Programming note: Watch Friday's 49ers press conference with Jim Harbaugh and Eric Reid streaming live online right here at 2:05 p.m
Our friends on Facebook supplied us with questions for this edition of 49ers Mailbag:
How will the Aldon Smith substance abuse issue affect contract negotiations with the amount and length of contract? (Eugenio Garcia Jr.)
The 49ers can begin negotiating an extension with Aldon Smith after the current season. His recent well-documented off-field problems and the 49ers’ handling of the situation make it more likely Smith has a long-term future with the team.
Based on the support he received – and the fact that the 49ers continued to pay his salary during his time in treatment for subs`tance abuse – Smith and his family have to feel very good about remaining with the 49ers beyond his first contract.
General manager Trent Baalke said the organization’s goal is to keep Smith with the 49ers for a while.
“At the same time, like with every player on our football team, there’s a lot of things that go into those long-term decisions,” Baalke said. “And we’ll continue to monitor his situation and do what we ultimately feel is the best for the organization when it comes to long-term deals.”
Smith is an extraordinary talent. And, of course, he’s not going to play for free. The 49ers will continue to observe and make decisions based on what Smith shows them. Has his stock fallen since the end of last season? Of course. But he is still an extraordinary pass-rusher. And, remember, his teammates voted him as the 49ers MVP last season.
What will Eric Wright's role be in the secondary when suits up? (Jose Maciel)
When he suits up, I’d expect Eric Wright to become the 49ers’ backup slot man and sixth defensive back. That’s a role Perrish Cox has held the past two seasons. Where it goes from there is anybody’s guess.
[RELATED: 49ers activate Manningham, Wright]
He’ll have to be outstanding in practices to supplant Carlos Rogers, Tarell Brown or Tramaine Brock as one of the team’s top three cornerback. Or, perhaps, if one of those players really begins to falter, Wright could get his opportunity.
Otherwise, he might have to stay ready in case of an injury. After all, that’s how most position changes have occurred during Jim Harbaugh’s tenure as head coach. Almost every change in the starting lineup has come about due to an injury. The lone exception was the benching of right guard Chilo Rachal in favor of Adam Snyder early in the 2011 season.
When Manningham and Crabtree finally return to the active roster, what happens to the depth chart at WR? (Eric Roth)
Anquan Boldin and Michael Crabtree will be the starters. Mario Manningham will be the third wide receiver. Beyond that is pretty much irrelevant. The 49ers never put four wide receivers on the field because tight end Vernon Davis and a running back (usually Frank Gore) are always on the field.
Is Kyle Williams expendable now? (Jason Bien)
No, because the 49ers still have to see if LaMichael James (above right) is capable of handling punts. He has never returned punts in an NFL game, so there are still concerns about his readiness. Assuming James is active for games – and Harbaugh has suggested James will be active – he will definitely be the deep man on kickoffs.
But, as James said on Thursday, “Kickoff returns are a lot easier. It’s like riding a bike. You just catch the ball and go. But punt returns are a whole different ballgame.”
In line photo of LaMichael James provided by The Associated Press