Willis, Lee both named to All-Pro first team

The 2007 season hardly brought back memories of the 49ers' dynasty, but for the first time since 1996 - when the San Francisco roster still was dotted with Super Bowl winners and future Hall of Famers - the Niners have finished a season with more than one player earning first-team All-Pro honors.

Rookie linebacker Patrick Willis and punter Andy Lee each led the voting by a wide margin at their respective positions on the prestigious team selected by the Associated Press.

Despite their disappointing 5-11 finish, the 49ers were one of eight teams to land more than one player on the 27-member team. San Francisco is the only team with a losing record among those eight.

Willis, who led the NFL with 174 tackles according to league totals - and set a franchise-record with 226 tackles according to 49ers' coaches' review of game films - received 30 votes from a 50-member nationwide panel to lead all inside linebackers. Seattle's Lofa Tatupu, the other middle linebacker to make the first team, was next with 22 votes.

Lee, who set team records while leading the NFC in both gross punting average (47.3 yards) and net punting average (41.0), received 35 votes to easily out-distance Oakland's Shane Lechler, who was second with 13 votes. Lechler led the NFL in gross average (49.1) and net average (41.1). Lee and Lechler became the first punters in NFL history to average more than 40 yards net per punt over the course of a season.

Lee also led the NFL with 105 punts - just shy of his team-record 107 in 2005 - and he set a league record for punts downed inside the 20-yard line with 42. Lee had 49 punts of 50 yards or more, which was 16 more than any other punter.

Willis, who last week was named NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, was the only rookie named to the team and became the first 49ers rookie since defensive back Ronnie Lott in 1981 to be named first-team All-Pro.

Willis also became the first 49ers rookie since Lott to be named to the Pro Bowl, where he'll be joined by Lee later this year on the NFC squad.

Willis and Lee represent the first multiple selections for the 49ers on the All-Pro first team since receiver Jerry Rice, defensive tackle Bryant Young and safety Merton Hanks were named in 1996, when San Francisco was in the midst of a NFL-record 16 consecutive seasons of 10 victories or more.


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