Salaam in for a look at RB

There were a few new faces among the 49ers on Saturday, but one stood out among the others. Rashaan Salaam stepped into the San Francisco backfield, stealing away snaps from other tailback candidates and at least giving the Niners something to think about as they consider their options at the position. Salaam, the 1994 Heisman Trophy winner, looked good while taking part in the opening day of minicamp on a tryout basis. The 49ers have 48 hours to decide whether to offer him a contract.

Salaam had a workout with the Niners in April and finally was asked back for a tryout this week. He appeared quick and lean and - with starting tailback Garrison Hearst missing Saturday's session due to personal reasons - was given an opportunity to strut his stuff during team drills.

"We're just taking a look at him working out and see where he's at and that kind of stuff," Niners general manager Terry Donahue said. "He showed a little bit (at his previous Niners workout) and we wanted to bring him back and put him in this kind of environment and see how he did in this kind of a deal."

Salaam said he is closer now to the player he was as a rookie in 1995 than the injury-plagued player who had turned off some NFL personnel with his performance on and off the field in ensuing years.

"I know my first couple of years kind of gave some people a bad taste about me as an athlete," Salaam said. "But I got a lot of things in order right now and all I need is an opportunity. Life's full of ups and downs and it's all about how you get yourself off the down part. I feel like I'm ready to roll right now."

Salaam set a Chicago Bears rookie record with 1,074 yards in 1995, when he was the 21st overall selection in the first round of the NFL draft. But leg and ankle injuries thwarted his development, as did off-the-field issues. He eventually failed during stints in Oakland, Cleveland and Green Bay before re-emerging in the XFL with Memphis in 2001, when he was one of the league's most prolific rushers before injuring his left shoulder.

He has not played football - or been in an NFL camp - since.

"It's part of my life that's been kind of disappointing to me," Salaam said. "Not getting any calls is kind of frustrating. But you have to stick to your goals and keep working out and hope for some breaks. I'm just glad to be out here right now."

The Niners are intrigued by Salaam, because they didn't draft a running back this year and are considering bringing in an experienced newcomer to compete at the position in training camp.

While Hearst remains the starter, his future with the team is uncertain, and the Niners would like to groom a legitimate candidate to share time with Barlow when Hearst no longer is around.

"It's a good situation because we can get him in here for two days and take a look at him," Niners coach Dennis Erickson said. "We were a little thin at running back and we didn't know if Kevan was going to be able to practice for us today, so we brought Salaam in and we're taking a look. I thought Salaam moved around really well. At one time, he was an awfully good player. Health has been a problem with him during his career, but we'll make more of a judgment after tomorrow and make some decisions."


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