2014 DRAFT GUIDE
Patrick Willis will carry on Lewis' No. 52 legacy

    2013-01-31 03:33

(Updates. With AP Photos.)
By JANIE McCAULEY
AP Sports Writer

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Two of the league's most imposing inside linebackers both happen to wear No. 52.

This story is about the other one.

Patrick Willis of the San Francisco 49ers already has done plenty to prove his is the dominant 52 on the left coast and beyond, having been an All-Pro in five of his six NFL seasons. After enduring years of losing, he finally gets to flaunt his talent on the NFL's biggest stage at Sunday's Super Bowl, where he'll meet up with ... you guessed it. ...

No. 52 of the Baltimore Ravens, retiring Ray Lewis.

``I think in a couple years, people are going to come along and say, `Is that 52 Patrick Willis?''' 49ers linebacker Aldon Smith said. ``He's his own guy. He's making his own name.''

Aside from the number, Lewis and Willis are as different as they come. Lewis is emotional, loud and brash. Willis is soft-spoken and happy to stay behind the scenes.

``That's a whole different guy. That's Patrick Willis,'' Smith said. ``No disrespect to Ray Lewis. Ray's a great guy and he's done so much for this league and it's much-appreciated, but that's Patrick Willis.''

On the field, they each deliver pain the same way.

They make quarterbacks quiver. Ask 49ers backup Alex Smith. He doesn't even like seeing Willis on the practice field.

And alongside San Francisco's 52 is No. 53 NaVorro Bowman. Together, they deliver an All-Pro 1-2 linebacking punch.

``That 52 and 53 are going to be around a long time,'' Ravens running back Ray Rice said. ``They're going to be a force to reckon with. Sort of like our guys.''

Nobody has to remind Lewis what Willis brings on game day.

``I think he is one of the up-and-coming young stars who plays the game the right way,'' Lewis said. ``He plays the game with a certain passion, and plays with a certain discipline. Honestly, I really enjoy watching the young man play.''

Willis, the 11th overall draft pick in 2007 out of Mississippi, is the centerpiece of a San Francisco defense that returned everyone from the 2011 team that came so close to making the Super Bowl. The Niners lost 20-17 in overtime of the NFC title game to the eventual champion New York Giants.

Willis and his teammates used that loss as motivation and ultimately got the franchise back to the NFL title game for the first time in 18 years.

Getting back to No. 52, Willis said he was given a choice of numbers when he was drafted - 51, 57, 59 or 52.

``I said to myself: `Why don't I get the number 52? I know a guy right now who wears that number who is one of the best. It will be a great number to play up to.' That's kind of how it came about.''

He's actually pretty friendly with Lewis, a bond that has grown with time together at Pro Bowls and regular text messages.

``That's a young one, a young lion I talk to a lot,'' Lewis said. ``I've been talking to Patrick since his rookie year, and I got into his story a little bit, why he wears 52 and all that. It is actually humbling to know him as a man because when we started talking at Pro Bowls, he would always tell me all of these stories, and we would just have conversations. My job is now, every time I call him, every time I tell him something, I always try to give him good advice, whether it's to stretch more or to do more to have the longevity that you are trying to have in this game.''

Willis calls it an honor to share a field with Lewis.

``I see a man that plays with passion. I see a man that plays with enthusiasm every play,'' he said. ``I see a man who's a leader. I see a man who made a difference by the way he played the middle linebacker position. That's one of those things that someday, when a young kid looks at me, when another teammate looks at me, and they watch the film, I hope to have that kind of feel to the game. I hope to have that kind of eye. He's the Mufasa of this league right now.''

For now, yes.

Willis' teammates already consider this his time. They have for a while.

---

Online: http://pro32.ap.org/poll and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL

Fantasy Football Player Notes RSS FeedPLAYER NOTES

A.J. McCarronMay 25 10:37p

Cincinnati Bengals QB AJ McCarron (shoulder) is healthy and hoping to push QB Andy Dalton in 2015. 'We wanted him in our building so bad and it happened and [ More ]

Ray McDonaldMay 25 04:42p

Updating previous reports, Chicago Bears DE Ray McDonald has been released Monday, May 25, just hours after being arrested for alleged domestic violence and child endangerment.

Adrian PetersonMay 25 02:42p

Minnesota Vikings RB Adrian Peterson still wants to be traded, according to a source. Peterson intends to skip all organized team activities, which would cause him to lose $250,000 in workout bonuses.

Adrian PetersonMay 24 09:22p

Minnesota Vikings RB Adrian Peterson has informed head coach Mike Zimmer that he will not attend the optional practices that begin Tuesday, May 26, according to a source with knowledge of the situation.

Tom BradyMay 22 04:32p

New England Patriots QB Tom Brady will have the appeal of his four-game suspension heard by commissioner Roger Goodell after the NFL rejected a motion by the NFL Players [ More ]

Tom BradyMay 22 03:32p

New England Patriots QB Tom Brady's appeal of his four-game suspension has not been scheduled at this time.

