After apology, Barlow may lose job

Kevan Barlow has gone and done it again. Said the wrong thing, that is. And on Monday, he had to answer for it to his teammates.

That's the way it is these days for the 49ers' embattled tailback, who may have lost his starting job this week to Maurice Hicks.

Starting in place of an injured Barlow on Sunday against Arizona, Hicks rambled for 139 rushing yards on 34 carries to spark the 49ers to their second victory – the most yards gained in a game by a San Francisco back this year. On Monday, coach Dennis Erickson said, "If Maurice Hicks is healthy, he would be the starter. It's kind of hard not to play a guy that played like he did the other day. But, we would use both him and Kevan," in Saturday's game against the Washington Redskins.

Barlow is expected to return in that game from a one-game absence caused by a concussion. Hicks is questionable with torn rib cartilage, a condition he played with throughout the fourth quarter in Arizona.

Barlow did not make the trip to Arizona with his teammates, but he was waiting for them on Monday with an apology after it came to light he had alienated several players with comments he made two weeks ago.

When asked Dec. 2 if he has any preferences on whom the 49ers should select with the several high picks they will have in the upcoming draft, Barlow replied, "I want seven offensive linemen – the first through the seventh round."

Barlow was only kidding, and he went on to say, "Shoot, it doesn't matter – whatever is going to help the team win. I don't know whether it's D-line, O-line, wide receiver, running back. Whatever helps us win."

But his half-joking comment apparently got around the locker room, and fullback Fred Beasley – who has had an acrimonious relationship with Barlow in the past – said after the game that Barlow had acted "cowardly" for making those earlier comments about the offensive line.

"Maybe he meant it another way, but the way it sounded is the way everybody took it," said Beasley, indicating the comment gave both him and the line motivation against Arizona, when the Niners rushed for 168 yards, their second-best total of the season. "You don't kick your offensive linemen like that. It hurt them. It hurt me. That's cowardly. That's something you shouldn't do, knowing you're on the same team and the offensive line is struggling. You don't want to throw alcohol on a wound."

Erickson wasn't aware of exactly what Barlow said, because he didn't read the comments. He didn't need to.

"Kevan talked to the offensive line today and to Fred," Erickson said. "Obviously, you don't say things (Barlow) said. Sometimes, there are a lot of guys that say something before they think about it. I don't think it was malicious. I don't think it was intended, maybe, the way it sounded as far as that part of it was concerned. Kevan apologized and talked to those players, and he needs to do that. He obviously has to watch what he says."

Now, he has to watch out for his job, too.

And, perhaps, watch out for his head the next time he tries to run behind those offensive linemen.

"You mean, the old ‘look out block' deal?" Erickson replied with a grin when asked if it was possible the issue would carry over to the field, where linemen might not block whole-heartedly for Barlow in the future. "No. I don't believe that. They are going to come out and compete for both guys."

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