NFL player update
LB Napoleon Harris (knee surgery) is still hoping to be ready for the season opener. He is running well but is still struggling making some cuts."Number 1 it is a medical decision," coach Norv Turner said. "Then it is a football decision. We're not going to play someone the doctors and trainers don't feel is ready to go or if they had a chance of hurting themselves."
The likely candidate to start if Harris cannot is Tim Johnson. A special teams standout who was cut this time last year by Bill Callahan, then was brought back late in the year when the Raiders linebacker corps was stricken by injury, Johnson has made a bundle of tackles in exhibition games against second and third unit offenses.
Harris doesn't want it to come to that. "Mentally, my determination is there to make it back but physically, it's just not ready," he said Monday, noting he felt a responsibility to return to the lineup.
"I am the leader of the defense," he said. "I make the calls. It's something I take pride in doing. Since I am not out there doing it, I feel we are missing that leadership. It's been painful to just watch. I feel helpless."
TE Teyo Johnson has shown the big-play skills he was supposed to provide as a rookie. He had five catches for 91 yards and gains of 33 and 34 yards in the preseason. However, he is still sulking over the fact that he is officially No. 4 on the team's depth chart behind Doug Jolley, Roland Williams and rookie sixth-round pick Courtney Anderson.
QB Jonathan Quinn was back at practice Monday after missing the preseason finale. That had been to rest a sore left (non-throwing) shoulder. Quinn was easily the most effective of the Bears quarterbacks in the preseason with a 96.0 passer rating and a 68.6 completion percentage.
DLE Adewale Ogunleye won't play every snap Sunday but is expected to start. He will play most of the game after sitting out all of the Dolphins mini-camps and training camp practices. He was traded to the Bears on Aug. 21 and didn't practice until Aug. 24.
CB R.W. McQuarters participated in 7-on-7 drills Monday and could be available Sunday. He suffered a hamstring injury in the third preseason game.
TE Bubba Franks is missing too many blocks lately. He can handle some defensive ends by himself in the team's counter run game but too often he gets beat inside.
QB Brian Griese likely will be named the No. 2 QB over Chris Simms, due mostly to experience. Griese and Simms finished in a dead heat during the preseason. Simm's quarterback rating was 87.6 to Griese's 87.2.
WR Joey Galloway returned to practice after missing the final preseason game with a groin injury.
DE Simeon Rice will seek his third 15-sack season in a row.
LB Shelton Quarles did not play in a preseason game to protect a broken forearm. But he did not miss a practice and will start Sunday at Washington.
OLB Raynoch Thompson hasn't practiced this week because of a sprained right knee. He's apprehensive about testing it on St. Louis' artificial turf, so he'll make sure he's close to 100 percent before he plays.
FS Ifeanyi Ohalate is still nursing a sprained ankle. If he can't start, Quentin Harris will take over. Harris didn't show much range in preseason and has little experience.
RB Troy Hambrick, acquired in a trade with Oakland last week, is overweight. He's about 260 pounds, so likely will be used only in short-yardage situations and other limited ways. He needs to lose at least 10 pounds.
CB Duane Starks has returned to practice after missing two weeks with a groin strain. He's the team's best corner, so his availability was a huge boost.
DE Peppi Zellner, acquired just last week in a trade, will start at right end in St. Louis. That illustrates how desperate the team is on the defensive line.
WR Torry Holt missed the final exhibition game against Oakland because of back spasms. The team will be cautious with him in practice this week. Holt is expected to be at full strength for Sunday's opener against Arizona.
WR Isaac Bruce should benefit from the emphasis this season on illegal contact penalties. Bruce is one of the league's best at route-running.
TE Brandon Manumaleuna lost about 15 pounds in the offseason. He has blocked and played with more aggressiveness during the preseason. Improvement from Manumaleuna is one key for the offense being even more productive than it already is.
CB DeJuan Groce returned to practice Monday after injuring his knee in an Aug. 18 practice. Groce could eventually take the starting job away from Kevin Garrett, who is currently replacing the injured Travis Fisher.