Ray RiceMay 22 11:42a

Free-agent RB Ray Rice (Ravens) could be a consideration for the Dallas Cowboys in free agency, speculates The Dallas Morning News' Jon Machota. He cites Cowboys owner and general [ More ]

Adrian PetersonMay 22 09:52a

Updating an ongoing story, Minnesota Vikings RB Adrian Peterson remains in pursuit of being traded or receiving a new contract and remains away from the organization during voluntary workouts. [ More ]

William BeattyMay 21 12:02p

Updating previous reports, New York Giants OT William Beatty (chest) underwent successful surgery Thursday, May 21, to repair a torn pectoral muscle. Beatty will need approximately five to six months of recovery time.

Derek CarrMay 20 10:23p

Oakland Raiders QB Derek Carr (finger) will not need surgery on his injured finger and may be able to throw again before the end of offseason workouts, according to his agent.

Joseph RandleMay 20 09:23p

Dallas Cowboys RB Joseph Randle is the most likely option to lead the team's running back by committee approach in 2015. Randle has the most experience in the system, [ More ]

William BeattyMay 20 03:53p

Updating previous reports, New York Giants OT William Beatty's (pectoral) torn pectoral will require surgery and Beatty's recovery time is expected to be around five months. Beatty suffered the [ More ]

William BeattyMay 20 03:33p

Updating a previous report, New York Giants OT William Beatty (shoulder) tore his pectoral while lifting weights Wednesday, May 20, according to a source, and will undergo surgery. One [ More ]

Josh HillMay 20 03:23p

New Orleans Saints TE Josh Hill is slated as the starting tight end this season with TE Jimmy Graham now in Seattle. TE Benjamin Watson could give Hill a run for his money, however.

William BeattyMay 20 03:13p

New York Giants OT William Beatty (shoulder) suffered a potentially serious shoulder injury while lifting weights Wednesday, May 20, according to a source. Surgery is a possibility.

Geno SmithMay 20 03:03p

New York Jets QB Geno Smith is the starting quarterback and will not see competition in training camp, according to offensive coordinator Chan Gailey.

Tom BradyMay 20 03:03p

Updating previous reports, New England Patriots QB Tom Brady's appeal will not be affected by the team's decision to accept their sanctions. Commissioner Roger Goodell said he wants to [ More ]

Matt JonesMay 20 02:15p

Washington Redskins RB Matt Jones said that he loves the offense and has a chip on his shoulder after not being used properly while in college. 'My college career [ More ]

Derek CarrMay 20 08:53a

Updating a previous report, Oakland Raiders QB Derek Carr (finger) is experiencing numbness in his right ring finger. He hopes to avoid surgery through rest and rehab, and no [ More ]

Derek CarrMay 19 06:13p

Oakland Raiders QB Derek Carr (finger) has a right ring finger injury that could be surgically repaired. A return for training camp is still achievable, however, according to a source.

L. WashingtonMay 19 05:23p

Pittsburgh Steelers WR L'Damian Washington (undisclosed) was waived/injured Tuesday, May 19.

Shayne GrahamMay 19 03:03p

New Orleans Saints PK Shayne Graham was released Tuesday, May 19. Subsequently, free-agent WR Lance Lewis (49ers) was signed.

Joseph BarksdaleMay 19 02:23p

Free-agent OT Joseph Barksdale (Rams) will sign a one-year deal worth $350,000 with the San Diego Chargers, according to a source. The deal also comes with more than $1 million in incentives available.

Tom BradyMay 19 01:43p

New England Patriots QB Tom Brady will continue to appeal his four-game suspension, despite owner Robert Kraft saying the team will not appeal the discipline levied against them.

Jed CollinsMay 18 03:32p

Dallas Cowboys FB Jed Collins was released Monday, May 18, and FB Tyler Clutts was re-signed to an undisclosed contract.

Tyler CluttsMay 18 03:32p

Dallas Cowboys FB Jed Collins was released Monday, May 18, and FB Tyler Clutts was re-signed to an undisclosed contract.

Lache SeastrunkMay 18 02:42p

Tennessee Titans RB Lache Seastrunk was released Monday, May 18.

Jimmy GaroppoloMay 17 08:42p

New England Patriots QB Jimmy Garoppolo's quick decision making and accuracy fit well with New England's playbook that includes quick-rhythm passes as part of the foundation, and Bucky Brooks [ More ]

Zach HockerMay 17 04:42p

The New Orleans Saints have signed free-agent PK Zach Hocker (Dolphins).

Joseph RandleMay 16 07:32p

Dallas Cowboys RB Joseph Randle has the skills to lead the team's backfield in 2015 but he'll need to work on his off-field issues, according to Jon Machota of [ More ]

Matt CasselMay 15 07:52p

Buffalo Bills QB Matt Cassel is likely to enter Week 1 of the season as the team's backup quarterback, in the opinion of The Buffalo News' Vic Carucci. He [ More ]

Santana MossMay 15 07:12p

Free-agent WR Santana Moss (Redskins) is not ready to hang up his cleats and retire this offseason. 'I'm a free agent right now, you know how they do [ More ]

RSS Feeds

NFL News:
 
Player Notes:
 
Forum Posts:
 

© 2015 RealTime Fantasy Sports, Inc.
Email Us  ·  Call Us 636.447.1170  ·  Lost Password
Advertising represented by USA Today Sports Media Group