Samurai Mike is running the 49ers his way.
San Francisco head coach Mike Singletary has been notorious for being a tough guy: his exploits as linebacker for one of the best defenses of all time – the 1985 Chicago Bears – are well-known. With his first full season as head coach of the 49ers under way, he wants to translate that toughness to his players.
It shows in his training camps – according to ESPN.com, of the 19 practices held so far at camp, all but one of them have been in full pads, and eight players (including Pro Bowl LB Patrick Willis) have already suffered injuries that will keep them out for more than one week. This prompted many in the media to ask whether Niners brass were working their players too much, and camp was too physical. When asked whether he would tone down the physical practices in light of the rise in injuries, Samurai Mike didn’t flinch.
“Not one bit.”
While Singletary and the 49ers are installing a tougher mindset within the 49ers organization and personnel, it’s hard to ignore the fact that it could be at the expense of the players’ overall health and success on the field. So, the question is: Is Coach Singletary pushing the players too hard by making practices too physical?
Here’s the simple answer: only time will tell. Call it a cop-out, but, honestly, Singletary’s tactics to make the 49ers tougher could make the team better, just as much as it could backfire. It all depends on how the team responds to this early adversity. Reaching back to sports cinema, it could result in a “Remember The Titans” scenario, or a “Junction Boys” scenario (look up those sports films, if you haven’t seen them). Either “What doesn’t kill them makes them stronger”, or … “What doesn’t kill them … cripples them for life”.
Here’s my feeling: I will subscribe to The Word according to Samurai Mike … for now. If he thinks that this will give the 49ers a tougher edge than they did under Mike Nolan, then, so be it. They could definitely use it – they were in the bottom third in the NFL in total offense and defense, while ranking second-to-last in takeaway/giveaway differential last season. Singletary’s approach, historically, has been hit-or-miss.
Let’s just hope, for the sake of San Francisco, Samurai Mike is a huge hit.