Now Patrick Willis is..http://www.heraldnet.com/article/20100504/SPORTS/705059958
Herald news services
SANTA CLARA, Calif. — The San Francisco 49ers held a press conference Tuesday during which one hall-of-fame middle linebacker introduced another middle linebacker with hall-of-fame potential.
The news of the day was Patrick Willis’ new contract extension. Willis had been signed through the 2011 season. His new, five-year, $50 million extension makes him a 49er until 2016 and means he is the highest-paid inside linebacker in the history of the NFL.
The subtext of the day was that the 49ers, who won five championships with crisp passing and offensive ingenuity, believe they can win a sixth through grit, hustle and blue-collar defense.
Willis is the embodiment of all those things and more.
Since entering the league in 2007, he has led the NFL in tackles twice and has made the Pro Bowl three times. He sent a strong signal that he would be a special player when, as a rookie, he played half the season with a broken hand, never missed a snap and ended up with a league-best 174 tackles, the highest total in the past decade.