can take McLeod Bethel-Thompson's spot on the practice squad.

RUNNING BACKS (5)

The fact that the 49ers drafted Hyde in the second round and Lattimore is healthy means some tough decisions will have to be made. Hunter is too valuable to let go. That means 2012 second-round pick LaMichael James will have difficulty making the roster.

WIDE RECEIVERS (6)

The 49ers are so much deeper here this year than last. That means they will likely have to keep six receivers. Lloyd may look good and Patton has too much potential to give up on. That means it could be tough for Kassim Osgood to make it even though he is a special teams cog.

TIGHT ENDS (3)

If Davis ends his holdout, I can't see the 49ers keeping more than three tight ends because of the glut at receiver. Unless Garrett Celek has a big camp, he may be in trouble. Carrier intrigues the 49ers because of his size and speed.

OFFENSIVE LINE (8)

Assuming Boone ends his holdout, this is a pretty nice group of eight players. It's improved from last year. A solid veteran like Adam Snyder and a promising youngster like Ryan Seymour will have trouble making the team.

DEFENSIVE LINE (9)

This is another power spot. It's deep. Players like Jerod-Eddie and Dial are too valuable to cut. Ramsey has looked good and I have a hunch the 49ers may like him too much to expose him to the waiver wire. That means Demarcus Dobbs could be in trouble.

LINEBACKERS (7)

Most teams carry six linebackers but the 49ers are stacked here, especially with NaVorro Bowman out for about half the season. Because fifth-round pick Lynch is promising he should make the roster. Dan Skuta is an excellent player, but there might not be any room for him. I could see him being one of those later-summer Trent Baalke trade specials because he has value.

CORNERBACKS (5)

This unit is in flux, but I see Johnson making it. Don't be surprised if there is some in-camp jockeying as the 49ers look for the best mix.

SAFETIES (5)

Ward, the 49ers' first-round pick, will play nickel cornerback as a rookie, but projects long term as a safety. Ventrone and Spillman should stick because they are great on special teams. Craig Dahl could be in trouble.

SPECIALISTS (3):

This group is set and it's excellent.
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- It's only the second day of tight end Vernon Davis' and tackle Alex Boone's holdout, yet San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh appeared to be tiring of talking about the subject.

"To answer the three, four, five follow-up questions, it gets to be badgering," Harbaugh said. "It gets old. I covered it thoroughly yesterday. I don't feel like there is anything more to say about it at this time."

Here are some other observations from Day 2 of minicamp:
  • Rookies, running back Carlos Hyde and receiver Bruce Ellington, continued to shine in practice Wednesday. The two youngsters look good. If they have a good training camp, both should be in line for solid roles in the season.
  • Harbaugh said veteran defensive end Justin Smith is dealing with an unspecified injury. He should be ready for the start of training camp.
  • The coach also noted the 49ers are working on dealing with eight-man defensive fronts. The 49ers often faced stacked fronts last year because they ran so much. "Yeah, that's a reality and we have to have ways to make defenses pay for that," Harbaugh said. "Excited where our offense is evolving to and continuing to improve so that we can do that, have shown the ability to do that and continue to strive to get better at that."
  • Undrafted rookie safety James McCray from Catawba has been impressive. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio noted he has a long way to go, but he likes McCray's potential. I'd say he is a candidate for the practice squad as of now.
  • As he did earlier in the offseason, star inside linebacker Patrick Willis is playing the Mike position. It was manned by NaVorro Bowman -- but Bowman will be out for about half the season as he recovers from a torn ACL. Willis has played the Mike before but he has been manning the Jack inside linebackers spot.
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Prior to the San Francisco 49ers' first mandatory minicamp practice, offensive coordinator Greg Roman said he was looking for sharp workouts.

The 49ers didn't exactly deliver.

There were plenty of drops in a mostly mundane workout. However, I wouldn't exactly say it's cause for alarm. It's June and a lot of players were held out or limited. This is not high-intensity times.

It's a time to continue to work on rhythm before the team takes a month break before starting training camp.

The 49ers worked a lot of red zone offense Tuesday. They often stalled in the red zone last season, settling for field goals.

Roman said Tuesday he hopes to see an evolved offense in 2014. With a more experienced Colin Kaepernick, deeper receiving core and rookie running back Carlos Hyde, Roman likes the potential changes.

