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Opposite Spectrums

Posted Dec 1, 2010



One is an accomplished professional, who has played in every big game from the Pro Bowl to the Super Bowl. The other is an off-the-wall rookie, full of exuberance and excitement, yearning for the professional moments his veteran cohort has experienced.

But between Brian Westbrook and Anthony Dixon, the 49ers running attack will be in their distinctly different hands now that Frank Gore has been place on Injured Reserve.

There will be no surgery for Gore, coach Mike Singletary said on Wednesday, but the two-time Pro Bowler is not coming back in 2010. The workload now rests on the shoulders of a 31-year-old and a 22-year-old.

Differences in personality might exist between the two, but production on the football field is a constant for both.

“I would say I’m on one end of the spectrum and he’s on the other,” Westbrook said in differentiating himself from Dixon. “He’s young, he’s excited, he’s full of… something.

“He’s a very good player though.”

The quiet, calm-before-the-storm approach of Westbrook serves as the polar opposite to Dixon’s upbeat demeanor. But each has proven to be a viable running option for the 49ers after the two helped the 49ers total 261 rushing yards last week.

Each runner picked up more than 50 yards against Arizona, with Westbrook posting the most rushing yards (136) by any runner this season on “Monday Night Football.”

“It feels good to play again,” said the nine-year pro, who spent eight seasons in Philadelphia where he ranks No. 1 on the Eagles all-time yards from scrimmage list with 9,785 total yards.

Despite having nine yards on five carries entering the Arizona matchup, Westbrook didn’t lose his gift for getting up the field in a hurry and making bigger defenders miss tackles.

“It came back pretty quick,” the 5-foot-10, 203-pound back said of his natural running instincts. “When you have live guys coming at you and trying to hit you, it comes back real quick.”

On the other side of the 49ers new featured running back tandem is Dixon, a sixth-round pick who is on his way to developing the running style needed at the pro level.

“I think Anthony is a very good running back, a guy who can get some things done,” Westbrook said.

Members of the offensive line like center David Baas said they loved blocking for Westbrook because of the way he stayed professional while playing a backup role to Gore. But if the bigger, 6-foot-1, 233-pound Dixon is in the game, the line has plenty of confidence in his abilities too.

“He has a lot of energy, I will say that. And it’s good,” Baas said. “He’s learning throughout the season and we trust him back there. We’re going to do whatever we can to open holes for both of them.”

Dixon scored his second rushing touchdown of his career (both coincidentally on “Monday Night Football”) and added a career-high 54 yards on 14 carries.

Both are expected to be utilized this Sunday against a tough Green Bay Packers defense, and Dixon is eager to make plays like they did in the desert.

“I’ve learned a lot from him and I look forward to working with him more. Frank’s down so we gotta pick up the slack,” Dixon explained.

Both backs are optimistic they can continue to have success after seeing the way their blockers played against the Cardinals.

“I don’t doubt it was the best game they’ve had all year. My success is predicated on them getting their job done. And I would say not only the offensive line, but it was the best job the receivers have done blocking downfield. Mo (Norris), as a running back and as a fullback, it was the best job he’s done all year,” Westbrook said. “I wouldn’t have any success without them. I would say the best game as a collective offense as far as running the ball.”

Notes and Quotes

Other than Westbrook’s comical “full of something” quote in regards to Dixon, the most notable sound bite from Wednesday’s media availability came from Singletary. The head coach had this to say on Gore’s bill of health: “As far as I know, from talking to the doctors, the hip injury is something that’s pretty - it’s a smaller fracture that initially looking at it, it does not require surgery. So that’s a wonderful thing and I think, you know, we will wait a few weeks and check it again and see how the progression is and just kind of go from there. But he should be fine.”

Linebacker Parys Haralson was recognized on Yahoo! Sports' Shutdown Corner Blog for his underrated play. The fifth-year pro appreciated the recognition. “It feels good to be noticed by people who truly watch the film.”

Singletary referred to Westbrook and Dixon as “thunder and lightning,” and when the comments were shared back with the rambunctious rookie, Dixon immediately knew which of the two names fit him best. “I gotta be the thunder because I like to drop the boom a little bit.”

Baas, who suffered a concussion against Arizona has not been ruled out against Green Bay. “I feel good, took my tests yesterday and we’re going to follow the doctor’s orders. I feel like I’ll be ready to play football… I want to play but I’m going to be smart about it.”

Baas was asked if he’d wear long sleeves if playing in what’s expected to be cold conditions at Lambeau Field. “I feel like if you’re out there, you’re going 100-miles an hour, you’re going to be hot. What’s the point of wearing the sleeves? It’s going to be the same either way for me.”

Quarterback Troy Smith is eager for the challenge of facing a 7-4 Green Bay team, but said it’s no different than preparing for any team on the 49ers schedule. “It doesn’t matter who is coming into our stadium or if we are going to theirs. We attack everybody the same way. The stuff that happened in the past is in the past, we are moving forward. Definitely keeping that in mind, one game at a time, and that’s exactly the way that we’re going to approach it. Green Bay’s an incredible opponent and we have to treat it that way.”

Lastly, Singletary has not filled the 49ers 53rd roster spot after the team released Shane Andrus earlier in the week. He’s hopeful Joe Nedney will return to action after missing the last two games with a knee injury. The team did however, announce three signings to the practice squad.

The 49ers-Packers tilt is the third-best matchup this week according to Ticket Exchange's "Buzz Index." 

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