Practice squad players show loyalty to 49ers

Practice squad players show loyalty to 49ers
January 31, 2013, 12:15 pm
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Cam Johnson was rewarded for his loyalty when he was promoted to the 53-man roster after Demarcus Dobbs was placed on IR. (USA TODAY IMAGES)

This is a special group of guys, and I want to do anything I can to be help win a championship and get a Super Bowl ring.
—Ricardo Lockette


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NEW ORLEANS -- The temptations were too great for wide receiver Nathan Palmer and defensive tackle Matthew Masifilo to ignore.

Early in the regular season, the Indianapolis Colts offered Palmer a spot on their 53-man roster. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers had the same proposal for Masifilo.

Both players went from making $5,700 a week on the 49ers' practice squad to cashing a weekly check for $22,941, the NFL's rookie minimum salary.

But four other players on the 49ers' practice squad passed up opportunities throughout the season for a 300-percent pay raise. Outside linebacker Cam Johnson, defensive tackle Tony Jerod-Eddie, offensive lineman Al Netter and wide receiver Ricardo Lockette each turned down offers to remain on the 49ers' practice squad, each player confirmed.

"I believe it speaks volumes for the way they enjoy being on this team and being with their teammates," 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said.

In addition to the 53-man roster, each team is allowed to carry eight players on their practice squad. Harbaugh calls it the developmental squad as a way to drive home the point that those players are not around to merely practice against the starters.

But their work in practices is the most important part of their jobs. Harbaugh on Thursday praised the commitment of the team's practice squad and reserves have demonstrated in helping the starters prepare.

"Our young players, our future starters on future championship teams have progressed and it's been wonderful, wonderful that we've gotten five extra (weeks) of practice than 20 other teams have gotten," Harbaugh said.

Any team can sign a player off any team's practice squad at any time without any compensation awarded to the team that was raided. But the player has to agree to join the new team.

Jerod-Eddie was offered a promotion by the Dallas Cowboys, his favorite team growing up. He turned it down.

"It's about the best opportunity for myself," Jerod-Eddie said. A week later, the 49ers promoted Jerod-Eddie when receiver Mario Manningham was placed on injured reserve and Brandon Jacobs was suspended.

Johnson, Netter and Lockette each said they had multiple teams offer contracts. None would identify the teams that were interested.

"After talking to my agent and (general manager) Trent Baalke, I figured what was best for me was staying right here," said Johnson, whom the 49ers promoted to the 53-man roster after Demarcus Dobbs was placed on IR.

Said Lockette, "This is a special group of guys, and I want to do anything I can to help win a championship and get a Super Bowl ring."

Players on the practice squad often play multiple positions in practices. The 49ers take it a step further. Practice squad players travel with the team on all road trips, and they are expected to know the game plans in intimate details.

"I take the same tests the starters do," said Netter, who plays left tackle, left guard, center and right tackle. "I have to go up in front of the O-line and make calls as if I were starting on the team.

"It might have seemed like a great opportunity to sign somewhere else, but if I stayed here, I'd be with a coaching staff that really likes me, a coaching staff that wanted me from the beginning and developed me from the beginning. And I'd be in a place I feel comfortable. I had to make the better decision for the long run."

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