"I think it's fair to make the statement that it's a different offense, 2014. Because we've got some new guys in," Roman said. "I think it's definitely evolved from (from when he arrived to San Francisco with coach Jim Harbaugh in 2011) and it'll probably change a little bit this year."

In other camp notes:
  • Hyde and rookie receiver Bruce Ellington each had their moments Tuesday. Roman praised Hyde for his football knowledge. "Carlos, since he got here from the draft, really impressed me as a guy that football just makes sense to him," Roman said. "If you could just tell him what to do, and you don't have to tell him too much. And that's a beautiful thing in a running back because they have a lot of adjustments to make and protection, etc."
  • Several veterans such as running back Frank Gore and Justin Smith sat out practices as they did in the voluntary practices. It's just saving older players wear-and-tear. Receivers Michael Crabtree and Stevie Johnson didn't work in team drills as the team is being cautious.
  • Receiver Brandon Lloyd continued to make some nice catches as he continues to make a push to make the 53-man roster.
  • Roman was complimentary of young tight ends Vance McDonald and Derek Carrier as they get time with Vernon Davis holding out. McDonald is set to get the most time if Davis stays away. The 2013 second-round pick had some drops Tuesday, which was a problem in his rookie season.
  • Fifth-round pick Aaron Lynch, who will be a pass-rusher, didn't practice because of a hamstring injury. Seventh-round pick Kaleb Ramsey at defensive tackle looked solid. He will be interesting to watch in training camp and in the preseason.
  • Harbaugh maintained that he thinks Gore can play three more years. He is 31 and entering the final year of his contract.
  • Blaine Gabbert has the edge to be to Kaepernick's backup. Harbaugh heaped praise on him. "Very impressed with Blaine mentally, physically -- all attributes that you'd like to see in a quarterback. He's been very good, very solid. (He's) picked up everything very quickly. It's going well. Everything is progressing well. I think you'll watch it when you have a chance to see it today and look at it for yourself. In my eye, it looks very good."
  • Harbaugh said he is optimistic right tackle Anthony Davis will be ready for the start of training camp. He had shoulder surgery in April.
  • Running back Marcus Lattimore looked good and he is working full-go. He missed all of last season as he recovered from a torn ACL he suffered at South Carolina in 2012.
  • In a hint third-round pick Marcus Martin could push Daniel Kilgore for the starting center job, Roman heaped high praise on the rookie. "I think Marcus has done a really good job coming in as a rookie. The center position, there's so much that a center has to do in this league week-to-week," Roman said. "There's just so many different adjustments and whatnot. He's done a really good job so far against our defense, not only physically, but mentally as well."
  • Roman said he is happy with the play of Joe Looney at right guard. He is working with the starters with Alex Boone holding out.
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Patrick Willis may have a slightly different look in the first half of the upcoming season.

Willis
During Tuesday's organized team activity, Willis was playing the "Mike" inside linebacker spot usually occupied by NaVorro Bowman in the 49ers' 3-4 defense. Bowman is likely out until midway through the season as he recovers from a torn ACL. Michael Wilhoite, the leading candidate to take Bowman's spot in the staring lineup, took most of the first-team repetitions Tuesday in the "Jack" inside linebacker spot Willis played last year.

Willis said the change may stick for the season. It is just a subtle change and he is comfortable there because he has played in the spot before. Willis said it is still strange being on the field without his fellow inside-linebacker star Bowman.

In other 49ers' notes:
  • Star tight end Vernon Davis and standout guard Alex Boone continued to stay away from the voluntary session as they have all offseason. They are both unhappy with their contract. Neither player will be considered a holdout until they miss the June 17-19 mandatory minicamp. Second-year tight end Vance McDonald is starting at tight end with Davis gone. McDonald appreciates the extra reps, but admitted this about Davis: "I miss the dude." Joe Looney is working in Boone's right guard spot.
  • The 49ers cut guard Al Netter to make room for special teamer Blake Costanzo on the 90-man roster.
  • Veteran defensive end Justin Smith and running back Frank Gore were onlookers during the meat of the workout. Like Gore, cornerback Chris Culliver participated in early warm-ups and the did not participate in team drills.
  • The 49ers named Dr. Fergus Connolly director of elite performance. Connolly will work intimately with football operations to develop innovative sports and performance science practices geared towards player welfare and performance optimization. He spent the last three years as a performance consultant to teams in the NFL, NBA, English Premier League and professional rugby.
  • Because several receivers were out for various reasons, reserve quarterback Josh Johnson played receiver in some drills. And he didn't look too bad. But don't expect him to change positions. It's just an emergency deal.
  • Among the banged up receivers are Steve Johnson (hamstring) and Quinton Patton (foot). Both injures are considered minor at this point. Like he did last week, Brandon Lloyd had a strong day. Chuck Jacobs, who spent last season in the practice squad, was very active Tuesday.
  • The quarterback whisperer, 49ers' head coach Jim Harbaugh, spent some one-on-one time with undrafted rookie quarterback Kory Faulkner early in Tuesday's practice.

