Miller injury occurred a week too late to keep Thomas

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Miller injury occurred a week too late to keep Thomas
December 18, 2013, 7:00 am
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Vic Fangio: "We talked about getting him up on the active roster here for about the last month or so. It never panned out." (AP)

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If Bruce Miller had sustained his scapula injury a week earlier, the 49ers’ next move might have been quick and obvious.

Instead, former Stanford defensive back Michael Thomas, a member of the 49ers' practice squad the past two seasons, left for an opportunity to play for the Miami Dolphins. And in his first game, he supplied his new team with an interception of New England quarterback Tom Brady to preserve an important victory.

The 49ers liked Thomas a lot, and even rewarded him with an increase from the minimum salary for practice-squad players. But the 49ers could not find a spot on the 53-man roster for him. So when the Dolphins called, he scrambled to get to the East Coast for a long-awaited promotion.

[RELATED: How the 49ers plan to compensate for Miller's loss]

Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said he was disappointed to see Thomas leave the 49ers.

“I think Mike was really making strides here,” Fangio said. “We talked about getting him up on the active roster here for about the last month or so. It never panned out.

“So he got a great opportunity to go down there and finish the season with Miami. He’ll get an accredited pension off of that, which doesn’t mean much to anybody right now. But in the future he’ll be glad he did that. I hope nothing but the best for Mike and like to see him succeed.”

The Dolphins signed Thomas after cornerbacks Dimitri Patterson and R.J. Stanford were injured. Then, during Sunday’s game, starting corners Brent Grimes and Nolan Carroll were injured, forcing Thomas onto the field late in the game.

“I knew Tom Brady, he was definitely going come at me, being the new guy," Thomas told reporters afterward.

[NEWS: 49ers clinch playoff berth if Seahawks take care of business]

From the Miami 19-yard line, Thomas broke up a pass in the end zone for Danny Amendola. Then, on a fourth-and-5 play from the 14 with seven seconds remaining, Thomas stepped in front of Austin Collie, whom Thomas covered as a teammate during 49ers training camp, and made the interception as the Dolphins (8-6) remain in the playoff hunt with a 24-20 victory.

"A couple of teammates came over -- I'm not sure who, because I don't know everybody's name, I can't lie -- and they said, 'After all you've been through, your hard work is paying off,’” Thomas said. “I think I even called out to my mom: 'Mama, I did it!' It's just so overwhelming."

To top off the remarkable week, Thomas was named AFC Defensive Player of the Week despite playing just 16 snaps of defense.

The 49ers have yet to make a roster move to take Miller’s spot. The team reached out to former Stanford fullback Owen Marecic, but a team source said Marecic “didn’t have the desire to play anymore.”

[RELATED: Matt Maiocco's 49ers chat transcript (12.17.13)]

The 49ers on Tuesday worked out defensive lineman Will Tukuafu, who played 90 snaps last season on offense, mostly as a fullback. It’s possible that anybody the 49ers add to the 53-man roster will not be among the active 46 players for games, anyway, which is why Thomas’ promotion would have been a reasonable move.

In line image of Michael Thomas provided by The Associated Press 

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