Veterans on the spot

They have played in the NFL and know what it takes to get there and stay there. But can they stay there this year with the 49ers? Here's a look at several veteran players on San Francisco's summer roster that enter Thursday's exhibition finale on the spot and on the roster bubble, needing a good performance against San Diego to improve their chances of making the team's final 53-man roster.


QB Josh McCown: The ninth-year veteran is in the rather unique position of not having played a snap during the preseason and perhaps not having to play a snap tonight to be kept on San Francisco's opening-day roster. At the same time, McCown could play tonight and excel, and it still might not even matter if the team decides to go a different direction at the No. 3 QB spot after scouring the waiver wire following Saturday's mandatory cuts, which figure to leave some veteran QBs available who could be attractive to the 49ers. McCown could get some action tonight, however, and could improve his chances of remaining on the roster with a strong performance.

FB Moran Norris: The 11th-year veteran has been San Francisco's regular starting fullback four of the past five seasons, but he is in danger of losing that job to rookie seventh-round draft pick Bruce Miller, particularly if the 49ers keep just one fullback on their final roster, which seems like a 50-50 proposition at this point. Norris could find himself in the position of fighting to keep his job with the team tonight.

RB Xavier Omon: Omon has bounced around from the Seattle Seahawks to the New York Jets to the 49ers since sticking in the league during his first two NFL seasons with the Buffalo Bills. Omon has made a strong roster bid this summer, rushing for 86 yards and averaging 4.5 yards a pop during the preseason. He enters this game, however, listed as fourth on the team's depth chart at running back behind Frank Gore, Anthony Dixon and Kendall Hunter. Omon may have to move past one of the youngsters to secure a place on the final roster.

WR Dominique Zeigler: The third-year veteran has developed into a solid backup wideout and special teams player for the 49ers, and he pushed his way onto the field with the team during the 2008 and 2010 seasons with hard work and productive performance when given the opportunity. But a knee injury that put him on injured reserve last November gave Zeigler a late start this summer, and though he has been catching up the past 10 weeks, he still find himself buried on the depth at wide receiver behind several other veterans and young prospects.

G/C Tony Wragge: The hard-nosed, reliable Wragge always seems to be an overlooked and underestimated player until he winds up on the final roster, as he has the past six seasons with the 49ers. It could get a little more difficult this time around as Wragge battles for one of the final roster berths along the offensive line with draft picks and younger players.

OLB Antwan Applewhite: The fourth-year veteran has good size and pass-rushing skills, but it's debatable whether he has shown the 49ers enough this summer to secure a role as the No. 4 player in the team's rotation at outside linebacker behind Ahmad Brooks, Parys Haralson and Aldon Smith. The 49ers are also looking at a few youngsters here, so Applewhite may need a big performance against his former team tonight to remain second on the depth chart behind Brooks at LOLB – a distinction Applewhite holds today – entering the regular season.

ILB Blake Costanzo: The fifth-year veteran has made a name for himself as a special teams standout and solid backup on the inside the past four seasons with the Buffalo Bills and Cleveland Browns, and the 49ers could definitely use veteran help on their specialty teams. Whether the Niners would keep Costanzo specifically for that role, however, remains in question with their logjam of young players at inside linebacker who can do similar things.

S Madieu Williams: The eighth-year veteran has had a solid first summer with the 49ers and has shown everybody he still belongs in the NFL after being limited by a neck injury in recent seasons. But Williams might face a numbers game at safety, where veteran Reggie Smith will be returning soon and the Niners have several other promising youngsters scrapping to remain on the team.

TE Nate Lawrie: With Nate Byham out of the year with a knee injury, the fifth-year veteran – who has seen time with five other NFL teams and also played recently in the United Football League – is battling undrafted rookie Konrad Reuland for the No. 3 role at tight end on a team that probably would like to keep three players at the position. But Lawrie enters tonight's game listed fourth on the depth chart behind Reuland, and probably needs to show up big to still be on the roster come Saturday.


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