The 49ers, like all NFL teams, are required to trim their 90-man roster to the regular-season limit of 53 players just two days after the final exhibition game on Thursday night.
Some will receive great news – a spot on the team to open the regular season. Many more will receive bad news but with an optimistic twist – a spot on the 10-player practice squad.
And many others – some 800 players around the NFL – will be dealt a devastating blow. It will be the end of the dream or playing professional football at the highest level.
The 49ers have 14 undrafted rookies who are fighting for their careers. Some have distinguished themselves and will remain with the 49ers in some capacity. Still, for everyone who is in a training camp for the first time, this is a stressful week as their immediate futures are determined.
On the latest edition of the 49ers Insider Podcast on NBC Sports Bay Area, we catch up with six undrafted rookies who enter the biggest few days of their football lives:
--Erik Magnuson (Michigan) has played very well in the first three exhibition games. His ability to move inside and play both guard spots, as well as center, could make him a valuable commodity.
Said Magnuson: “Even to this day, although I’ve become more comfortable in the spot I’m at, and kind of understanding the situation I’m in, I still have that disappointment in the back of my mind and I think that still helps to push me on days that I don’t necessarily want to be out here and do things. I don’t think I’ll ever come to terms with not being drafted.”
--The 49ers were not alone in their pursuit of running back Matt Breida (Georgia Southern) as an undrafted rookie. Breida has outperformed draft pick Joe Williams and appears to be a lock to make the team.
“Coach (Kyle) Shanahan always says, ‘Control what you can control,’ ” Breida said. “The only thing I can control is going out there and doing what I do every day, that’s compete and showing what I can do.
“When it’s all said and done that’s between (general manager) John Lynch and the head coach and those guys. I just hope I’ll be a part of this team.”
--Safety Lorenzo Jerome (St. Francis) got a lot of opportunities with the first-team defense in training camp due to injuries to Jimmie Ward and Jaquiski Tartt. To contribute during the regular season, he has to improve his play on special teams.
“My mindset is to work my behind off on special teams,” Jerome said. “It was a disappointment last week that I didn’t work my tail off on special teams. I still have to prove myself. I haven’t made the team, yet. I have to grind and work hard.”
--Victor Bolden (Oregon State) distinguished himself among a promising group of young wide receivers with a 104-yard kickoff return against the Denver Broncos in the second exhibition game.
“I think that definitely helped my chances of making the team,” Bolden said. “I just have to go out here and continue to stay consistent and take advantage of every opportunity I get. I’m getting plenty of opportunities out there, so I got to make sure I’m on my assignment and getting my job done.”
--Cole Hikutini (Louisville) finds himself in a crowded competition at tight end among draft pick George Kittle and veterans Vance McDonald, Logan Paulsen, Garrett Celek and Blake Bell.
“Definitely, it was discouraging (to not get drafted),” Hikutini said. “But you just got to go with how the cards are dealt, so I’m happy to here and (trying) to take advantage of the opportunity.”
--Tyler McCloskey (Houston) was a tight end in college but made the conversion to fullback, where he is learning behind Kyle Juszczyk, whom the 49ers made the highest-paid player in the NFL at the position during free agency.
In addition to the stress that comes with the end of the preseason, McCloskey is also concerned about the massive flooding in his hometown of Houston.
“You just try to compartmentalize,” McCloskey said. “I had the benefit of knowing my family was safe and all my friends were safe. But I’m certainly concerned for the city I grew up in, the city that I love. I know people down there are very capable of handling what’s going on.
“This will be a big game for me. I don’t know what the reps will be, but I’ll play a lot and I’ll hopefully get to show what I can do and that I belong and just take it one day at a time and do everything I can to put myself in the best position.”