Glimpse of a T.O.-less future?
Owens is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent, and it is doubtful that the 49ers will be able to retain his services. When the season began, Owens was seeking a signing bonus in excess of $20 million. Owens has experienced an up-and-down season, which might have knocked at least $5 million off his asking price. Coach Dennis Erickson said he has gotten along well with Owens this season and enjoyed coaching him. The only issue between the two men came after the fourth game of the season, when Owens screamed at offensive coordinator Greg Knapp on the sideline and then spouted off to the media after the game. "Ever since that Minnesota game, he's really focused and concentrated and done everything we've asked, as far as on the field and off the field," Erickson said. "I have no complaints about T.O. at all. After the confrontation we all had, there haven't been problems." After Owens sustained his injury Sunday, he was spotted on the sideline chatting on his cell phone during the game. Erickson said it might be an issue that he addresses with Owens after the season. "I don't know who he was talking to or what he was doing," Erickson said. "Obviously, he did it. You'd want people to be in the game a little more, but I don't know what the situation was. I haven't talked to him." The Niners will get a glimpse of what the future could look like at receiver without Owens during Saturday's game against Seattle, when rookie Brandon Lloyd and No. 3 receiver Cedrick Wilson are expected to see increased roles to complement No. 2 starter Tai Streets But as the Niners began preparation for the Seahawks on Tuesday, center Jeremy Newberry - the team's offensive stalwart who was named the recipient of the Bobb McKittrick Award for the second time in his career - said the loss of Owens, even though it will give others an opportunity, definitely will be felt by a San Francisco offense that has been the NFL's hottest during December. "I think any time you lose a player of that caliber, I don't know if you call it a good thing," Newberry said. "If you lose one of your best players on the team and you call it a good thing. ... It will probably be good in a sense that it will help some of these younger guys grow up. It will give Tai or Ced an opportunity to be the No. 1 receiver, be the go-to guy in the majority of (offensive sets), it will help them grow as players more than anything." While Owens and fullback Fred Beasley were the only members of San Francisco's fifth-ranked offense to make the Pro Bowl this season, many observers feel Newberry has been the team's offensive MVP this year. After two straight Pro Bowl berths, Newberry was named a second alternate at center this season. But, despite playing with a torn ligament in his left ankle all year, Newberry said this has been one of his better seasons. That was reflected Tuesday when it was announced Newberry had won the McKittrick Award in a vote of the team's offensive linemen. Newberry also was honored in 2000 with the award, which is given annually to the 49ers offensive lineman who best represents the courage, intensity and sacrifice displayed by longtime offensive line coach McKittrick during his 21 years with the 49ers. "He was one of the best individuals I've known, just a great guy," Newberry said. "To win anything with that guy's name on it is definitely an honor." NOTES, QUOTES, ANECDOTES --- RG Ron Stone was considered doubtful for Saturday's game with a hyperextended and bruised right knee after leaving the Eagles game in the first half. If Stone is unable to play, second-year player Kyle Kosier will get the start. But Erickson said that Stone still "has a chance" to play against the Seahawks, and he was upgraded to questionable on Tuesday. --- RB Garrison Hearst was cleared to practice Tuesday after missing three games after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his right knee on Dec. 2. Hearst was out with the team Tuesday, but Erickson said he is "very doubtful" to play against the Seahawks. Kevan Barlow will get his fourth career start in Hearst's place, and he needs just 16 yards to reach 1,000 for the season. --- TE Jed Weaver continues to add to his career-best totals. Weaver caught three passes for 61 yards Sunday against the Eagles. Weaver is third on the team with 31 catches for 379 yards, for a 12.2 average. --- CB Ahmed Plummer practiced Tuesday and looks as if he will be available for Saturday's game. Plummer missed Sunday's game against the Eagles with a bulging disk in his back. --- WR James Jordan will be activated from practice squad to take the spot on the roster that will be made available when Owens is placed on injured reserve. --- CB Jason Webster practiced Tuesday and is expected to play Saturday against the Seahawks. Webster missed the past two games with a lung contusion. QUOTE TO NOTE: "I remember a couple years ago when we ended the season against the Saints. We were going to the playoffs and they weren't. They just folded. They didn't even come to play. For our team to come and battle when a lot of people said, 'What's the reason to play?' I think that's just awesome." -- LB Jeff Ulbrich on the 49ers' willingness to play hard with their playoff hopes gone.
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