Notebook: 49ers unload Mays; how hurt is Lee?

The latest 49ers news: Second-year safety Taylor Mays is finally traded; the 49ers bring in a new punter to handle those duties while Andy Lee is ailing; WR Dominique Zeigler is activated and two young players are released; and the team's quarterback rotation seems to be taking shape with the regular-season opener now 20 days away.

Mays shipped to Cincinnati

The 49ers finally received an offer to their liking for Taylor Mays, and the team traded the second-year safety to the Cincinnati Bengals for an undisclosed late-round draft pick, ESPN is reporting.

It's no surprise to see San Francisco unload Mays, the team's second-round selection in last year's draft who has fallen out of favor this summer with the team's new coaching staff.

So out of favor, in fact, that Niners defensive coordinator Vic Fangio suggested Monday that Mays isn't even good enough right now to play in the NFL.

When asked a question about the safety position, Fangio said, "We feel good with (Donte) Whitner, (Reggie Smith), (Dashon) Goldson, (Madieu) Williams and (C.J) Spillman. We feel like we've got five safeties there that can play in the NFL."

But no mention of Mays. Ouch.

But that's not surprising considering that Mays has been languishing at third-string on the depth chart throughout training camp and received only late garbage minutes in Saturday's preseason game against the Oakland Raiders.

It was reported weeks ago that the 49ers had sent out a mass e-mail to the league's other 31 teams that Mays was available for trade offers.

Now he'll be joining two other veteran defenders the 49ers weren't interested in having back this year – cornerback Nate Clements and linebacker Manny Lawson – with the Bengals. Both players joined Cincinnati this past month as free agents.

New punter signed; how hurt is Lee?

The 49ers signed veteran punter Sam Paulescu on Monday, an indication the team will need a new player to handle punting duties for a while as Andy Lee recovers from an undisclosed injury.

Lee, San Francisco's holder on field-goal and extra-point attempts, was hurt during Saturday's 17-3 victory over the Raiders when he was hit attempting to unload a pass after a botched field-goal attempt.

The Niners, as has become typical under their new coaching regime, have not revealed the severity of Lee's injury or given a timetable for his return.

"I don't think it will be a long-term issue," coach Jim Harbaugh said during his day-after conference call Sunday. "I don't know how long it will take to get right, so (signing a punter) would be a possibility. We'll assess that. If he can't punt this week or would be limited in the game we would definitely have to consider bringing in a punter this week."

After bringing in Paulescu – who has a gross average of 42.2 yards on 102 punts in 20 NFL games with four teams – consider it done.

Zeigler activated

In other roster moves Monday, the 49ers activated wide receiver Dominique Zeigler from the physically unable to perform list.

The third-year veteran has been recovering for a knee injury that placed him on the team's injured reserve list after 11 games last season. Zeigler had a career-high nine receptions for 98 yards before he was injured, but now faces stiff competition to get back in the mix at wide receiver at this stage of the summer.

The 49ers also released quarterback Jeremiah Masoli and kicker Fabrizio Scaccia, probably to give each of those youngsters more time to possibly catch on with other teams before the season begins.

QB rotation already taking shape?

Alex Smith started Saturday's game against the Raiders, and rookie Colin Kaepernick replaced him just before the end of the first half.

Recently signed veteran Josh McCown didn't play a snap, but he'd likely be the starting quarterback if anything were to happen to Smith early in the season.

Having a No. 3 quarterback leapfrog the No. 2 passer is nothing new to the 49ers. Troy Smith did it to David Carr last year despite the fact that Troy Smith was signed just before the start of the regular season.

In that case, Alex Smith had gone down with a separated shoulder, and the 49ers didn't feel like backup David Carr was good enough to start.

This year, the problem isn't with Kaepernick's skills. It's with his experience.

Like all rookies, Kaepernick has had to learn a full offseason's worth of the playbook in about a month. And while he's picked up the offense quickly and has proven to be precocious on the field, asking him to take over a starting role would be ambitious and perhaps reckless.

Instead, McCown, 32, likely would handle that role. He is a former third-round draft pick of the Cardinals, whose best season came in 2004 when he started 13 games, threw for 2,511 yards and had 11 touchdowns against 10 interceptions.

The team signed him Aug. 17 to a one-year deal worth the league minimum. McCown played last year for the United Football League's Hartford Colonials, and he beat out another UFL quarterback, Daunte Culpepper of the Sacramento Mountain Lions, who interviewed for the 49ers job.

McCown said he had an offer from the Chicago Bears to be a backup there in 2010. Instead, he decided to play for the Colonials and ended up finishing with the highest passer rating of any starter in that league.

"Competition was certainly a lot better than people would have thought," McCown said. "I had a good time. It was a chance for me to continue to play, and play games. I'm further along now than I would have been if I sat on a roster last year as a backup, because I played eight games. When you're taking snaps, and I think this is true for me and everybody, you're getting better when you're taking reps. So I really valued that."

Meanwhile, both Smith and Kaepernick looked better Saturday against the Raiders than they did a week earlier in New Orleans. The 49ers' offensive line, beaten soundly by Saints blitzes on Aug. 12, rallied and gave both players better protection.

Smith was accurate against the Raiders, connecting with five different receivers in the first half. He took chances and made two big pass plays, both for 32 yards.

On the first, he absorbed a big hit from Raiders defensive tackle Tommy Kelly, but not before finding receiver Joshua Morgan on a crossing route.

On the second, he found Braylon Edwards streaking down the left sideline in man coverage. Smith threw the ball up, and the 6-4 Edwards made a one-handed grab to set up the 49ers' first field goal.

Edwards didn't start the game but he led all receivers with two catches for 46 yards.

Kaepernick, meanwhile, was 6-for-8 for 52 yards and said he was far more comfortable in his second game than he was the first.

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