First cuts aren't the deepest

The 49ers began cutting down their training camp roster on Sunday, dropping eight names that will mostly go unnoticed on the NFL waiver wire. The biggest surprise not to make the team's 65-player limit was running back Rashaan Salaam, who couldn't make it past the first round of cuts even though he was the Niners' leading rusher in Saturday's preseason game against New Orleans and is the team's second-leading rusher so far during the exhibition season.

Salaam, the 1994 Heisman Trophy winner, led the Niners with 29 yards on seven carries in Saturday's 27-12 win over the Saints, scoring on a 10-yard run and also catching a pass for 12 yards.

But it proved to be his final audition with the Niners, who are as well-stocked at running back as any team in the NFL. Salaam, who had 70 yard rushing on 22 carries this summer, entered Saturday's game listed fifth on the team's depth chart at tailback behind Garrison Hearst, Kevan Barlow, Terry Jackson and Jamal Robertson.

"Numbers," Niners coach Dennis Erickson said early Sunday evening when asked about Salaam's early departure. "I thought he looked good. He had a real oustanding camp and could probably play in the right situation. Here, with Barlow and Garrison, Terry Jackson, Jamal Robertson ... It was just a numbers game.

The Niners also released cornerback Keith Hewyard-Johnson, defensive end Dwight Johnson, offensive tackle Jason Jowers, linebacker Darnell Robinson and receivers Jermaine Lewis, Aaron Lockett and Justin Skaggs.

The team had praised Lockett as a kick returner during the spring and into summer camp, but he was passed up during training camp by Arland Bruce and didn't even play Saturday against the Saints. Lewis also didn't play in his final game as a 49er.

The Niners have seven more players to cut by Tuesday's 1 p.m. deadline to get down to the NFL-mandated 65-player limit.

Erickson indicated the Niners will make those cuts before Monday night's open practice at San Francisco's Kezar Stadium.

"You'll have that information tomorrow," Erickson said. "I'll just make decisions on who I think can help this team win. Not win next year - win now."

The Niners must be down to their final 53-man limit by Aug. 31.


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