Over the past few seasons, the 49ers have brought in several veterans to help with special teams.
Blake Costanzo, Bubba Ventrone, Kassim Osgood and Craig Dahl have all made impacts on the 49ers’ kick- and punt-coverage units. It’s not glamorous duty, but it’s valuable duty. Those free-agent offseason signings largely have flown under the radar.
This offseason, another such signing should again prove important once regular-season games begin in September.
Linebacker Nick Bellore, a 6-foot-1, 238-pound linebacker who has played all four of his NFL seasons with the New York Jets, signed a two-year deal with San Francisco this offseason. He brings a reputation as a tough, reliable special-teams tackler. In four seasons with the Jets he was in on 61 tackles, almost all on special teams. He played just 25 total snaps as a linebacker in New York. In 2013, he was third in the league with 17 special-teams tackles. Last season, he was tied for seventh in the NFL with 15 tackles.
It’s a role he savors. He knows he can be a difference-maker.
“That’s what has kept me in the league,” Bellore recently told Tyler Emerick of 49ers.com. “I love it. There’s not as much game-planning, it’s kind of just, ‘Who wants to play more?’ I think that’s pretty cool. It’s a very important part of the game and a lot of people don’t realize that. If you can win on special teams, you can usually put yourself in a position to win the game.”
In San Francisco, Bellore will again play for Thomas McGaughey Jr., the 49ers’ new special teams coach who previously held the same position for the Jets.
When he was with the Jets, Bellore said he wanted to be “the best special teams player in the league.”
In training camp a year ago, he told a reporter that playing special teams is all about attitude.
“If you want to make the tackle more than the other guy wants to block you, and vice versa, you can be successful,” Bellore said. “It’s more of an attitude than any other particular skill. You just have to run, hit and block. Basically it’s all the fundamentals on one play. That’s why I enjoy it and I just try to make the play more than the other guys want to.”