Could 49ers linebacking corps be best of all-time?

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Could 49ers linebacking corps be best of all-time?

SANTA CLARA Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio has been around good linebacking groups before.

In fact, as the coach of that position for the New Orleans Saints from 1986-94, an argument can be made he coached the best assemblage of all-time in Rickey Jackson, Sam Mills, Vaughan Johnson and Pat Swilling.

Could the current 49ers group of Aldon Smith, NaVorro Bowman, Patrick Willis and Ahmad Brooks be mentioned in the same breath as that legendary Saints quartet, by the time all is said and done?

Before I start answering any questions about comparing those groups, these guys need to be together a little bit longer. Maybe next year at this time Ill give you a good answer, Fangio said, with a slight smirk.

He continued: You get good players playing together in the same system for that long of a period, good things are going to happen. They learn each other. Things become second nature. The first time they have to communicate a tough situation, isnt the first time anymore. Its the third, fourth, fifth.

Its the spoken communication and the unspoken communication.

That celebrated Saints group was together for seven years from 1986-92, and combined for 18 Pro Bowl appearances. Now that Bowman is locked up for the foreseeable future after he agreed to a five-year extension on Tuesday, the 49ers linebackers will be together until at least 2015.

Any talk that they might become one of the fiercest linebacking groups of all-time is still extremely premature, according to Fangio. After all, Brooks and Bowman are in just their second years as starters, while Smith is starting for the first time this season.

But, it's possible.

I think the potential is there, but weve got to do it. We all know what the word potential means. The Saints did it for seven straight years together, this is really our first year together as a starting unit, he said.

Willis, the veteran of the group, doesnt want to think too far ahead, either. After all, the 49ers are in the middle of what could be a Super Bowl season, standing second in the NFC with a 8-2-1 record as they head to St. Louis this weekend.

He wants to take care of more immediate business.

Right now, all I can think about is just taking advantage of the opportunity now. Not banking on next year, and the year after, and the year after, Willis said on Tuesday after the Bowman extension was announced. You know, things happen and you never know about this business. All we can control is right now.

Bowman said: Right now, were just worried about this year, but we really have a chance to do something special. We have all four linebackers being here, for sure, for the next three years. We can definitely make a great statement for ourselves, and a great legacy for our defense.

REWIND: So happy together -- Bowman, Willis paired through 2016

As opposing offenses prepare to face the ferocious 49ers defense, both now and in future years, Fangio issued a warning for receivers coming across the middle.

If they watch enough film, theyll see that there are some land mines in there that they might step on, he said.

San Franciscos team defense ranks second in the NFL, but had a game it would like to forget just three weeks ago against the Rams.

The start in particular was troubling, as St. Louis jumped out to a 14-0 first quarter lead on two long drives before San Francisco came back to salvage a 24-24 tie.

Theyll be much more prepared on Sunday at the Edward Jones Dome, according to defensive tackle Ray McDonald.

They came out intense. We didnt come out the way we usually do, McDonald said. A lot of guys, weve been talking about it since that game. Well talk about it today in the walkthrough, like, hey man, we cant come out like we did the last time we played them because they outplayed us the last game.

If we do that out there in St. Louis, well get our butts whipped.

Fangio gave a tip of his hat to the Rams for their blocking, which allowed them to gain 159 yards on the ground, including 101 from Steven Jackson.

It was a low point because they blocked us, and they ran the ball extremely well against us. Give them credit, their o-line, tight ends and backs blocked us and ran the ball harder than we were able to defend at that time, so give them credit, he said.

McDonald said the rough start was just something that every team experiences at least a few times throughout a 16-game season.

You dont want to make excuses, but every team goes through it, he said. You have those weeks sometimes. Its a long season; sometimes youre going to be down. But you have to limit the weeks youre down, because if you dont, you end up with a losing record.

McDonald weighed in the biggest point of conversation surrounding the team right now, addressing quarterback Alex Smiths removal from the starting lineup in favor of Colin Kaepernick.

Were a team. Whoever is back there, were going to support him. If Kap is back there, well support him 100 percent. Were about winning football games here, and the best player will play, McDonald said.

Still, he feels for Smith, who was only removed from the lineup when he got hurt against the Rams and who met with the media earlier Thursday morning.

I mean, it does suck to kind of lose your job to injury. But, I mean, that happens in the NFL. Guys will move on, guys have mouths to feed, guys want to win championships. You have to kind of put that in the back of your mind.

Injury report: 49ers DL Dial sits out practice with elbow

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USATSI

Injury report: 49ers DL Dial sits out practice with elbow

SANTA CLARA – Defensive lineman Quinton Dial was held out of practice Wednesday due to an elbow that places his availability in question for the 49ers’ game Sunday against the New York Jets.

Dial returned to action on Sunday against the Chicago Bears after missing the previous game with neck and knee issues. Newly acquired defensive lineman Chris Jones started the past two games in place of Dial.

