Back to Buffalo

Growing up as a NFL player in the relative boondocks of Buffalo, Nate Clements gained an interesting perspective to begin his NFL career. Here, the 49ers' cornerback talks about making his first trip back to his first NFL home while touching on a variety of subjects, including being a big hitter, playing in inclement Buffalo weather, returning punts and putting last week's Dallas last behind him.

Q: How did you enjoy your time in Buffalo, both with the team and in the city?
Clements:
I think that was, obviously, where the foundation of my career was started, as far as professionally. I thought it was an excellent opportunity for me. It might have been one of the best things to happen to me, as far as starting out my career there, to start somewhere like Buffalo, who has a first-class organization, a lot of tradition. I think the fact that it wasn't a city like a Miami or an Atlanta, I think that was something that was kind of a hidden blessing in disguise, you know. I wasn't able to always go out. I think that helped me as far as on the field. I really didn't have that many distractions off the field, and the fans there were very supportive. And that atmosphere – it's like a collegiate atmosphere. They're die-hard fans for their football.

Q: What did you do with your spare time in Buffalo?
Clements:
Study. Study. I went to (Niagara Falls) a couple times. I've been to Toronto a couple of times. But other than that, you know, in Buffalo.

Q: How was it like, in general, playing in that kind of weather?
Clements:
Actually, I think I was kind of used to an familiar with it because I played in it my whole career. And actually, when it got cold there and the snow started to come, it was actually fun to me.

Q: Is there any secret to catching punts in that type of weather?
Clements:
Concentration. I don't think it's going to be as bad as I've seen it there before. But you definitely have to concentrate and focus on catching the ball there.

Q: Why was it fun to play in snow?
Clements:
I don't know. I mean, as a kid it was always fun to play in the snow, and it never died down for me. I guess it's a different element, and to me it was fun. Some guys like to play in the rain when it's muddy, you know.

Q: What do you know about Buffalo receiver Lee Evans, who you'll often be matched up against?
Clements:
Lee is definitely a competitive receiver, definitely has the capability of going deep. He's a deep threat who can stretch the defense and has good hands and runs his routes very well. That's the reason he's their top receiver.

Q: How anxious are you to put last week's game behind you?
Clements:
Last week's game? I'm focused on moving forward. As a corner, it's just, as my coach would say, water off a duck, you know, just roll right off you. You've got to get ready for next week and I'm anxious.

Q: Can you talk about Trent Edwards and how he and Marshawn Lynch kind of get things started for their offense with play-action?
Clements:
I think it all starts for them with Marshawn Lynch because in order for you to have successful play-action, you have to establish the run. And just from looking at film and seeing him on TV in previous games, he's an explosive player. He's a tough running back and he's very talented. So in order for play-action to work, you have to set it up with the run first. And that's what they're doing with him, establishing the run, and that's why he might be successful with the play-action.

Q: Did you think you gained some more respect with some of your big hits last week? Clements: Well, I like to think I was known as somebody that could tackle forcefully before that game. I think I've done that my whole career. I just go out and play hard, I don't really try to force things. I just go out and play hard.

Q: Some of those big hits that you had against Dallas last week, do they hurt you? Clements: Do they hurt me? I mean sometimes. It depends. I've hit somebody so hard that where I probably separated my own shoulder. I don't try to think about that, I just try to make a play. You know, I'm going in there full speed and just playing aggressive.

Q: When you level a guy, does it feel good too you?
Clements:
It feels good once it happens. It definitely feels good when you hit somebody like that. I can't say that it doesn't, but just in cases when I hurt myself, it didn't feel so good.

Q: Where did the shoulder separation occur?
Clements:
It was actually in a preseason game, playing Detroit. There was a running back (Artose) Pinner, we went full speed into each other. He saw me coming and I saw him and I just separated my shoulder.

Q: Did you miss a game with that shoulder?
Clements:
Now, I never missed a game. I don't think I even missed practice that week. That was years ago.

Q: Can you talk about Fred Jackson, their third-down back, and what the Bills do with him?
Clements:
I think Fred is definitely a change-of-pace guy, and when you have a back like Marshawn Lynch, that next guy to come in to give him a rest or a break or two for some plays, he's definitely a good change-up. He can catch the ball, he can run, so we definitely have to be aware of him when he's in the game. Because he actually can make some plays, he has this whole season.

Q: Do you keep in touch much with any of the people in Buffalo, your old teammates and coaches?
Clements:
Yeah, I keep in touch with a few of the guys when I was there, especially their DBs. I keep in touch with a lot of the guys. I even call the trainers there once in a while to see how they're doing.

Q: With Allen Rossum out, to you expect to be the full-time punt-return guy this week?
Clements:
Well, I guess so, if he's not ready to go. You know, I prepare myself every week to be put in a position in case anything happens, I'm ready. It doesn't change how I prepare.

Q: Is that something you want to do in particular because you are playing in front of your old team and old crowd?
Clements:
No, not so much because of that. I always want to do it.

Q: Nate, just because you're going back to the place where you got your NFL start, how much have you been eyeing this game on the schedule, and does this mean more to you than just a regular game?
Clements:
Well, I knew that we were playing them. I wouldn't really say I circled this game on my schedule. It's nothing like I have a vendetta. I think those fans, the city and the organization treated me fairly. Now that the time is here, I'm definitely anxious going back.

Q: But does this one mean anything different, is it more than just one of 16 on the schedule?
Clements:
Naw, I just want to win the game.


Niners Digest Top Stories