Salary-cap look: Defense

April, 15, 2014
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Let’s take a look at how the San Francisco 49ers' 2014 salary-cap status currently breaks down, thanks to ESPN Stats & Information.

The 49ers have about $4 million under the cap and will get another $6 million-plus June 1 because of the Carlos Rogers cut. Most of that money will go to signing the rookie class.

At this time of year, only the top 51 contracts count toward the salary-cap. Here's a position-by-position look at the 49ers' salary-cap situation under the top 51 rule. We looked at the offense on Monday. Now, let’s look at the defense:

Defensive line

Percentage of salary-cap space used: 15.23

Total cap charge: $19,519,371

NFL average: $21,632,204

Biggest cap hit: Justin Smith, $6,936,667

Biggest bargain: Tony Jerod-Eddie, $495,000

Outlook: The 49ers are getting pretty good value out of this position. Smith is nearing the end of his career, but he is still productive. Defensive tackle Ray McDonald’s cap number is more than $5 million, but he’s also productive. The rest of the unit are pretty reasonably priced.

Linebackers

Percentage of salary-cap space used: 22.69

Total cap charge: $29,083,725

NFL average: $15,201,455

Biggest cap hit: NaVorro Bowman, $7,050,000

Biggest bargain: Michael Wilhoite, $570,000

Outlook: The 49ers are paying their linebackers almost double the league average. But it is perhaps the best unit in the NFL. Thus, they are getting what they pay for. Even though he is taking up the most cap room, Bowman will miss about half the season because of a torn ACL. Wilhoite has the best chance to replace him. This position could be even more expensive next year. Aldon Smith has a cap number of more than $4 million this year. The 49ers may give him a 2015 option with a price tag of more than $9 million. But again, the value is there from this group. With quarterback Colin Kaepernick getting more money soon, the 49ers will have to take cap room from other positions, with running back an area that could be reduced in 2015.

Cornerback

Percentage of salary-cap space used: 3.62

Total cap charge: $4,645,719

NFL average: $12,316,626

Biggest cap hit: Tramaine Brock, $2,000,000

Biggest bargain: Darryl Morris, $495,000

Outlook: Along with quarterback (and that will change soon), this is the 49ers’ biggest bargain area. They pay their cornerbacks more than 60 percent less than the NFL average. Yes, the group is young and that is a reason for the low average. The 49ers may use a first-round pick at the position and that will change things. But this position will remain a relative bargain for the next few years, which will help expected raises at other positions.

Safety

Percentage of salary-cap space used: 7.63

Total cap charge: $9,784,111

NFL average: $8,237,006

Biggest cap hit: Antoine Bethea, $3,000,000

Biggest bargain: Eric Reid, $1,927,444

Outlook: The 49ers are just above the league average at safety, but they get production. Reid, a first-round pick last year, gives great value and they also get strong special teams production from C.J. Spillman, Bubba Ventrone and Craig Dahl.

49ers rankings: 11-15

February, 14, 2014
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We are taking a look at the top 60 players in the San Francisco 49ers’ program and will rank them from 1-60. We are going to take a look in a 12-part series, moving upward. The ranking considerations are based on 2013 production, future projections, age, and contract status:

11. Running back Frank Gore: Gore had one of the best seasons of his career at the age of 30, and the team relied on him greatly. Sooner or later, Gore will slow down and the 49ers will move on. Perhaps he will be asked to take a pay reduction, but I expect Gore to continue to be in the team’s plans.

