Niners may go shopping for defender

<P>The 49ers might be in the mood for a little post-Christmas shopping later this week. With starting defensive end Chike Okeafor on the shelf with a fractured right fibula that likely will keep him out the remainder of the regular season, the Niners are in the market for a veteran that can take his place on the roster. </P>

Okeafor was injured in the first quarter of Saturday's 13-3 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles, leaving the 49ers with only six active defensive linemen. That number dropped to five when reserve end Bobby Setzer left the game later with a concussion. The Niners, who have enjoyed a relatively injury-free season, have played with just 51 players on their active roster since late October due to salary-cap limitations.

Coach Steve Mariucci said on Sunday the team has saved enough money under the cap since then to sign a veteran should such a need arise. "We've got two roster spots left on this team where we can add without having to cut anybody," Mariucci said. "We've been going short and saving pennies in case we have to go in and get another guy. Well, we probably need to go in and get another guy. We've saved enough money that it can be a veteran."

Okeafor is listed as doubtful for next Sunday's game against the Dallas Cowboys. Mariucci indicated it's likely the 49ers will be without the third-year end for that game and "it could be a while" before he is ready to return to action. The 49ers already have clinched a playoff berth and will likely open the playoffs as a wild card on the first weekend of the NFL postseason. Okeafor, who had a career-best 2.5 sacks last week against Miami, said he hopes to return for the playoffs.

 John Engelberger replaced Okeafor on Saturday and had one of San Francisco's three sacks against the Eagles. Engelberger started the 49ers' first 12 games at left end before being replaced in the starting lineup by Okeafor two weeks ago. Engelberger continues to be hampered by a heel injury.

"It looks like Chike will be out and (Engelberger) hasn't been practicing much, nursing that heel," Mariucci said. "So we may add a defensive lineman this week. Whether he's going to be in the rotation and play, that remains to be seen. It depends on who it is. But we at least need another body to practice and give us some (repetitions). It'll be a roster spot."

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