The 49ers boast arguably the best quartet of linebackers in the NFL. Ahmad Brooks might not get the national publicity of the other players in his position group — Patrick Willis, NaVorro Bowman and Aldon Smith — but those around the 49ers know how valuable Brooks is on the left edge of the defense.
On Sunday, the seventh-year veteran showed why the 49ers signed him to six-year extension in the offseason, recording five tackles, 1.5 sacks and an interception return for a touchdown. Brooks, who is vying to be named to his first Pro Bowl, is among a host of 49ers that are making strong cases to be nominated to the NFL’s annual All-Star game. You can vote for San Francisco’s finest at 49ers.com/ProBowl.
Tags: Ahmad Brooks, Bruce Miller, Donte Whitner, Pro Bowl
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Second-year linebacker Aldon Smith has picked up where he left off to finish his rookie season. The talented, emerging star has racked up 9.5 sacks this year after notching a franchise rookie record of 14 in 2011, flourishing in his every-down role.
Smith has proven to be a valuable run-stuffer throughout the season, as evidenced by last week’s impressive one-on-one tackle of running back Steven Jackson in the St. Louis backfield. Smith also took down Rams quarterback Sam Bradford twice to pick up his third multi-sack game of the year and second in a row. He currently ranks third in the NFL with 9.5 sacks and you can send him to Hawaii for the first Pro Bowl of his career.
You can vote for Smith and his teammates using 49ers.com’s 2013 Pro Bowl Ballot.
Tags: Aldon Smith, Andy Lee, Dashon Goldson, Frank Gore, Pro Bowl
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The 49ers are back in the building following last week’s bye. As the team gets ready for its Week 10 home matchup against the St. Louis Rams, the 49ers Faithful should be getting ready to send their favorite players to the 2013 Pro Bowl in Hawaii.
Eight members of the 2011 49ers were voted to the NFL’s annual all-star game last year, and there are even more players making their cases to play in the Pro Bowl this season. Faithful Fans can vote for the 49ers in all three phases of the game — offense, defense and special teams.
Quarterback Alex Smith has established himself as one of the league’s most efficient quarterbacks through eight games, leading the NFC with a 69.4 completion percentage and ranking No. 3 in NFC passer rating (102.1). Smith also earned praise from Sports Illustrated’s Peter King, who wrote, “Smith didn’t play Sunday; the 49ers had their bye this weekend. But I didn’t want the week to get away from us without extolling his virtues after his performance last Monday. His numbers were alarmingly good: 18 of 19 for 232 yards, with three touchdowns and no interceptions — and the one incompletion was a clear drop by Delanie Walker.”
Tags: Alex Smith, C.J. Spillman, Michael Crabtree, Navorro Bowman, Pro Bowl
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Following an offseason of speculation regarding the future of the Pro Bowl, the NFL and the NFL Players Association jointly announced Wednesday that football’s annual All-Star game will return to Honolulu in 2013.
The Pro Bowl became a hot topic after many questioned the value of the game and the effort of the players involved, but 49ers punter Andy Lee said he was happy to hear it would be returning to Aloha Stadium.
“Who doesn’t enjoy going to Hawaii? It’s awesome,” Lee said.
Tags: Andy Lee, Pro Bowl
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The San Francisco 49ers announced that LS Brian Jennings has been named to the 2012 NFC Pro Bowl squad. Jennings was selected as this year’s need player by the Green Bay Packers coaching staff. It marks the second Pro Bowl selection for Jennings (2004). The team also announced that S Dashon Goldson and CB Carlos Rogers will not be participating in the Pro Bowl due to injury.
Tags: Brian Jennings, Pro Bowl
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The 2011 Pro Bowl will be played a week before Super Bowl XLV and return to Aloha Stadium in Honolulu, Hawaii, the NFL announced today. The game will be televised live on Sunday, January 30 on FOX at 7 PM ET. FOX will televise Super Bowl XLV a week later on Sunday, February 6 from Cowboys Stadium in North Texas.
The decision to play the NFL’s All-Star Game the week before the Super Bowl for the second consecutive year follows a significant increase in viewership for the 2010 Pro Bowl, the first Pro Bowl to precede the Super Bowl.
The 2010 Pro Bowl on ESPN was watched by an average of 12.3 million viewers, the most for a Pro Bowl since 2000 (13.2 million viewers) and a 40 percent increase from the 2009 game (8.8 million viewers). The 12.3 million viewers also marked the largest viewership for an All-Star game in any sport on cable television. The game at Sun Life Stadium in South Florida also attracted the largest Pro Bowl attendance (70,697) in 50 years.
The Pro Bowl format was discussed last week with the NFL Players Association and a group of players during a meeting with the Competition Committee in Indianapolis.
