Patrick Willis: 'Hungry to be Better'

San Francisco's six-time Pro Bowl linebacker continues to find ways to push himself to become the best at his craft.

Whether it's weight and speed training with the 49ers strength and conditioning staff or attending every offseason workout and practice to set the example for younger teammates, Joe Staley will do whatever it takes his maximize his talents.

The 6-foot-1, 240-pound inside linebacker and defensive co-captain set the tone for the 49ers this offseason.

Willis, 28, used the offseason program to strengthen both his body and his mind. Willis trained wisely and allowed his mental instincts to improve while he was on the field for OTAs and the team's veteran minicamp.

Now, the eighth-year pro feels like he's at the top of his game.

"For the first time, I really feel like mentally and physically I'm in the best shape I've been in since I was a rookie," said the 49ers linebacker who is one of 17 players to make six consecutive Pro Bowls to begin a career. "Mentally, I feel like I'm in a place I've never been before."

Willis was one of 31 players on the roster to attend every practice and workout this offseason. He also spoke to the entire 90-man roster at the conclusion of the veteran minicamp.

In those sessions, Willis leaned on his understanding of offensive alignments and tendencies to play faster and anticipate plays before they even happened.

"You don't have to move as fast if you're smarter, if you have the knowledge," Willis explained.

The star linebacker enters his third season in Vic Fangio's defensive system and continues to play faster through his understanding of the team's 3-4 defense. Willis leads by example and shows his younger teammates the drive needed to be an elite NFL player.

"I'm always hungry to be better than I was the year before," said the linebacker who is one of just eight players with 15.0 sacks and five interceptions since 2007.

Although the 49ers experienced a tough loss in Super Bowl XLVII to end the season, Willis is patient in his approach to 2013. The 49ers linebacker knows he can't correct the past. He's focused on continuing his high standard of play.

"At this point I've learned to be patient, let it come to you," the first-team All-Pro linebacker said. "Each day you have the opportunity you have to work, make it your best day so when that time comes, you're ready."

Willis is eager to get back on the field, but will use the month of July to get himself mentally and physically prepared for the rigors of a 16-game regular season. He'll also continue to improve in his off the field passion, fishing.

"You let the season come," Willis said. "It'll be here around the corner."

Willis feels as sharp as ever and wants to prove there's no drop-off in his ability entering his seventh season in the NFL.

"I feel good. You put me against the youngest, you put me against the oldest – I still feel amazing… I'm ready."


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