Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

Joe Staley compares DeForest Bucknerā€™s work ethic to another 49ers great

Jan 4, 2019 at 1:26 PM--

Any San Francisco 49ers fan will tell you that defensive tackle DeForest Buckner not being selected to the Pro Bowl was a massive oversight by fans, players, and coaches around the league. Fullback Kyle Juszczyk and tight end George Kittle will represent the 49ers in Orlando, Florida later this month. Buckner, along with kicker Robbie Gould and linebacker Mark Nzeocha, were selected as alternates.

"The organization, coaches, and everybody knows my ability," Buckner told reporters last month after learning he didn't make the cut. "The recognition would be cool, but it's out of my hands. They've got me as an alternate so at least they know my name. Now I've got to get them to remember it."

While Buckner finished this past season with 67 combined tackles, a career-high 12 sacks, and three passes defensed, the 49ers' four-win season likely contributed to the Pro Bowl snub.

"There's a lot of guys out there that I think deserve it," Juszczyk said last month, "but it's tough when you're 4-10. You don't always get the most exposure. It's kind of hard to validate tons of Pro Bowl picks when you have that record."

While the rest of the NFL will need to catch up to learn Buckner's value, his teammates are well aware of what he means to the team and its future. 49ers players voted him this year's winner of the prestigious Len Eshmont Award, which is given to a player who best exemplifies the inspirational and courageous play of Len Eshmont, an original member of the 1946 team.

Veteran tackle Joe Staley was asked on Monday what kind of impact Buckner has had on the 49ers locker room during his three seasons with the team.

"Huge," Staley answered. "Not only what he does on the field but like I said with George (Kittle), he was voted a captain because of his leadership as far as the way he approaches football and the way he goes about his work every single day.

"He's the same guy on the practice field and the meeting rooms. He doesn't act like he's arrived and act like a superstar. He has all the right to. I feel like he is one of the best players in the NFL.

"He has the same kind of hunger and desire to get better that I saw with Frank (Gore) and the way that he works on the practice field. He's one of the hardest workers and super competitive. There's no one in this locker room that's more deserving than him."

Staley comparing Buckner to Gore is high praise from the offensive lineman. Staley in November called Gore his "favorite player in the history of the world" after Gore paid a compliment to former 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh and views the running back as a first-ballot Hall of Fame player.

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