49ers Blog and Q&A

News, notes and reader questions about the San Francisco 49ers

January 24, 2013
49ers notes: Willis talks No. 52; Kaepernick's special delivery


The popular myth about Patrick Willis and his jersey was that he was specifically given No. 52 by Mike Nolan and Mike Singletary in 2007 because they wanted him to be the heir to another No. 52, Ray Lewis, as far as NFL middle linebacker lineage goes. Both Nolan and Singletary had coached Lewis with the Ravens.

Well, that's not entirely true.

Willis today said it was his choice to wear No. 52 and that he chose it partly in homage to players who have worn it before him, namely Lewis. But he said the bigger reason is that he liked the number.

"They had some weird numbers (available)," Willis said. "I think they had 51, 52 a 50 and a 57. It was the best number out of the numbers they gave me. And also I've known some guys, and one guy in particular, Ray, who have worn the No. 52." (Note: Willis wore no. 49 at Ole Miss).

But he had to have known that he would bombarded with Lewis comparisons as soon as he picked No. 52, right?

"I didn't know that," Willis said. "I didn't know six years later that people would compare (me) to him. I just told myself, wherever I get drafted, I want to go out and make it my home and play the best football I can possibly play."

The 49ers are conducting a rare practice on their artificial turf field today because of the rain in the South Bay. Jim Harbaugh doesn't want any last-minute injuries due to a slick field. Besides, the Super Bowl will be played on an artificial surface.

Outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks was on an exercise cycle at the beginning of practice and it seems as if he will miss his second straight session with a shoulder injury. Tight end Garrett Celek (foot) also was not practicing at the start of the session. Aldon Smith (shoulder) was in a black, no-contact jersey. He, Tarell Brown (shoulder) and Bruce Miller 9shoulder) were listed as limited after yesterday's practice.

The quote of the day? Give it to offensive coordinator Greg Roman, who praised center Jonathan Goodwin's ability to direct traffic in Sunday's win over Atlanta. "He was the air traffic controller during a snowstorm," Roman said.

Gesture of the day? Colin Kaepernick, and his agency XAM Sports, sent 15 pizzas to the media trailer today. What do you call it when scores of hungry writers are wolfing down slices of pie provided by a certain 49ers quarterback? Pizzanicking.

- Matt Barrows


Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.


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