Fangio looks for reserve safety to step up


Fangio looks for reserve safety to step up

SANTA CLARA -- The starters and top reserves are set at all but one position on the 49ers' defense.

Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio is still waiting for a safety not named Donte Whitner or Dashon Goldson to earn his confidence in the final two exhibition games.

"We've got some jobs that are up for grabs in the backup area," Fangio said Tuesday. "We'd like to see somebody step forward and make the decisions easy for us, particularly at the safety positions.

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"We know we have Whitner and Goldson. But we're looking to see who are our third, fourth and, possibly, fifth safety. We need for that to clear itself up. Hopefully, guys will step forward and make it easy. Right now, it hasn't been an easy decision for us there."

The candidates?

--C.J. Spillman has been the team's third safety through the entire offseason. Known as one of the top special-teams players in the NFL, Spillman has seen only limited time on defense in three previous seasons. He was used primarily in the 49ers' goal-line defense last year, playing just 16 snaps of defense in 16 regular-season games.

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--Darcel McBath enters his fourth NFL season after playing 20 games with the Denver Broncos in 2009 and '10, and one game last season for the Jacksonville Jaguars. "With the guys he's battling with, he does have more experience than all of them," Fangio said.

--Trenton Robinson was a sixth-round draft pick, who has showed slow and steady improvement, Fangio said. The 49ers would like to see a big spike in his play. He got turned around on a deep ball from Houston quarterback Matt Schaub to All-Pro receiver Andre Johnson on Saturday.

--Michael Thomas is an undrafted rookie from Stanford, who has not gotten much action at safety. He is seeing most of his action as a nickel back, the position from which he blitzed and picked up a sack against the Texans.

--Colin Jones, a second-year player, is a core special-teams player. He did not see any action at safety last season. He worked into the game Saturday for 10 snaps.

Or . . .

--NFL teams must trim to roster maximums of 75 on Aug. 27 and all the way down to 53 players on Aug. 31. The 49ers are sure to keep an eye on the waiver wire to see if there's a player available who might be able to lend assistance.

Bowman guarantees he will not be odd-man out of 49ers' competition

Bowman guarantees he will not be odd-man out of 49ers' competition

SANTA CLARA – The 49ers’ biggest free-agent acquisition on defense and one of the team’s first-round draft picks play the same position.

Coach Kyle Shanahan said he is holding off on thinking about how everything is going to play out this season at the linebacker position.

“I really try not to envision it too hard because I see a lot of good players there,” Shanahan said Tuesday during the 49ers’ first week of organized team activities.

The 49ers awarded weakside linebacker Malcolm Smith guaranteed money as an unrestricted free agent totaling approximately $12 million. Then, on the first day of the draft, the 49ers’ No. 3 rated prospect experienced a free fall, and the club traded into the back end of the first round to select him.

While Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster has been sidelined through the offseason program as he recovers from shoulder injury, he figures to compete with Smith for the starting job. Foster will also learn middle linebacker, where NaVorro Bowman has earned first-team All-Pro honors in four seasons.

Bowman looks to be nearly all the way back from a torn Achilles that limited him to just four games last season.

“You don’t know what’s going to happen,” Shanahan said. “Seeing Bow out here and how healthy he’s been, knowing we’ve added some good free agents, and the way the draft worked out, having a linebacker we had ranked very highly fall to us at the end of the first round. We got a lot better pretty fast.

“When you ask me how it’s going to play out, I’m not sure. It’s a good problem to have. It’s something you’d like to have any every position. There’s going to be a very good player who’s not out there all the time. That’s not a bad thing. That makes the two guys who are out there go a lot harder and play better. It makes special teams better and it allowed you to survive injuries, which almost always happen.”

Bowman’s vision for the upcoming season includes him retaining his role in the middle of the 49ers’ defense.

"I won't be on the sideline, I'll tell you that right now,” Bowman said.

Bowman said he was not fazed with the 49ers selected Foster in the first round. Foster is likely considered the heir apparent to Bowman.

Shanahan called Bowman after the selection of Foster was made, but Bowman said he did not need to speak with the coach about why the selection was made.

“I wasn’t expecting it,” Bowman said of the phone call, “but it was good to hear from him, to see that he had something to say or an idea of what he wanted to get across to me.

“But we haven’t talked about it. I did that on purpose. It doesn’t matter to me. I’ll compete with anyone, whether he’s 21 or 35. It doesn’t matter. I’m a guy who’s going to give my best effort and have full confidence in my abilities to play this game. I know how much I study this game. I know how good I am and that’s what was going to bring back here.

“It’s always a competition. There’s always someone trying to take your spot. As a player, if you keep that in mind, you’ll always put the work in that’s needed.”


49ers reissue Bryant Young's number

49ers reissue Bryant Young's number

SANTA CLARA -- For the first time since Bryant Young retired following the 2007 season, the 49ers have placed his old number back into service.

Linebacker Dekoda Watson was issued No. 97 for the team’s organized team activities this week.

Young was a four-time Pro Bowl selection and eight-time winner of the Len Eshmont Award as the 49ers’ most inspirational and courageous player. No 49ers player has worn No. 97 in the past nine seasons or offseasons.

Rookie defensive lineman Solomon Thomas is now wearing No. 94 after being issued No. 96 for the rookie minicamp. Linebacker Reuben Foster is wearing No. 56.

Rookie defensive tackle D.J. Jones now wearing No. 96. Cornerback Rashard Robinson switched back to No. 33 after an earlier change to No. 26. Running back Kapri Bibbs is now 26. Rookie running back Joe Williams is No. 32 after wearing No. 33 at the NFLPA Rookie Premiere in Los Angeles over the weekend. Veteran running back Tim Hightower is wearing No. 22.