San Francisco 49ers

New leaders? 49ers insist they have plenty of candidates

Anquan Boldin says there’s no leadership gap on the 49ers now that Frank Gore and Patrick Willis have left.
Anquan Boldin says there’s no leadership gap on the 49ers now that Frank Gore and Patrick Willis have left. The Bee

Next leader up.

The 49ers say that's the attitude the team will take after two long-time leaders with a combined 18 seasons on the roster, Frank Gore and Patrick Willis, left the squad this week. The future of another, Justin Smith, hangs in the balance and may be decided next week.

General manager Trent Baalke ticked off several names -- Joe Staley, Colin Kaepernick, Anquan Boldin, NaVorro Bowman, Glenn Dorsey, Ian Williams and Antoine Bethea -- when asked who takes over the leadership roles now. He also noted that Smith is still on the squad.

"There's leaders on this football team," he said. "They're just not the keynote names that you've come accustomed to here. But there's plenty of leadership here."

Boldin, meanwhile, noted that a pair of 2014 rookies stepped into big roles last year, signaling that the changing of the guard already had begun in San Francisco. Second-round draft pick Carlos Hyde had 83 carries as Gore's primary backup while third rounder Chris Borland started eight games -- and led the team in tackles -- at linebacker for an injured Willis.

"I think it was tremendous,” Boldin said. “We had both our starting linebackers go out last year and you have a rookie in Chris Borland who stepped in and played his butt off, not missing a beat. So when you have guys like that as backups and they step in and they get experience in their rookie year, they only get better in their second and third year. So I’m looking forward to those guys maturing as football players.”

Boldin also was essential in luring the team's top free-agent target, receiver Torrey Smith, to San Francisco. Boldin’s top selling point: The 49ers can win a championship. Smith said Vernon Davis, who also played at the University of Maryland, helped pitch the 49ers as well.

“Like I said, I’m outside looking in," Smith said when asked about leadership. "So I know Vernon very well. I obviously know what type of leader Anquan is and Kap. You can’t look past the quarterback. He works his tail off. I’m sure he leads by example. I hear a lot. I see it even when we work out together. He pushes it to the limit and he’s a great leader leading by example."

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