David Baas: 'I want to be back'

Free-agent riches await David Baas once the NFL lockout finally ends, but that didn't prevent the veteran 49ers center from getting on the field with his teammates this week, even though he doesn't have a contract. Baas said he would like to do that for real and remain a 49er once the bell rings on the scramble that will be free agency later this summer, and now it's up to the team to keep him.

Baas didn't attend the first three days of this week's four-day workout session, with many observers figuring it was because he didn't have a contract and was being cautious, as most free agents would do and have done in his situation.

But Baas said he wasn't on hand earlier this week because of previous commitments. He flew into the San Francisco Bay Area from Florida on Wednesday, then not only attended Thursday's final session, but was on the field working out with teammates, snapping the ball to quarterback Alex Smith, another free agent currently without a 49ers contract.

"I bit the bullet, got the plane ticket and wanted to come out here and be a part of whatever I could be a part of," Baas said. "That consisted of one day, but it was good to be around the guys and get my brain working again.

"There's a lot of risk involved, but you've got to be a pro about it. And if you're not comfortable with it, you shouldn't put yourself in a position to ruin your future. But I did what I wanted to do. I'm going to be ready when the time comes."

Like most impending free agents in this uncertain NFL summer, Baas finds himself in something of an uncomfortable position. But Baas said he's going to go about his business as though he is – and will continue to be – a 49er.

"Really, all I can do is be a professional about it," Baas said. "And that's one of the reasons I came out here – I plan on coming back. You never know what's going to happen with the craziness that's going on. But I'm going to prepare like I'm coming back."

And, for the first time since the 2010 season ended – the best for Baas among his six NFL seasons – Baas made it clear he wants to return to the 49ers.

"I want to be back," he said. "I've got my house out here, a lot of things that I'm still hanging on to. But I'm just preparing, and when the time comes, everything will work out."

Baas spoke with new 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh for about an hour on April 29 during the short window that the lockout was suspended during that day. Baas said Harbaugh gave him a strong impression the team was eager to keep him on the roster with a new contract.

"I have a feeling that they definitely want me back," Baas said. "Even talking to Harbaugh for an hour, I'm really excited. I hope that I'm going to be back here."

For that to happen, the 49ers likely will have to come up with a strong offer. They got Baas's services on the cheap last year when he played under a one-year, $1.226 million tender contract as a restricted free agent. He won't come nearly as inexpensively this year.

Baas figures to be a rather hot commodity on the open market as one of the top five centers likely to be available in free agency. Signing Baas is one of San Francisco's top priorities among its own impending free agents, particularly with the team's uncertain status behind Baas on the depth chart at center.

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