Patrick Willis Weighs in on 49ers Coaching Search, Justin Smith's Future

In his first meeting with the media since being shut down for the year in November with a nagging toe injury, Joe Staley spoke to reporters about his involvement in a pair of impending decisions that will greatly affect the San Francisco 49ers moving forward.

First up: the organization's search for its next head coach.

"That's up to ownership," Willis said on Monday. "That's not my call. My call is to be here and be the best football player I can be and help this team do the same. That's my only focus and concern."

Willis was asked if any internal candidates would have his support, but again, the star linebacker deferred to the front office.

"I know at the end of the day that I have faith and trust in our management," Willis said. "We'll see what happens, but my job is to play football."

As for the second 49ers question mark, Willis plans to be a bit more proactive. With Justin Smith reportedly considering retirement, Willis is working to sway him into returning for a 15th NFL season.

"I've already started," Willis said. "I probably started in training camp. With 'Cowboy,' man, we've grown together. He was already a man in this league when we came together in 2008. I can honestly say 'Cowboy' has been a big reason for our success, especially my play at linebacker."

Willis joked that he hopes to enlist Smith's three young children to help persuade their dad as well.

"I don't care if he goes away all the way until right before the first week of the season," Willis said. "I'd be OK with that.

"But whatever he decides to do, I'm OK with it because I know he's given the team everything he has. If he can do it one more time, I'd take it. But if he can't, I understand that too."

On the toe rehab front, Willis appears to be on schedule with his recovery. Still aiming to be ready for Week 1 in 2015, Willis will remain in a walking boot for another three weeks before graduating to shoes again.

"After that, hopefully I'll be able to take the training wheels off and burn rubber again," Willis said. "For me, the grind never stops."

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