Niners sign Bush, Rasheed as May minicamp looms

The 49ers added to their talent pool Thursday on the eve of their May minicamp, a mandatory three-day session that will see the full 2005 squad assembled for the first time under the Mike Nolan regime.

Steve Bush will be there. You might remember him. He was one of the few 49ers to make a positive impression during the final month of the lost 2004 season, rumbling through defenders with forceful blocking and intense play.

It was Bush, in fact, who scored San Francisco's final touchdown of that 2004 season, lining up as the starting fullback in place of injured Fred Beasley in the season finale at New England, then circling out of the backfield to haul in a four-yard scoring pass in the first quarter that gave the 49ers a temporary 7-0 lead over the soon-to-be repeat Super Bowl champion Patriots.

Bush, an unrestricted free agent, signed a one-year deal with the team Thursday. And, though he provided some good punch as the Niners' best blocking tight end last year during his five games with the team, it is as fullback that Bush will compete for a roster berth with the 49ers in 2005.

That makes sense, since coach Mike Nolan didn't land the fullback prospect he had hoped to find in the recent NFL draft. But Nolan did find two big tight end prospects late in the seventh round to add a dimension of better blocking to the position, allowing the team to bring the 6-foot-3, 267-pound Bush on board at fullback, though it wouldn't be surprising to see Bush get a look at H-back or tight end again if things don't work out with the rookies.

Bush will be among 17 players new to the team that assembled at 49ers headquarters during the start of April for a getting-to-know-you minicamp for the Niners' returning holdover veterans. That new group includes the team's 11-player draft class of 2005 and a collection of undrafted rookie free agents.

It also will include fourth-year linebacker Saleem Rasheed, a restricted free agent who participated in the earlier minicamp but now is more concrete in the team's plans for 2005 after signing his one-year, $656,000 tender offer on Thursday.

With the 49ers moving to a 3-4 defensive scheme that will put more emphasis on the team's linebackers, this could be Rasheed's opportunity – and perhaps final opportunity – to make an impact and show the stuff that persuaded San Francisco's previous management regime to use a high third-round pick in the 2002 draft to acquire him.

Rasheed is one of only three players from that 10-player 2002 draft class that still remains on the roster, a good indication of the roster overhaul that's taking place under Nolan and his new crew.

Nolan said during the draft two weeks ago that he wasn't sure if quarterback Tim Rattay's minor foot problem would be cleared up in time for him to participate in this minicamp. But Rattay will practice and he is expected to take most of the first-team offensive snaps along with Alex Smith, the Niners' prized rookie who recently was selected as the No. 1 overall pick in the draft.

Defensive end-turned-linebacker Andre Carter and center Jeremy Newberry – who both missed the April minicamp – also are expected to return to action, leaving linebacker Julian Peterson as the most prominent 49er who will not take part in the five practice sessions that are scheduled from Friday to Sunday morning.

Peterson's rehabilitation from his torn Achilles tendon remains on schedule, but he is not expected to return to full action with the team until training camp begins at the end of July.

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