Anthony Dixon’s description of himself on his Twitter page seems like a reflection of his on-field persona.
“Outgoing, courageous, loving, tough, business man, family man, God-fearing man,” it starts. And it ends with this: “Grinding 24/7!”
Dixon, going into his fourth year with the 49ers, is a hard-charging running back good for a yard on third-and-1 or eager to blast somebody with a special teams hit. On a team of stars and in a backfield filled with Frank Gore, LaMichael James, Kendall Hunter, Jewel Hampton and (eventually) Marcus Lattimore, Dixon – a former standout from Mississippi State – is a cog in the Niners’ winning machine, eager to play running back, fullback and special teams.
He’s certainly not flashy, but the 6-foot-1, 255-pounder is an intense load who usually plays without the ball. Last season, he carried just 21 times for a 1.3-yard average, two TDs and three first downs. In 2011, it was 29 carries for 1.8 yards, two TDs and six first downs. And in his rookie year, he carried 70 times for a 4.4 yard average, two TDs and 11 first downs. On special teams, he’s contributed 22 tackles over three seasons.
Yet as the 49ers close in on the start of training camp – rookies report July 19, veterans on July 24 – Dixon again faces the prospect of being squeezed off the roster. Each year, Dixon has been on the bubble, yet survived.
Can he survive again?
Essentially, he’s the fourth running back option behind Gore, James and Hunter (if he’s healthy) and the second fullback, behind Bruce Miller. And, over this offseason, the 49ers have signed several veterans in an attempt to upgrade their special teams. It appears this summer, Dixon may be faced with his toughest battle yet. The man on the bubble could see it finally burst.
Last summer, rumors of his demise also were heavy during training camp. Yet, he beat out several players who had been front-runners to take his job, including veteran Rock Cartwright, a running back and special teams standout who had played for the Raiders.
When asked about his fight for a job last summer, Dixon told the San Francisco Chronicle he doesn’t fret about it because there’s nothing he can do.
“Coach Harbaugh always tells us to work and don’t worry,” Dixon said. “I don’t worry about any of that other stuff. I go out there, put my hard hat on, go to work and let the chips fall where they may.”
This summer, he presumably still has that hard hat to put over whatever funky hairstyle he’ll have at camp. And he’ll be grinding, 24/7. That’s the only sure thing.