It's official: 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis will announce his retirement at a noon news conference in Santa Clara.
Willis, who made the Pro Bowl in his first seven seasons in the league and who twice led the NFL in tackles, has been battling issues with his feet.
“On behalf of the entire San Francisco 49ers organization, my family, and our Faithful fans, I would like to thank Patrick for everything he has brought to this team and our community,” said 49ers CEO Jed York said in a statement. “Some of the greatest memories in the history of our franchise have come from his passion, dedication and sacrifice.
“Patrick epitomizes everything you could ever want in a San Francisco 49er," York continued. "What he brought to this team goes much further than his athletic abilities. His leadership and infectious love for the game helped propel this team. I consider myself very lucky to have grown up around some of the greatest players in the history of this franchise, and Patrick has certainly secured his place among that elite group of men. As a member of our family, Patrick holds a special place in our hearts, and we look forward to supporting him as he moves on from his playing career.”
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Free agency officially begins at 1 p.m. today. The 49ers are expected to sign Ravens free-agent receiver Torrey Smith but could lose several key players, including long-time running back Frank Gore, guard Mike Iupati, linebacker Dan Skuta, cornerback Chris Culliver and receiver Michael Crabtree.
Read Matt Barrows’ blogs and archives at www.sacbee.com/sf49ers.