About that end-of-practice race Tuesday between Patrick Willis and Navorro Bowman ... It was initiated by Willis, but it turns out he was challenging himself more than he was the rookie. Willis, of course, had surgery in March to remove an inflamed bursa sac in his right knee. He only returned to practice earlier this week and has been limited to individual drills at the beginning of the session. He'd also been kept out of the conditioning drills the team goes through at the end of practice. In those drills, the entire squad lines up on one sideline and then sprints, several times, to the opposite sideline and back again.
Willis wanted to test his knee during the Tuesday sprint. So he sought out the fastest linebacker on the field, Bowman. "On that last (sprint), I went up and found him. I said, 'You know what, me and you on this one. Let's see what you got.' Really, I was mostly testing myself because I've started to do two (conditioning tests) before and the trainer made me stop. So on this one, I decided to test myself against the young buck. I know he's been working every day."
How did Willis fare? He said he won the race by a nose. But more important, his knee didn't swell the next day. Now he's waiting on trainer Jeff Ferguson to give him the green light to return to practice full time.
Coach Mike Singletary is waiting for that green light, too. "Pat is not a very good guy to be around when he can't do things," Singletary said. "He just worries you do death. He just keeps asking questions - 'what about this?' or 'when do you think this is going to happen?' So, I'm saying, 'When are you going to get dressed? When are you going to get out of here?' Give all that information to someone else. It's just nervous energy. He hates not being with the team. That's just who he is. It's just great to have him out here. He's excited and his energy carries over to the team."
Told of Singletary's observations, Willis laughed. Then he got serious. "It's hard not being out there," he said. "Because it's what I do. Football right now is ... is me. Just to be able to be out there and see it is kind of like a tease. You see something you love and you can't have, and it almost kills you. Football to me is like an addiction. So maybe I get a little annoying and a little nagging."
-- Matt Barrows