Willis confident in his ability to cover

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Willis confident in his ability to cover

It's difficult to ask Patrick Willis about what challenges an upcoming running back poses, because, well, he's Patrick Willis.There isn't any style of running back that the five-time Pro Bowler can't bring down. Speed back, power back, scat back, between-the-tackles, down-hill-runner, use whatever description you want, it doesn't matter. Willis has tackled them all.This season, Willis has had a new challenge, dropping into man coverage more. As I've written before, this means he's been matched up one-on-one with some of the league's biggest and best tight ends: Jason Witten, Brent Celek, Brandon Pettigrew, Jake Ballard, Fred Davis and Jimmy Graham, among them.

To prepare, Willis has gone up against Vernon Davis more in practice this season. When I asked Davis about it he joked, "I've been giving him the works."It's apparent in games how Willis has responded. Few tight ends have had success against the 49ers either in reception yards or finding the end zone.But there is a simple pass play that is difficult for any linebacker to cover, even Willis. It's the play that is largely responsible for Davis tying the single season record for touchdown receptions by a tight end in 2009 -- right down the middle. It's how Pettigrew scored his 16-yard touchdown in Week 6. It's how Graham scored his 14- and 66-yard touchdowns in the divisional playoff game.Yes, Jake Ballard is dealing with knee issues and isn't as explosive as Pettigrew and Graham, but when I asked Willis if he expected to the Giants to use that play, he responded:"I'm sure that they'll look at film from the last game and they'll see something that they feel like they can get," Willis said. "It's the National Football League. Each play is a big play. I think they'll try what they will and it's up to us to stop it. It's up to me to do my job and I look forward to the challenge."Players are going to make plays," Willis added. "They're going to break tackles. That's part of the game but that doesn't mean you stop playing the game. It doesn't mean you stop believing in yourself. I still have just as much confidence in my ability to cover, to tackle, to play this game than I did before. It doesn't matter to me what they try."Davis' touchdown production went down in 2010 when he started seeing double coverage to take away the middle. If the 49ers do so against the Giants on Sunday, well, that may leave Victor Cruz, Mario Manningham or Hakeem Nicks in an advantageous situation. But the 49ers secondary also understands Ballard could require some extra attention."We've been facing some really good tight ends," said safety Donte Whitner. "Ballard from the New York Giants, he's a really good tight end. I think he's averaging 15 or 17 yards per catch. That's a high percentage for any tight end in the National Football League. They get him open in various ways depending on the coverage. He's not the fastest guy, he's not the swiftest guy out there, but he tends to get open and he has really good hands."

49ers release Coffee after reinstating RB off retired list

49ers release Coffee after reinstating RB off retired list

Running back Glen Coffee, who walked away from the 49ers during training camp before his second NFL season, was reinstated Friday off the reserve-retired list.

As part of the same transaction wire released by the NFL office, the 49ers released Coffee, making him a free agent.

After seven seasons away from the game, Coffee is attempting a comeback, his agent told NBC Sports Bay Area on Saturday.

“I can tell you, he’s in great shape,” agent Ray Oubre said. “The man doesn’t have a six-pack, he’s got a 12-pack. He’s been waiting for the right time to hopefully get a workout with someone and show what he can do.

“He had a calling, and right now he feels like it’s his time to show what he can do. He explained to me, ‘I can do things now that I couldn’t do when I was initially with the 49ers.’ That’s the kind of shape he’s in.”

Coffee, who turns 30 on May 1, was a third-round draft pick (No. 74 overall) of the 49ers in 2009. He was the sixth running back selected in that year's draft. Coffee appeared in 14 games as a rookie and carried 83 times for 226 yards and one touchdown. He also caught 11 passes for 78 yards.

During training camp the next year as his teammates were exiting the locker room for the practice field in August 2010, Coffee cut the tape from his shoes and left the team's Santa Clara practice facility. He later informed then-coach Mike Singletary of his decision to stop playing football. Coffee said he believed God had a bigger plan for him.

Coffee was a specialist in the Sixth Battalion of the Army Rangers after enlisting in 2013. He is no longer active, Oubre said.

“He’s been training several months,” Oubre said. “The rigors of the Army Rangers, he was already in shape. He’s taking it to another level now. He’s been training for more than four months.

“He feels like he served and now the time is right. He’s in a good place. He understands, you can’t play football forever and you can’t do any one thing forever. He’s in a place right now that he wants to use his God-given ability as a football player.”

Coffee turned pro after his junior season at Alabama. In his final college season, Coffee rushed for 1,383 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Coffee has been training under Johnny Jackson at JDPI Sports Performance in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Oubre said he will be in contact with all 32 NFL teams to see if there’s any interest in bringing in Coffee for workouts. He might also hold an open workout for any interested teams.

Sponsored by Harbaugh, Kap named one of Top 100 most influential people

Sponsored by Harbaugh, Kap named one of Top 100 most influential people

Former 49ers quarterback and current free agent Colin Kaepernick has been named one of TIME's 100 Most Influential People on Thursday. 

Each person named to the list is represented by a sponsor who then writes on why they are worthy of the honor. For Kaepernick, his former coach Jim Harbaugh wrote on him. 

Harbaugh coached Kaepernick for four seasons from 2011-2014. The two reached the Super Bowl together in the 2012 season. 

Other sports figures named to the list include Conor McGregor, Theo Epstein, LeBron James, Tom Brady, Simone Biles, and Neymar.

Kaepernick made national headlines this past season for his decision to first sit and then kneel during the national anthem as a fight against social injustices. 

Below is what Harbaugh wrote on Kaepernick's influence: 

Colin Kaepernick was alone in his early protests last year when he boldly and courageously confronted perceived inequalities in our social-justice system by refusing to stand for the national anthem. At times in our nation's history, we have been all too quick to judge and oppose our fellow Americans for exercising their First Amendment right to address things they believe unjust.

Rather than besmirch their character, we must celebrate their act. For we cannot pioneer and invent if we are fearful of deviating from the norm, damaging our public perception or—most important—harming our own personal interests.

I thank Colin for all he has contributed to the game of football as an outstanding player and trusted teammate. I also applaud Colin for the courage he has demonstrated in exercising his guaranteed right of free speech. His willingness to take a position at personal cost is now part of our American story.

How lucky for us all and for our country to have among our citizens someone as remarkable as Colin Kaepernick.