Spencer remains ready despite demotion

Spencer remains ready despite demotion
November 10, 2011, 5:51 pm
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SANTA CLARA -- For five of his seven NFL seasons, 49ers cornerback Shawntae Spencer's role with the 49ers was never in question.Spencer, 29, who entered this season with a streak of 32 consecutive starts, knew in the past that he would line up every game as a starter.
On Sunday, for the first time in his career, he was delivered the news he would not be one of the 46 players allowed to suit up for the 49ers. He watched his team's 19-11 victory over the Washington Redskins from the sideline.Spencer is healthy after recovering from a hyperextended toe -- known as "turf toe" -- sustained Oct. 2 against the Philadelphia Eagles. But, now, Spencer is the team's No. 5 cornerback behind starters Carlos Rogers and Tarell Brown, and behind youngsters Chris Culliver and Tramaine Brock.Spencer lined up with the first-team defense when training camp opened. But he sustained a torn hamstring on the third day of practice and aggravated it a couple weeks later.After getting healthy, Spencer stepped in and played well as the No. 3 cornerback against Cincinnati and Philadelphia when Brock was sidelined with a hand injury.But, then, Spencer was injured again. And, now, Culliver is the third cornerback. Brock is No. 4. And Spencer does not have a role on game days.
"I wasn't too surprised," Spencer said of receiving the news he would not suit up against the Redskins."The injuries. There really wasn't a chance to participate in training camp. I guess they (the 49ers coaches) weren't able to make an assessment of what kind of player I was in training camp. That, on top of some other things . . . some guys are playing great. No, I really wasn't too surprised."Spencer started 12 games as a rookie in 2004 after the 49ers acquired him in the second round of the draft. He started 14 games in 2005 and 13 in 2006, as he missed games due to ankle and quadriceps injuries.He lost his starting job in 2007 when the 49ers added veteran free agents Nate Clements and Walt Harris. He was back in the same role as the team's third cornerback in 2008 before sustaining a season-ending knee injury early in the season.But, then, Spencer rebounded to start every game in 2009 and 2010."It's a different experience," Spencer said of his current situation. "But at the same time, winning cures everything. So it's not as bad."I take it for what it is. Keep working for what it is I'm trying to accomplish: to get better each day and go from there."The 49ers needed all five cornerbacks to play significant roles in the first five games of the season, so Spencer might end up with a prominent role again this season."That's the NFL in general," he said. "You never know. So you always got to prepare like you may be a play or two away from always being in the game. It's part of being professional athlete. You have to always prepare like you're going to play." Coach Jim Harbaugh was asked Wednesday how guard Chilo Rachal and Spencer, two starters of previous seasons, have handled their new roles as reserves. In his answer, Harbaugh focused on Rachal, who suits up for games and enters on special teams for certain specialty plays on offense."They've really been team guys, especially Chilo," Harbaugh said. "I really have to take my hat off to him. He is really chomping at the bit to be in there, after practice, before practice. Really on point. His time will come again and he plays and contributes for us in our extra O-linemen package. He's on field goal. He's on kickoff return. He's preparing like a starter and that's how we think of him. (I'm) especially pleased with him."