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NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Right guard Alex Boone arrives for work most days and swears at left guard Mike Iupati. From Boone, it’s always considered a term of endearment directed at his 49ers offensive linemates.
“As an offensive line, we have a great personality,” Iupati said. “Every one of us has different personalities, and it’s fun to come to work, and there’s always a person in your face _ Boone cussing at you, because that’s his personality. It’s no disrespect.
“That’s saying, `I love you,’ in Boone’s way.”
Aside from the good-natured locker room antics, this group has been as dependable as they come on game day for San Francisco _ a big reason the Niners returned to the Super Bowl for the first time in 18 years. The unit is one of just three in the NFL this season to start all five players in every game, joining the New York Jets and Minnesota Vikings.
“Oh wow, that’s awesome,” Iupati said.
They’ll have to keep a good thing going against the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday.
“It’s a big advantage to have all five guys start all 16 games of the regular season and play almost every snap together,” Boone said. “When you’re out there every game together, you grow from each other, you learn, you grow a bond. It’s a big advantage when you know what everybody else is thinking on the offensive line. Not every team has had that this year.”
Davis and Iupati were both first-round draft picks in 2010, Davis at No. 11 and Iupati six spots later at 17. Those selections were the first with Trent Baalke running the draft, and they paid off so well he was later promoted to general manager.
“It’s come very far, as opposed to last year, just to get that groove,” Boone said of his line. “Playing every week together, game in game out, it has been tremendous for us in helping us take huge strides. We’re hitting our peak right now, and there’s so much more that we can learn from and grow from.”
These guys have something to prove against the Ravens after allowing Baltimore to tie a franchise record with nine sacks in a 16-6 road loss on Thanksgiving night 2011. Baltimore’s defense attacked the right side at every chance, so coach Jim Harbaugh moved Boone from tackle to guard to help improve the coverage.
“It was different. It just felt weird being between two guys, but I’m learning to love it,” he said.
Boone credits Iupati and left tackle Joe Staley for helping with that transition. Those two were Pro Bowlers this season for an O-line that received the Most Valuable Protectors Award from Hall of Famer John Madden as the league’s top line.
“The offensive line is the unsung champion of many teams but is not often celebrated, therefore with this award we honor the guys who provide the critical run blocking and pass protection,” Madden said. “I’ve followed San Francisco all season long; they have proven they have the mental and physical toughness that enables their team’s offense to put up impressive numbers on the ground and in the air.”
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