The practice squad 8

The 49ers wasted no time signing the full complement of eight players to their practice squad, and all eight players practiced with the team Monday, including seven who had been released Sunday by the Niners in the final cutdown to a 53-man roster. Here, SFI runs down the practice-squad list and the team's objectives in keeping each player.

RB Maurice Hicks: Hicks may be the one player on the practice squad most ready to step in and play immediately if called upon. He lost out to Jamal Robertson in the battle to be the team's third halfback behind Kevan Barlow and Terry Jackson, but the Niners wouldn't hesitate to elevate him today if either of those players weren't available. He also is a developing threat as a kick returner, so the Niners were happy to find a spot for him here to continue his progress and also provide insurance depth at running back.

FB Matt Stanley: He earned a job on the developmental squad by holding his own against front-line defenders while starting the final three exhibition games in place of injured regular Fred Beasley. Stanley also provides insurance at a position where both players who made the 53-man roster - Beasley and Jasen Isom - have injury considerations entering the season.

WR P.J. Fleck: He wasn't one of the six receivers the Niners kept on their final roster, but that doesn't mean he's not one of the six best receivers on the team now that he has joined the practice squad. Fleck's 5-foot-9 size really works against him, but he has the skill and desire to make it at this level, and the team likes what he can do not only as a receiver, but also a punt returner and special-teams gunner.

CB Mike Adams: Made a run at the fifth cornerback position that ultimately went to Joselio Hanson, a graduate from last year's practice squad. Adams is a bigger prospect than Hanson who displayed some good coverage skills and a feel for the position after making the switch from safety, which he played in college. The Niners kept this guy around to see if he can continue to develop and push his way into the cornerback plans of the future.

DE Josh Cooper: Has some decent pass-rushing skills on the edge. Cooper's a little raw in other areas, and he can use the extra developmental time to increase his size and strength and improve his technique against the run.

DT Michael Landry: The Niners were quick to bring back Landry after he spent most of the spring and summer as the No. 3 tackle on their depth chart. He struggled against the run during the preseason, failing to put his 317-pound frame to optimum use in the trenches. Now he'll have time to work on his leverage and technique, and he could be called back to the active roster later in the season if he shows progress in those areas.

C Norm Katnik: The Niners liked what they saw in the undrafted rookie from USC, who was behind veterans Jeremy Newberry and Brock Gutierrez - and the recently-released Dwayne Ledford, for that matter - but now can be groomed to possibly take Gutierrez's place as the backup center next season.

OL Alonzo Cunningham. The versatile lineman was the only player the Niners brought back to the practice squad who didn't make it to the team's final cut. Cunningham was released at the cutdown to 65 players at the end of August, but that's because the Niners wanted to take a longer look at veterans such as Ledford, Scott Rehberg and Jerome Davis before making their final roster decisions along the line. Cunningham spent most of last season on the Niners' practice squad, and the team wants him there again this year to see if he can progress into a viable backup candidate.

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