SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) -Bryant Young is still being the consummate team player right to the very end of his career.
The San Francisco 49ers' 14-year veteran defensive lineman seems to be delaying his long-expected retirement announcement only because he feels it would create a distraction for his teammates - even though the Niners probably would love a positive diversion as they wrap up a hugely disappointing season.
``More than likely, this is my last home game, but I'll address the questions after (the season),'' Young said Wednesday while accepting his eighth Len Eshmont Award, an honor from his fellow 49ers as the team's most inspirational and courageous player. ``I know, for me, I don't want to start reflecting.''
But Young can't stop his fans and teammates in San Francisco from expressing their gratitude to the popular stalwart of the 49ers' defensive line since his rookie season on the franchise's last championship team. San Francisco finishes its home schedule Sunday against Tampa Bay.
Young is the only player left from the Niners' glory days, and perhaps the only person among the motley crew currently occupying the club's training complex who truly appreciates what the downtrodden franchise once represented to the league and the Bay Area.
He's also still a dynamic defensive lineman who has thrived through a late-career position change while always doing whatever his coaches asked of him. He leads the 49ers with 6 1/2 sacks this season, and his leadership has helped everyone from his coaches to rookie linebacker Patrick Willis, the 49ers' next defensive star.
``Regardless of what his stats are, his opponents will tell you he's the best in the game,'' linebacker Jeff Ulbrich said. ``He's constantly doing little things that don't get noticed on the field.''
Young is loved by coaches because he does the dirty work in the trenches - drawing double-teams to free up teammates for sacks, or stopping the run without concern for his statistics. When coach Mike Nolan moved him to defensive end in recent seasons after a career at tackle, Young responded by boosting his sack totals against offensive linemen a decade younger than him.
``You have to be unselfish,'' said Young, who turns 36 next month. ``There are guys who really thrive on the big numbers and statistics, but for me, as long as I'm out there doing my job and allowing my teammates to make the plays to help us win, that's what's most important. To gain the respect of my peers around this league, that's what's most important.''
The four-time Pro Bowler, who's third in team history with 89 1/2 sacks, remained a force on the 49ers' line even after severely breaking his leg in 1998. He still has a titanium rod in his leg from the injury, but has been largely injury-free in recent years - another factor in his desire to go out on top and healthy.
``I never wanted anyone to be able to tell if I was in my first or last year,'' Young said. ``The question is, when do you leave the game? Do you leave the game when they push you out, when you're barely walking? When is the right time? It's different for every individual. You have to listen to what your body and what your spirit is telling you.''
Young nearly retired after last season, but agreed to return because he felt the 49ers were ready to return to playoff contention in Nolan's third year. The club's regression to a 4-10 record has been a huge disappointment to Young, and another good reason to get out now.
Young has made a few concessions to his age in recent years, most notably taking Wednesdays off practice. But on game days, nobody can see much of a difference in his effort.
His teammates voted to recognize him one more time with the Eshmont Award on the 50th anniversary of the award's origin, and the 49ers' fans will have Sunday's game against the Buccaneers to give their own tribute.
Said Nolan: ``Bryant Young is a great example of what a consummate pro looks like and what he does.''

Recent NFL Discussions

Monday Night on Tue, Nov 2017 by BamaHater
MNF PLAY on Tue, Nov 2017 by Timmy1961
NFL Opening Line Report Week 12 on Mon, Nov 2017 by Blade

Top NFL Public Bets

NFL Top Stories

Thumbnail Falcons vs. Seahawks Prediction Are the Seattle Seahawks a safe bet to cover the point spread as a home favorite tonight when they host the Atlanta Falcons? Kick-off for Monday night is set for 8:30 p.m....
Thumbnail Falcons vs. Seahawks Total Prediction Will tonight's Monday Night Football matchup between the Atlanta Falcons and Seattle Seahawks go over the betting total for bettors? Or will both defenses show...
Thumbnail Five Best NFL Week 12 Games Which teams are favored in the NFL on Thanksgiving Day? Here are the five best matchups for Week 12, coupled with the odds for each of those games.
Thumbnail NFL Week 11 Betting Recap How did the favorites and underdogs do in Week 11 of the NFL season? If you laid points as a NFL bettor, more than likely you cashed big on Sunday.
Thumbnail Eagles vs. Cowboys Prediction Will the banged-up Dallas Cowboys find a way to cover the spread tonight when they host their NFC East rivals the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday...

NFL Team Pages