Thanks to everyone who sent in questions over the last few weeks. We've selected a few and gotten answers from cornerback Nate Clements. Check out his responses and be sure to send in your questions for the latest featured Ask a Player - DE Justin Smith.**
Q: Hi Nate, as a Pro-Bowl cornerback which type of wide receiver is more difficult for you to cover: a strong, tall guy like the Cowboys Terrell Owens or a short, quick guy like the Panthers Steve Smith? -Cary Sekoff, San Francisco, CA.
A: I say both types of receivers are hard. You have one guy who is physical and one guy who is fast. I think with a guy like T.O., you don't want to play into his game. He wants to get physical so he can use his strength against you. Then with a guy who is smaller, you want to try to get your hands on him and slow him down.
Q: Yo Lockdown! If you were to retire a 49ers, would you stay out here in the Bay Area or would you move back to Ohio? In other words, do you prefer life out here in California or someplace else, like Ohio? -Tim, Sacramento, CA
A: I like it out here, but I am actually going to move to Houston, Texas when I'm done. I'm building a house there right now. I visited there and I liked it and thought I wouldn't mind living there. No state taxes helps too.
Q: Nate, our defense looks awesome this year. How do you think our secondary will match up against some of the better passing teams, for example the Cowboys and Patriots? -Jeff
A: I think our secondary is going to be very competitive and I think we thrive on opportunities to go against the top receiving corps. I think we are a talented group in our own right and I think we'll fare very well this season.
Q: Hey there, Nate. When people talk about the top corners in the league, you're always in the mix. My question is, what is it about your game that separates you from the likes of Champ Bailey or Chris McAlister? - Contraxx
A: I think we are all good corners. We all do different things well. For me, I just work on being a well rounded player and being a complete corner. I feel like I can defend against both the run and the pass.
Q: What is the ideal body fat for a cornerback? How much lower does yours need to go? -Johnny Parker
A: Johnny Parker everyone is our former strength and conditioning coach. So Johnny, I'll be calling you to really mess with you on this one, but football is not measured by body fat. BUT, if I were to lose any more body fat, I'd be all muscle.
Q: In my opinion this is the best defense the 49ers have had in a while, so how do you think you guys are going to do this year? -Demila Harris
A: I think we are going to do well. We have goals as a defense. We plan to create a lot of turnovers, and I think we will meet a lot of our goals and be one of the best defenses in the NFL.
Q: Hey Nate, I played in a foursome with you at Los Lagos golf course this last June. For a football player you certainly had a good feel for the game and played pretty well. I was wondering if you still play during the season or do you save if for the offseason?-David Crum A: I don't play as much in the season because football takes up most of your time, and then you have to deal with soreness too. But, I do play a bunch in the off-season, and went most days this off-season to work on my game.
Q: I have been a 49ers fan for 30 years (telling my age here). I love the way you play like your heart is in it and always smiling. I just would like to know when you are on the field do you think about the history that was made there?-DeborahA: I love this game, and so it's easy to smile. You should always have fun out there. The history and tradition of the game is important to me. I always reflect on the game and what has happened in this game before I played. I might reflect while I'm watching another game or reading about football – anything. I just think what's come before us is important.
Q: What do you think about rookie CB Reggie Smith? --Bobby GoldwireA: Reggie reminds me of a younger version of myself, just in his style of play and the way he works. I think he's a young, talented corner.
Q: What's good Nate? Last year, 49ers fans got to see your signature move to cause wide receivers to fumble the ball with your "Thor hammer swing" or would you call it the "George Forman uppercut?" To improve our defensive turnover ratio, have you shared the technique with the other defensive backs and pass coverage linebackers? Keep improving the team. -Peace, Coach Omari Williams, CPTA: I don't really have a name for it. I just try to punch it out. I try to be deceptive. Sometimes when the receiver thinks he might have me beat, he'll get careless with the football. That's when I try to look for opportunities to punch it out. I don't really have a name for it but it works. We do drills to work on those type of fundamentals. It's really no secret. It's just a matter of reacting and doing it.
Q: My question for you is being a top flight shutdown corner, how do you prepare your body each week for the numerous amounts of tackles you make and still maintain a high level of play? -Thanks! Shawn Albuquerque, NMA: In the off-season, you have to work out and get your body physically conditioned and ready for the season. Then, you also have to be careful in how you treat your body. I get in the cold tub, the hot tub, and eat the right things.
Q: Hey Nate, which do you prefer, man or zone? -Peter OhmA: I like both. I think in today's league, it's more of an offensive league so as a defense, you've got to mix up coverages. You don't want to just line up and let the offense know what you are doing, so I think it's important to have a mixture and be able to play both.
Q: Hi there Nate, my son Austin and I really enjoyed watching you play last season. As you look at this year's schedule, what wide receivers do you most look forward to covering?-Thanks, Pat - Eugene, OregonA: I look forward to all of them. It seems like every year it gets tougher and tougher. Every week it's a challenge and I'm definitely looking forward to it. This week we have Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald, who are in our division. In my opinion, they are top receivers in this league so it's going to be a challenge for us as a secondary to prevent them from catching the ball.
Q: Hey Nate my question is, do you like playing the left side or right side of the filed or would it make a big difference if you had to switch sides? -Thanks! Marcia GauldenA: I like to play where the best receiver is at. Wherever he lines up, that's where I want to line up. I flipped sides sometimes last year, and I anticipate that I'll do that again this season.
Send your e-mail to Justin firstname.lastname@example.org*. We'll collect your questions and after a few weeks, we'll get Justin to give us his answers.