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Antoine Bethea, Zane Beadles Show Leadership in the Face of Adversity


**What do Antoine Bethea and Zane Beadles have in common?

Both veterans for the San Francisco 49ers played in multiple positions in a Week 15 game against the Atlanta Falcons.

It was Bethea, the 11-year veteran safety, who volunteered to play inside linebacker when Nick Bellore suffered a season-ending elbow injury on Atlanta's third offensive snap of the game.

As for Beadles, the long-time guard started at tackle and then later moved to center when Marcus Martin went down with an ankle injury.

The willingness of both players to play multiple gamedays roles should be commended. And they have been throughout the week by teammates and coaches as the 49ers prepare for a Christmas Eve road game against the Los Angeles Rams.

"It was a lot to ask of him," defensive coordinator Jim O'Neil said of Bethea. "I told him after the game that there are not a lot of guys in the NFL that would have done that for their team. He gave us everything he had in there. He battled."

It was Bethea's first snaps at linebacker since his high school days in Virginia. And in the moment, Bethea displayed what has made him a respected locker room leader throughout his NFL career.

"I would rather it be me put into an uncomfortable situation than one of the younger guys," said the 206-pound defensive back who is expected to move back to his normal position this week. "Guys said they appreciated it, but at the end of the day, that's what you're supposed to do. I don't need anyone to tell me they respect me for it. I would hope everyone would have done that, or would have asked to do that. I don't need validation from anyone, but I appreciate it."

Bethea received more recognition this week from the San Francisco chapter of the Pro Football Writers of America. The 49ers beat writers selected Bethea as the 2016 recipient of the Garry Niver Award, an honor bestowed annually for the most professional and cooperative player with the media.

Beadles, another deserving recipient for the Niver Award, acknowledged Bethea's diverse role in last week's game.

"It was great of him to do that," Beadles said. "Situations like that are not the easiest, but as professionals, we need to be as flexible as we can and help the team where we can."

The same can be said for Beadles, who is the only player on the offensive line to have played guard, tackle and center this season. It was also Beadles' first time playing center at any level of his football career.

"I think Beadles is the example of what a professional football player is," offensive coordinator Curtis Modkins said. "I told the team this yesterday, we all appreciate what he was able to do for us last week, and it's a good example for younger players to know you have to be prepared for any and everything."

Joe Staley's status (hamstring) remains up in the air for Saturday against the Rams. Beadles' Week 16 role is the same way.

Beadles is preparing to plplay all three positions.

"I'm really just staying focused on what I can do to perform at my best and play well with the guys next to me," the veteran lineman said. "We had a good run of the same five starting there, which is always nice on the o-line. But things happen, and you need to be able to adjust."

Beyond making adjustments on the fly, it's the examples veterans like Bethea and Beadles have set for their younger peers.

"It's our job," Bethea said. "A lot of people ask, 'How do you keep going?' And I say, 'If you've had a few bad weeks at your job, are you going to quit?' Nah. You're going to continue to get up and keep going.

"We signed up for this, win, lose or draw. It's about being a pro and approaching it that way. We've got two games left. Hopefully we can end the season on a two-game win streak."

Saturday's Christmas Eve game has provided Bethea with some more perspective during the holiday season.

"We can't take this thing for granted," he said. "There are a lot of people who would love to be in our shoes regardless of the record. We're 1-13, of course we don't want our record to be that, but we're definitely in a blessed situation. Every day we're in a situation to lace 'em up, go out and practice and get better.

"It sounds cliché as hell, but you never know when it could be your last play. But that's the truth."

Take a look at the top images of practice as San Francisco gets ready for Week 16 against Los Angeles.

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