Nobody's perfect, but you can work your hardest while chasing the ultimate destination. That's Joe Staley' thought on the subject.
Channeling his inner Vince Lombardi, San Francisco's defensive captain reiterated his stance on trying to become the best football player he can possibly be. Tuesday, at 49ers Training Camp presented by HP, Willis summarized a quote written in the locker room from the Hall of Fame coach when discussing how San Francisco's defense can improve heading into Week 2 of the preseason.
"It says you can't be perfect but if you chase perfection you can catch excellence," Willis shared. "At the end of the day, we're trying to be the very best we can be and if we go out every day with that intent, I think we'll be alright."
The quote especially resonated with the 49ers' five-time Pro Bowl linebacker after defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said he wasn't pleased with his first-team defense's showing in the 49ers preseason opener.
Willis, however, didn't fault his coach's upset feelings.
"He has every right to be," Willis said. "We didn't come out and play up to our full potential and anytime we have a chance to go out and display what kind of defense we want to be, we have to come out and do that. "
In Willis' eyes, allowing six points on two drives wasn't a result of the starting unit being over-confident.
"We're not conceited," he said intently. "Are we a confident group of guys? Yeah. But our group of guys has been confident for awhile."
According to Willis, minor mistakes like blown coverages and missed tackles need to be cleaned up before the team faces the Houston Texans Saturday night on the road.
"Those mistakes we made in the first game," Willis said, "we can't make in the second."
A veteran like Willis understands that not every game will unfold perfectly in San Francisco's favor. Trying circumstances, however, serve as teachable moments. Such lessons are crucial in a team's early development.
"Not every game is going to be exactly how you want it to be or play out exactly how you want it to play out," Willis cautioned. "Our main objective is not to do the same thing over and over."
Willis feels like the defense will be even better prepared for the Texans' zone-scheme offense based on the recent competitive training camp sessions taking place in Santa Clara against a re-loaded 49ers offense.
"I feel our offense, skill-wise and with what they do, I feel like they give us some of the best looks that we're probably going to get," said the inside linebacker, who works on coverage skills against the team's talented stable of tight ends. "It's good going against an offense like ours, but we're looking forward to the game on Saturday."
Until then, Willis and the 49ers will continue to utilize rigorous training sessions as a means to come together.
"It's on us to believe in one another and have total confidence and faith in all three phases," Willis said. "That's what training camp's about, you build that."
So if the 49ers don't play flawlessly on defense this Saturday night, Willis and team's leadership will continue to chase perfection with the hopes of catching excellence.
"It doesn't mean we're going to be perfect on everything, but we're getting closer to being an even better defense than we were the year before," Willis added. "It's going to take us coming out every day to work."
Work resumes Tuesday afternoon with another three-hour practice that'll feature several competitive periods with the first-team offense and defense likely competing against one another.
Willis appreciates the challenge.
"It's the type of offense you look at on paper and say, 'Wow.' From every position, from running backs especially to receivers, to our tight ends." [