Dixon expands versatility in quest for roster spot

August 7, 2012, 8:44 pm
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SANTA CLARA -- In a period of five days late this month, 1,184 hopefuls will be trimmed from NFL rosters.Running back Anthony Dixon, whose role on the 49ers is anything but secure, does not expect his name to be one of the team's 37 cuts."I feel like I'm still one of the best at what I'm doing, and I can help any other team," Dixon said Tuesday. "But to tell you truth, I don't feel like that's going to happen. I feel like I'll be right here. I'm going to keep working my butt off and make sure that happens."Dixon said he has not changed positions, though the 49ers depth chart now lists him at fullback. Rather, Dixon said he opted to show his versatility when he approached coach Jim Harbaugh and running backs coach Tom Rathman on the first day of training camp to ask for snaps at fullback."Coach is always preaching, 'The more you can do, the more you can do for the team -- the more value you have,'" Dixon said. "That was big coming into the camp. Of course, we signed Brandon (Jacobs). Of course, we drafted LaMichael (James). I didn't change my position. I wanted to expand my role and make my value more."Dixon played just 52 snaps for the 49ers last season as the team's No. 3 running back behind Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter, both of whom return. With the additions of Jacobs and James, there stood little chance for Dixon's return as the third back.So Dixon is banking on an improved work ethic and a willingness to contribute at fullback and special teams to enable him to earn a roster spot. The 49ers added veteran Rock Cartwright in the offseason for a potential special-teams ace.MAIOCCO: 49ers camp battle -- Anthony Dixon vs. Brandon Jacobs
Dixon realizes his best chance to win a roster spot is to prove his game features qualities of Gore, fullback Bruce Miller and Cartwright. He is slated to be starting on three special-teams units when the 49ers open the exhibition season on Friday at Candlestick Park against the Minnesota Vikings.Dixon had a rough beginning to his second NFL season, and that is why he entered the offseason program and training camp more focused.He admits that he did not report to camp in the best shape a year ago after the lockout. Dixon had difficulty learning the new offensive system. He also says he got into Harbaugh's doghouse when he said some things to opposing players on the field during games."My actions weren't what coach Harbaugh wanted," Dixon said. "I had to learn that. Dealing with a new coach, I had to learn that, I had to learn how he wanted us to do things. As the year went on, I got better and better."Now, he said all the feedback has been positive. Harbaugh recently singled out Dixon on the practice field for keeping his pad level low. And his position coach has appeared impressed, too.
"Coach Rathman helps me every day," Dixon said. "He tells me he loves the way I'm making contact. And my stock is going up."I feel like I am a good running back and I'm becoming a good fullback."