Matt Maiocco

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Tarell Brown entered the league marked for character problems. Matt Maiocco details the path that has quietly secured him a starting cornerback job on the NFL's top defense.

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Carlos Rogers was back on the field Thursday, and he expects to play Sunday. The same can't be said for 49ers' star backer Patrick Willis.

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Alex Boone is the first known player the 49ers have signed to a new contract since the beginning of the season. A source said that the 49ers have proposals out to several other players but each has turned down the offer.

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Jon Gruden is pitching 49ers linebackers coach Jim Leavitt to replace Dennis Erickson as Arizona State coach, describing him as "passionate, intense."

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The 49ers don't need Larry Grant to be a jack of all trades in the likely event All-Pro linebacker Patrick Willis doesn't play against Arizona. But they'll gladly take another five-tackle, one sack outing.

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Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhunt: "because of the success the 49ers have had against us, it means a little more."

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Here's a breakdown of the 49ers' strongest candidates to be selected to the Pro Bowl.

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Carlos Rogers watched practice with his left knee wrapped Wednesday. He and Patrick Willis were the only players who did not participate, but there were a few other names on the injury report.

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At this stage in the season, it seems unfathomable that Alex Smith will be anywhere else in 2012 but with the San Francisco 49ers.

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Linebacker Patrick Willis will not practice Wednesday, but the 49ers expect to get receiver Braylon Edwards back on the field.

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Wide receiver Joshua Morgan said he is scheduled in a couple weeks to have the screws removed from his broken ankle and could start running in late December or January.

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Scott Tolzien, the 49ers' third-string quarterback, hasn't been active for a game this year. But watching his friend T.J. Yates' quick rise for the playoff-bound Texans has Tolzien realizing how quickly things can change.

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While at Stanford, Jim Harbaugh brought his entire staff to the campus of Sacred Heart Prep in Atherton to learn the "fly sweep" from Gators head coach Pete Lavorato. It's paying dividends for the 49ers offense.

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Yes, it was the Rams, but the 49ers defense showed up in a big way Sunday. They lost leader Patrick Willis after five snaps and still kept St. Louis from scoring.

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San Francisco was limited to field goals in the first, but a couple of second-half TD passes against the Rams left the 49ers confident in their offensive execution. Read Matt Maiocco's comprehensive breakdown.

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