Gutierrez good insurance

Brock Gutierrez has developed into a pretty good insurance policy at center for the 49ers. The eighth-year NFL veteran doesn't expect that he'll be needed to replace two-time Pro Bowler Jeremy Newberry once the real games begin in September, but he'll be ready for that possibility just the same. He's also prepared to take on a heavier workload during the exhibition season now that Newberry has undergone arthroscopic surgery on his right knee.

"I always prepare as if I'm going to get a lot of playing time, and then just go with what happens," Gutierrez told SFI late Tuesday morning.

Gutierrez took all the snaps with the first-team offense during spring minicamp drills while Newberry sat out after undergoing reconstructive ankle surgery in January. He continued to take snaps with the first team once camp began as Newberry practiced only once a day.

Gutierrez started taking the majority of first-team snaps again last week when Newberry left practice after experiencing some problems underneath his right patella.

So, suffice to say, Gutierrez doesn't need to alter his approach much now that Newberry will be out for most or all of the exhibition season.

"I try to prepare every week like I'm going to be starting, and if (Newberry)'s healthy, obviously he starts," Gutierrez said. "I've always been ready to go. Either way, I want to play. Not at the cost of losing a player like Jeremy Newberry. Obviously, Jeremy is a good player. But if he can't go, I'm definitely ready to step in and play as long as I have to until he gets good and healthy to come back and do what he usually does."

Gutierrez, who spent his first six NFL seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals, was released by the Bengals last May and didn't sign with the 49ers until late into training camp. But he got plenty of work in the system in practice as Newberry was rested each week during the season due to his bum ankle. Newberry made it to the starting gate for each of San Francisco's regular-season games, but Gutierrez appeared in 13 games.

"He missed some time last year when he was trying to get healthy for Sundays," Gutierrez said. "And I took a lot of reps last year with the ones and then again this year. I think we're meshing pretty well as an offensive line.

"It's definitely different now. I came in late last year. When you come in, and you have the whole offseason with a team, you're able to learn and guys know how you communicate and you're able to communicate better and become a more effective offensive line. Playing more and learning how to communicate with one another, it just helps all the way around. Just like it is at any position, but more so probably at offensive line. Hopefully, I can step in there and get some things done and help this team out."

Niners coach Dennis Erickson is relieved to have Gutierrez in reserve. He has eight career starts at center.

"We're fortunate to have Brock Gutierrez here," Erickson said. "Brock's been around. He's been in the league for a long time and understands our system. And that's why he's here, because Jeremy doesn't practice all the time, so we have to prepare ourselves for that."

Versatile guards Dwayne Ledford and Justin Smiley also can be called upon to play center in a pinch, Erickson said. "We have four centers on our team, which is a pretty good deal to have," he said.

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