12 Defensive lineman Justin Smith: Smith had another huge season in 2013. He takes on double teams like it's a one-on-one matchup and he is one of the heartbeats of the defense. He will be 35 in September, but the 49ers gave him some plays off when they could and he is fresh.

13. Wide Receiver Anquan Boldin: Boldin certainly played better than the 13th-best player on the team in 2013. But he is 33 and he is a free agent. He doesn’t have a lot of time left, but for 2014, re-signing him is crucial.

14. Guard Mike Iupati: Iupati had a tough season physically. He missed four games with a knee injury and he broke his fibula in the NFC title game. He will be fine for 2014. It is a big year for Iupati. He will be a free agent in 2015 and because of long-term needs and Iupati’s likely expectation for a big deal; he could be entering his final year with the 49ers.

15. Tackle Anthony Davis: A solid, consistent member of a strong offensive line. He just goes out and plays well every week.

Arrow indicates direction team is trending.

Final Power Ranking: 4
Preseason Power Ranking: 2

Biggest surprise: The impact that Michael Crabtree's injury and then his return had on the team. When Crabtree suffered a torn Achilles in May, the 49ers knew it would affect their offense. But his absence was felt dramatically during the 11 games he was out. The 49ers had essentially nothing behind receiver Anquan Boldin and tight end Vernon Davis in the passing game. However, when he returned Dec. 1, the 49ers were instantly a better, more varied, dangerous offense. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick was more confident. The difference was stark.

Biggest disappointment: The loss at New Orleans on Nov. 17. The 49ers appeared to have sealed the game when linebacker Ahmad Brooks sacked and forced New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees to fumble late. But Brooks was called for a questionable personal foul. The Saints rallied to win. It was a major storyline in the NFL that week. Had the 49ers won, they would have finished 13-3, won a tiebreaker over Seattle in the NFC West and would not have had to play at Seattle in the playoffs.

Biggest need: The 49ers are deep. They don't have many holes. But they can use another young receiver. Boldin is 33 and a free agent. Fourth-round pick Quinton Patton looks promising, but San Francisco will likely take a speed receiver early in the draft. Expect the team to take a cornerback fairly early as well. The 49ers need to develop a young player there.

Team MVP: Inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman. The 25-year-old had an amazing season. He is an NFL Defensive Player of the Year candidate. He was dominant in virtually every game. He is a special playmaker. It was a sad sight seeing him being carted off in the fourth quarter of Sunday's loss at Seattle with a major knee injury. Bowman is expected back next season. The 49ers need him.

In our NFL confidential survey, Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson received the most votes when players were asked which player do they most want to see play in a Super Bowl.

Peterson was a popular choice among the 10 49ers players polled. So it's not surprising he was the leading vote getter. Most of the 49ers’ roster was not eligible because they qualified for the Super Bowl last season.

If not, I’m sure players like running back Frank Gore, defensive tackle Justin Smith and linebacker Patrick Willis would have received votes because they are so well respected around the league.

Small 49ers' Pro Bowl group

January, 21, 2014
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There will not be a big San Francisco 49ers' contingent at this weekend's Pro Bowl.

Linebacker Ahmad Brooks told the San Jose Mercury News he expects to be the only 49er there. Eight 49ers made the team, which was announced in December. It was tied for the most with Kansas City.

Linebacker NaVorro Bowman (knee) and guard Mike Iupati (leg) were seriously injured in the 49ers' loss at Seattle in the NFC title game Sunday. Left tackle Joe Staley suffered a minor thumb injury.

Brooks told the paper running back Frank Gore, defensive tackle Justin Smith and linebacker Patrick Willis aren't planning on playing and tight end Vernon Davis told reporters nagging injuries will keep him out.

All the bail outs are not surprising. Often players, especially players who have been to the Pro Bowl in the past, choose to rest rather to go to the Pro Bowl. It is especially not surprising in the 49ers' case. They just ended a three-week window in which they played three road playoff games.

NFLN survey/most respected: 49ers

January, 16, 2014
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In our player survey (10 players from every team were asked) Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning is the most respected player in the league.

No player from the San Francisco 49ers were among the league leaders in the category.

Manning received solid support from the players I polled.

If I had to say which San Francisco player would win these category, I'd say defensive tackle Justin Smith would be the most respected.

