SANTA CLARA, Calif. - Given inside linebacker Michael Wilhoite had a couple notable misplays in Sunday's 17-3 loss to the Packers, the timing of the trade for former Vikings linebacker Gerald Hodges raised a few eyebrows.
Wilhoite was flagged for an illegal contact penalty on Packers receiver Randall Cobb that negated a third-down sack on Green Bay's first drive of the game. Instead of a three-and-out, quarterback Aaron Rodgers orchestrated a 12-play, 75-yard scoring drive which wound up giving the Packers all the points they needed for the victory.
In the third quarter, Wilhoite had a chance to stop fullback John Kuhn on his one-yard touchdown run, but he missed the tackle in the hole, giving Green bay a 14-3 lead.
FOX's cameras spotted head coach Jim Tomsula having animated discussions with Wilhoite during the game. Two days later, the 49ers traded reserve center Nick Easton, with an undisclosed draft pick, to Minnesota for Hodges, who started three of his team's first four games this season at inside linebacker, including the opener when the Vikings lost to the 49ers 20-3 at Levi's Stadium.
"We knew about him coming out of college and thought a lot of him from a personnel stand point," Tomsula said. "And then, obviously prepared for them the first game and saw him again and that became available in a trade and went in that direction. Happy to have him. I mean, he’s a big, physical linebacker.”
But Hodges, 24, won't be replacing Wilhoite any time soon, and the move wasn't reflective of Wilhoite's play through the first four games, Tomsula said.
"This became available and we picked up a guy that we think’s a good football player. That is nuts and bolts exactly what that is," Tomsula said. "...I see where that’s going. There’s nothing there. It’s a good football player that we were put in a position that we could bring on to the team."
"Michael’s done fine. I mean, we’re 1-3. I have a hard time standing here and telling you anybody has played great or coached great or anything."
Hodges (6-1, 243) was a true freshmen at Penn State in 2009, which was also NaVorro Bowman's last collegiate season there. Hodges was a converted safety, and appeared in all his team's games that year. The Vikings no longer needed Hodges after drafting UCLA linebacker Eric Kendricks in the second roung (45th overall) in the spring.
Wilhoite, 28, is a restricted free agent at the end of 2015 and was unable to come to an agreement on an extension with the 49ers this offseason. He started 16 games last season while Bowman was rehabbing his surgically repaired knee and Patrick Willis was dealing with his toe injury.
Hodges is working under his rookie contract running through 2016 after getting drafted in the fourth round in 2013. He will have to adjust to Eric Magini's 3-4 defense after playing in a 4-3 with Minnesota.
"Some guys are real fast at it and other guys aren’t," Tomsula said.
Chris Biderman is the Editor-in-Chief of Niners Digest and covers the 49ers from their headquarters in Santa Clara. Chris has been writing about the team since the spring of 2013. The Ohio State alum received his Journalism degree in 2011 and has been working in sports media since 2008. Chris, a Santa Rosa, Calif. native, is also a contributor to the Associated Press covering sports throughout the Bay Area. You can follow Chris on Twitter here.
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