49ers LB Patrick Willis on the 49ers defense in 2009

Patrick Willis was one of several players to speak with the media after practice yesterday and he had some interesting (although certainly not the most surprising) comments about the defense heading into 2009.  While the defense has had numerous turnovers, the pass rush has been less than stellar.

On the productivity of the defense going into the first game of the season:
"I feel like there’s room for improvement. Even the best defenses that every played, every game is not going to be perfect, but you want to go out there and have way more positive plays than you do negative plays. For us, preseason is one of those things where you have some guys that are playing and some guys are not playing. When the season gets here, it’s one of those things where you say, ‘Hey, there’s no excuses, not other guys having to get in and get looks to make a squad.’ Our guys are here now and now it’s time to perform."

The optimists would argue it's due to the vanilla scheming being used.  Willis was asked about this:

On the coaches doing different schemes after keeping it simple for the preseason:
"I think that’s with any coaching staff. No one wants to go out there and give all of their stuff away in preseason. Sometimes teams know what your bread and butter is. At the same time, teams are real vanilla during preseason because you have a lot of rookies, you have a lot of new guys coming in, guys from other squads that are out there playing that are not familiar with all of the things that you did during the season game-planning so that’s why a lot of times it’s so vanilla because you don’t want to give away all of your stuff."

Again, not the most surprising of comments, but it might reinforce what some folks have been thinking over the last few weeks of less than stellar defense.

After the jump we have the full transcript from his press conference...

 

LB Patrick Willis

Post Practice – September 9, 2009

San Francisco 49ers

 

On the anticipation of playing his third season in the NFL:

"Each year, expectations grow higher and it’s not so much the expectations of other people. I have high expectations of myself, which is to come out and be a better player than I was before."

 

On playing the defending NFC champions in the first game of the season:

"To me I don’t even look at them being the NFC champions. It’s a new year. That’s what they were last year so this year, to us, they are a team on our schedule. They are number one; we want to win so it starts with them."

 

On the being able to play well against the Arizona Cardinals last season:

"When you see them at the Super Bowl you say, ‘Wow, they played us twice and if we win one game or both and they’re not there. You can look at it all kind of ways, but at the end of the day, they did what they had to do get there and they were there and that’s kind of how I look at it."

 

On whether the Cardinals are the team to beat after going to the Super Bowl:

"Every year is a new year. No question that people are going to look back and say that they were a good football team that year. Of course, every year the media and analysts have [teams] ranked differently, and who should have been doing better, but we don’t get caught up in all of that. We just worry about going out there and playing the best football that we can play and if we do that, we know that it’s going to be hard for anyone out there to play with us."

 

On the productivity of the defense going into the first game of the season:

"I feel like there’s room for improvement. Even the best defenses that every played, every game is not going to be perfect, but you want to go out there and have way more positive plays than you do negative plays. For us, preseason is one of those things where you have some guys that are playing and some guys are not playing. When the season gets here, it’s one of those things where you say, ‘Hey, there’s no excuses, not other guys having to get in and get looks to make a squad.’ Our guys are here now and now it’s time to perform."

 

On the coaches doing different schemes after keeping it simple for the preseason:

"I think that’s with any coaching staff. No one wants to go out there and give all of their stuff away in preseason. Sometimes teams know what your bread and butter is. At the same time, teams are real vanilla during preseason because you have a lot of rookies, you have a lot of new guys coming in, guys from other squads that are out there playing that are not familiar with all of the things that you did during the season game-planning so that’s why a lot of times it’s so vanilla because you don’t want to give away all of your stuff."

 

On how much more of the defense is installed for the first game:

"We have a lot. We have a great coaching staff. We have a lot of respect for our coaches, for our defensive coordinator [Greg] Manusky. They put together a great game plan when it’s time to do that. They’re putting one together now and we’re installing it. And when it’s done and when it’s all finished by Friday, Saturday it’ll be a wrap. It’ll be time to go out there and put it together. I always look at it like, coaches can only do so much. They can put Xs and Os up on the board. They can say, ‘It’s got to happen this way, do it this way.’ But, then it’s up to us to go out and execute it."

 

On whether he notices a difference in RB Frank Gore this year:

"I’ve noticed a difference in him this year. Last year, I can’t say I was looking at him more, but this year, he was out there taking every snap, whether it’s first-team, second-team. Whenever coach says, ‘Frank,’ he jumps up and he’s in there. That’s what it has to be about. It’s about team ball. When coach is calling, you have to be ready to go no matter what the situation is, and he was like that this camp."

 

On how Gore looked during camp:

"He feels great. His whole attitude, the way he walks, his swagger – to me, I think it’s that Frank that they talked about the year before I got here when he rushed for big yards and went to the Pro Bowl that year. That’s the kind of swagger that we’re seeing from him this year, and he has every right to be. The offensive line is doing well. They’re coming along great. [Offensive line] coach Chris [Foerster] has them doing well out there, and he gets his confidence from that – and just him being him. He’s one of the best backs in this league."

 

On whether he considers the Cardinals one of the best offenses in the league:

"The Cardinals, they have a good offense. Last year, I think they were among the best in the league. I think they returned most of their guys, if not all of them. You’re looking for them to be Arizona, but at the same time like I said, we don’t worry too much about what they do. It’s about how we go out and execute."

 

On whether it will be a good measurement to play the Cardinals in the season opener:

"It’s going to be a good test for us. It’s not that we don’t respect those guys, it’s just that, at the end of the day, it’s a new season. It’s a new start. It’s us or it’s them. That’s how we look at it."

 

On whether he feels good about the pieces around him on defense:

"I feel good. I think that with the guys that we have, I feel confident with them. I wouldn’t want to trade them for any other guys. It’s been the guys that I’ve been playing with for the last three years now. So, I have complete confidence in them when we’re out there on the field together. That confidence is going to grow and grow and grow until it’s out of the roof. That’s what it’s going to take, having trust in one another. In order to have trust, you have to have confidence first. We have that among each other."

 

On what it would take to prove that this defense is improved over last season:

"What the scoreboard says when we’re done playing."

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