The 34-year-old Smith is probably the most respected player in the locker room by his teammates.
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- As he dressed alongside NaVorro Bowman, after another dominant San Francisco 49ers defensive performance that propelled the team to its third straight NFC Championship Game, Patrick Willis looked up.

“This is the greatest sport there is,” the perennial Pro Bowl linebacker said. Bowman smiled and nodded.

[+] EnlargeNaVorro Bowman and Patrick Willis
AP Photo/Marcio Jose SanchezLinebackers NaVorro Bowman (53) and Patrick Willis anchor a 49ers defense that has the team competing for the NFC championship on Sunday.
They are arguably the greatest pair of position players in the NFL.

As the 49ers have revisited their glorified past this season under coach Jim Harbaugh, it has been cemented by fierce, take-over defensive play. The team's five Super Bowl trophies may have been won by players like Joe Montana, Jerry Rice and Steve Young, yet their latest run at a dynasty is being paved on the other side of the ball.

It starts with Willis and Bowman.

“They are like two machines in the middle of our defense,” San Francisco rookie safety Eric Reid said.

The two inside linebackers are the heartbeat of the 49ers’ defense, which has shut out opponents in an NFL-high 35 of 78 quarters this season.

The defense is loaded with stalwarts such as outside linebackers Aldon Smith and Ahmad Brooks, defensive tackle Justin Smith, and safety Donte Whitner, but the personality of this unit starts with Willis and Bowman.

In fact, some believe the duo might be among the best linebacker tandems ever to play.

“They are historically good,” ESPN analyst Matt Williamson said. “They are there with [Jack] Ham/[Jack] Lambert, [Brian] Urlacher/[Lance] Briggs, [Willie] Lanier/[Bobby] Bell. [Willis and Bowman] are a truly rare and elite pairing.”

The 49ers came across this historic pairing unexpectedly. They drafted Willis, who will turn 29 later this month, with the No. 11 overall pick in the 2007 draft. He was considered a can’t-miss prospect out of Mississippi and has been first- or second-team All-Pro in his first six NFL seasons.

When the 49ers drafted Bowman three years later, they were just hoping to get a capable potential starter. He was taken in the third round out of Penn State in 2010. Running back Frank Gore recalls seeing Bowman as a rookie in camp and knowing the 49ers might have found the perfect complement to Willis.

“Even in training camp, OTAs, I just saw how fast he was,” Gore said. “How he could read and get to the ball. We have the same agent (Drew Rosenhaus) and I called my agent and I said, 'Man, you've got somebody right here, man. That’s a good pickup for you to represent.' "

Still, Bowman’s success was not instant. Harbaugh's staff came in 2011. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio told his new defense that only Willis and Justin Smith were guaranteed a spot. Everyone else had to go earn it. Bowman listened.

“No, because he really didn’t play much the year before,” Fangio said, when asked if he had big expectations for Bowman in 2011. "And all through that offseason, that was the lockout year, there was kind of an assumption that Takeo Spikes was going to come back here. And NaVorro probably would have been in the same role. In retrospect, it’s a good thing that Takeo didn't come back here because he would have been beaten out by NaVorro.”

Once Bowman, 25, got on the field, he and Willis instantly clicked. Both have been among the league leaders in tackles, and they have a unique chemistry. While Bowman was an All-Pro last season, he has taken his game to the next level as Willis dealt with hand and hamstring injuries early in the season.

Bowman, who came up with the 49ers' play of the year when he saved the final game at Candlestick Park in Week 16 by returning an interception 89 yards for a touchdown against Atlanta, is a candidate for the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award. Willis fully supports his younger teammate. Asked about Bowman's candidacy, Willis said “he has my vote.”

Perhaps what makes this combination so strong is that they are as in sync off the field as they are on it. They each had 11 tackles, tying for a team-high (Willis also had an interception), in the 23-10 win Sunday against Carolina that sent the 49ers to the NFC title game against Seattle. They conducted their postgame news conference together. Willis, a country kid from Tennessee, and Bowman, who hails from a high-crime area in Maryland just outside Washington, D.C., both are quiet by nature, and neither is overly flashy off the field. Bowman said the key to their success is discipline in the study room.

“We are students, we are in school,” Bowman said. “We learn every day.”

