Dec. 30, 2010MAIOCCO ARCHIVE49ERS PAGE 49ERS VIDEOMatt MaioccoCSNBayArea.comSANTA CLARA -- Linebacker Patrick Willis, whose career with the 49ers began with 63 consecutive starts, will be on the sideline Sunday for the team's season finale against the Arizona Cardinals.Willis underwent surgery on his broken right hand for the second time in three weeks. He now has three pins in his fourth metacarpal after the bone shifted after he played two games with a bulky cast. The injury will keep him sidelined 6-to-8 weeks and appears certain to sideline him for the Pro Bowl."As bad as I want to go out and play, just my will and desire to compete and give my teammates and organization everything I have, it hurts not to be able to complete this season," Willis said.
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"Some of them (teammates) might not be here next year, so it means so much to be able to go out and compete with them and play with them."There is palpable sense of uncertainty in the 49ers' locker room these days. There are eight players who will be in the team's starting lineup Sunday in the regular-season finale whose contracts expire.In addition, the 49ers will have a new head coach, and the players are bracing for an anticipated lockout at the scheduled beginning of the new league year. The NFL's collective bargaining agreement expires on March 3.NEWS: NFL Headlines
"That's the reality of it," 49ers linebacker and player representative Takeo Spikes said. "This could be the last time we're together as a whole until the deal is done for the CBA."When asked if he anticipates a work stoppage, Spikes answered, "I think anything is possible, but my honest opinion about it, I don't see it getting done before the end of the league year. I don't."The players have been advised to save their money and leave the expensive Bay Area to spend their offseason in more cost-effective locales."As much as we all love the weather, at this point you have to do what makes sense," said Spikes, a 13-year veteran who is also scheduled for free agency. "And what makes sense is controlling your budget. We all know it's not cheap to live here."Said free-agent-to-be Manny Lawson, "Being in an environment where it doesn't cost as much is good for us."Spikes, Lawson, nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin and safety Dashon Goldson are among the team's scheduled free agents on defense. Two years ago, Willis lobbied for Spikes' return to the team. He made the same plea Thursday."Hopefully we'll get the opportunity to play again next year and get this thing happening the way it's supposed to happen around here," Willis said.When asked specifically for his endorsement for Spikes to return, Willis answered, "There's no doubt. I do want him back. If they were to ask me, I'd ask what do I need to do to make that happen. He has a lot of football left him him. The guy plays unbelievable. He's a big asset to the defense and to the locker room, period. I'd love to have him back."Willis and Spikes are the 49ers' two-leading tacklers. Willis recorded 136 tackles (based on the coaches' review of game film), while Spikes has 114 tackles. Rookie NaVorro Bowman will start Sunday in place of Willis. Team president Jed York had an in-person interview scheduled for Thursday, a source said. The identity of the general-manager candidate was not immediately known. But it is known that former Denver Broncos general manager Ted Sundquist is scheduled to interview with York at some point this week, as CSN Bay Area reported earlier this week.
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Additional awardsEd Block Courage Award: Justin Smith.
Voted on by the players, this award is given annually to the player that exemplifies a commitment to sportsmanship and courage.Garry Niver Memorial Award: Takeo Spikes.
Voted on by members of the San Francisco chapter of the Pro Football Writers of America, this award goes to the 49ers player who is most cooperative and professional in helping the pro football writers do their jobs. Niver was a popular 49ers beat reporter with The San Mateo Times.