SANTA CLARA – Patrick Willis answered questions about his ability to cover tight ends and rush quarterbacks this afternoon. Here’s what he said.
Q: A year ago at this time going in to camp one of the things you said you were going to be working on was rushing the quarterback. It didn’t seem that you did that much of it last season. Did that surprise you, and what do you think your role will be this year?
WILLIS: My role last year changed a lot. I covered a lot, more than pass rush, but I got the opportunity to pass rush some, and it’s just one of those things that I want to continue to work on and get better at. I want to be the best I can be.
Q: Do you think you’ll be covering the tight ends this year like you did last year?
WILLIS: When it’s called for, I will. I’m team-first, so whatever the defensive coordinator calls, I’m going to play it the best I know how.
Q: Have you taken a peak at the tight ends you’re going to be facing this year?
WILLIS: The only thing I really know is Green Bay. They’ve got Jermichael Finley and he’s a good tight end, but I think we’ve got two of the best tight ends in the league, so if I can cover our guys pretty well, then there shouldn’t be a tight end in the league who I can’t cover.
Q: You spent about 20 minutes yesterday in practice with defensive line coach Jim Tomsula. What were you doing with him?
WILLIS: I take about 10 minutes each day to work on my pass rushing. That’s the only way to get better is to consistently do it until it becomes second nature. The other part of it is just understanding more and more about what the defensive line is doing. A lot of time they make their calls and they run their stunts off what they say, so I like to know what’s going on when I hear the call. I like understanding what’s going on at all times.
Q: Do you feel like you’re in your prime?
WILLIS: I feel fabulous. I feel faster than ever, and then on top of that I understand more. That’s the thing that surprises me the most – my athletic ability is still there, but the mental side I’m starting to understand more. The more I understand, the more it’s going to catch up with my body, and once those two finally catch up with each other, than we may have something serious.