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

Charles JohnsonAug 31 08:12p

The Cleveland Browns have placed WR Charles X. Johnson, OT Martin Wallace and OG Karim Barton on no-recall waivers.

Daryl RichardsonAug 31 07:22p

The New York Jets signed free-agents DT Tevita Finau, DL Kerry Hyder, SS Rontez Miles, TE Chris Pantale, OT Brent Qvale, RB Daryl Richardson and QB Matt Simms to [ More ]

Alex SmithAug 31 07:02p

Kansas City Chiefs QB Alex Smith has agreed to a four-year contract extension worth $68 million with $45 million guaranteed.

Mike KafkaAug 31 05:02p

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have added TE Cameron Brate, RB Jeff Demps, QB Mike Kafka, LB Brandon Magee, DT Matthew Masifilo and WR Solomon Patton to their practice squad.

Michael CoxAug 31 04:42p

The New York Giants have signed RB Michael Cox, CB Bennett Jackson, CB Chandler Fenner, LB Dan Fox, DE Jordan Stanton, WR Julian Talley and OT Nick Becton to their practice squad.

Rex GrossmanAug 31 04:23p

The Cleveland Browns have released QB Rex Grossman, according to a source.

Michael EgnewAug 31 04:12p

The Detroit Lions have signed TE Michael Egnew and RB George Winn to their practice squad.

Benson MayowaAug 31 04:12p

The Oakland Raiders have claimed DE Benson Mayowa off waivers from the Seattle Seahawks.

Ryan JensenAug 31 03:42p

The Baltimore Ravens will sign QB Keith Wenning, CB Tramain Jacobs, TE Phillip Supernaw, LB John Simon, RB Fitzgerald Toussaint, DT AJ Pataialii and OG Ryan Jensen to their [ More ]

A.Q. ShipleyAug 31 03:32p

The Indianapolis Colts have claimed OG A.Q. Shipley off waivers from the Baltimore Ravens.

Jeff TuelAug 31 03:22p

The Buffalo Bills have signed S Deon Broomfield, DE Bryan Johnson, S Kenny Ladler, QB Jeff Tuel, LB Jimmy Gaines, WR Caleb Holley and DL Ikponmwosa Igbinosun to their practice squad.

Kapri BibbsAug 31 03:12p

The Denver Broncos have signed LB Shaquil Barrett, RB Kapri Bibbs, FS John Boyett, QB Zac Dysert, WR Bennie Fowler, OT Vinston Painter, WR Nathan Palmer, C Matt Paradis [ More ]

Lawrence OkoyeAug 31 03:02p

The San Francisco 49ers have added DL Lawrence Okoye and LB Shayne Skov to their practice squad.

Travian RobertsonAug 31 03:02p

The Atlanta Falcons have signed CB Ricardo Allen, FS Sean Baker, OG Harland Gunn, OL Terren Jones, WR Bernard Reedy, DL Travian Robertson, LB Jacques Smith and RB Jerome Smith to the practice squad.

Myles WhiteAug 31 02:52p

The Green Bay Packers have signed S Chris Banjo, WR Myles White, CB Jumal Rolle, TE Justin Perillo and OL Jeremy Vujnovich to their practice squad.

Tim DobbinsAug 31 02:43p

The Atlanta Falcons have claimed LB Nathan Stupar off waivers from the Jacksonivlle Jaguars and placed him on their 53-man roster, according to a league source. In a corresponding [ More ]

Ryan MallettAug 31 02:12p

The Houston Texans have acquired QB Ryan Mallett from the New England Patriots, in exchange for a sixth-round pick, according to multiple sources.

Ryan SeymourAug 31 01:02p

The Cleveland Browns claimed free-agent OG Ryan Seymour (49ers) off waivers Sunday, Aug. 31.

Michael SamAug 31 12:12p

Free-agent DE Michael Sam (Rams) reportedly cleared waivers and is free to sign with any team.

Josh KadduAug 31 03:22a

To get its roster down to 53 players on Saturday, Aug. 30, the Philadelphia Eagles released OT Kevin Graf, FS Keelan Johnson, LB Josh Kaddu, DT Wade Keliikipi and WR Will Murphy.

Wes WelkerAug 31 12:12a

Denver Broncos WR Wes Welker (concussion) will increase his activity level when the team returns to practice Monday, Sept. 1.

Khaled HolmesAug 30 11:52p

Indianapolis Colts C Khaled Holmes (ankle) is one of five offensive linemen on the team that is currently dealing with an injury, and Mike Wells of ESPN.com believes the [ More ]

Alfonso SmithAug 30 10:42p

San Francisco 49ers RB Alfonso Smith was released Saturday, Aug. 30.

Tyler BrayAug 30 09:52p

Kansas City Chiefs QB Tyler Bray (undisclosed) and WR Kyle Williams (shoulder) were placed on the Reserve/Injured list Saturday, Aug. 30.

Jamarca SanfordAug 30 09:52p

Minnesota Vikings OT Antonio Richardson (undisclosed) and S Jamarca Sanford (undisclosed) were placed on the Reserve/Injured list Saturday, Aug. 30.

A.J. McCarronAug 30 09:42p

Cincinnati Bengals QB A.J. McCarron (shoulder) was placed on the Reserve/Non-Football Injury list Saturday, Aug. 30.

Jamar ChaneyAug 30 09:32p

Denver Broncos LB Jamar Chaney (undisclosed) was released from Denver's Reserve/Injured list with an injury settlement Saturday, Aug. 30.

Vincent BrownAug 30 09:22p

San Diego Chargers WR Vincent Brown (calf) was placed on no-recall waivers with a waived/injured designation Saturday, Aug. 30.

Steve BeauharnaisAug 30 09:02p

New England Patriots LB Steve Beauharnais (undisclosed) was placed on no-recall waivers after reaching an injury settlement Saturday, Aug. 30.

Andrew TillerAug 30 08:52p

Green Bay Packers OG Andrew Tiller (calf) and LB Joseph Thomas (knee) were placed on no-recall waivers after being released from Green Bay's Reserve/Injured list with injury settlements Saturday, Aug. 30.

Rajion NealAug 30 08:42p

Green Bay Packers RB Rajion Neal (knee) was placed on no-recall waivers after being released from Green Bay's Reserve/Injured list with an injury settlement Saturday, Aug. 30.

Shaun ChapasAug 30 07:52p

Baltimore Ravens RB Shaun Chapas (undisclosed) was waived from the Reserve/Injured list with an injury settlement.

RSS Feeds

NFL News:
 
Player Notes:
 
Forum Posts:
 

© 2014 RealTime Fantasy Sports, Inc.
Email Us  ·  Call Us 636.447.1170  ·  Lost Password
Advertising represented by USA Today Sports Media Group