Niners hire Singletary as Nolan's top assistant

Friday, January 21st 2005, 6:54 pm
By: News On 6

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) _ Though Mike Singletary stayed away from the NFL for a decade after his playing career, he never lost his love for football. The Hall of Fame linebacker believes he can instill a bit of his famed competitive fire in the young San Francisco 49ers.

Singletary was hired to be the 49ers' assistant head coach and linebackers coach Friday, following new coach Mike Nolan from Baltimore. Singletary was the Ravens' inside linebackers coach for the past two seasons while Nolan was their defensive coordinator.

Singletary, a star linebacker for the Chicago Bears from 1981-92, is the first coach hired by Nolan in his rebuilding effort with the 49ers, who had the NFL's worst record this season at 2-14. Though his new job will mean plenty of work, Singletary isn't intimidated by the major project facing Nolan's staff.

``When I went to the Chicago Bears, it was a train wreck there,'' Singletary said. ``There are train wrecks all over the place. I'm in the business of correcting what's wrong. ... There's a lot of talent on this team, and there's a lot of young guys. It's all about believing that we can be an elite team, that we can get back to what we had before.''

Singletary felt a rush of memories _ not all of them good ones _ as he pulled on his first 49ers polo shirt earlier in the day. The clubs had a heated NFC rivalry throughout the 1980s, though both have struggled through much of the last 10 years.

``I think all the ballplayers here should appreciate it, even if they can't understand what this organization was,'' Singletary said. ``When I think of the 49ers to this day, I think of excellence. I think of tradition.''

Singletary was named the NFL's top defensive player in 1985 and 1988, earning widespread respect and admiration for his strong work ethic and hard-hitting play. After finishing his career with 1,488 tackles, he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1998.

``Every winning team begins with personnel _ players and coaches,'' Nolan said. ``Mike is one of the best leaders and teachers I've ever been associated with.''

After spending his retirement concentrating on being a good husband and father to his seven children, Singletary was bitten by the coaching bug two years ago. He joined the Ravens after nearly becoming the head coach at Baylor, his alma mater.

Singletary now aspires to be a head coach, and believes San Francisco could be a steppingstone. Nolan conferred the title of assistant head coach on Singletary for more than ceremonial reasons.

``I'm using it for the sole reason that I want Mike to have an impact on the entire football team,'' Nolan said. ``He brings instant credibility and intensity to the team. If there is anyone who knows how to win and how to prepare to win, it is Mike Singletary.''

Singletary coached an elite group of linebackers in Baltimore, forming a particular bond with Ray Lewis. San Francisco's strength also is its linebacking corps, which features former All-Pro Julian Peterson, Derek Smith, leading tackler Jeff Ulbrich and Jamie Winborn.

``I loved him as a kid, watching him,'' Peterson said at the 49ers' training complex, where he's doing rehabilitation work for his torn Achilles' tendon. ``I remember his eyes. ... It will be great for a lot of linebackers to pick his brain. Hopefully this new staff can come in and get this whole ship turned around.''