Steve Wilks Focused on 49ers and Other NFL Bullets

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Steve Wilks Focused on 49ers, Shane Ray Returns to the NFL, and Other NFL Bullets


Happy Monday! I hope that everyone enjoyed their weekend and Mother’s Day. Rookie mini-camps were in session around the NFL over the weekend. However, we’ll talk about that later today in a rookie camp roundup story. So, let’s run down some stuff I’ve bookmarked over the weekend. We’ll kick things off today with Steve Wilks.

  • Former Carolina Panthers interim head coach Steve Wilks is in San Francisco, serving as the 49ers’ defensive coordinator. After Wilks was passed up for the permanent head coaching job in Carolina, he landed in San Francisco as the DC in February. Wilks led the Panthers to a 6-6 record this season after he took over for the fired Matt Rhule. Many believed the 6-6 finish under Wilks was a strong enough reason for him to become the Panthers’ permanent head coach. 
  • Panthers owner David Tepper instead went with Frank Reich as the next head coach in Carolina. The Panthers allowed Wilks out of his contract as defensive coordinator to seek other opportunities. With DeMeco Ryans taking over as the head coach in Houston, San Francisco’s DC vacancy became a hot spot. The 49ers’ past two defensive coordinators have landed head coaching positions. Robert Saleh in 2021 and Ryans this year. Wilks has been a defensive coordinator several times at various levels of college football, in 2017 with the Panthers and in 2019 with the Cleveland Browns. He was previously the Arizona Cardinals head coach in 2018, going 3-13.
  • Steve Wilks could become the next 49ers defensive coordinator to land a head coaching job. However, Wilks said on Friday and said that he isn’t focused on his next head coaching job right now (via PFT):

“I’m going to tell you,” Wilks said, “and this is not just an answer to throw you off or anything like that, but I believe in being where your feet are. Be where your feet are and take care of what’s in front of you. I started out at Johnson C. Smith University, a Division II school, small school right there in Charlotte, North Carolina. I didn’t think about where I would be. I had dreams of it, but I’ve always just tried to win the day. And that’s where I am right now, I’m not even looking beyond OTAs. I just want to make sure this defense is the best it can be and we’re going to continue to build this thing in layers.”

Wilks said he chose the 49ers because he values being surrounded by the right people. The 49ers’ current regime has had a strong reputation in recent years, with competitive teams on the field and hot coaching candidates off the field.

“I think that’s the key to everything that you do,” Wilks said. “You can have the talent and the skillset, but you need players. You need an organization that’s committed. You need a head coach and a G.M. that’s aligned with one another and when the opportunity came when I got the phone call, this was a perfect fit for me.”

  • This weekend’s feel-good story in the NFL happened in Buffalo. Former first-round pick Shane Ray signed a deal with the Buffalo Bills. Ray was the No. 23 pick in the 2015 NFL Draft but didn’t stick with the Broncos. Ray started 15 games for Denver in 2015 and won a Super Bowl.
  • However, Ray’s career was derailed by wrist injuries that required multiple surgeries. Ray signed with the Ravens in 2019 but didn’t make the roster. Instead, he has spent the last two years playing in the CFL for the Toronto Argonauts. Ray shared a message on his Instagram:

“Words can’t describe the emotions I’m feeling right now,” Ray wrote on Instagram. “So many tears, sleepless nights, depression, everything that comes with losing the game. So many days of having nothing but hope while fighting a uphill battle. There where times that I thought maybe I should give up, but I wouldn’t be me if I folded. Even in my darkest moments I believed in myself. I believed in my preparation. I believed that I would have another opportunity even if the world didn’t believe. There are so many people that have been on this journey with me supporting me and I thank you all!!! When I needed someone to lean on you all wouldn’t let me fall. Most importantly thank you God!!! It’s official: I’m a Buffalo Bill!!!I’m so grateful and excited for this opportunity this moment I’ve dreamt about for four years. I’m back!!!!!!!”

  • The Orlando Jaguars?

  • Philadelphia Eagles QB Jalen Hurts returned to Tuscaloosa this weekend to graduate from the University of Oklahoma. Hurts received a Master’s Degree in Human Relations. So, Hurts has gone from Super Bowl champion to college graduate this year. Very cool!

  • So, how about that Phillies-Rockies game on Sunday?

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Author: Patrick K. Flowers

Patrick is the Lead NFL Writer at Bleacher Nation. You can follow him on Twitter @PatrickKFlowers.