2015 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

Richard RodgersJul 1 05:03p

Green Bay Packers TE Richard Rodgers could see more playing time in 2015, according to Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com. Rodgers played 528 snaps, while fellow TE Andrew Quarless played [ More ]

Rob HouslerJun 30 03:13p

Cleveland Browns TEs Gary Barnidge, Rob Housler and Jim Dray could all end up taking over for TE Jordan Cameron, who is now with the Miami Dolphins. Head coach [ More ]

Sam BradfordJun 29 05:22p

Philadelphia Eagles QB Sam Bradford (knee) is expected to be in the final phase of his rehabilitation from a torn anterior cruciate ligament once training camp begins. Bradford's second [ More ]

Charles JohnsonJun 29 02:02p

Minnesota Vikings WR Charles X. Johnson appears to have everything it takes to produce in the NFL, according to offensive coordinator Norv Turner. 'He's got great work ethic, and [ More ]

C.J. SpillerJun 28 09:02p

New Orleans Saints RB C.J. Spiller has a perfect skill-set for head coach Sean Payton's system, which relies on getting the ball to players in space, according Chris Wesseling [ More ]

Tony MoeakiJun 25 07:12p

Atlanta Falcons TE Tony Moeaki will compete with TE Jacob Tamme for the Falcons' starting tight end job during training camp. QB Matt Ryan praised both tight ends for [ More ]

Kelvin BenjaminJun 25 03:52p

Carolina Panthers WR Kelvin Benjamin's reported weight gain this offseason is being overblown, according to general manager Dave Gettleman. Gettleman expects Benjamin to be ready to go for training [ More ]

Antoine CasonJun 25 03:03a

Free-agent CB Antoine Cason (foot) will miss the 2015 season due to surgery he underwent on Tuesday, June 23. Cason (Ravens) did not specify what type of surgery he [ More ]

Marvin JonesJun 24 09:13p

Cincinnati Bengals WR Marvin Jones (ankle, foot) did not play in 2014 due to multiple foot and ankle issues, but he is healthy and was impressive in organized team activities (OTAs) and minicamp.

Keith WenningJun 24 02:43p

Free-agent QB Keith Wenning (Ravens) signed with the Cincinnati Bengals Wednesday, June 24. Terms of the contract were not disclosed.

Pierre GarconJun 24 02:23p

Washington Redskins WR Pierre Garcon could be featured more often in the passing game this season based on the offseason workouts. Garcon often lined up to the right of [ More ]

Martavis BryantJun 24 01:43p

Pittsburgh Steelers WRs Markus Wheaton and Martavis Bryant are expected to compete for the No. 2 wide receiver job during training camp. Both players performed well during offseason workouts.

Peyton ManningJun 24 11:53a

Denver Broncos QB Peyton Manning was the subject of preliminary trade discussions with the Houston Texans, according to a source. The talks occurred before Manning restructured his deal and [ More ]

Rueben RandleJun 24 10:53a

New York Giants WR Rueben Randle was the best receiver on the field by a wide margin during spring practices, in the opinion of beat writer Jordan Ranaan. Randle [ More ]

Chris IvoryJun 24 10:43a

New York Jets RB Chris Ivory is listed as the starting running back entering training camp, according to beat writer Rich Cimini's unofficial depth chart. RB Bilal Powell is [ More ]

Devonta FreemanJun 23 10:22a

Atlanta Falcons RB Devonta Freeman enters training camp ahead of RB Tevin Coleman on the depth chart.

Joseph RandleJun 23 10:02a

Dallas Cowboys RB Joseph Randle appears to be the clear leader at running back, and it's his job to lose in training camp.

Ahmad BradshawJun 22 11:32p

Free-agent RB Ahmad Bradshaw (Colts) has been suspended one game for violation of the league's substance abuse policy. If he signs with a team he must sit out for the first week.

Terrelle PryorJun 22 04:33p

Cincinnati Bengals WR Terrelle Pryor was claimed off waivers by the Cleveland Browns Monday, June 22, according to a source.

Fred DavisJun 19 06:02p

New England Patriots TE Fred Davis was released Friday, June 19.

Dennis PittaJun 19 02:22p

Baltimore Ravens TE Dennis Pitta (hip) was not medically cleared to practice in minicamp as he continues to recover from his second dislocated and fractured hip in as many [ More ]

Isaiah CrowellJun 19 01:22p

Cleveland Browns RB Isaiah Crowell could be the workhorse back if his ball security improves, according to offensive coordinator John DeFilippo.

Devonta FreemanJun 19 01:12p

Atlanta Falcons RB Devonta Freeman will be used in a lot of different ways, including as a receiver, according to head coach Dan Quinn. 'I knew Devonta had terrific [ More ]

Chris OgbonnayaJun 19 11:32a

Free-agent RB Chris Ogbonnaya (Giants) announced his retirement Friday, June 19.

John MoffittJun 18 11:02p

Free-agent OG John Moffitt unretired Wednesday, June 17, and cleared waivers Thursday, June 18. He is free to sign with a team of his choosing. The Philadelphia Eagles, Miami [ More ]

Terrelle PryorJun 18 09:32p

Free-agent QB Terrelle Pryor is going to give it a shot at playing wide receiver in the NFL. Some teams have already expressed an interest.

Allen RobinsonJun 18 09:22p

Jacksonville Jaguars WR Allen Robinson was described as 'unbelievable' by QB Blake Bortles Thursday, June 18. 'He's definitely a threat now in the red zone. ... He's physical. He [ More ]

Terrelle PryorJun 18 05:32p

Cincinnati Bengals QB Terrelle Pryor was waived Thursday, June 18.

Taylor ThompsonJun 18 05:32p

Tennesse Titans TE Taylor Thompson was waived Thursday, June 18.

Matthew MulliganJun 18 04:32p

Free-agent TE Matthew Mulligan (Titans) signed an undisclosed contract with the Buffalo Bills Thursday, June 18.

Carlton MitchellJun 18 04:22p

Free-agent WR Carlton Mitchell (Buccaneers) signed an undisclosed contract with the Atlanta Falcons Thursday, June 18. WR Shane Wynn was waived.

Daniel ThomasJun 18 04:12p

Free-agent RB Daniel Thomas (Dolphins) signed a one-year contract with the Chicago Bears Thursday, June 18. Financial terms were not disclosed.

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