The 49ers have been waiting eagerly to see their big, brash rookie running back in action. Now Kevan Barlow is ready to show them something.

Barlow is scheduled to see his first professional action at tailback during Saturday's game against the Seattle Seahawks. The 6-foot-1, 238-pound rookie missed most of training camp and San Francisco's first two preseason games with a strained quadriceps.

"I'm a bigger back, so if I keep pounding and pounding, that will probably take a toll on a team," Barlow said. "I can play. I think I can start."

Garrison Hearst will start Saturday, as he did in each of San Francisco's first two preseason games. But Barlow, who was drafted in the third round this year to compete with Hearst and Paul Smith for the starting role, is an intriguing prospect who could quickly get himself back in contention for playing time.

"He's ready to go," 49ers coach Steve Mariucci said. "He missed so much camp, this last week or two has been his training camp. He's got some fresh legs. I think he's going to play well. He's been doing some nice things in practice. He's been anxious to get in there and show us what he's got."

Said Barlow, "Now I got to wait my turn. But I'm going to go in there and go all out and play as hard as I can. We still got two (preseason) games to go. I think coach said he doesn't have a starter yet. He said it. So I guess there's not really a starter yet. So the door's open."


--- Rookie linebacker Jamie Winborn is nursing a lower quadriceps strain and may be replaced in the starting lineup Saturday by second-year player Jeff Ulbrich. The two youngsters are entrenched in one of the team's closest battles for a starting position. Ulbrich helped his case last week with six tackles against the Raiders. He leads the team with 10 preseason tackles. Winborn is fourth with seven.

--- Mariucci indicated John Engelberger may get the starting nod this week over Chike Okeafor at left defensive end. Engelberger started 13 games on the right side last year, but Okeafor has started the first two preseason games opposite rookie sensation Andre Carter. Engelberger has a team-high three preseason sacks in a reserve role. "That can be interchangeable parts," Mariucci said. "That (position) can be up for grabs."

--- Second-year running back Jonas Lewis missed Thursday's practice sessions to rest a strained left Achilles. His left foot was in a boot. Lewis leads the Niners in rushing during the preseason with 92 yards on 16 carries. Last year, Lewis led the NFC with 184 yards rushing in the preseason.

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