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Patrick Willis Appreciates Chance to Practice Against Joe Flacco

Posted Aug 10, 2014

Calling Flacco the "$100 million man," the San Francisco 49ers linebacker explained the benefits of practicing against a different team.


OWINGS MILLS, Md. – Patrick Willis can stay at home in Santa Clara and practice against an established, elite quarterback.

The San Francisco 49ers inside linebacker has the fortune of being teammates with Colin Kaepernick.

But Willis also appreciates the chance to line up across from Joe Flacco this weekend at the Baltimore Ravens practice facility.

"He's a $100-million guy," Willis said after Sunday afternoon's practice. "He has a strong arm, his release of the ball, he's very accurate, he's a leader of their team."

Later, when a reporter asked the 49ers 'backer about his admiration for former Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, Willis interrupted his response because he saw Flacco climbing a staircase out of the corner of his eye.

"There he is," Willis said. "That's $100 million right there."

Flacco, whom San Francisco picked off twice during Sunday's session, earned his reported $120.6 million contract after the Ravens bested the 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII.

Visiting the AFC team at its home, where it houses its trophy, is not lost on veterans like Willis.

"I would be lying if I said I didn't think about it a couple of times," he said of the close quarters with the non-conference competitor. "I can be sitting at home and NFL Network will be showing clips and you can see that game, or we'll be watching film and coach Vic (Fangio) will have some (Super Bowl) plays up there. I'll look at NaVorro (and say), 'Wow, that was us, we were in that game.'

"I told NaVorro one time, 'We got to get back there. That's the hunger. That's what we fight for every year."

And that's why Willis said the 49ers defense is taking advantage of its crash course with the Ravens offense in these joint practices.

How so exactly?

"Their offensive coordinator is from Houston, and I always thought Houston had some of the best play-action in the game," Willis said, referencing new Baltimore offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak. "They run the ball really well, especially with Ray Rice. And then you take the kind of play-action that they do and then you have receivers like Steve Smith and Torrey Smith, Jacoby Jones, you get guys biting (on the fake) because those guys can stretch the field. Their tight ends are also very involved in the offense."
 

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