“Playing the Pro Bowl before the Super Bowl generated more excitement and interest in the event and also kicked off Super Bowl week in an innovative new way,” said Frank Supovitz, the NFL’s senior vice president of events. “We are pleased to return to the State of Hawaii, which has embraced the Pro Bowl for 30 years.”
The Pro Bowl’s return to Hawaii, where it had been held consecutively from 1980 to 2009, is part of a two-year agreement between the NFL and the state of Hawaii to play the 2011 and 2012 games there.
Tags: Pro Bowl
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The NFC and AFC squads wrapped up their week of practice on Saturday. The practices were held at Lockhart stadium in Ft. Lauderdale and were open to the public.
Take a look at our photo gallery from Saturday’s practice. It was a lighter, abbreviated session that featured the NFL cheerleaders. NFC coach Wade Phillips was also miked up during practice and that sound was played over the stadium’s speakers so that all the fans could hear the interaction between Philips and the players.
Patrick Willis was replaced on the NFC roster by Panthers linebackers Jon Beason after he decided not to play because of a minor injury.
With the week of practice concluding, players will get the rest of the day off and resume preparation on Sunday for the 7:20 ET kickoff of the NFL’s all-star game.
There hasn’t been much adjustment for players like Jason Witten. The Cowboys tight end didn’t have to learn anything new this week since the Cowboys coaching staff is heading the NFC squad.
“I think there are going to be some good plays,” Witten said. “I know this offense pretty well so I’m excited about it and I look forward to playing tomorrow.”
49ers punter Andy Lee looks around at the rest of teammates and can only feel optimistic about his team in tomorrow’s game.
“The only thing I can say is I like our chances,” Lee said. “We’ve been practicing well so we’ll see how it all goes tomorrow.”
This will be Lee’s second Pro Bowl. He was selected to the team in 2007, but the only time he was on the field in that game was to hold on field goal kicks.
“I didn’t punt the last time, so I don’t know if I really learned anything from that game that will help me tomorrow,” Lee joked. “I just have to go out there, do my job and show why I was chosen.”
Lee ranked 1st in the NFC in 2009 with a 47.6 gross punt average so he’ll definitely be an asset for his team if called upon on Sunday. However, Lee laughed and said that he wants to be even more involved.
“I don’t think we have a fake in, who knows,” Lee said. “We could throw something in, but we’ll see if I’ll have to actually punt this time around.”
It’s been an enjoyable week for Lee who was able to bring his wife Rachel as well as some of his family out to South Florida along with him.
“Yesterday was great,” said Lee. “I went out to eat with the family and hung out by the pool. The place we went to eat was called Truluck’s. I got this big Alaskan crab from Dutch Harbor. That what they have on the show Deadliest Catch. It was great.”
For all of our coverage of the Pro Bowl, visit our Pro Bowl Central page.
Tags: Andy Lee, Pro Bowl
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Friday started off early at the team hotel as the AFC and NFC teams suited up for their team photos. It’s a great opportunity for the teams to get photos of all their players together as a group for a quick photo.
Once again, Donovan McNabb provided all the needed comic relief during the NFC photo. One of the photographers was wearing a full Florida State warmup suit. His clothes, combined with his gray hair made him look exactly like former FSU coach Bobby Bowden…minus his famous hat of course.
“Hey Bobby!” McNabb yelled. “You’ve had a great career Bobby, sorry to see you go.”
Some of the players were then asked to come over as a team and speak with members of the armed forces on a live teleconference. The Vikings and the 49ers both spoke for the NFC. One of the members of the military asked Adrian Peterson why they fumbled six times in the conference championship game against the New Orleans Saints.
“Man, tough crowd,” Jared Allen responded.
Allen was then asked how it was to play with the oldest quarterback in the NFL, Brett Farve.
“It’s great,” Allen said. “We get discounts at the movie theaters.”
Take a look at our photo gallery from picture day. It was truly quite a show, highlighted by McNabb sporting a police officer’s uniform and riding around on the officer’s scooter.
One sentimental sight at this week’s practices was Patrick Willis’ former high school coaches Rod Sturdivant and Jack McGee. The two surprised Willis, making the trip from Bruceton, Tennesse to Miami.
“Coach Sing said, ‘I’m going to ask two other people to come.’ And he didn’t tell me who he was going to ask,” Willis said. “When I saw them I was really excited because those are the guys who really helped me get to where I am today.”
As much as Sturdivant and McGee impacted Willis’ career, Willis also left quite an impression on his coaches while he was in high school.
“He was a man amongst boys,” Sturdivant said. “As you can see now with where he’s gone, in our league he was head and shoulders above everyone else. He was a leader by example. He’s a quiet individual, but we really saw his great work ethic in everything he did, his schoolwork and also on the field.”
