When Patrick Willis talks passionately about progress being made with the 49ers defense, people should take notice.
That was the case Wednesday, when the four-time Pro Bowler shared his outlook on the new-look defensive unit.
“I’m very excited about what we have and what we can accomplish,” Willis said.
Although he’s had several trips to Hawaii, Willis has yet to play in the postseason. Personal glory, however, doesn’t change his view towards the game of football. For Willis, it’s all about team success.
“I don’t feel there is more added pressure on me,” the 49ers linebacker said. “Pressure is when you’re not prepared. To me, I come out every day to work and get better. I don’t look for the easy way out or short corner. The only thing I know is to go out and work.”
Getting back to work is exactly what Willis has done. Besides getting individual tips from defensive coordinator Vic Fangio and linebackers coach Jim Leavitt off to the side at times during practice, Willis has been pushing himself in a number of other ways.
Adding more pass rushing and blitzing techniques have been well documented in camp, becoming a better communicator is a part of it, too.
Willis has again been wearing the coaches’ radio in his helmet during preseason games, but said he’s unsure if it’ll be the same way this season. “We’ll see what’s best for the team.”
Whether or not Willis is relaying in play calls from the sideline, the 6-foot-1, 240-pound linebacker who has an astounding 595 career tackles already to his credit, remains as one of the team’s key voices. If Willis feels excited about the strides being made, it should certainly makes waves.
And with Saturday’s third preseason matchup pitting the 49ers against a top-notch offensive attack in the Houston Texans, Willis sees it as a suitable challenge.
Willis will likely play into the third quarter like most starters, but preseason or not, he said it’s not easy coming out of the game.
“Every time I have an opportunity to play,” Willis said, “I look to play for 60 minutes. … When I get started, I want to finish. When the coaches pull me, I come out. In my mind, it’s gameday and I’m set to play.”
Willis admitted to looking ahead at the regular season opener against the Seattle Seahawks “a little bit,” but said the team would continue to get deeper into their preparation for the Sept. 11 matchup as the weeks come.
Asked if he missed his old teammate Takeo Spikes, Willis said he certainly did, but appreciates his “new brother” beside him in second-year linebacker NaVorro Bowman. “He’s a joy to play with,” Willis said. “The opportunity is there for us to become an inside linebacker tandem and that’s what we’re working toward.”
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