Ex-49ers LB Patrick Willis reflects on decision to retire: 'It was the right time'


Ex-49ers LB Patrick Willis reflects on decision to retire: 'It was the right time'

If Patrick Willis left the NFL too early, as many people he has met over the past three years have suggested, he also wonders: When it would have been too late?

After his surprising decision to retire following the 2014 season after eight years in the NFL, Willis said Tuesday on The 49ers Insider Podcast that he has never second-guessed his decision to walk away – while his feet still enabled him to walk.

“For me, I felt like it was the perfect time -- my body, everything,” Willis said. “The stars aligned for me. I never set out to play this game for anyone else’s expectations or what they thought I should do and how I should do it.

“I believed in myself before anyone else saw it. I never put that in anybody else’s hands. So for me, it was the right time.”

Willis had an incredible run with the 49ers. He was selected with the No. 11 overall pick in the 2007 draft from Ole Miss. He was NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, and he went on to earn seven Pro Bowl selections – and five first-team All-Pro honors – in his first seven seasons.

He went on injured reserve due to a toe surgery after appearing in just six games in 2014. In March of 2015, he announced his retirement from the NFL.

“I always told myself when I no longer had the passion to play, I would let it go and pass it on to the next (man) up,” Willis said. “And I feel like I was able to do that to NaVorro (Bowman) and continue on my path in life.”

Bowman and Willis teamed up for three seasons to form one of the most destructive linebacker combinations the league has ever seen. Willis said his passion diminished at the end of his career because of the pain he endured in order to play at the highest possible level.

Bowman experienced serious knee and Achilles injuries with the 49ers. The club released him last season. After playing the final 10 games of 2017 with the Raiders, Bowman, now 30, remains an unsigned free agent.

Willis said he physically feels a lot better. He can still work out and remain in shape, but he is not able to push his body to the lengths it would take to withstand the rigors of the NFL.

When Willis left the NFL, he said he did not have a great desire to remain involved in football.

But, now, he is sharing his expertise with an online course for linebackers on “CoachTube.” Willis has a tutorial, “Build the Beast,” which addresses warmups, drills, film study, nutrition and the mindset necessary to play linebacker.

Willis said he is enjoying getting on the field and demonstrating some of the drills and techniques he perfected during his career. But he is not sure he wants to make the kind of life-altering commitment necessary to coach football on a full-time basis.

”This game has taken up most of my life,” Willis said. “For me, right now and where I am in this space, I don’t see that path for me at this time. Maybe later, when I’m around my 40s or something.”

Watch 49ers' Jason Verrett go full speed in change-of-direction drills


Watch 49ers' Jason Verrett go full speed in change-of-direction drills

Cornerback Jason Verrett did not take part in the 49ers’ practices during the offseason program with the plan of being ready to compete for a starting job when training camp opens in July.

After missing all of last season with a torn Achilles sustained in a conditioning test at the opening of Los Angeles Chargers training camp, Verrett appears on pace to be cleared at or near the beginning of camp this summer.

Verrett on Monday posted videos to his Instagram account that show him going near full speed in change-of-direction drills. During the last week of the team’s offseason program, Verrett said he expected to be ready for training camp. The 49ers are scheduled to report to camp on July 27.

"I’m going to be ready,” Verrett said. “That’s my main focus. It’s just worrying about what I can control and I’m excited to be getting ready for training camp. My health is pretty much everything and I’m on track to be exactly where I want to be. The day I get on that football field they are going to like what they see.”

Verrett, who turned 28 last week, has played in just 25 games since breaking into the NFL in 2014 as the 25th overall draft pick of the Chargers.

He was limited to just six games because of a shoulder injury as a rookie. After appearing in 14 games in 2015 and earning a spot on the AFC Pro Bowl team, Verrett sustained a partial tear of his ACL and played in just four games in 2016.

[RELATED: How will 49ers share RB carries?]

In the first game of 2017, Verrett reinjured his knee and sat out the remainder of the season. Verrett missed all of last season with the injury he sustained on the first day of training camp.

Ahkello Witherspoon had a strong offseason program as the starting cornerback opposite Richard Sherman. Verrett is expected to compete with Witherspoon for a starting job.

49ers training camp starts July 26, includes joint Broncos practices


49ers training camp starts July 26, includes joint Broncos practices

The 49ers will open training camp at their Santa Clara practice facility on July 26, the NFL announced Monday.

The club’s first practice is slated for Saturday, July 27. The veterans and rookies are scheduled to report on the same date.

Team president Al Guido announced this month that the 49ers would have more open practices for the general public. Dates and times of those practices will be announced in the near future.

[RELATED: How will 49ers share carries with RBs?]

Here is the schedule of important dates for the 49ers in training camp and beyond:

Monday, July 15: Deadline for any club to sign franchise player (49ers, Robbie Gould) to a multi-year contract, 1 p.m. PT.
Friday, July 26: Reporting date for veterans and rookies in Santa Clara.
Saturday, July 27: First practice of training camp.
Monday, July 29: First padded practice of training camp.
Saturday, Aug. 10: Exhibition game vs. Dallas Cowboys, Levi’s Stadium, 6 p.m.
Friday, Aug. 16: Joint practice with Denver Broncos in Englewood, Colorado, TBA.
Saturday, Aug. 17: Joint practice with Denver in Englewood, Colorado, TBA.
Monday, Aug. 19: Exhibition game at Denver, 5 p.m.
Saturday, Aug. 24: Exhibition game at Kansas City Chiefs, 5 p.m.
Thursday, Aug. 29: Exhibition game vs. Los Angeles Chargers, Levi’s Stadium, 7 p.m.
Saturday, Aug. 31: Prior to 1 p.m. PT, all NFL teams must reduce rosters to maximum of 53 players.
Sunday, Sept. 1: Claiming period for players placed on waivers at final roster reduction, 9 a.m.
Sunday, Sept. 1: Teams can establish 10-player practice squads, approximately 10 a.m.
Tuesday, Oct. 29: NFL trade deadline, 1 p.m. (PT).
Tuesday, Nov. 12: Deadline for a franchise player to sign one-year tender with club in order to be eligible to play this season, 1 p.m. (PT).