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Patrick Willis Will Officially Retire Tuesday, 49ers Announce

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured Columnist

Patrick Semansky/AP Images

For eight seasons, Patrick Willis patrolled the middle of the San Francisco 49ers defense as perhaps the best inside linebacker in football, and the 49ers expected him around for many more. However, Willis will announce his retirement Tuesday at 3 p.m. ET, the team confirmed.

“On behalf of the entire San Francisco 49ers organization, my family, and our Faithful fans, I would like to thank Patrick for everything he has brought to this team and our community,” said 49ers CEO Jed York. “Some of the greatest memories in the history of our franchise have come from his passion, dedication and sacrifice.

“Patrick epitomizes everything you could ever want in a San Francisco 49er. What he brought to this team goes much further than his athletic abilities. His leadership and infectious love for the game helped propel this team. I consider myself very lucky to have grown up around some of the greatest players in the history of this franchise, and Patrick has certainly secured his place among that elite group of men. As a member of our family, Patrick holds a special place in our hearts, and we look forward to supporting him as he moves on from his playing career.”

Rand Getlin of Yahoo Sports previously reported the 49ers are "bracing themselves" for Willis' shocking decision to step away from football. Willis "wants to use his time to do some community work, particularly with children," added Fox Sports' Mike Garafolo.

"To be clear re: Patrick Willis, his toe/its affect on his play also a factor. But has told others he wants to do positive community work," continued Garafolo.

Around The NFL weighed in on Willis' Hall of Fame credentials:

Around The NFL @AroundTheNFL

Patrick Willis will be an interesting HOF discussion. Only played 8 years, was first-team All Pro in 5 and Pro Bowler in first 7 years.

Willis, 30, was limited to six games last season after suffering an injury to his left big toe. He finished with a career-low 34 tackles and failed to register a sack for the first time.

The 49ers were largely able to withstand Willis' absence thanks to the emergence of rookie Chris Borland, who led the team with 107 tackles, per Pro-Football-Reference.com. Willis was expected to return to his role next season and said in November he had "years" of football in front of him.

"I don't look to play this game for just another year," Willis said in November, per Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com. "I feel like I have five or six more great years of football left in my body. Unfortunately, this toe was telling me otherwise."

With NaVorro Bowman also expected to return fully healthy in 2015, it looked like San Francisco had a surplus of elite linebackers. Now, the 49ers will have to cross their fingers on Bowman's health and hope Borland wasn't a flash in the pan.

Willis will finish with 950 career tackles and 20.5 sacks. He made the Pro Bowl seven times and was a first-team All-Pro on five occasions.

Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter.

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