Playing in a small town like Bruceton, the competition level may not have been as high as some of the larger football divisions. That didn’t hinder Willis, it made him work that much harder.
“I had ambitions, I had dreams,” Willis said. “I wanted to get to where I am now. This is my third Pro Bowl and I’m grateful. I thank God every day.”
For Sturdivant and McGee, seeing their former pupil in the NFL’s all-star game for the third time in three years is rewarding.
“It’s unbelievable and it couldn’t happen to a more deserving young man,” Sturdivant said.
The turning point for Willis occured in his first year with Sturdivant and McGee. Willis was only a Freshman, playing on the kickoff return team when a short kick headed straight for him. Willis bobbled the kick and it was recovered by the opposing team.
“I felt so bad, but coach McGee said, ‘You know what, forget about this. I want you to get in there and play defense,”’ Willis recalled. “From that point I went out and played defense lights out. To this day, that’s why I love to play defense as much as I do. That was the start of it.”
Though Willis’ team when on to lose that quarterfinal game, the advice certainly benefited him and the rest of the defense Willis will be playing with during Sunday’s Pro Bowl. The NFC boasts an imposing linebacker corps with the likes of Brian Orakpo of the Redskins, DeMarcus Ware of the Cowboys and Clay Matthews of the Packers.
“I got to know Patrick before the draft a little bit and he’s a great guy,” Orakpo said. “He’s a playmaker and that’s what I like – guys who make plays, but who are still very humble in their football careers. Hopefully there’s still plenty more Pro Bowls to come for him.”
Here’s my entire interview with Willis after Friday’s practice.
Tags: Patrick Willis, Pro Bowl
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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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The AFC and NFC squads hit the field at St. Thomas Aquinas High School in South Florida on Wednesday for their first practices of the 2010 Pro Bowl. The Cowboys and Chargers coaching staffs ran the drills for their respective conferences.
The NFC’s practice was a little longer than what I expected for a Pro Bowl session. Players don’t go full speed during the drills, focusing more on mental reps and learning the offensive and defensive schemes. The schemes are usually pretty basic so all of the players can pick things up during the week. (Click here to view a 49ers.com photo gallery of Wednesday’s practice).
Donovan McNabb was easily the most vocal player on the field, laughing and joking with teammates. Every time McNabb would throw a pass to Cowboys receiver Miles Austin, Austin would bat it down, refusing to catch anything from McNabb. The two kept laughing at each other for most of the morning.
He also joked with Vernon Davis. McNabb seemed shocked to see Davis’ short hair.
“He told me he was glad I shaved of my six dreads,” Davis told reporters after practice.
Justin Smith was the only 49ers Pro Bowler not present at practice. He learned that he would replace the Vikings’ Kevin Williams yesterday so he should be arriving by tomorrow.
It’s an especially meaningful week for running back Frank Gore, who hasn’t played in his hometown of Miami since his days at “The U.”
“It’s a great opportunity to play in front of my family,” Gore said. “That’s the best part about this. My family hasn’t been able to see me play since I’ve been in the NFL so that makes this week really special. I wasn’t able to play last year when we came out to play the Dolphins so this is great!”
One of the family members Gore is most excited to play in front of is his son, Frank Jr., who is becoming quite a good football player himself.
“He’s really excited to see me play,” Gore said. “He’s taking after his dad so far. I’m proud of him because he’s continued working really hard.”
Gore grew up in Coral Gables and attended Coral Gables High School so it seemed weird to him to be practicing on the field of his former rival school, St. Thomas Aquinas.
Some of the high school students were allowed to take some time away from class to come out and watch the practice. It also made the practices more lively the students would cheer after good plays and yell encouragement for their favorite players.
“It’s a good opportunity for them to see a lot of NFL guys, especially players who made the Pro Bowl who are supposed to be the best at their position,” Gore said.
Gore said he’s really looking forward to see how his teammate and good friend Vernon Davis plays with the best players in the business.
“I want to see how Vernon does. I think he’s going to play fast like he always does and turn some heads.”
Gore admitted he probably wasn’t playing as fast as he normally does during the first session of the practice. During special teams drills, Gore lined up on kickoff coverage and proceeded to sprint down the field and get into tackling position on the return man.
“That was crazy,” Gore said with a grin. “I had no idea what I was doing.”
I caught up with some of our guys after the NFC practice. Watch the video below:
The AFC players had some interesting things to say following their practice as well. Here’s my report following their practice:
Tags: ", Andy Lee, Frank Gore, Justin Smith, Patrick Willis, Pro Bowl, Vernon Davis
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