Niners moving on

In retrospect, the 49ers went a week too long with Owen Pochman. "We all felt last week that he was going to come out of it," Niners coach Dennis Erickson said. "Obviously, he didn't." So, before even finding his replacement, the Niners announced they were getting rid of Pochman. They expect to have their new kicker in place at some point today. "We haven't decided what, where and when yet, but we are going to make a move," Erickson said. With injuries mounting, it might not be the only move.

Ronnie Heard, who played a fine game at free safety Sunday in Arizona after replacing starter Zack Bronson early in the game, sprained the medial collateral ligament in his left knee in overtime and is expected to be out from four to five weeks.

That leaves the Niners dangerously thin at safety, particularly with backup Dwaine Carpenter banged up and Bronson listed as questionable for this week's game against St. Louis with a neck injury that was described as a stinger.

"We have to look at some things with the injuries and see where we are at as far as some of the moves that we have to make," said Erickson, who indicated those moves will come today.

The Niners are considering elevating fourth-year veteran John Keith from the practice squad to help the safety depth. They could do so without releasing a player by putting injured tight end Eric Johnson on injured reserve, a move that has been expected for weeks but which still hasn't been made yet. On Monday, the Niners released fullback Jasen Isom from their practice squad.

The decision to move out Pochman had to be made after his poor kicking cost the Niners dearly in their 16-13 overtime loss at Arizona. Pochman's job appeared to be in jeopardy the week before after he'd missed three field goals against Tampa Bay, but the Niners felt safe enough that he could work out his problems without costing them a game against the lowly Cardinals.

They were wrong.

The likely move now is to veteran Todd Peterson, a nine-year veteran who kicked for Erickson when both were in Seattle. Erickson would not confirm that, but the coach did say Pochman's replacement "probably" would come from the three veteran kickers who tried out with the team last week - Peterson, Danny Boyd and Steve McLaughlin. Peterson has had two tryouts with the team.

The Niners say they will have nobody in for tryouts at any position today, so their new kicker almost certainly will be somebody they've already looked at.

After Pochman imploded against the Cardinals, the Niners have had three of their five losses this season directly impacted by poor performance of their kicker. Changing from Jeff Chandler to Pochman obviously didn't help in that area, which could be the difference between a 3-5 record and 6-2 for the Niners at midseason.

"If we knew the answer, we wouldn't have made all these changes," Erickson said. "We felt that Owen, because of his leg strength, could make a huge improvement in the kickoffs as well as the field goals, or else we wouldn't have signed him. That didn't happen. So we are making another change."

Better late than never. But the Niners, in this case, are hoping it's not too late.


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