Harris start won't be surprise this week

Kwame Harris indoctrination as an NFL starter could have been better. It also could have been worse. The Niners' first-round draft pick made some mistakes but generally held up well at left tackle last week in the noisy confines of St. Louis' Edward Jones Dome, which is good news for San Francisco since he'll probably be playing there again this week in place of injured veteran Derrick Deese.

Deese didn't practice Thursday, and neither did starting center Jeremy Newberry or starting right guard Ron Stone. But Newberry (ankle/quad) and Stone (foot) both are expected to return to practice Friday and are listed as probable for Sunday's game against the Cleveland Browns.

It's a different story with Deese. He still is experiencing problems with his left ankle, which was bothering him even before 340-pound Chicago defensive tackle Keith Traylor landed on it during the Sept. 7 season opener.

That collision gave Deese a high ankle sprain, though coach Dennis Erickson said Thursday, "I think his ankle is high, low, middle - everything right now. It's been a number of them. The last one he got was a high ankle sprain. That's the one that's bothering him the most right now."

That's making it sound like Harris will start again this week against the Browns and have the very important responsibility of protecting quarterback Jeff Garcia's blind side.

Harris did a good job of that last week, never allowing Garcia to be sacked even though he didn't learn he'd be starting in place of Deese until game time. He has a better idea he'll be on the field for San Francisco's first offensive snap this week, but Harris said that won't make him change his preparation one bit.

"Whether I know today or I find out on Sunday, I feel like you should be mentally ready for it regardless," Harris said. "Mentally, you should already go into a game feeling like you're going to get in there eventually, because you never know what's going to happen."

The Niners are doing some shuffling on their offensive line this week, moving Kyle Kosier to left guard in place of Dwayne Ledford now that Scott Gragg is ready to return to the starting lineup at right tackle. Kosier started in place of Gragg the first two weeks. Ledford started last week in place of Eric Heitmann, who could return from an ankle sprain as soon as next week. Heitmann is doubtful to play against the Browns.

Erickson indicated Harris is probable to start in Deese's place, saying the big rookie's starting debut last week was, "OK. It was a typical start for a rookie. He'll be a lot better this week. He was in a hard situation, he played and just because of that, he'll improve."

Harris had two false starts at noisy St. Louis, but he performed well as a run blocker as the Niners rushed for 148 yards. More importantly, he never allowed his man to take down Garcia.

"You talk about baptism by fire – that was a great experience," Harris said. "That was probably one of the hardest places I've ever had to play. That's the best thing you can do as a rookie, is to go out there and take some real snaps. I'm better for it."

Though some might suggest otherwise, Harris isn't about to say this is the beginning of a permanent arrangement at left tackle.

"Right now, it's Deese's spot," he said. "By no means am I trying to push him out to commandeer it for myself."

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