49ers give Willis $50 million extension

The labor struggle that is looming over the NFL has not cast a dark cloud over Patrick Willis.

The San Francisco 49ers linebacker cashed in today, receiving a reported $50 million, five-year contract extension from the club that will carry through 2016, according to Fox’s Jay Glazer.

Willis, the club’s first-round draft pick in 2007, has quickly established himself as one of the best defensive players in the league and has twice been named first team All-Pro. The 49ers are building their defense around Willis.

“I am very proud of what Pat has been able to accomplish,” coach Mike Singletary said on the team’s Web site. “He is the epitome of what a 49er is all about. Pat has had to overcome a lot in his life and has maintained the ability to stay focused on his goals.

“Before it is all said and done, he may go down as one of the best to play the position. I am thankful that our organization has realized Pat is one of the core pieces to this puzzle, and I am excited for our community, fans, coaches and players, that we will have Pat here for a very long time.”

That is high praise coming from one of the best linebacker to play the game in the Super Bowl era. Willis, 25, has made 48 consecutive starts and is the first 49er to be named to the Pro Bowl in each of his first three seasons since Hall of Fame defensive back Ronnie Lott.

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