New Defense- 06/03/2000
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The June first deadline has come and gone, and the biggest announcement was not that the 49ers signed or released anyone. Rather the team declared that linebacker Ken Norton Jr. will move from the outside spot, to the middle linebacker spot - formerly occupied by Winfred Tubbs. Subsequently Tubbs will move to outside linebacker, a position he occupied and excelled in with the Saints before coming to the 49ers two years ago. The logistics behind the move being Norton's age, Norton's experience, Tubbs' natural position, and this years draftee Julian Peterson.

Ken Norton Jr. is the oldest linebacker on the 49ers squad. He came to the team via free agency from the Dallas Cowboys during the ever-anticipated 49ers vs. Cowboy rivalry. Norton brought a dimension to the team that coupled with Gary Plummer allowed the 49ers to supplant the Cowboys as the Super Bowl Champions. Six years later, the 49ers are hurting badly looking to return to supremacy. This time however, Norton has lost a step, and his move to middle linebacker will permit him to do less running, and still contribute to the team. Overall, this should improve the team speed even though the same players will be taking the field.

Norton's time with the team has also allowed him to amass an incredible amount of experience. The 49ers are hoping he will be able to tutor newly acquired Julian Peterson while playing along side him - something that would have been much harder to do from the opposite end of the field. The move may also allow the 9ers to fill a void left by Gary Plummer. After Plummer's departure, Tubbs was supposed to be the heir apparent; however, Tubbs seems to be better suited for the outside position, and thus Plummer's spot has never really been filled.

Winfred Tubbs lead the Saints in tackles prior to becoming a 49er. It is this type of performance that the 49ers will be looking to resurrect when they take the field this fall. Tubbs is very excited to be moving back to his old position. He will gain the luxury of being able to roam free rather than having to be the plugger when playing middle linebacker.

After releasing starting outside linebacker Lee Woodall this off-season, the 49ers had a tremendous whole to fill. It was for this reason that the 49ers opted for a linebacker with their first selection in this years draft. Julian Peterson brings speed, agility and tenacity to the team. The 49ers particularly like the relentless pursuit of the quarterback he embodies, that allowed Peterson to record 11.5 sacs last season. Although some are not quite convinced about Peterson's intelligence, his football instincts are sharp, and playing next to Norton will certainly help ease the transition. Already this off-season the 49ers have been impressed with Peterson's work ethic and abilities when participating in scrimmages. Even Norton himself has given the nod of approval.

Ken Norton's position shift will greatly impact the rest of the defense. A tougher middle of the field to contend with will limit the possibilities of other offensives. Norton's move to the middle will surely benefit Tubbs, allowing him to roam free. Meanwhile Julian Peterson will benefit from playing along side one of the premier players at his position, Ken Norton.
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