Harbaugh talks McDonald injury, Carson Palmer, 49ers WRs, CBs
Mario Manningham (above), Eric Wright, Tank Carradine and Quinton Dial could be the first players to begin practicing this week. (USA TODAY IMAGES)
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The 49ers have as many as seven players on reserve lists who could be activated to the team’s 53-man roster in the coming weeks.
And that means the 49ers will have to open up to seven roster spots to account for the new wave of talent that could contribute in the second half of the season.
[RELATED: Brock's new role keeps Asomugha on sideline]
Wide receiver Mario Manningham, cornerback Eric Wright, and rookie defensive linemen Tank Carradine and Quinton Dial could be the first players to begin practicing this week.
How those players look in practices will determine at what point, within a 21-day window, the 49ers decide to make the required roster moves to fit them onto the 53-man roster.
Outside linebacker Aldon Smith remains in rehabilitation for substance abuse. Smith will only return to the team this season if he demonstrates “significant progress,” a source said. Of course, there is no guarantee Smith will return from the non-football illness list this season, but the organization remains hopeful.
Rookie linebacker Nick Moody, a special-teams ace who sustained a broken hand in Week 1, will be eligible to return to action from injured reserve for the Week 10 game against Carolina.
And wide receiver Michael Crabtree is working out daily and rounding into shape after undergoing surgery on May 22 to repair a torn Achilles tendon. His return to action could occur in mid- to late-November, 49ers coach Jim Harbaughs said last week.
So where do the 49ers turn to create those roster spots?
Recent roster additions
--QB McLeod Bethel-Thompson: Acquired off waivers on Wednesday, the 49ers could decide to go with Colin Kaepernick and Colt McCoy as the only quarterbacks on the 53-man roster. The third QB does not suit up for games, anyway. Bethel-Thompson could be added to the practice squad. If the 49ers have an injury at the QB position, they could activate Bethel-Thompson or re-sign veteran John Skelton.
--OLB Jermaine Cunningham: The 49ers signed him Oct. 1, and he was inactive for last week’s game against the Houston Texans.
--CB Darryl Morris: He was promoted from the practice squad on Sept. 24, and has played in both games in which he has been eligible. It probably would not be wise for the 49ers to waive Morris, a speedster who has put together good special-teams game film in his two games with the 49ers. The club already lost one promising young corner when seventh-round draft pick Marcus Cooper was claimed by the Kansas City Chiefs. Cooper is having an outstanding rookie year with the unbeaten Chiefs.
--WR Kassim Osgood: The veteran did not make the opening-week roster, but he was added when Moody was injury. Osgood has played very well on the coverage units for the 49ers' vastly improved special teams.
Vulnerable position groups
--WR Marlon Moore: He was inactive for the Thursday game at the St. Louis Rams after being the No. 3 wideout in the first three games. He was active last week with Quinton Patton injured. He has just one reception for 6 yards.
--WR/TE Chris Harper: The 49ers signed him off the Seahawks practice squad on Sept. 2 to develop as a hybrid receiver/tight end/fullback. He has not been active for a game this season, but the 49ers might want to hold onto him as a project.
--WR Quinton Patton: He sustained a broken right foot against the Rams on Sept. 26. Of course, there’s no way the 49ers release him, but he could end up on injured reserve with Manningham and Crabtree entering the picture.
--DL Tony Jerod-Eddie: Demarcus Dobbs and Jerod-Eddie are the only backup defensive linemen. With the potential additions of Carradine and Dial, the 49ers do not figure to keep seven defensive linemen on their 53-man roster. Although Jerod-Eddie has practice-squad eligibility, there’s a good chance he would get claimed if the 49ers waive him.
--LB Nate Stupar: With Moody eligible for return, the 49ers would be hard-pressed to keep five inside linebackers. Stupar was inactive for the first three games of the season while Patrick Willis was healthy.
--CB Nnamdi Asomugha: Tramaine Brock has taken over as the No. 3 cornerback, and Asomugha does not supply any contributions on special teams. With the possible addition of Wright, Asomugha’s roster spot becomes tenuous.