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Andy Lee Valued in San Francisco

Posted May 23, 2012

Inside the locker room, he’s simply known as “Buddy Lee.”

The moniker doesn’t get used very often outside the walls of 4949 Centennial Blvd., but that doesn’t mean San Francisco 49ers three-time All-Pro and Pro Bowl punter Andy Lee isn’t well-known by those who know professional football.

It’s hard to look past the accomplishments of the valued specialist, and that’s exactly why the 49ers extended Lee’s contract six more years through the 2018 season.

“Sometimes it’s underestimated probably, to be honest with you,” coach Jim Harbaugh said at the conclusion of Wednesday’s Organized Team Activity. “Andy is one of those guys that wins games for our football team. And it’s great to see guys that play all the games, play all 16, 17, 18 games and help our football team win games, get rewarded with a new contract.”

Lee, too, spoke positively about the extension following the voluntary workout, one that saw him only serve as a holder during a special teams field goal period.

“My performance has been good and we were trying to get something done,” explained Lee on the extension’s timing. “I think both sides gave a little here and there to get this done early to get me a contract I’m happy with and my family’s happy with and I think the team’s happy with it too.”

As a sixth-round pick of the 49ers in the 2004 NFL Draft (No. 188 overall), Lee has become one of the league’s most successful specialists since he was drafted.

The 6-foot-2, 180-pound punter’s booming right leg enabled the eight-year veteran to break the NFL’s single-season net punting average record (44.0), while Lee’s gross average (50.9) ranked third in league history.

However, if Lee has his way, such records won’t be challenged any time soon like they were in 2011.

“I just hope to do what I can do to help this team win week in and week out,” said Lee, who made Pro Bowl appearances in 2007, 2009 and 2011. “Hopefully as we get better, we’ll have to punt less, and hopefully the average will come down because we’re pinning guys inside the 20 a lot more.”

Lee’s presence, however, doesn’t go unnoticed in the 49ers locker room by any means.

“We’re all really excited and happy for Andy,” Harbaugh went on to say. “And selfishly for ourselves we’re happy and excited that Andy Lee will be with us for the next six years.”

Lee has been responsible for every regular season punt and field goal hold since 2004 and will look forward to maintaining the responsibilities through 2018.

“It makes me feel really good; it makes me feel respected by this team and the organization,” Lee added. “I’m excited to be here for awhile.”

Keeping Lee under contract was crucial to San Francisco’s emphasis on special teams under the guidance of respected coordinator Brad Seely.

“The 49ers are pleased to have reached a long term contract extension with Andy,” general manager Trent Baalke said in a statement released by the team.  “Andy has established himself as one of the top players in the game at his position. He is a valued member of our organization and community. As we stated earlier this year, it is our objective to keep the core of this team together long term, and this is just another step in that direction.”

Lee sensed that direction with the team re-signing defensive difference-makers like Carlos Rogers and Ahmad Brooks over the offseason.

Lee, himself, was pleased to be thought of similarly as a key component of the team’s future.

“I think it shows the type of guys we have here, they want to keep this team together,” Lee said. “They did a good job of signing other guys and keeping this team intact so we can make a run at the Super Bowl next year.”

A world championship is a lofty goal, but when you consider Lee has played in 128 games for the franchise and holds team records in all major punting categories, its understandable why Lee is looking past numbers at this point of his career.

Even so, Lee holds 49ers records in punts (723), yards (33,069), gross average (45.7), net average (38.9) and punts downed inside the 20-yard line (209).

Furthermore, Lee’s gross punting average (47.9) and net average (40.7) since 2007 both rank second in the NFL during that time span, while his total number of punts downed inside the 20-yard line (147) rank third-best.

After hearing all that, the “Buddy” nickname makes a lot more sense.

Lee has been a friend to the offensive, defensive and special teams units since 2004 and will continue to be reliable ally for the 49ers.

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