SAN FRANCISCO—The leadership core of the 49ers will look drastically different in 2015.
Amid reports that running back Frank Gore is leaving via free agency and defensive end Justin Smith is retiring, on Monday, March 9 brought the announcement that All-Pro linebacker Patrick Willis is also retiring from football.
Following an eight-year career in which he established himself as the NFL’s premier inside linebacker, Willis plans to hang it up and walk away from the game earlier than anyone expected.
At 30, the linebacker figured to have at least a few good years of football remaining. However, following a 2014 season cut short by a nagging, chronically painful toe injury, Willis may have decided to walk away from the sport while he could still do exactly that.
Seemingly invincible for most of his eight-year career, a season spent shelved due to injury may have been all it took to encourage Willis to cease competing in a violent and physically taxing NFL game.
If Willis indeed decides to stay retired, the seven-time pro bowler appears worthy of hall-of-fame consideration, the only potential roadblock in his selection being an injury-shortened career absent a Super Bowl victory.