Leaders emerging as 49ers feed off Singletary

Niners coach Mike Singletary spent most of his 10 years out of professional football as a motivational speaker. Therefore, it's no surprise he has a flair for using his oratory skills to express his expectations for his team. Through 13 games in his current role, Singletary has been the face and voice of the franchise – even behind closed doors. But that finally is beginning to change.

As the 49ers gradually mature into a winning team, leaders on the playing roster are stepping up to say things that need to be said.

And that's exactly the way Singletary wants it.

"The less I say, the better I feel because I'm going to say what has to be said and hopefully they beat me to it all the time, so we can stay on the same page," Singletary said.

Singletary believes San Francisco's surging defense already is full of leaders. That unit ranks No. 6 this week in the NFL in total defense after last week's 35-0 blanking of the St. Louis Rams, the 49ers' first shutout in 119 games.

"You can pick any guy on defense," Singletary said. "The leadership on the defensive side of the ball has really picked up, whether it's Justin Smith, Patrick (Willis), Takeo (Spikes), Michael Lewis… All those guys are talking."

Willis, already a two-time All-Pro, is taking on a much more visible leadership role in his third season, not just on defense, but also before the entire team.

But the 49ers need those kinds of leaders on offense, too. On the first day of training camp, Singletary challenged offensive leaders to step forward.

And after Shaun Hill was named the starting quarterback for the regular season, that is exactly what Hill has done.

"Shaun Hill has really stepped up and has been a real bright spot in terms of the leadership and, ‘Hey guys, we have to do this, we have to do that. This is what we said we were going to do and let's do it,'" Singletary said. "So that's great to see."

Hill said the 49ers feed off Singletary's leadership, which in turn makes it easier for individuals to emerge as leaders themselves.

"(Singletary) is so unique as a head coach, far different than anybody I've ever had," Hill said. "It did take a little bit of time for me to adjust to the way he does things. But having those eight games (as a starter) under my belt last season, having this whole offseason with him, that has really helped. As far as echoing what he's saying, the whole locker room has bought into it. This whole team has bought in. I think you can see that. So what he's saying, everybody is feeling and everybody believes in."

After a lackluster performance in the first half last week – the 49ers led 7-0 at halftime only because of a gift touchdown on special teams – Singletary briefly addressed his team, then let his players take over and do the rest.

The 49ers then came out and blitzed the Rams 28-0 in the second half.

"I saw a lot of guys disappointed in the way the first half went," Singletary said. "There were no shouting matches. It was just a matter of, ‘Guys, just remember what we said we needed to do.' They kind of took it from there. ‘Yes, we've got to go out and we've got to do this. And, we've got to do a better job. We've got to execute better.' The coaches didn't really have to talk a whole lot. Whenever you have that situation, you know you're going in the right direction."

Hill was one of the players who stepped up and took charge at halftime.

"I'm not a guy that's going to necessarily say something at all times," Hill said. "Whenever I do feel like I need to speak up, I will though. It's not one of those things where I'm scared to say anything, because I'm not. It's just my personality and the way I am. I don't necessarily talk all the time.

"But I think it's a good combination. Coach Singletary likes to get in the mix and say what he needs to say, so I feed off that as well. I think what we have going is a good combination."

Hill said his leadership style is a lot different than Singletary's. Hill, for instance, went to Josh Morgan after he dropped a deep pass that would have went for a touchdown against the Rams and told Morgan he'd come back to him later in the game for a big play.

Morgan remained focused and ended up catching a 24-yard touchdown pass from Hill in the fourth quarter – the first touchdown reception by a San Francisco wideout this season.

Singletary also singled out linemen Joe Staley and Eric Heitmann as leaders on offense. Hill threw in a few other names that are emerging as leaders on that side of the ball.

"Eric Heitmann obviously does a good job with those guys up front, and (tight end) Vernon (Davis) can be vocal in the right sense," Hill said. "Frank (Gore) is a vocal guy. Isaac (Bruce) is a leader without even saying much. Joe Staley is another guy that gets vocal when it needs be. There's plenty of guys on offense that are leaders, but as a group we need to continue to jell."

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