QB Tim Rattay gets his fourth NFL start on Sunday. He performed well in a backup role to Jeff Garcia last season. After missing most of the team's offseason workout program with a torn groin tendon, Rattay was then sidelined for three weeks of training camp with a muscle strain his right forearm. He looked to be ready for the regular season in the team's exhibition finale, completing 7 of 8 passes for 101 yards and a touchdown against the Chargers.
RB Kevan Barlow sustained a hip pointer in the 49ers' third preseason game. He did not miss any practice time but was held out of the exhibition finale. He should be at full strength and a huge part of the offensive game plan Sunday against the Falcons.
RB Fred Beasley is listed at 50-50 for Sunday's game with a high left ankle sprain. If Beasley, a Pro Bowl selection last season, is unable to play, Jasen Isom would get his first career start.
WR Brandon Lloyd is as close to a "go-to" receiver as the 49ers have entering the season. Lloyd has shown a knack for making the acrobatic grab. He has great hands. The only questions with Lloyd are whether he can withstand the physical play of NFL cornerbacks on a week-to-week basis and whether he can gain separation from top-flight defenders.
SS Tony Parrish (calf) is scheduled to return to practice Wednesday after missing three weeks. Parrish is nearly 100 percent and is expected to play Sunday against the Falcons.
DE Brandon Whiting cleared a physical and will practice with pads on Wednesday. It will be for the first time since being acquired from the Eagles in the Terrell Owens trade. It's unlikely Whiting will play in the season opener, but coach Dennis Erickson said he thought Whiting would definitely be ready for the second game of the season.
QB Rich Gannon finally threw a touchdown pass in his final exhibition game. It was a 10-yard lob to Justin Fargas whom the Rams lost track of during a lengthy scramble.
QB Kerry Collins threw another long-range touchdown -- 60 yards -- in the preseason finale. The four exhibition touchdowns he threw covered a total of 228 yards, 57 yards a touchdown.
RB Justin Fargas has the clear track as the No. 2 back. That's after averaging more than five yards a carry in preseason. Coach Norv Turner said the goal was to get Tyrone Wheatley 20 carries a game and Fargas 10.
WR Jerry Rice only caught two passes throughout the exhibition season. But it wasn't because he was struggling. He scarcely played and was kept on an even shorter leash for a one-week period when he had to deal with a tender hamstring that has now healed.
WR Jerry Porter had seven catches for 100 yards in nine preseason series. He pronounced himself ready to take the spot of departed Raider great Tim Brown. He was only half kidding when he said his goal for the year was to produce 2,000 receiving yards.
WR Doug Gabriel didn't catch a pass in the exhibition finale. But he still led the NFL in preseason receiving yards with 238 on eight catches -- with three touchdowns and a 29.8 yard per catch average.
PK Sebastian Janikowski has picked up where he left off last year. He nailed 6-of-7 field goals, missing only a 51-yard attempt in the exhibition opener.
SS Marques Anderson was acquired from Green Bay for two draft picks to be determined. He will fill in for Derrick Gibson and was going through a crash course to prepare him to start at Pittsburgh if at all possible.
CB Charles Woodson is going through the same extra homework schedule. He is not likely to start, but is likely to play the slot in nickel and dime packages. He is still exempt as far as the roster is concerned but once he is made active, at some point this weekend, the Raiders will have to make another cut.
QB Rex Grossman faces Lions defensive coordinator Dick Jauron this week. He was the Bears' head coach the past five seasons. Grossman completed just 41.7 percent of his preseason passes.
RB Thomas Jones was outstanding in the preseason as a runner, averaging 6.5 yards per carry. But he caught just one pass for eight yards, and he is expected to be a major player in the passing game.
RB Anthony Thomas was back at practice on Monday for the first time in more than a month. It had been since he suffered a pulled abdominal muscle. He is expected to play on Sunday.
WR Bobby Wade sat out Monday's practice with a cut on his elbow from the third preseason game. He was expected back at practice on Wednesday.
WR Justin Gage was nearly invisible for most of training camp and the preseason. He had two catches for 18 yards.
TE Desmond Clark had one catch and one drop in the final preseason game. It was his first game action of the year after suffering a pulled hamstring. Clark is expected to start Sunday.
