Will Shaw be factor in DL equation?

Josh Shaw is the unknown factor in the 49ers plans along the defensive line in 2003. Considering his injury history, the team can't exactly expect the second-year prospect to step up as an impact performer in the rotation this year. But now that Shaw has had his redshirt NFL season, the Niners expect to see if their gamble to draft Shaw in the fifth round last year finally will pay off once training camp begins in July.

The opportunity for Shaw to fulfill his potential couldn't be any better. When the Niners released veteran starter Dana Stubblefield this spring, it left a void in the defensive line rotation that Shaw will be given every chance to fill.

"I'm ready to get in there," Shaw told SFI. "I'm excited about it. Now I just want to take advantage of it."

Shaw has mostly waited and watched thus far since the Niners drafted him last year out of Michigan State. He fell to the fifth round due to a severe right knee injury that kept him on an injured list until the Niners activated him late in the season. During that brief trial, Shaw displayed some flashes that he indeed could be a draft-day steal while recording a sack.

But it also left him in a familiar position - on the sidelines this spring. In the Dec. 30 season finale at St. Louis, Shaw stretched ligaments in his left shoulder and had surgery that kept him out of action until the team's final spring minicamp in June.

"That sucks, but I'm not going to let it get me down or stop me or anything," said Shaw, who said he'll be "full-speed" by the time training camp begins. "I'm coming to camp just really trying to show them what I can do in the preseason games. You can practice forever, but that's what makes you grow up fast. I know I can go out there and give quality reps. There won't be any dropoff when I get out there."

First-year Niners defensive line coach Dan Quinn is looking forward to it.

"We knew already from last year that he's got really good quickness," Quinn said. "He's only going to get better. He brings value because he's got the good quickness, you think he can be a good tackle. So we're waiting for that to show through and he certainly has the ability to do that soon. We're excited about him participating in training camp.

"Now it's just a matter of getting him practice reps and getting back in the groove a little bit. He missed training camp last year and missed three-quarters of the season with his injury, so now's the time for him to step up and shine. It's time for him to show what he can do."

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