Culliver has chance to make impact for 49ers

August 12, 2011, 3:29 pm
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NEW ORLEANS -- In the first two weeks of training camp, 49ers' rookie cornerback Chris Culliver put himself to compete for a significant regular-season role.Now, comes his next big test.
Culliver is expected to see a lot of action at right cornerback Friday night in the 49ers' exhibition opener against the New Orleans Saints at the Superdome. The Saints owned the third-ranked passing game in the NFL last season.Veteran Carlos Rogers had a handle on the 49ers' starting job on the left side. The right side remains up for grabs. Shawntae Spencer, who has started every game the past two seasons, has missed eight days of practices with a left hamstring strain. With the new coaching staff, Spencer still must earn his job.Also, Tarell Brown missed the past four practices with an undisclosed injury. Second-year player Tramaine Brock has played well, but he sat out most of Wednesday's practice.VIDEO: 49ers camp report -- Preparing for Game 1
The door has swung open for Culliver, a third-round draft pick from South Carolina who worked with the first-team defense when the 49ers last hit the practice field."I'm still learning, still going through the process of learning," Culliver said. "It's coming fast. When I know what I'm doing out there, I feel like I play real well. When I get to thinking, that gets me out of my position."Culliver is 6-foot, 200 pounds. He has good speed, and has looked fluid in hanging with the 49ers' group of wide receivers in practices. Now, he'll get his chance to show what he can do against the Saints' group of wideouts. (Leading pass-catcher Marques Colston will not play after undergoing offseason knee surgery.)"The good thing about Chris, each week, if you broke our training camp into Week 1, Week 2, and now we go play a game, each week it's been 'arrow-up' and 'arrow-up' again in the second week," 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said. "And I'd like to see that continue, 'arrow-up' in the preseason game."He definitely has all the tools from size and speed, athletic, and what it takes to play in the National Football League. It means a lot to him to be good. You see him working hard between drills, getting extra coaching. He's got the tools, but he's not a carpenter, yet."