News and views from a dysfunctional week
News: Starting backfield blasts receiver Brandon Lloyd. Views: So much for team unity. The ugly residue of losing finally is filtering through the 49ers' locker room, and it was not a pretty sight as fullback Fred Beasley called out Lloyd and tailback Kevan Barlow piled on for good measure the next day. This came as something of a surprise to those close to the team, because Lloyd hasn't possessed the appearance of a slacker. But this is the kind of thing that happens to 1-6 teams that aren't playing well. Lloyd certainly is being singled out by players who obviously don't like him or his act, but the message has now been sent to all the team's young players. Let's see how they respond. To be sure, a little locker-room shakeup can't hurt these floundering 49ers. Or can it? Now is when we start really finding out about this team's character. News: Niners dump running back Jamal Robertson. Views: Speaking of sending messages. ... When the Niners unceremoniously cut backup tailback Jamal Robertson, coach Dennis Erickson said, "I don't know that it was to send a message, to be honest with you." But we know. Of course it was to send a message - a message that jobs are on the line for those who don't perform. Robertson was a decent player who worked hard, but his fumbling problems in crucial situations became an albatross, and he wasn't really helping the team's return game any longer by running into stacks of players instead of finding openings on kickoffs. This also is a message to Barlow to pick it up after he lost his second fumble of the season and had another unproductive rushing performance last week at Chicago. Perhaps the disruption behind him on the depth chart will light a spark. When asked if coaches were sending a message by releasing Robertson, Barlow replied, "Maybe that's what they're doing. But it definitely hurts when you lose a fumble and if it's a key part of the game. But good luck to Jamal." And good luck to several other underachieving 49ers who are hanging on to their jobs by a thread. News: Jerry Rice returns to Candlestick/3Com/Monster Park. Views: I'm sorry, but it's going to be sort of difficult to see Jerry Rice running slant patterns on San Francisco turf wearing a Seahawk stripe on his helmet this Sunday. Rice has a bum ankle and is questionable for the game, but he practiced Thursday and is likely to play against the 49ers for the first time as an opponent in the stadium where he became the greatest receiver of all time. The ironic thing is that Seattle, despite Rice's diminishing skills, actually needs him because so many of its other receivers are banged up. But I'm just not sure that a hobbling Rice trying to make plays against his former team wearing Seahawks Blue, Navy and Bright Green is the last image I want of Rice on the field where he became famous. News: Rice says he'll retire - someday - as a 49er. Views: So, will Sunday's game really be Rice's last at the 49ers' home stadium? Rice has made it clear that he intends to keep playing beyond this season - even if he is running out of suitors and running against father time. It's not inconceivable that he could be back in San Francisco again next season playing against the 49ers with the Seahawks, but that's an unlikely scenario. Equally unlikely is a scenario that finds him playing a supporting role at receiver with the Niners next season, so that he can officially retire as a 49er. "I don't know about that," Erickson said. "We haven't even thought about that." Rice has thought about it, though. Niners GM Terry Donahue denied last month that he has made plans to bring Rice back so he can retire as a 49er, but Rice said that talk already has taken place. "Yes, most definitely, that I was gong to come back there to retire. Yeah," Rice said. So, there is a legitimate likelihood Rice will retire as a 49er. Just expect it to be after his playing days are over. News: Tim Rattay throwing with a healthy forearm again. Views: Last week, the guy wasn't even healthy enough to throw a pass - even though he was coming off a bye week of rest. Rattay admitted that when new problems in his forearm surfaced in practice the week before the Oct. 17 Jets game, he pushed too hard and only aggravated his problem and, ultimately, made it worse. He's going to be smarter about it now, and so is the team. "If you leave it totally up to him, he'll never come out of the huddle," Erickson said. "The biggest thing with him now is I want him ready to go on Sunday. We just have to moderate what he does in practice. He needs to be involved with something every day, but we've got to really monitor where he's at every day and kind of control what he does. This is kind of how it's going to go as the year goes on until (team doctors) investigate this thing and find out why did this happen and why is it happening." The investigation will continue Monday when Rattay undergoes a series of new tests to determine what exactly is the mystery ailment in a forearm that has bothered him twice this year in different areas. "(Team doctor Michael Dillingham)'s talked to a lot of hand specialists and all that stuff, and they've never seen anything like this. I guess I've got that going for me," Rattay cracked. Like everybody else, Rattay is thinking wistfully about what could have been this year - and what could still be - if he had a pain-free throwing arm. News: Andre Carter finally returns to the lineup. Views: So the defense finally gets one of its top playmakers back. Will it make a difference? You bet it will make a difference. The Niners will ease Carter back into the lineup in nickel and dime situations, and they'll move him around the field as they had planned before the season started. The Oct. 4 surgery to remove a cyst that was pressing against his sciatic nerve has appeared to cure Carter's back problems, so once he gets his football legs back, he could quickly become a force again on a defense that needs help in its pass rush, a department in which Carter has 19 sacks over the past two seasons. Like Rattay's forearm, the Niners - and Carter - will monitor his back closely to avoid flare-ups. "You only have one back," Carter said. "There's going to be lots of communication with me, the coaches and the training room and we all just have to be on the same page. But I made it through these (practice) days and I feel awesome. It feels like every day I'm progressing and getting better. The coaches know I can contribute." Don't we all, Andre. And this certainly is a team that needs all the contributions it can get.
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