The 49ers have been awarded multiple times this season for turning back into contenders in the NFL. The Niners won the NFC West, a second round bye and sent eight players to the Pro Bowl. When the end of the year awards are announced the 49ers could have winners in coach of the year, executive of the year, defensive rookie of the year and comeback player of the year. Until then, The Associated Press on Friday released their 2011 NFL All-Pro Team. The 49ers led all teams sending five players to the First-Team.
Justin Smith was selected to the defensive line along with Jason Pierre-Paul (Giants) and Haltoti Ngata (Ravens).
Linebacker Patrick Willis was selected for the third time in his career and NaVarro Bowman was selected to his first All-Pro Team. Bowman played great during the regular season leading the 49ers in tackles with 143. Being voted onto the All-Pro Team has to be redemption for Bowman after he didn’t make the Pro Bowl. The other linebackers voted in were DeMarcus Ware (Cowboys), Terrell Suggs (Ravens) and Derrick Johnson (Chiefs). Bowman and Johnson tied the linebackers vote tally with 16. Willis only had eight votes.
The last two players representing the 49ers on the AP All-Pro Team are the kickers, David Akers and Andy Lee. Both Akers and Lee are the most deserving of the five players selected to the All-Pro Team. I recognize the great season Smith, Willis and Bowman had and how much the defense carried the 49ers. However, without Akers this season the 49ers could had as many as four more losses on their record. In my mind Akers was the MVP for the 49ers this season setting records with 44 field goals and 166 points.
Lee had a net average of 44.0 yards per punt and landed 28 inside the 20-yard line. Lee bailed out the offense numerous times throughout the season and put the 49ers in position to win games by starting off teams with bad field position.
Having five Niner players earn First-Team All-Pro honors is a huge testament to the great job head coach Jim Harbaugh has done this season in turning around the team. The 49ers matched a franchise record with the five players selected. The last time the 49ers had five players voted to the All-Pro Team was 1972.
Other 49ers receiving votes:
LT Joe Staley (11 votes), CB Carlos Rogers (10 votes), S Dashon Goldson (three votes), kick returner Ted Ginn (two votes), RB Frank Gore (one vote), RT Anthony Davis (one vote) and LG Mike Iupati (one vote).