In 2011, Blake Costanzo was a standout on the 49ers’ “Tony Montana" squad that covered kicks.
The veteran NFL linebacker and special teams ace, now 30, became a fan favorite with his enthusiastic play, big hits and game-changing plays on a unit named for the gangster star of "Scarface." In his one season in San Francisco, he led 49ers special teams players in solo tackles, with 10, was second in total tackles (17) and first in opponent knockdowns (27).
Now, the 49ers have brought back Costanzo to further improve Niners special teams that were upgraded in 2013. Costanzo signed a one-year deal Tuesday with the 49ers.
Though he plays inside linebacker, an area where the 49ers have a vacancy because of the injury to NaVorro Bowman, Costanzo knows his primary role on the team will be to make tackles on special teams.
“I’ve been a special teamer my whole career,” Costanzo told the San Francisco Chronicle. “So I’m definitely going to focus on that.”
Costanzo, who played the past two seasons with the Bears, is obviously happy to rejoin the 49ers and special teams coach Brad Seely. He re-tweeted a photo of himself Tuesday signing his contract with the 49ers. He had a big smile as he held the quill pen.
Costanzo will join a special teams unit that already has several veteran playmakers, including Kassim Osgood, C.J. Spillman and Bubba Ventrone.
Although Costanzo’s signing isn’t a high-profile move – such as the trades for wideout Stevie Johnson or safety Antoine Bethea – it may pack a punch. Over his NFL career, Costanzo’s energy and ability to hit have turned games around.
He led the Bears in special teams tackles last season, and over his seven-year NFL career, he has 99 tackles, five forced fumbles and five fumble recoveries on special teams.
Back in 2010, Costanzo was named by Sports Illustrated to its All-Pro team for his work on special teams with the Cleveland Browns, where he played for Seely. That year, Browns Pro Bowl returner Josh Cribbs praised Costanzo for his blocking prowess on returns and his ability to make tackles on kick coverage.
“That’s one of the coldest, hardest hitters you’re going to meet,” Cribbs said. “You see him in person and you won’t think he’s one of the greatest athletes you’ve ever seen. … He brings truth to the game. He’ll tell you before he’s going to knock you out, do it and then trash talk to you.”
Now, he’s back in a 49ers uniform.