Back at it

When the 49ers returned to practice Monday to begin the second stage of their 2003 training camp, they were joined by a special player who had been waiting for this moment since last October. And they also were considering some tinkering along their offensive line to, as coach Dennis Erickson put it, "get our best five linemen on the football field."

Special teams captain Terry Jackson finally got the OK to return to practice and was with the team for its morning workout as the Niners resumed duty after enjoying their first off day of camp Sunday.

Jackson had been out since tearing knee ligaments in an Oct. 14 game at Seattle.

"Terry is going to work into it once a day," Erickson said. "I gave him the OK, so he's kind of getting back into the physical part of it. He was a little sore after practice but, yeah, it's nice to have him back, get him working for the next couple of weeks and see where he's at."

KNEE SPRAIN FOR SHAW: Second-year defensive tackle Josh Shaw suffered a knee sprain in the morning workout. It's not expected to be anything serious or anything that will keep Shaw out of practice long. Which is a good thing for Shaw, since he can't afford to fall any further behind in the competition for playing time at his position.

CONCERN AT BACKUP CENTER: Pro Bowl center Jeremy Newberry continues to be brought back slowly from an ankle injury that required June surgery. The Niners would like Newberry's ankle to be completely healthy before they unleash him in camp.

"It's not going to be chronic and he'll be able to practice and play all the time," Erickson said. "There is an area of concern at backup center. Mainly because Jeremy is such a great player. We have to try to develop someone just in case something happens. I've been there before. I've had it happen where we lost our center and then lost our second center, then we ended up having to put a guard there and having him snap it."

The Niners recently signed Rob Murphy, who played for the Indianapolis Colts last year, and have been working him at the position along with converted tackle/guard Dwayne Ledford. Starting left guard Eric Heitmann - who worked some at center in practice last year - also is getting some practice at the position.

"Heitmann is playing there a little bit now and we have to get him in the mix," Erickson said. "We have to find a way to get our best five linemen on the football field. That's why Eric is somebody that we are going to spend some time with there. We're starting to make that move right now."

HARRIS TO GUARD? Erickson's above reference is at least an indication that the Niners are considering inserting first-round pick Kwame Harris at guard because of his rapid development in camp. Harris has been working mostly at left tackle - his future home - but the team still feels that it can get quality performance at that position from veteran Derrick Deese.

"We have to get our best five out there," Erickson repeated. "If that is Kwame and Derrick at the same time, then obviously one of them will have to play guard."


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