The San Francisco 49ers square off against the Arizona Cardinals on Thursday, and we will get to see just how the inside linebackers adjust to the loss of NaVorro Bowman. Long-time special teamer Nick Bellore moved into the lineup on Sunday, getting 29 defensive snaps on the day. He played next to Michael Wilhoite, with Gerald Hodges and Shayne Skov playing exclusively on special teams.
On Monday, Bellore discussed this opportunity, and how the defense can adjust to losing Bowman. Bellore believes he will be getting the start on Thursday. He discussed his knowledge of the MIKE linebacker role, and it would seem like if he starts it will be next to Michael Wilhoite or Gerald Hodges. Wilhoite is cross-trained at both the MIKE and WILL positions, while Hodges is only trained at the WILL position. Practice weeks have changed the rotation at inside linebacker and cornerback, but with a short week in front of them, my guess is Wilhoite carries over playing the WILL position again.
On being ready for when numbers called:
yea, exactly. Obviously it’s tough news hearing that about Bo. He’s a leader in this locker room, and more importantly on the field. He’s someone that we all look up to, he’s a fighter, he’ll be back from this, but we need to be ready to step in, in the meantime.
On how they replace Bowman:
I don’t think you ever can. We just have to look at what he can do out there, and play our best ball. Obviously we’ll have to rally together, things will be different maybe, defensively. We just kind of have to overcome him not being in there, and we just have to step up. It’s time for guys like myself, and the linebacking room to step up as a whole.
On what’s different this year for him with more opportunity outside of special teams:
Well, I think it’s something where, I’ve always aspired to play defense. Obviously I know that special teams has been my meal ticket in the NFL, but it’s never been out of my mind to be ready for any game. I’ve been the next guy up for a long time, and now my time has come. So it’s time for me to prepare like I know I can.
On how he did in Week 4:
I did OK. A little rusty in there. Obviously we didn’t get the result we wanted. There’s a lot of things I can do better. I just have to settle down and play the football I know I can play.
On MIKE exclusive role:
Yea, I play MIKE.
On if he’ll start Thursday:
As far as I know, yes.
On if final preseason game getting work with Wilhoite helps them get in sync:
You know Mike and I have played a lot of football together. Not always, obviously on Sundays, but in preseason, in practice. Countless hours. So we have a good rapport. I enjoy playing with him, or Gerald, or anybody else that’s in there. We have a lot of time and hours logged together, so I think that helps.
On fear of trying to do too much:
I don’t think anything good happens when you try to make other people’s plays. In this defense, you have to do your job, and when you try to do other guys’ jobs, that’s when you get into trouble. So I think that’s something where, play, do my assignment, and if we all do that, all 11 guys, we’ll play good defense.
On MIKE being QB of defense, and being comfortable with that:
Yea, I’m used to having the microphone in my helmet, and calling the defense. I enjoy doing it, getting people lined up. It’s something that the MIKE’s almost always called on to do, and it’s part of the job.