PK Paul Edinger was 7-for-7 in the preseason and easily withstood a challenge from Remy Hamilton.
MLB Brian Urlacher appears full strength at practice and should start Sunday. That's even though he missed all of the preseason with a pulled hamstring.
QB Brett Favre didn't have a great statistical pre-season (66.2 passer rating). But coach Mike Sherman said he has thrown the ball beautifully. In fact, Sherman said after the exhibition finale in Tennessee that he had never seen Favre better.
QB Doug Pederson won the backup job over Tim Couch and Craig Nall. Pederson had the best passer rating on the roster of 71.3.
RB Ahman Green sat out the exhibition finale against the Titans. However, Green said late last week that if this were the regular season or playoffs he definitely would have played. He suffered a bruised left kneecap in the third exhibition game.
RB Najeh Davenport sat out the third week of the preseason with a tight hamstring. Against Tennessee he was back to his old self, powering over tacklers and hitting the holes hard.
RB William Henderson is 33 and doing everything slower these days. However, he held off the challenge of Nick Luchey to remain the starting fullback, a job he has held since 1996.
WR Javon Walker started out the exhibition season better than he finished it. Against Tennessee, Walker tried to run a slant against CB Samari Rolle. When Rolle undercut the route, Walker gave up on the play much too soon. The ball bounced off Rolle's hands to LB Keith Bulluck, who raced 70 yards for a touchdown.
WR Donald Driver had a long reception of just 16 yards in four exhibition games. Driver looks to return to his '02 form after a mediocre '03 season.
WR Robert Ferguson was the team's best wideout this summer. He had both of the receiving touchdowns, including a 53-yarder behind CB Andre Woolfolk in Tennessee.
P Bryan Barker is expected to punt against Carolina. The Packers also kept P B.J. Sander, a third-round pick. Sander was awful all summer.
DE R-Kal Truluck was acquired from Kansas City in a trade Sunday. He is expected to line up opposite Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila in the dime defense at left end.
DT Cletidus Hunt reported to camp overweight. He also wasted the coaches' time by having to work on conditioning during some practices.
CB Ahmad Carroll or CB Michael Hawthorne will start a left cornerback for Mike McKenzie. Coach Mike Sherman won't decide until late in the week.
CB Michael Hawthorne and Ahmad Carroll will start a left cornerback for Mike McKenzie. Coach Mike Sherman won't decide until late in the week.
QB Brad Johnson said he plans to play four or five more years in hopes of winning a second title. He's completed 60 percent of his passes for eight straight seasons, tying him with Joe Montana and Steve Young.
RB Charlie Garner played in just one preseason game as a precaution to not re-injure his knee. The Bucs believe Garner can return to 2002 form when he finished with more than 900 yards both rushing and receiving.
FB Mike Alstott has recovered from surgery to repair a herniated disc in his neck. He will begin the season as a starter. He averaged more than 5 yards per carry in the third preseason game.
WR Tim Brown will start for the Bucs after 16 years in a Raiders uniform. Brown will mentor rookie receiver Michael Clayton.
WR Michael Clayton should see plenty of playing time Sunday, particularly in the red zone.
TE Ken Dilger will start ahead of Rickey Dudley and Will Heller.
PK Martin Gramatica will try to shake a poor preseason in which he made just 6-of-10 field goals.
LB Derrick Brooks was limited in the final two preseason games with a knee sprain but is healthy. He leads a defense that finished fifth overall in the NFL last season. He has started every game for the Bucs since 1996.
OT L.J. Shelton is still suffering pain from two bulging discs in his back.
QB Josh McCown improved through the preseason but still didn't throw a touchdown pass. The absence of his top three receivers hurt him greatly. McCown, however, showed great mobility and made smart decisions.
QB Shaun King threw the ball well throughout training camp. He is a nice, experienced complement to Josh McCown.
RB Emmitt Smith didn't get much work in preseason, but that was by design. He's 35 and coaches are realistic about how much of a load Smith can handle. Ideally, he'll get 15 or so carries a game and maybe five receptions.
WR Nathan Poole probably will be the third receiver. He's one of the most underrated players in the league. He's neither fast nor flashy but he has a knack for getting open and he has above average hands.
