Maiocco: Still a role for Lawson in 49ers defense

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Maiocco: Still a role for Lawson in 49ers defense

May 8, 2011MAIOCCO ARCHIVE49ERS PAGE 49ERS VIDEOMatt MaioccoCSNBayArea.comManny Lawson is not under contract to the 49ers for the upcoming season. And the 49ers invested the seventh overall draft pick on Aldon Smith, who plays the same position.So does the addition of the rookie from Missouri spell the end of Lawson's career with the 49ers?Well, that all depends on the yet-to-be-determined rules for NFL free agency. There remains a good chance Lawson will be back with the 49ers in 2011.When the lockout is lifted and free agency begins -- whenever that might be -- if the NFL reverts back to the 2010 rules, the 49ers would still control Lawson's rights as a restricted free agent. Lawson has five years of NFL experience. Under the 2010 rules for the uncapped year, the league required six years for unrestricted free agency. Prior to last year, four years of NFL experience were needed to test the market.If the 49ers are able to retain Lawson's rights, general manager Trent Baalke could work out a trade. But if Lawson remains with the 49ers, he would likely still have a large role with the team.Lawson led the 49ers with 6.5 sacks in 2009. But he was used primarily on first and second downs from the final six games of '09 through all of last season.He finished '09 at 230 pounds but put on weight last season to play at least 10 pounds heavier. Lawson was good against the run and held up very well in coverage. When the 49ers drafted Lawson in the first round of the 2006 draft, they converted him from defensive end to outside linebacker. In the NFL, Lawson quickly developed in his new role and never showed consistency as the sack artist the 49ers had envisioned him becoming.
Smith is at least 25 pounds heavier entering the NFL than Lawson. Smith weighed in at 264 pounds at the NFL scouting combine. Smith played with a lot ore strength at Missouri. He lined up primarily at right defensive end at Missouri but also was asked to drop into coverage and line up as an inside pass-rusher.Smith does not have to start as a rookie to be a huge factor for the 49ers. After all, Fred Dean is in the Hall of Fame, and he started just five of 57 games with the 49ers.If the 49ers retain Lawson for another season, defensive coordinator Vic Fangio can devise a specific plan for Smith. Then, Smith's development in other areas of his game can dictate how much -- and how quickly -- the 49ers expand his role.Parys Haralson, the outside linebacker on the other side, is signed through 2013 and figures to remain with the club for a while. While Smith is groomed to take over every-down duties from Lawson, he will likely get his initial playing time at the expense of nickel pass-rushers Ahmad Brooks and veteran free-agent Travis LaBoy.

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.