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There’s a fresh vibe around the 49ers in 2011 with Harbaugh leading the way.

“Coach Fangio, I like the defense that he has in place for us. Opportunity awaits us all from every position,” Willis said. “When opportunity comes you have to capitalize. That’s what I’m thinking. I’m not going in saying, ‘Coach, I want to rush, I want to rush.’ But if he calls my number then I want to be able to get the job done in any aspect. That’s my focus. When my number’s called I’ve got to make it count.”

In the final week last season, Willis underwent a second surgical procedure for a broken right hand and missed a start and game for the first time in his career. That after he played two games with a bulky cast on his hurt hand.

Voted to his fourth Pro Bowl in as many seasons, Willis sat out football’s all-star game injured for the second year in a row.

Willis said being sidelined helped him mature. He knew sitting out one game was in his best interest and the team’s for the long term.

Now, he is eager to do whatever he can to aid in a turnaround for this once-proud franchise.

“Yes, he has made some improvement in his rush abilities, still not where he wants to be, nor I’d like to see him at, but the one thing about Patrick, when he’s got something in his mind, he goes very hard to try and improve it, both mentally and physically,” Fangio said. “He has the ability to improve in that area greatly and I trust that he will just because of who he is.”

The 49ers open the season Sept. 11 at Candlestick Park against the division rival and reigning NFC West champion Seahawks. Seattle embarrassed San Francisco 31-6 in the 2010 opener.

Willis and Co. remember it all too well.

“With Coach Harbaugh, everything we do is quick tempo. It’s his way of getting our conditioning in but also being fast every play, beating the clock,” Willis said. “Right now, we’re just trying to get our offense in, get our defense in, get our special teams in, build this team. Preseason is preseason. For us it’s about putting in the work now so when Sept. 11 comes, we’re ready.”

Notes: RB Frank Gore, seeking a new long-term contract, heard that general manager Trent Baalke went on the radio and said he hoped the two-time Pro Bowler would be a Niner for life. “I believe him,” Gore told the AP on Wednesday. “I want to be here.” … San Francisco waived TE Colin Cloherty. … RG Chilo Rachal was not in uniform and did not practice _ he just watched.