TE Freddie Jones should have a Pro Bowl season, says coach Dennis Green. Jones caught the second most passes on the team last year, but was too often an afterthought in the offense. He needs to improve as a blocker.
K Neil Rackers was great in the preseason, making 11 of 13 field goals. In the preseason finale, he was 4-for-4, all more than 45 yards.
DE Bertrand Berry is the elite pass rusher the team has lacked since Simeon Rice left in 2000. Berry should finish with double digit sacks.
QB Marc Bulger is expected to benefit from the fact that he doesn't have Kurt Warner behind him. Bulger still had problems with bad stretches in games during the preseason, something he experienced during regular-season games last year.
QB Chris Chandler was on target all summer, and also displayed more mobility than in the past. After getting over a sore arm, he finished the preseason with a flourish and has coach Mike Martz more comfortable than he was last year with Kurt Warner as the backup.
RB Marshall Faulk got through the summer unscathed. But he still has to show he can withstand the punishment of regular-season games. Faulk is expected to be utilized more in the passing game than he was last season.
RB Steven Jackson was a workhorse during the preseason, and has coaches enthused. He needs work as a blocker in blitz pickup, but is expected to contribute in red-zone and short-yardage situations.
RB Lamar Gordon returned from ankle surgery and feels healthier than he has in years. The challenge will be for coaches to find opportunities to used him in games.
WR Kevin Curtis' speed should open things up for the Rams' offense. But he is still hampered by shin splints that has the team using him in a limited capacity in practice.
TE Cam Cleeland is expected to be more of a go-to guy in the passing game. That's after being in the system for the second year. Cleeland just has to avoid the nagging injuries that have bothered him over the years.
PK Jeff Wilkins tied the NFL record with 39 field goals last season. He should be just as accurate as he was in 2003 when he missed only three field goals all season.
LB Brandon Chillar won the strong-side linebacker job in his rookie year. He overtook Tommy Polley and Tony Newson, the latter who was released.
CB Kevin Garrett opens the season as the starter, replacing Travis Fishe (broken arm). Garrett will have to hold off DeJuan Groce.
OG Chris Dishman returned to practice Monday after missing the final preseason game due to gout. Dishman sprained his ankle Aug. 27 against Washington, and the gout hit four days later. He is expected to start at left guard Sunday against Arizona.
QB Ken Dorsey was elevated to the backup job this offseason. Some in the organization believe Dorsey is the club's quarterback of the future. At some point this season it is expected he will get his chance to prove it.
WR Cedrick Wilson, a fourth-year pro, has been in the system longer than any other 49ers receiver. He will start at the flanker spot, but he will have to play well to hold onto his job.
WR Curtis Conway begins the season as the No. 3 receiver. He caught just three passes for 29 yards in the exhibition season, but coach Dennis Erickson thought it was imperative that the club have some veteran leadership at the unproven wide receiver spot.
WR Rashaun Woods missed most of training camp with separate hamstring strains. He finally showed what he can do in the final preseason game when he caught three passes for 33 yards and had a 27-yard TD catch nullified by a teammate's penalty. Woods is now battling Arnaz Battle for the team's No. 4 wideout spot.
TE Eric Johnson should be a big part of the team's passing game. Johnson should be able to take advantage of the NFL's new emphasis on illegal contact to get open for quarterback Tim Rattay, who is adept at checking down to the tight end and running backs.
PK Todd Peterson, 34, begins his 11th season in the NFL. He took over the kicking chores for the final eight games last season. The 49ers are hoping for consistency from Peterson inside 45 yards, something the team has historically lacked.
LB Julian Peterson is still adapting to defensive coordinator Willy Robinson's new system. Peterson will continue to be used in a number of different spots. When the 49ers shift to a 3-4 defense, Peterson will line up at OLB and rush the passer.
DE Andre Carter is being counted on to produce for the club this season. Carter will see time at a new position, as he will sometimes line up at OLB when the 49ers go into their 3-4 scheme.
DE Otis Leverette was claimed off waivers from the Chargers. He will give some depth to the 49ers' thin defensive line. Coach Dennis Erickson said he thought Leverette could be an immediate factor for the team.
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