SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) The 49ers haven't had much stability over the last three seasons, having gone from a perennial contender to bottom dweller in the NFC heading into Week 17 against the St. Louis Rams.
Arguably their most consistent player during that slide has been kicker Phil Dawson, 40, who is scheduled for free agency following the season.
If it were up to Dawson, he would be back with San Francisco (4-11) for his 18th season. But he's considering other factors, like having to spend another season away from his family that resides in Austin, Texas.
''The passion's still there, desire's still there. Still feel like I can do it,'' Dawson said. ''But I'll go home like the last seven years and just talk to my family and see how everything's going there, and we'll move forward.''
Dawson has three children between the ages of 9 and 14, and didn't see them during the season until the recent holidays. His wife, Shannon, travels to watch him play home games.
''It's not how I would draw it up. But I've got a great wife and kids at home who make it work, and we've made the best of the situation,'' Dawson said. ''You get to my age, there's a different set of issues in this league. Kids going into middle school, all those types of issues, you got to handle those a little different than maybe when you're younger in your career.''
Dawson is still kicking at the same level as earlier in his outstanding career. He's made 20 of 23 field goal attempts; two of those misses were blocked, including his first try of the season against the Vikings.
Last Sunday in the 32-17 loss against Detroit, Dawson had his first miss on a kick that didn't get blocked, a 45-yard attempt in the second quarter he hooked left. In his three seasons with the 49ers, he's had streaks of 19 and 27 straight makes, the two longest runs in franchise history.
Dawson credits his success to his rigorous preparation, which includes constant surveillance of weather and wind patterns, and an intimate knowledge of each surface he kicks on.
Dawson's habits have been noticed.
''I think not only this team, but I think the entire league admires Phil Dawson. Consummate professional and attacks every day,'' 49ers coach Jim Tomsula said. ''Very serious about what he does, very serious about his job, very serious about his craft. The way he works at it, the way he works in the offseason at it, as engaged as he is in the entire team, I think everybody admires Phil Dawson.''
The 49ers signed Dawson as a free agent in 2013 after he spent his first 14 seasons with the Cleveland Browns.
Dawson was so revered by the Browns and their fan base, he received a personal tribute on his first trip back when the 49ers played in Cleveland earlier this month.
''I don't think I have words to express how thankful I am for that,'' Dawson said. ''Very special day and very difficult to stay with my normal routine because of all the emotions and all the well wishes that were there at every turn.''
NOTES: The 49ers ruled out DL Quinton Dial (back) and LB Michael Wilhoite (ankle) for Sunday's game against the Rams. . Rookie S Jaquiski Tartt (knee) and C Marcus Martin (concussion) are listed as doubtful. If Tartt doesn't play, S Jimmie Ward would be his replacement.
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