Maiocco: 49ers move forward without Heitmann

June 30, 2011, 3:25 pm
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Eric Heitmann was the only starting player still around from the 49ers' last playoff victory.Heitmann started at left guard as a rookie in one of the more memorable 49ers' postseason games. The 49ers rallied from a 24-point second-half deficit to defeat the New York Giants 39-38 on Jan. 5, 2003 at Candlestick Park.A mainstay on the offensive line for most of the past decade, Heitmann will likely miss his second consecutive season and his career is in jeopardy after undergoing surgery to repair a ruptured disk in his neck, his agent, Kenny Zuckerman, told on Wednesday.From 2003 to '06, he started 51 consecutive games. After missing the final two games of the season with a broken leg, Heitmann returned to the starting lineup Week 1 of 2007. He started 48 in a row before missing all of last season."He was the one consistent, even when you go back to (Steve) Mariucci and the (Dennis) Erickson days," quarterback Alex Smith said. "He's been the one veteran voice because we've been inundated with youth on the front line."I know he had his surgery and it's, obviously, pretty serious. He'll be missed."Each of the 49ers' five starting offensive linemen last season were first- or second-round draft picks since 2005. And top backup Adam Snyder came to the team as a third-round pick in 2005."Coming in as a rookie, you really don't know what kind of situation you're getting into," Snyder said. "And having a guy like Eric in the room who's willing to spend the extra time, and could just sit down and talk to you about the game of football or soothing else going on. "I owe a lot of my career to Eric. He came in and played guard, then played center for a number of years. He taught me a lot about the game."Heitmann, 31, will not be available for the upcoming season, so where do the 49ers turn?David Bass: He started all 16 games at center with Heitmann out last season, and he played well. The 49ers targeted Baas for a contract extension last season, but the sides never reached a deal. Baas remains unsigned and will be an unrestricted free agent when the lockout ends. The 49ers must rank him as a top priority to re-sign. Baas flew from Florida to take part in a players-organized team workout June 9, a clear indication of his desire to return to the 49ers.Adam Snyder: He has played every position along the offensive line, except center, in his six seasons with the 49ers. But Snyder started working at center a year ago. During the team workouts he continues to take snaps at center. He might have a chance to compete with Chilo Rachal at right guard. As a center, he's probably better-suited to serve as a backup.
Daniel Kilgore: The 49ers traded up to select Kilgore in the fifth round. He played left tackle at Appalachian State, but the 49ers project him as a centerguard in the NFL. It'd doubtful he'd be ready to start as a rookie.
Mike Person: He played tackle in college, but the 49ers envision him competing at centerguard, along with Kilgore. Person is one of five offensive linemen who has taken part in each of the "Camp Alex" workouts.Tony Wragge: The veteran is unsigned for next season, and the fact the 49ers drafted Kilgore and Person does not appear to bode well for his future with the club.Chase Beeler: He was named AP first-team All-American center after his senior season at Stanford. He was not drafted. The 49ers might have some interest in signing him to a free-agent contract. Beeler, upon the invitation from Joe Staley, worked out with the 49ers on Wednesday at San Jose State. He was able to answer some questions about the playbook, based on his experiences at Stanford with current 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Greg Roman.

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