Gooden: Back on the Squad


If you return kicks in the National Football League, there's a chance Tavares Gooden has taken you to the ground and proceeded to leap in the air like an NBA All-Star going up for a slam dunk.

Gooden's made a living covering kicks in the NFL, and makes sure to accentuate his stellar tackling ability by demonstrating his flare for post-play exuberance.

The leaps were a common sight in 2011 as the 49ers linebacker totaled 12 special teams tackles while appearing in 16 regular season games and two postseason contests.

Gooden also played a big part in the creation of the team's alter ego for its kick-off team, known as "The Tony Montana Squad." The 6-foot-1, 242-pound linebacker was arguably the most hyperactive player in the kick-off huddle that saw 10 players feverishly moving side-to-side before kicks.

Now, Gooden is eager to make more special teams plays in 2012 as well as contribute some on defense if given the opportunity.

With restricted free agent Larry Grant tendered a one-year contract, Gooden could stand as the team's lone backup inside linebacker should Grant sign with another team.

If that's the case, Gooden's hopeful he can play an expanded defensive role.

"When I was on scout team, I worked my tail off," Gooden explained. "The coaches could see I can play defense and contribute more than just special teams."

After signing with the 49ers in the middle of the 2011 training camp, Gooden's role was primarily on special teams. Gooden, however, was reunited in San Francisco with defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, who was part of the Baltimore Ravens organization that drafted Gooden 71st overall in the 2008 NFL Draft.

In Gooden's mind, the familiarity helped him learn the defense at a faster rate.

And with Gooden coming back to play for the 49ers, sticking with Fangio and special teams coordinator Brad Seely was important in Gooden's free agency thinking. But more importantly, Gooden felt unfinished business was left on the table after the 49ers suffered an overtime loss to the New York Giants in the NFC Championship game.

"I wanted to be here, having a salty taste from last year," Gooden said. "I felt there was unfinished business. Now, I have to get back to the drawing board."

The loss was especially painful for Gooden considering it was his second appearance in a championship game, and his second in loss in the high-profile contest.

"It hurts to be one game away from the Super Bowl," said Gooden, who lost in the 2009 AFC Championship game as a member of the Ravens.

"I want to get to the big dance," stressed Gooden, who's made 67 tackles on defense and 34 special teams tackles in 41 career games (12 starts).

Gooden's presence wasn't forgotten by the 49ers, that's why they made sure he'd return to the club in 2012.

"Tavares was an integral part of our success on special teams last year," general manager Trent Baalke said in a release. "He brought an energy to our locker room that was evident on the field as well. We are pleased to have him back with us for another season, and look forward to his continued growth as a player."

Likewise, Gooden is pleased to continue his football career in San Francisco.

"I'm going to do everything I can to be more effective," said Gooden, clearly not content with San Francisco's strong special teams showing in 2011.

Gooden said he's looking for the special teams units to maintain its level of play from 2011.

"We have the tools to do it," Gooden added.

Click here to listen to Gooden's conference call

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