The 49ers will be counting on them for the long haul. Willis is signed through 2016 and Bowman through 2018, and Harbaugh knows these two are a key to the team’s success.

“The teamwork, the respect that they have for each other, the love, is shared by many people on the team,” Harbaugh said. "And that, as a coach, there’s nothing that makes you feel as good as to hear that. That’s the team, the team, the team. And it’s genuine. It’s not talk."

Neither is the impact of Willis and Bowman on the 49ers' success.

49ers enjoying strong health

January, 8, 2014
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SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- While cornerback Carlos Rogers' hamstring injury continues to linger, the San Francisco 49ers head into their NFC divisional playoff game at Carolina in solid overall health.

Earlier Wednesday, 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said he liked his team’s overall health going into the game and the team's injury report confirmed the 49ers are in solid shape.

The following San Francisco players missed practice Wednesday: defensive tackle Demarcus Dobbs (knee, shoulder), center Jonathan Goodwin (not injury related), defensive tackle Justin Smith (shoulder) and Rogers.

Smith and Goodwin routinely don’t practice on Wednesdays and Dobbs is a backup. If Rogers, who didn’t play at Green Bay, can’t play Sunday, Perrish Cox and Eric Wright will play the nickel spot for him.

In other 49ers notes:

Harbaugh said this when asked to explain how much fun he’s having coaching in the playoffs: “This is as much fun as you can possibly have in football and as much fun as you can have in life, yeah.”

Harbaugh said he thought the 49ers matched up well physically against the tough-and-tumble Panthers in Carolina’s 10-9 win in San Francisco on Nov. 10.

Harbaugh complemented the Panthers' defensive front seven by saying it was the most talented group the 49ers have played this season.
The San Francisco 49ers landed five players on the first and second teams of the coveted Associated Press All-Pro list.

Bowman
The number was tied for the most in the NFL with Kansas City and Cleveland. However, only inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman was named first-team All-Pro for San Francisco.

It was no surprise Bowman was named to the first team. He was dominant all season and is a NFL Defensive Player of the Year candidate. The 49ers named to the second team were defensive tackle Justin Smith, linebacker Ahmad Brooks, tackle Joe Staley and tight end Vernon Davis.

Meanwhile, the 49ers announced their own annual awards. Here is the release from the team:

Len Eshmont Award: LB NaVorro Bowman

The Len Eshmont Award is voted on by the players and is given to the 49er who best exemplifies the inspirational and courageous play of Len Eshmont, an original member of the 1946 49ers team. Eshmont, who coached at Navy and Virginia following his career in San Francisco, died in 1957. The award was established that year.

Bill Walsh Award: WR Anquan Boldin

The Bill Walsh Award was established in 2004 in honor of San Francisco's Hall of Fame head coach. Walsh served as the team's head coach for 10 seasons from 1979-88. In that time, he compiled a record of 102-63-1 and led the team to three Super Bowls. He was twice named Coach of the Year (1981, 1984) and was later named Coach of the Decade for the 1980s. The award, which is voted on by coaches, is given to the 49ers team MVP, honoring his outstanding individual performance.

Bobb McKittrick Award: G/T Alex Boone

The Bobb McKittrick Award is given annually to the 49ers offensive lineman who best represents the courage, intensity and sacrifice displayed by the longtime offensive line coach, during his 21 years of service to the 49ers. The award was established by the 49ers in 1999, and is voted on by the offensive line.

Hazeltine Iron Man Award: DT Justin Smith

The Hazeltine Iron Man Award is named for former linebacker Matt Hazeltine, a 13-year performer who played more seasons at linebacker than any other 49ers player. Known for his durability and dedication, Hazeltine passed away in 1987 from ALS, and Bill Walsh established the award in his honor that year. The award is given annually to the most courageous and inspirational defensive player as voted upon by the defensive coaches.

Thomas Herrion Memorial Award: S Eric Reid

Thomas Herrion Memorial Award was established in 2005 by 49ers owners Denise and John York and is presented to a rookie or first-year player who best represents the dream of Thomas Herrion. The recipient has taken advantage of every opportunity, turned it into a positive situation and made their dream turn into a reality. The award is voted on by the coaches.

Blue Collar Players of the Year: As voted on by the players and coaches:


Defense: Glenn Dorsey
Offense: Frank Gore
Special teams: Bubba Ventrone

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