Time for the Raiders

The preseason comes knocking on the 49ers' helmets Saturday, and after 15 whirlwind days of training camp, they are quite ready to answer the call.

--- "It's about time we play," coach Dennis Erickson said late Friday morning. "It's about time for us to hit somebody else."

--- And the fact that it's their cross-bay rival Oakland Raiders adds a little luster to the opening bell of 2004 hitting time. "This is a little bit more than a preseason game, so we'll approach it as such," left tackle Kwame Harris said.

--- Defensive end Andre Carter agreed. "I wish we could play this type of game every year with the regular season," Carter said. "It's definitely a big rivalry. It's a little bit of bragging rights, but it will be a fun game to go in there and butt heads with the Raiders."

--- The banged up Niners don't plan to play their starters too long Saturday. Erickson said they could come out after two or three series. "The biggest thing for us," Erickson said, "is that when our first groups are in there, is that we go out and play our rear ends off, do what we can do - what we learned in preseason and training camp - and execute."

--- But just as important is what happens after those starters come out. That's when the Niners will start seeing under game conditions the players they really must evaluate and make decisions on over the next three weeks.

--- "We've got to start (Saturday) in our identifying of what our team is going to be, as far as the make-up of our football team," Erickson said. "That will obviously go on for a long period of time."

--- The plan is to play Ken Dorsey at quarterback deep into the second quarter and perhaps all of the first half. Brandon Doman will take over after Dorsey, and he could play the tail end of the second quarter and deep into - or all - of the third period. The fourth quarter will belong to rookie Cody Pickett.

--- Tim Rattay? Well, as of Friday, all Erickson would say is that, "hopefully, he'll be back next week."

--- When Harris comes out after two or three series, his spot at left tackle will immediately be taken by Kyle Kosier, who will start at right guard. The Niners - who are very thin at left tackle behind Harris right now with Jerome Davis injured - don't want to have one of their untested youngsters protecting Dorsey's blind side with front-line defenders still in the game.

--- Kosier then will take a few snaps at right tackle before his evening is over, which almost doesn't seem fair to the versatile offensive lineman who is expected to be a starting guard and also the team's top backup at both tackle positions this year.

--- This will be rookie punter Andy Lee's first test in the swirling winds of Candlestick Park. Good luck, kid.

--- But Lee and the team's other punters and kickers have been tested by similar winds this summer during the team's gusty afternoon training-camp practices at the team's Santa Clara headquarters.

--- Special teams play will be key throughout the preseason. It probably will determine who becomes the final players to make the squad when it comes time to cut down to the final 53-man roster. "How they perform on special teams in the preseason," Erickson said. "That is an area that's really, really important that we study and that the guys that are trying to make this team perform well on special teams."

--- Look for some of Erickson's new offensive wrinkles to start coming out in the attack Saturday. The Niners will use more one-back and three-receiver sets, and the revised look should be apparent.

--- Look for Arnaz Battle to make his bid for the No. 4 receiving job with rookie Rashaun Woods on the mend.

--- And, last but not least, look for a lot of fresh faces - and we're talking dozens - to be competing for jobs that wouldn't have been available last year at this time on an established veteran roster that's going to look considerably different once you see it Saturday for the first time in 2004.

Niners Digest Top Stories