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Fangio sees Saints 'Dome Patrol' stars in 49ers LB corps

NEW ORLEANS — For San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, the comparison between his starting linebackers in Super Bowl XLVII and the Saints’ “Dome Patrol’’ of the late 1980s and early ’90s is inevitable.

After all, Fangio, an assistant under Saints coach Jim Mora from 1986-94, has had a hand in both talented 3-4 defensive schemes.

The “Dome Patrol’’ featured outside linebackers Rickey Jackson (a Hall of Famer who made six Pro Bowls) and Pat Swilling (four) and inside linebackers Sam Mills (three) and Vaughan Johnson (four). All four were named starters for the NFC in the 1992 Pro Bowl.

The 49ers arguably feature the best group of starting linebackers in the NFL — outside ’backers Ahmad Brooks and Aldon Smith (one Pro Bowl), and inside ’backers NaVorro Bowman (one) and Patrick Willis (six).

“The ‘Dome Patrol’ was great,’’ Fangio said. “In their time, they were definitely the best linebacking group in the NFL, and, to this point, are probably still the best. ...

“Naturally, because of the connection, everybody is asking me, ‘Could our guys get to that point?’ I think in time our guys can reach that level; I really do. If they can stay humble and hungry and we can keep it together for seven years or close to that, I think I’ll have a favorable response to that question.’’

Practice report

 The 49ers held a 95-minute workout in shells and helmets Wednesday at the Saints’ indoor practice facility, their first on-field work since arriving in New Orleans late Sunday.

Brooks (sprained AC joint) and Smith (shoulder) wore black, non-contact jerseys. Tight end Garrett Celek (foot) fully practiced. Earlier in the week, coach Jim Harbaugh said Brooks would play in the Super Bowl despite missing two days of practice last week.

“We were going to go outside and practice, but the winds were a little too much,’’ he said. “We were worried about taking the lifts (for team photographers) too high.

“The winds were 20 to 25 miles an hour, and we don’t want to send our guys up there in those conditions.’’

Around the 49ers

Cornerback Chris Culliver apologized for anti-gay remarks he made during a media day interview Tuesday. ... Cornerback Tramaine Brock, a native of Gulfport, Miss., completed his college eligibility at Belhaven College after transferring from Minnesota. He was signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the 49ers after the 2010 draft and was credited with 16 tackles this season, playing primarily on special teams. ... No player has ever posted a 100+ passer rating and rushed for at least 200 yards in a single postseason. 'Niners quarterback Colin Kaepernick has a 105.9 passer rating and has rushed for 202 yards en route to winning the NFC championship.

Worth repeating

"When I came to the Saints in 1986, one of the first meetings we had with Tom Benson, they were talking about a new practice facility then and how we would see it. I left after the '94 season and I still hadn't seen it. I'm glad I finally get to see it. It's beautiful.'' -- Fangio. The Saints moved into their new digs at 5800 Airline Highway in Metairie in the spring of 1996. The 49ers are using the Saints' facility this week.


This piece also ran in Thursday editions of The Advocate.


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