Former 49ers safety Merton Hanks spent eight seasons wearing a San Francisco 49ers uniform and starred on the team's last Super Bowl-winning club. Hanks currently works for the league office as the NFL's Vice President of Football Operations. We caught up with Hanks in Hawaii for five questions about his thoughts on the 49ers strong season as well as the league's plans for Sunday's 2012 Pro Bowl game.
Q: As a former 49ers player, what were your thoughts on the team's 14-win season under coach Jim Harbaugh?
A: I think every man and woman in the organization clearly did a wonderful job. To come as far as the organization has come in the last 12 months, it's just a phenomenal, phenomenal job.
Q: As a former defensive player, seeing the type of season the 49ers had defensively, what were your thoughts on the impact plays made by the unit this season?
A: Well, it's not just about the defense. The special teams and offense made it happen, too. Really, the entire team did it. When you win 13 games in the regular season, when you win your division, when you go to the East Coast and win three games for a West Coast team traveling the way the team did, that speaks to the character of the players. It speaks to the character of the coaching staff. And it speaks to the heart of the organization. I think the future is very bright.
Q: In your experiences at the Pro Bowl, you were always surrounded by your own teammates. Now, seeing the 49ers have nine players selected to the Pro Bowl with six out here making the trip, what sense of pride do you get from seeing so many red and gold 49ers helmets here in Hawaii?
A: My pride for the organization never left. I've always been a proud 49er in my mind. My co-workers at the league office understand that. It's great to see guys out here like David Akers. I got a chance to talk to Andy Lee and certainly Joe Staley. To see these players representing the organization gracefully, it's great to see. They're Pro Bowlers, but these players are even better guys. I was excited for them having the season they did. It didn't end the way we would have liked, but that doesn't discount the great season that was put together.
Q: With the NFL allowing players to tweet from the sidelines during the Pro Bowl, what led to the league allowing that wrinkle to be involved in this year's game?
A: We'll have a couple of computer stands, one on each sideline. The players will be able to share their thoughts in that area throughout the game. And the Pro Bowl has traditionally been an opportunity for us to try new things, try new technologies, whether it's equipment, uniforms or the style of play. So I'm looking forward to seeing how this experience comes out.
Q: With so many players using the social media platform these days, do you expect there to be a line at the computers?
A: At the end of the day, our guys are professionals. When it's time to play, their attention will be there. Sure, they'll get a chance to sneak a tweet in, but it'll be fun. I think we'll all be interested in seeing how this thing works out.