Good news on the free-agency front. The one soon-to-be free agent the 49ers absolutely had to have back in 2009 wants to return. Bad. Takeo Spikes, who signed a one-year deal in August, said today that departures are nothing new to him. He's left the Bengals, the Bills and the Eagles in the past. This time? "I would have a regret about leaving this team." Spikes said he feels as if he's in the midst of a building project in San Francisco and wants to be around for its completion. Spikes had an excellent season at a demanding position, and he proved to league observers that, at age 31, a 16-game schedule is not too much for him. In other words, Spikes would get a lot of attention - and a lot of money - if he were to hit the open market. But money, he said, is not his top concern. "To me, right now, winning is important," he said.
The 49ers also need Spikes to return. They've experimented with several youngsters - Dontarrious Thomas, Larry Grant, Ahmad Brooks - at "ted" linebacker, but none has worked out. The only other guy who can be counted on to play there is Jeff Ulbrich, and he's the same age as Spikes. The other benefit is that Spikes is the perfect complement to Patrick Willis both on the field and in the lockerroom. Having Spikes continue to mentor Willis will only make the young linebacker better.
Today is moving day for the players -- the day that they clean out their lockers, meet with coach Mike Singletary (so nice not to have to write "interim") and then get lost until March. Quarterback Shaun Hill was one of the guys we caught up with. Depite his 7-3 record as a starter, neither Singletary nor general manager Scot McCloughan have committed to hi having that job in 2009. "I don't know what to think, to be honest with you. I really don't," Hill said. "... You really never know really what the perception is and all that stuff. And that's not for me to decide at this point. I feel like I defeinitely played hard. Sometimes it wasn't as good as I wanted it to be, but I feel like everyone in this league ... has those moments."
Ask if he thought team officials were keeping him guessing in order to keep him sharp this offseason, Hill said, "I think if you have to use that psychology, you have the wrong person. In order to be a successful player in this league, you have to be pushing constantly anyway. So I hope that's not the perception that there needs to be some sort of psychology because I know I'm the type of guy that no matter what, I'm going to push."
As for the fate of Mike Martz, Hill acknowledged that his relationship with the offensive coordinator was rocky in the beginning. "It's evolved," Hill said with a laugh. "There's definitely been some ups and downs in there, but I feel like certainly a lot better now than it was in training camp. ... Maybe I just had to make a believer out of him. I don't know." As for the possibility of learning yet another offense this offseason, Hill said, "I had to do that plenty of times in my career. Obviously, it's not always ideal, that's for sure. But like I said, we'll roll with the punches, and whatever hapens, happens."
-- Matt Barrows