The 49ers are not finished piecing together their regular-season roster. The team cut down to the 53-man roster maximum on Saturday, but will likely add a defensive lineman as early as Sunday.
The 49ers expect to create a roster spot with Ronald Blair going on injured reserve due to a thumb injury. Because Blair made it onto the initial 53-man roster, he will be eligible to return later in the season.
General manager John Lynch said the team’s personnel staff has been studying every NFL roster, trying to project which players might be available. Because the 49ers had the second-worst record in the league last year, the 49ers will be No. 2 behind the Cleveland Browns when it comes to priority of waiver claims.
“I hope I’m never No. 2 on the waiver claim again,” Lynch said Saturday afternoon. “But it’s a nice spot to be sitting in.
“If we feel like someone can help us and improve who we are as a team – both in the short term and long term – then we won’t hesitate.”
Among the other topics Lynch addressed during his aconference call with Bay Area reporters were:
--The 49ers do not know whether free safety Jimmie Ward, who missed all of training camp will be available for the season opener against the Carolina Panthers on Sept. 10.
“That’s still fluid,” Lynch said. “I was watching Jimmie outside my window here earlier going through a great workout. We’re going to do what’s right for Jimmie and what’s right for the team, in terms of Week 1. To be perfectly honest, we don’t know that right now.”
--The 49ers kept running backs Carlos Hyde, Matt Breida and Raheem Mostert, along with fullback Kyle Juszczyk. And all of them better be ready to see some action, Lynch said.
“Carlos is going to be featured in this deal, but Matt Breida is very much a part of our plans,” Lynch said.
Breida earned his way on the roster after going undrafted out of Georgia Southern.
--The 49ers signed Jeremy Kerley to a three-year, $8.4 million contract in March that included $2.8 million in guaranteed money. But Kerley was deemed expendable and released.
“Jeremy was just a victim of circumstance, in that when we signed Jeremy we didn’t have any of these receivers on our roster,” Lynch said, referring to Pierre Garçon, Marquise Goodwin, Aldrick Robinson, Trent Taylor, Victor Bolden and Kendrick Bourne.
“He’s not going to have trouble hooking on with a team,” Lynch said. “That was as tough call, but once we got Trent Taylor in that slot position, and once we saw Trent could handle it, and handle it right away, we said it was going to be hard for Jeremy to make the roster.”
--Running back Joe Williams did not believe his left ankle injury was serious on Thursday night. But the team made the decision after he underwent an MRI examination on Friday to place him on season-ending injure reserve.
“That was kind of a surprise to us,” Lynch said of the severity of Lynch’s injury. “Once they scanned it, we made the decision, along with our medical staff, that this was the best course of action for Joe. That’s a tough loss because he’s a guy we felt could really contribute in a big way for us.
He’s going to be a big part of our future, in my mind. Disappointing we had to put him on injured reserve, but the right thing to do, in our mind.”
--Lynch said he and coach Kyle Shanahan met with every player who was released during the two days that the 49ers made their cuts to the 53-player maximum. For Lynch, who played in the NFL, he said it was an enlightening experience to go through it for the first time from the other side.
“I never take those conversations lightly,” Lynch said. “What I’m very proud about is both myself and Kyle got a chance to talk with each and every player that we released. I think that makes them feel good. They don’t always agree with our reasoning, but at least when we look them in the eye and tell them the truth, they feel like they’ve received that respect.”
--The 49ers brought guard Joshua Garnett into the decision-making process that eventually landed him on season-ending IR with a knee injury. Garnett underwent surgery during the third week of training camp. He would have been doing nothing but rehabbing for six weeks, Lynch said.
“We felt like giving Josh the entire year to really rehab this thing correctly was the right course of action,” Lynch said. “He was very much a part of the decision. We presented it to him. He got comfortable. It gave him peace. We think it’s the best situation for him.”
--Undrafted rookie Erik Magnuson will open the season as the backup center behind Daniel Kilgore. Left guard Zane Beadles is also capable of playing center.
--The 49ers kept 14 rookies on their initial 53-man roster.
Said Lynch, “I think it’s more indicative of we feel we had a really good draft. Time will tell. They made our 53-man roster. Now, they have to play.”
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Rookies in italics