Sideline chat

Niners general manager Terry Donahue had some interesting things to say on the sidelines before Thursday night's exhibition finale against San Diego, including the assertion that defensive end Brandon Whiting's status definitely will be determined by Sunday, whether he passes his physical with the team or not. "He'll either be with us Sunday or he'll be with Philly," Donahue said.

Here's what Donahue had to say about the Whiting situation and a variety of other subjects:

On whether the Niners are trying to get more from Philadelphia if they decide to keep Whiting on their roster by Sunday's deadline: "It's going to be difficult, but that is a scenario. You have to give to get, right?"

On when Whiting will be able to play again: "I think it's safe to say that – if he's on our roster – we would not be expecting him to play in the first game. I don't think that's going to happen. Now, what about game 2 or 5? I don't know. We just don't know that. But if he's on our roster Sunday, we wouldn't expect him to play, nor would we ask him to. Could that change? I'm going to cover myself and say sure. Athletes get better very quickly sometimes. I do believe he'll play this season. I do believe he'll regain his health and do absolutely believe he'll be a productive player this season. I'm optimistic it will be (for the 49ers). He's absolutely positive that he's going to play, and I think he's right. I don't think there's any question he's going to play."

On whether the Niners need Whiting: "We need him badly. But at the same time, when a player's injured, he's injured. You can't have somebody playing that's not healthy. They don't play well, first of all. You have to be healthy in this game to perform. It's too fast and big and volatile of a game. To put a guy out there that isn't healthy – it's not good for your team, and it's not good for him."

On what Whiting can bring to the team if he is healthy: "We have a high regard for his ability. We watched him play last year. We were very impressed. Once he gets healthy and in shape and gets the rhythm of football again. … You're talking about a player that hasn't played or been in uniform for nine months. There's going to be some rust and there's going to be some catching up to do. But I would expect he would be part of our defensive wave in the defensive line. He would be a player that would be playing a lot, and he'd be part of our wave."

On P.J. Fleck's prospects of making at least the practice squad: "Well, he's certainly done a very nice job for us this year. I don't want to speculate tonight on who's going to be on the practice squad and who isn't. But I would say that there isn't anybody around the organization that hasn't really liked the way P.J. has come in here and fit in and worked and performed. I mean, he's performed very, very well. He's such a high-energy, positive guy to be around. He is certainly going to be a consideration. We've talked about possibilities, certainly. But we haven't made those decisions yet. We've got a lot of guys that we're looking at tonight, and some decisions will be made in the next 48 hours following tonight's game."

On how the practice squad might affect how the roster shapes up: "I think there's always a natural conflict between coaches who are concerned about the organization and functioning of practice and personnel people who are concerned about developing players. It's just natural. Coaches aren't thinking as much development as personnel people are. And personnel people aren't thinking about coaching. That's not their job. So the addition of the three practice-squad guys really helps you. Because I think now, you can service both interests. The coaches can still have five guys to service practice and to function the way they feel they need to function to get prepared each week, and the personnel guys can take three guys that they feel are potential guys. The way I look at it, as I've tried to explain to our people, I'm looking at this as three extra draft picks that we get. And I'd like to get three guys on our team that will really develop and, a year from now, add them to our draft class."

On how much the plans along the defensive line will be altered because rookie Isaac Sopoaga is going on the injured reserve and will miss the season: "We're disappointed for him, and we're disappointed for us. We had high expectations for Isaac this year and it just didn't materialize with the injury. It's just one of those things. It's no-one's fault. This will give him certainly a lot of time to get healthy and get himself really, medically, a lot better off next year than he was this year. We're disappointed. We're not disappointed in him, we're disappointed he got hurt."

On whether the Niners were aware of Sopoaga's back problem before drafting him: "Oh yeah, we were aware. Our doctors didn't view it as a high risk. Our doctors, in the draft, are very conservative – very conservative. And they did not view it as a high-risk kind of a thing. Our doctors have done a really good job of red-flagging players, and we were very aware of his situation and were not really, frankly, overly concerned about it. The way the doctors have explained it, at some point in practice he got some kind of a compression-type fracture."

On what Sopoaga's loss does to the power, strength and size the Niners were hoping to add to their defensive interior: "It's a blow. But at the same time, Isaac hasn't played in the league. He's still a rookie and he hasn't played. I think you have to be realistic about these things. I mean, every team is going to lose some players. I don't want to minimize the fact that he's not with us. At the same time, I don't want to over-dramatize the fact and say that we feel like we can't play at the defensive tackle position. I mean, we wish he were here. But he's not an established starter or something like that."

On whether, with Sopoaga going on injured reserve, the Niners have to weigh where they are financially into their final roster decisions: "Do we have to weigh! I've got these things (wrinkles in his forehead) coming out more than they've ever come out. Hell, yeah. We're trying. We haven't played the season yet, and our IR list is growing. So that's why we're just hoping like crazy tonight just to get out of here and not have to eat into that amount of money that we've put aside (about $700,000 under the cap). We're really just hoping to play well tonight and get out of here without any injuries. That would be a perfect night."


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