For football fans the world over, the film “Remember the Titans” is a classic. Members of the San Francisco 49ers defensive unit have used one particular scene from the movie to bolster an already strong and unique team chemistry.
One of the more memorable scenes of the film pitted fellow linebackers and Gerry Bertier and Julius Campbell shoving and yelling “left side” and “strong side” at one another respectively in a moment that represented a turning point in the team’s first training camp.
A similar friendly rivalry has developed within the 49ers, one that is pitting outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks and defensive tackle Ray McDonald on the left side of San Francisco’s 3-4 scheme against outside linebacker Aldon Smith and defensive tackle Justin Smith on the right.
Brooks spoke about his and McDonald’s reenactment of the scene, which they first did last season, when he met the media on Wednesday.
“We have a saying from Remember the Titans where one day last year Ray said ‘left side’ and I said ‘strong side,’” Brooks recalled. “Now we have this thing with our side being the best, so I compare it with Aldon and Justin.”
The Smith’s on the right side of the defense may not shout movie quotes at one another, but they certainly don’t want to be upstaged by their teammates to the left.
“We’re really just competing as sides,” Aldon Smith, the No. 7 overall selection in the 2011 NFL Draft said. “We try to see if me and Justin can make more plays than Ahmad and Ray can make. We just let the play do all the talking.”
Jim Harbaugh encourages competition in team practices and it’s difficult to argue with the results the front-seven rivalry produced last season.
The 49ers defense finished second in the NFL allowing just 14.3 points-per-game thanks in large part to an All-Pro season from Justin Smith among others.
Never far behind him was Aldon Smith, who was named Pro Football Weekly’s Rookie Defensive Player of the Year after notching a team-leading, franchise rookie record of 14.0 sacks. His 14.0 sacks led all rookies in 2011 and tied for fifth overall in the NFL.
Brooks was no slouch himself in 2011 as he tallied career highs in tackles (59), sacks (7) and pass deflections (3).
Brooks, the 6-foot-3, 269 pounder has come into 49ers Training Camp in what he described as the best shape of his professional career.
The outside linebacker stayed in the Bay Area over the offseason to continue working out with teammates like Justin Smith, McDonald and Tavares Gooden.
“I really wanted to stay out here and be close to the guys coming off a good season last year,” Brooks said. “I thought it was imperative for me to stay in shape … usually when I go home I start hanging out and eating good cooking from my mother. I just wanted to stay out here and continue to do things everyone else was doing.”
Brooks improved his bench press in the offseason in addition to adding squats to his workouts for the first time in at least two years. The offseason training seems to have paid dividends in camp so far as Brooks reports feeling swift to the ball and better recovery in between plays.
Brooks notably intercepted Scott Tolzien in a team period during the Aug. 4 practice session as a highlight of his training camp so far.
Jim Harbaugh and Vic Fangio have also noticed the hard work Brooks put in this offseason, especially after her signed six-year contract extension in February.
The next test for Brooks and the rest of the 49ers will come on Friday in the first exhibition matchup of 2012 against the Minnesota Vikings at home.
“I am excited, it’s football,” Brooks said. “I love playing this game and we will be able to have a chance to showcase what we have learned thus far during training camp.”
Tags: Ahmad Brooks, Aldon Smith, Justin Smith, Ray McDonald
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