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Craig Dahl to Compete for Starting Role

Posted Mar 16, 2013

New 49ers safety Craig Dahl is eager to compete for a starting role on defense.

On his second day visiting with a former foe, Craig Dahl was offered a three-year contact.

Dahl accepted the offer and jumped from one NFC West club to the two-time defending champions of the division.

Dahl, a five-year veteran, who recorded his first, 100-tackle season in 2012 with the St. Louis Rams, can now call San Francisco home.

Dahl’s versatility on defense and special teams factored in the team’s decision to sign the hard-working player. In addition, Dahl’s familiarity with the division made him an attractive candidate to fill the void left by safety Dashon Goldson.

“We are pleased to announce the signing,” 49ers General Manager Trent Baalke said in a statement released by the team. “He is an experienced veteran with excellent intangibles, who has working knowledge of the NFC West.”

Dahl spent the past four seasons with the Rams and took pride in the team’s recent resurgence which included being the only team in the division not to lose to the 49ers in 2012.

Dahl is glad to be a part of an organization poised to make a run at a third consecutive division crown.

“It’s a program I’m very familiar with, players and coaches I’m familiar with and how they operate and what their team fundamentals are,” Dahl said in a Saturday conference call.

“I’m real familiar with what’s going on here in San Francisco and couldn’t be happier with the opportunity I’ve been given.”

That opportunity will largely be a chance to start at free safety on defense and add to the team’s special teams units. In St. Louis, Dahl played as the personal protector on punt team and also on the kick-off team.

Dahl has played in 70 games (42 starts) and has recorded 335 tackles, four interceptions, two sacks, three forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries and has 10 pass breakups. With the Rams, Dahl started in 40 of 61 games.

With the 49ers, Dahl aims to be a force on one of the league’s most respected defenses led by coordinator Vic Fangio.

“They told me there was an opportunity to play in the voided position in the secondary and I’m hoping to mesh well with the secondary and fill that void,” Dahl said.

It also helps that Dahl knows the division and the talented play-makers on every team.

“I know the culture,” he said. “The teams are up and coming.

“Being in the last four years, the mentality of the division has changed. It’s a lot more physical; teams are a lot more aggressive on defense. It’s turning out a lot better football teams than in the past.”

Knowing how competitive and tough it was in the NFC West last season, Dahl is pleased to join the 49ers who reached the franchise’s sixth Super Bowl last season.

“I’m very happy of the new position I’ve been enlisted in here in San Francisco,” said the 27-year-old native of Madison Lake, Minn., who played collegiately at North Dakota State. “It helps me out I was able to play against most of what we have in the NFC West.”

Dahl looks forward to showing his relentless play as well as his hard-working nature and strong belief in communication to his new teammates.

“I think I can definitely get everyone on the same page,” he said. “I’ll pick up on this defense very quick.

“I don’t think I’ll have a problem getting to know the guys and working hard.”

Dahl already hit it off with 49ers secondary coach Ed Donatell and assistant secondary coach Greg Jackson. The group watched San Francisco’s game tape at team headquarters on Friday and felt comfortable in the same room immediately.

“We watched film together,” Dahl said. “We talked about different things. (Donatell) told me how is coaching style is and how helps players through the learning process.

“We were both learning from each other,” Dahl said of Donatell. “When you can have that with your coach it makes it all the more enjoyable.”

With familiarity with the division and an instant bond with the coaches and front office on his side, Dahl is eager to begin competing for the free safety job. He understands that it’ll be a competition for the position and he’s willingly accepted the challenge.

“I'm hoping to come in, mesh well with the secondary and fill that void,” he said.

As for competing with another free agent addition or one of the team’s 14 projected draft picks, Dahl has no problem with it.

“I’m always open for competition,” Dahl said. “I know how the game progresses…Whether I’m lined up (as a starter) at day 1, it’s always a completion to keep your job as a starter.

“I’m grateful for the opportunity I was given and hope to be that guy.”

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