The NFC and AFC flopped practice times on Thursday with the NFC hitting the field first at 9:00 a.m.
The funniest moment of the morning came when Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb tried to hit Falcons receiver Roddy White on a deep post. The ball went right through White’s hands and hit Eagles corner Asante Samuel right in the helmet. Onlooking players behind the line of scrimmage erupted with laughter. Samuel embraced the moment, grabbing his helmet and wobbling his head.
“I think I got a concussion,” Samuel joked.
The newest face on the practice field was that of Justin Smith, who got word on Tuesday that he would replace the Vikings’ Kevin Williams in the all-star game. (Click here to view a 49ers.com photo gallery of Thursday’s practice).
“It was a a six-hour flight away and they called me up and said, ‘When can you be here?'” recalled Smith. “Maybe a day and a half. It’s been a long haul, but it’s cool and I’m glad I’m here.”
It’s definitely an honor that’s long past due for Smith, who has played at a high level throughout his nine-year career.
“I’m glad he’s here,” said Patrick Willis, who’s always given a lot of credit for his success to the defensive linemen in front of him. “I saw him last night and I was so excited because he works so hard and comes to practice every day.”
Smith though didn’t have much time to relish his selection, instead, the 49ers defensive end is focused simply on learning a new position.
“I learned I was going to be playing defensive tackle so I’ll get a few more double teams. There’s not that much difference though.”
While Smith plays more on the edges for the 49ers, shifting inside does present an interesting combination with the Vikings Jared Allen outside of Smith.
“I know a lot of people talk about Jared Allen, but I think when you put him and Justin Smith on the same field at the same time, it’s going to be incredible to watch,” Willis said. “Having them on the field at the same time is definite all-star status.”
As it the case with many of the all-stars though, Smith will be asked to play special teams. The NFC ran through kickoff drills a Smith lined up on the coverage unit. Smith said the last time he played special teams was probably in high school.
“I got a little kickoff coverage in,” Smith said. “That’s a first, I’ve never done that before in my career.”
Both Smith and Willis said though that while they’re happy to look around and see five gold 49ers helmets on the field, they wish there was a sixth, Aubrayo Franklin.
Willis was also asked by the media whether he would prefer the Pro Bowl being played before or after the Super Bowl. Since none of the players in the Super Bowl can play in the Pro Bowl, Willis confidently said that he would like to have the Pro Bowl after the Super Bowl so he could play in both games.
Here’s my video report with Smith and Willis following the NFC practice.
Tags: Justin Smith, Patrick Willis, Pro Bowl
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