Outside linebacker Aaron Lynch continues to be hobbled with a high-ankle sprain. He has missed the past five games with the injury. Lynch took part in limited practice on Wednesday

49ERS PARTICIPATION REPORT
Did not practice
DT Quinton Dial (elbow)
Limited
DT Glenn Dorsey (knee)
RB Shaun Draughn (ribs)
LB Eli Harold (toe)
LB Aaron Lynch (ankle)
Full participation
DT Ronald Blair (hamstring)
C Daniel Kilgore (hamstring)

JETS PARTICIPATION REPORT
Did not practice
S Antonio Allen (concussion)
T Breno Giacomini (back, calf, shoulder)
C Nick Mangold (ankle)
WR Jalin Marshall (concussion)
LB Lorenzo Mauldin (ankle)
DT Steve McLendon (hamstring)
LB Julian Stanford (ankle)
DE Muhammad Wilkerson (ankle)
DE Leonard Williams (illness)
Limited
RB Matt Forte (knee, foot)
S Calvin Pryor (concussion)
Full participation
WR Brandon Marshall (knee, foot)
CB Nick Marshall (ankle)
CB Marcus Williams (ankle)

Marshall: Fuzzy memory of first meeting with Ward due to painkillers

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AP

Marshall: Fuzzy memory of first meeting with Ward due to painkillers

SANTA CLARA – Wide receiver Brandon Marshall supplied 49ers defensive back Jimmie Ward with the first learning experience of his NFL career early in his rookie season.

Ward has a vivid memory of the game – just his second in the NFL – and the three touchdowns passes Marshall caught on him to lead the Chicago Bears to a 28-20 victory over the 49ers in the first regular-season game played at Levi’s Stadium.

But Marshall, now a member of the New York Jets, admitted Wednesday to having a fuzzy recollection of that game due to painkillers he was prescribed in order to play in the game. Marshall, an 11-year NFL veteran, was in his third and final season with the Bears.

“Well, I don’t really remember much about that game because, uh, I worked really hard to get back from a high-ankle (sprain) . . . I don’t want to go there,” Marshall said, beginning to laugh on a conference call with Bay Area reporters.

“I’ll say it: I took a couple pain pills, so . . . I took a couple of pain pills to mask the pain. I really wasn’t supposed to play. I came back from a high ankle, you know, within 10 days. I was supposed to be out four-to-six weeks. So I don’t remember much from that game. I just remember catching those balls. That was pretty much it.”

Marshall was listed as questionable for the game. On the day of the game, ESPN reported, citing a source, that there was a "75 percent" chance neither Marshall nor Alshon Jeffery (hamstring) would play. Both receivers played in the game.

Marshall had five receptions for 48 yards with touchdown catches of 17, 5 and 3 yards while being matched in the slot against Ward, the 49ers’ first-round pick in that year’s draft. That game served as a study guide for Ward.

“Yeah, I watched it a lot,” Ward said. “It was my welcome-to-the-NFL game. Just looking forward to going against Brandon Marshall for the second time in my career.”

Ward will undoubtedly see plenty of Marshall on Sunday when the 49ers face the Jets on Sunday at Levi’s Stadium. Marshall may not remember much from facing Ward two seasons ago, but he said he has been impressed with what he sees on film.

“I think he’s really tough,” Marshall said. “He’s tough and he’s crafty and savvy. This is a guy that seems to really study the game and understands his opponent. If you go out there and give him the same release two or three times in a row, nine times out of 10, he’s going to get the best of you. We have to do a better job than him this week of studying film and trying to outwork him mentally.”

Marshall’s revelation that his memory of the 2014 game against the 49ers is clouded due to the use of painkillers comes at a time when Warriors coach Steve Kerr last week said on the Warriors Insider Podcast that he tried marijuana in hopes it would provide relief during the back issues that forced him to take a leave of absence of nearly four months.

“I’m not a pot person; it doesn’t agree with me,” Kerr told CSN Bay Area’s Monte Poole. “I’ve tried it a few times, and it did not agree with me at all. So I’m not the expert on this stuff. But I do know this: If you’re an NFL player, in particular, and you’ve got a lot of pain, I don’t think there is any question that pot is better for your body than Vicodin. And yet athletes everywhere are prescribed Vicodin like it’s Vitamin C, like it’s no big deal.”

When asked for his stance on whether the NFL should reconsider its position to include marijuana as a banned substance, Marshall received some direction from a Jets public-relations employee who could be heard in the background of the call saying that Marshall “knows better than that.”

But Marshall answered the question, saying that he wants to learn more about the subject.

“I do not have a stance on that," Marshall said. "That is something that I actually want to research more this offseason when I have time. I’m not a guy that knows about the benefits of what it can do for pain and other things. But I’d like to hear others’ opinions and really research the effects it can have on us -- positives and negatives.”