If it wasn’t for the color of jerseys they wear, you might not be able to distinguish the 49ers linebackers from some of the 49ers pass catchers.
At least that’s Patrick Willis’ opinion.
Willis, along with NaVorro Bowman and Ahmad Brooks competed with wide receivers and defensive backs in the gauntlet drills at Wednesday’s Football School session. Similar to what receivers are asked to do at the NFL Combine, the players catch a total of seven passes from alternating sides while sprinting from one sideline to the other.
“It was a lot of fun,” Willis said as his eyes got bigger. “Not being on special teams, we found something else to participate in and that’s doing the gauntlet drill. I have to say we’re pretty good at it.”
Extremely athletic in their own rights, Willis and Bowman take just as much pride in defending the pass as they do blitzing and stopping the run. While the players certainly enjoy the uniqueness of the drill, they are also quite competitive when it comes to sharpening their skills.
“It pays off because we have to cover some good tight ends and running backs,” Willis said. “I was messing with Delanie (Walker) and Vernon (Davis) today, telling them I think Bowman and I can go in and play tight end. I told him I know we’re faster and we’re more athletic. Delanie, he begs to differ.”
Willis says that versatility is essential when playing in defensive coordinator Vic Fangio’s system.
“In our defense, we don’t want to have any weaknesses,” Willis said. “I’m not saying we’re a perfect defense, because we’re not. There are a lot of things we have to continue to work on and get better at. When you’re able to have linebackers that can get out in the slot and have to drop into coverage and have to cover man-to-man, be able to move and do what DBs do, it pays off. Those are some of the things we’re working on and trying to polish up and get better at during this time.”
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