Players, assistants react with little surprise

There was little surprise from 49ers players and assistant coaches after Wednesday's big shakeup that saw Dennis Erickson and Terry Donahue leave the organization. But there was some remorse for Erickson and uncertainty about what lies ahead, though the prevailing belief is that owner John York did what he needed to do to move the team in the right direction.

Defensive line coach Dan Quinn is just glad to have this shady episode in team history behind him and everybody else. The last three days – since this nightmarish season ended last Sunday in New England – has seemed like an eon.

"It certainly seems like we played the Patriots two months ago," Quinn said. "It's hard to believe that game was Sunday. All the speculation wears on you. People call all the time and want to know what's happening and my only response has been, "I don't know.'' At the end, you just want to know, where are we headed? What's the next stop?"

Those and other questions still are to be answered for many assistants, all of whom currently remain under contract with the 49ers for 2005. It's the same for several players who now will be analyzed by a new head coach and new management regime.

But most everybody has seen Wednesday's events coming for at least the past month.

"I wouldn't say that I'm surprised," running back Kevan Barlow said. "There's been a lot of speculation in the locker room, and lots of little birdies whispering that things were going to happen."

Barlow appeared to endorse the moves without exactly coming right out and saying so.

"I understand we had some players injured," he said, "but I believe we were a much better team than we showed. I wouldn't say that we were a Super Bowl team, but we shouldn't have been 2-14. We shouldn't be having the No. 1 pick in the draft. I don't know if it was the coaching or the players, but we didn't live up to our potential.

"I support our owner. Dr. York is showing fans and showing players that he wants to go in the right direction. He's taking positive steps. Dr. York never owned a football team, and it's taken him some time. But he's doing the best he can. He's showing fans that he wants to win, and that he's willing to take positive steps."

Other players echoed those sentiments.

"I really think Dr. York is doing what he said he is trying to do: I think he's helping us have a chance to win," kicker Todd Peterson said. "Look, all a player wants to do is win. If you're in this job with any integrity, then you don't care anything about personal accomplishments or statistics. All you want to do is win the Super Bowl."

Said linebacker Derek Smith, "(York) talked to me earlier this season and looked me right in the eye and said we're going to get this thing right and we're going to get things turned around. I really think he's making an effort (to improve the team)."

Peterson, who played previously for Erickson in Seattle, had one of the closest relationships with the coach of any other player on the team.

While he's sorry to part ways with his beloved coach, Peterson said nobody need worry about Erickson.

"I've played long enough to know that stuff like that happens," said Peterson, an 11-year NFL veteran. "I know coach E will be fine. I know he'll do well in whatever his next role is. Everybody knows he's a good coach. He won (two) national championships (in college) and we were a playoff-contending team when we were in Seattle. I had a great run with Dennis, but I think, one way or another, Dr. York is doing what he feels is best for the team."

So what's next for players and assistants?

Well, they can expect at least a short period in limbo before the organization hires its next head coach, and then works down – and up – from there to fill in the blanks and provide those answers.

"As an assistant coach, it's a spot where you're not sure where you fit in," Quinn said. "But it's part of the game, unfortunately, and we chose to do this job. We have to wait and see where things stand."

Said Smith, somewhat cryptically, "Under the circumstances, anything can happen. Maybe the surprises aren't over yet."

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