Ready for the Raiders

The 49ers stepped through a brisk morning practice Wednesday, their final preparation for Thursday's exhibition home opener against the Oakland Raiders, their rivals from across the San Francisco Bay. Then they received some bad news later in the afternoon after defensive tackle Bryant Young underwent a Magnetic Resonance Imaging exam.

The MRI revealed bone spurs in the left ankle that has been bothering Young since early in training camp. Young, a four-time Pro Bowler, will have arthroscopic surgery before Thursday's game to remove the bone spurs. The preliminary diagnosis is that he'll miss the next two weeks of practice. It is unlikely he will play again before the Sept. 7 season opener against the Chicago Bears.

ANELLI WAIVED: The Niners reached an injury settlement with tight end Mark Anelli, who broke his collarbone in a non-contract drill a week into camp, and then waived the second-year player later in the afternoon Wednesday.

ERICKSON KNOWS RAIDERS: Playing the Raiders is no big deal for coach Dennis Erickson. He faced Oakland plenty of times when he was head coach of the Seattle Seahawks from 1995-98.

But Erickson realizes, even though this is just a preseason game in mid-August, that it carries a little more meaning to both the players and fans involved than would a typical exhibition.

"It's a huge game in the Bay Area, but it's still a preseason game," Erickson said. "We're playing the Raiders and that's big in this complex with our players, but then again it's a preseason game. We've got to get looks at everybody that we need to look at. The importance of us getting done what we need to get done as an organization and evaluating our players is more important to me than the game."

LONGER STINT FOR STARTERS: Just the same, expect to see a little bit more of the San Francisco starters than they played during Saturday's exhibition opener against the Chiefs.

The first group was basically in for two periods at Kansas City, but against Oakland, Erickson said, "we're going to bump it up to three or four. They'll play into the second quarter. Playing our first group, we want to get a feel as to where they're at. We want to take a good look at that."

CENTER OF ATTENTION: There are several areas the Niners want to get a good look at Thursday, particularly at center after starter Jeremy Newberry plays a few series.

San Francisco is taking a serious look at Dwayne Ledford as Newberry's backup, but the team is not sold on him yet. Rob Murphy also is getting a good look at the position, but Erickson said the team will give starting left guard Eric Heitmann practice at the position next week and maybe even some game time before the preseason is over - an indication the team is not completely happy about what it currently has behind Newberry.

"We'll continue to see where we're at there," Erickson said. "We evaluate that backup position all the time. Hopefully, it's with the team that we have right now, but possibly it's somewhere else. We really have to get that problem solved. Not that we don't have it solved, but we have to see these guys play."

GRAHAM A CANDIDATE?: Behemoth guard DeMingo Graham, who has lost more than 20 pounds since being signed by the Niners this spring, is improving his quickness and is challenging for a roster spot. But Erickson said he has not improved enough in that area for the team to consider him as the solution to the backup problem at center.

"No," Erickson said. "You've got to be able to move and that's not something he'd be able to do well."

QB TIME: Tim Rattay, starting in place of the injured Jeff Garcia, will play into the second quarter against the Raiders. Brandon Doman and Ken Dorsey - waging a fierce battle for the No. 3 role - will alternate the rest of the game.

REMEMBERING ROBINSON: The Niners late Tuesday signed linebacker Darnell Robinson, a player Erickson knows well. Robinson was in camp with the Minnesota Vikings last year and was the leading tackler for the Scottish Claymores in NFL Europe. He played for Erickson at Oregon State in 2000 and was named MVP of the Fiesta Bowl. "He can run," Erickson said. "He's a guy that we can bring in and take a look at."

KEEPING FOUR QUARTERBACKS?: Perhaps caught off guard by the question, Erickson revealed Wednesday that the Niners may seriously be considering keeping four quarterbacks on their final roster.

When asked if he expected all four quarterbacks to find a spot the roster, Erickson responded, "Without a question," before tempering that remark by saying, "In my opinion, yeah, and again it depends on how they play next week. We talked a little bit about that, but that is not our No. 1 concern right now. We have to sit down and look at our team as we get down towards the end of it. We just have to see what's best for our organization down the road. Those are all things that we are talking about, but we obviously haven't made a decision."


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