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January 20, 2014
Patrick Willis: 'We stay optimistic. We fight'


I mentioned yesterday on Twitter that Patrick Willis stood out among the 49ers who spoke after yesterday's loss. He had a lot of weighty things to deal with - his friend, NaVorro Bowman's, knee injury; the third straight devastating loss to end the 49ers' season - and he handled it with grace. Here's the transcript of his comments:

(On if he felt sick watching NaVorro Bowman leave the game as he did...)
PW: "Yeah, man. It's one of those things. I look at him as my brother, my partner in crime on the field. It's one thing in practice, but it's a whole another thing when you see that. I know how tough he is. When he couldn't get up on his own and I could hear him yelling. At that point in time, I didn't even care where the ball was. I was like, 'Man, get out here and come help him. He's hurting.'"

(On if it's harder knowing how hard Bowman has worked...)
PW: "Yeah, I've watched him from Day One as a rookie and now as a starter. Each year he has worked, just like the year before. This year he was having a heck of a year, a heck of a season. My hat goes off to him. The season that he had, if he doesn't get Defensive Player of the Year, I don't know what they go by. Most important, I just pray that he's all right. I just saw him a little bit after the game. There's no question that he's a competitor. I know that he wanted nothing more than to be out there and to finish that game with us. Win, lose or draw, I know he wanted to be out there with us. He's going to be all right. He's strong, mentally and physically strong."

(On what it feel like to have the season to end in this manner...)
PW: "I could sit up here and tell you what you want to hear. Tell you that I'm angry, that I'm mad. But I'm not going to do that. I'm going to look at you and say, 'You know what? It was a heck of a run.' We fought. We gave everything we had. Even before the beginning of the season when everyone was picking us to go back to the Super Bowl, then we went through that little slump and everybody started writing us off, we just stayed together and we continued to fight. And that's what we did tonight. It's unfortunate that the win didn't go our way. But as I told my brother and my sister today, win or lose, God gets all the glory. Just for the opportunity to be able to play this in game. So many guys who are home right now wished they could compete in the NFC championship, so we have to be grateful for that. Somebody has to win, somebody has to lose. Unfortunately, we lost the game. Seattle did what they needed to do to win it. Them being in the NFC and also our division, I wish them luck. I hope they go and take care of business for the NFC side."

(On if seeing Bowman get injured hurts even more than the loss...)
PW: "Yeah. This game is huge. No one person is bigger than the game, but the bond that we have is so much deeper than the game that we play. To see him go out like that, it's not supposed to be like this. It's not supposed to happen like this. Sometimes we don't know why things happen the way they do, but we'll see in time. He's going to be all right."

(On if the team, after tough postseason losses, will someday win a championship...)
PW: "We just stay optimistic. We fight. We stay together in every game. That's the goal that every team has. That's what all the training in the off-season is for, all the camaraderie. Each year you put that work in. You say, 'You know what? This is the year.' I have no other reason not think that next year will be our year. For as long as I've played this game, I always think, this will be our year."

(On if he thinks Colin Kaepernick should blame himself for the loss...)
PW: "No. We win as a team and we lose as a team. As a quarterback, I imagine he feels like it's all on his shoulders. We all have a hand in this game, offense, defense and special teams. One thing we've been the best at all year is not pointing the fingers at anyone and taking the win or the loss together as a team. So it's not all on his shoulders. We could have done more as a defense, made a few more plays here and there. I'm sure they feel the same way on offense and they feel the same way on special teams. That's been our motto all year: All three phases. We play good, we win. We didn't do as well as we wanted to today."

(On if the TD pass to Kearse on fourth down took something out of the team...)
PW: "Any time another team scores it takes a little bit out. We just thought we made it harder on ourselves. We had to find a way to try and get it back. It's hard. It's hard to get here. It's hard to win enough games to get in the playoffs. It's hard once you get in the playoffs to get to the Super Bowl. Now to twice come up short in the NFC championship, you just realize how hard it is to win it. You wonder how much more work, how much harder you have to fight to make sure you get this opportunity again and take it. That's all you can do: Stay together as a team, go into this off-season heads up, and work, and work, and work."

- 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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