Inside the 49ers

Although there are indications that 49ers coach Dennis Erickson will have to make some major concessions, he said he is convinced he will be back next season with the 49ers. In fact, he said the final two games of the season will have no bearing on his future with the organization.

"I've been told I'll be back," Erickson said. "Things can change. I plan on being the coach here next year."

Erickson's future with the 49ers looked uncertain a week ago when he interviewed with officials from the University of Mississippi. Southern California assistant head coach Ed Orgeron was hired, and Erickson remained with the 49ers.

Erickson is concluding the second year of a five-year, $12.5 million contract with the 49ers. Despite his confidence that he will be back, club sources are still saying the issue will hinge on the stance he takes with his coaching staff.

Owner John York has made it clear that he expects some assistants to be fired after the season. Erickson has been adamant that he has the coaching staff that he wants. He also has it in his contract that he gets to hire and fire his own coaches.

But where things could get interesting is if York asks him to part ways with some of his coaches, and Erickson refuses. It is possible that Erickson and York could reach a settlement to part ways.

--- The 49ers will enter the draft next April with approximately 12 selections - one in each round, four compensatory picks they expect to be awarded for losing players via free agency, and a sixth-round pick they'll receive from the Philadelphia Eagles in the trade involving receiver Terrell Owens.

With one loss in their final two games, the 49ers will secure the No. 1 overall pick in the draft. However, the early analysis is that this draft is not regarded as a talent-rich collection of players.

The 49ers obviously need a lot of help, considering their 2-12 record. It was no surprise the organization that averaged 5.6 players on the NFC Pro Bowl team the last 23 seasons was shut out when the rosters were announced on Wednesday.

With so many holes on the roster, general manager Terry Donahue said there are no positions that are off-limits if the 49ers do, in fact, draft a player with the No. 1 overall pick.

--- Tight end Eric Johnson had mixed emotions about being named as the NFC's first alternate at his position. Johnson leads all NFC tight ends with 77 catches, but Atlanta's Alge Crumpler and Dallas' Jason Witten nudged him out of a spot on the Pro Bowl roster.

Fullback Fred Beasley, who was selected to his first Pro Bowl last year, was also named as a first alternate for the Feb. 13 game in Honolulu.

Defensive tackle Bryant Young and special-teamer Arnaz Battle were both selected as third alternates.

--- QB Tim Rattay will not play again this season because of a plantar fascia injury. The 49ers want to take every step to assure he won't have a repeat of an injury-plagued season next year. Erickson said he believes the reason Rattay experienced so many injuries this season is because of a groin injury sustained in May that prevented him from being in top shape.

Rattay has missed the last two games with a partially torn plantar fascia. If he returned and sustained a further injury to the underside of his foot, it might set back his conditioning program six months.

Rattay started nine games this season, and Ken Dorsey will make his sixth start on Sunday against the Buffalo Bills. The 49ers are position to hold the No. 1 overall pick, and the club has to decide whether it wants to invest in a quarterback high in the draft.

"We need to look at every position, that being one of them," Erickson said of the quarterback position.

Dorsey completed 20 of 38 passes for 206 yards with two touchdowns and four interceptions. Rookie Cody Pickett will serve as the backup for the final two games, but Erickson said the seventh-round pick from Washington is not ready to play unless Dorsey goes out with an injury.

"It's not in the best interest of him or us to have him start at quarterback right now," Erickson said.

--- The 49ers want to see a lot of Rashaun Woods in the final two games of the season.

The rookie wide receiver has caught just three passes for 67 yards this season. He was inactive for the 49ers' game Saturday against the Redskins despite being completely healthy.

There is also a chance that rookie receiver Derrick Hamilton, a third-round pick who has not suited up for a game this season, could take the game-day spot of Arnaz Battle, who is questionable for Sunday's game with a thigh bruise.

"You want to win, but if things are close we got to take a look at some of these (young) guys," Erickson said.

--- LB Jeff Ulbrich was named the winner of the Matt Hazeltine Award, given annually to the team's most courageous and inspirational defensive player.

Ulbrich is having his best season in the pros, with a career-high 144 tackles. Ulbrich showed his determination Saturday against Redskins guard Derrick Dockery, a 350-pounder. Ulbrich, a 250-pounder, had to continually take on the guard.

"I had to sprint full speed into him at least 10 plays," Ulbrich said. "After awhile you start seeing multiple."

--- Erickson on Philadelphia receiver Terrell Owens undergoing ankle surgery that might end his season: "I was very disappointed for Terrell. He was having a great year and playing extremely well, and hopefully he can be back if they go to the Super Bowl. I was very disappointed when I saw that. It looked ugly on TV. He's worked hard and doesn't deserve that."

BY THE NUMBERS: .444 -- Win percentage of the 49ers' opponents this season, which would give them the tie-breaker edge for worst strength of schedule in any tie-breaker for the No. 1 overall draft pick.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I don't think we're worried about being a spoiler, we're more interested in ending the season on a high note and giving people something to be excited about for next season." -- 49ers QB Ken Dorsey on Sunday's game against the playoff-contending Buffalo Bills.


The 49ers placed their fifth defensive starter on injured reserve this week as defensive end Andre Carter underwent back surgery for the second time this season. Earlier this season, Carter missed six games and had surgery to remove a cyst that was pressing up against a nerve in his back. He underwent a similar surgery on Wednesday.

"They don't think it's serious, but they are going to go in and look," 49ers coach Dennis Erickson said.

With Carter out for the final two games, the 49ers signed defensive lineman Corey Smith off the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' practice squad. Andrew Williams will start at defensive end in place of Carter.

Carter joins linebacker Julian Peterson, cornerbacks Mike Rumph and Ahmed Plummer, and defensive end Brandon Whiting on the injured reserve list.

--- OL Kyle Kosier, who split time at left tackle and right guard this season, was named the winner of the Bobb McKittrick Award, given annually to the offensive lineman who best exemplifies the dedication, excellence and commitment of the former line coach.

--- LB Saleem Rasheed, scheduled to be a restricted free agent at the end of the season, will get the second start of his career because of a season-ending injury to Jamie Winborn. Winborn sustained a broken right scapula in the 49ers' loss last week to the Redskins.

--- FB Fred Beasley, who made the Pro Bowl last season as one of the game's dominant lead-blockers, was announced as the first alternate behind Green Bay's William Henderson.

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