A few weeks ago, Nolan all but ruled out the possibility of the 49ers signing the controversial free agent, saying it is a matter of trust with his team and staying true to what he says he wants his team to look like. Boston finally signed a one-year contract with the Dolphins, two months after the team cut him for failing a physical as he recovered from season-ending knee surgery. Boston missed all of last season after injuring his left knee during a training camp practice in Houston on Aug. 6. He spent the entire season on injured reserve, twice running into problems off the field. The once-enticing prospect of bringing in Boston to bolster San Francisco's receiving corps essentially leaves the 49ers back where they started at the position in March after losing veteran Cedrick Wilson - the team's leading receiver among wideouts in 2004 with 47 catchers - to Pittsburgh via free agency. Although split end Lloyd is the top returning wideout - he had 43 receptions for 565 yards and six touchdowns last year - the No. 1 spot right now appears to belong to flanker Arnaz Battle. He will be able to handle the blocking chores of the flanker position, and he is better at going over the middle. "If anybody is performing a little more consistently, it would have to be Arnaz," Nolan said. The biggest disappointment of the group continues to be Rashaun Woods, who was the team's first-round pick last year. Woods rarely got on the field as a rookie, catching just seven passes. When asked who would be the No. 3 receiver behind starters Battle and Lloyd right now, Nolan said there was competition for that spot between second-year players Derrick Hamilton, a third-round draft pick, and undrafted P.J. Fleck. Rookies Rasheed Marshall, who played quarterback at West Virginia, and 6-foot-3 speedster Marcus Maxwell of Oregon are also in the mix for roster spots. Despite the lack of experience at the position, Nolan said he is not expecting to add anyone of note in June, when teams are expected to release some veterans for salary-cap purposes. "There is always a possibility, but I don't foresee that right now, in all honesty," Nolan said. TEAMMATES FRED BEASLEY and Kevan Barlow last season questioned Lloyd's commitment to the team and game. This offseason, Lloyd cut a rap CD, causing some to wonder if his priorities aren't a little skewed. "Some guys work on their degrees in the offseason and some guys work on their rapping," Nolan said. "Hopefully, it's a career after football, not during. As long as it's not a distraction to his job, there is time in the day for those guys to do some other things." NOLAN SAID HE will have no teacher's pets in his first year as coach. Generally, a draft pick or acquisition during the former regime does not get the kind of breaks that a player the new coach brings in. But Nolan disputes the notion that there are "his guys" and players who belong to former general manager Terry Donahue. "When I took this job, they are all my guys," Nolan said. "I don't have any favoritism to guys I drafted or favoritism toward the free agents. If somebody makes us better, that guy moves right up the line. If you make a mistake, you got to move on. I'm not going to protect any bad decisions I've made." ALTHOUGH NOLAN ADMITS it is difficult to make any kind of assessment on offensive linemen when they're not wearing their pads, the team felt optimistic a couple rookies provide an upgrade this season. The 49ers spent the first pick of the second round on guard/center David Baas of Michigan. Then, they traded up eight spots late in the third round to snare tackle/guard Adam Snyder of Oregon. Both could work their way into the starting lineup this season. "The two rookies we brought in are both going to compete and make us better," Nolan said. Baas will likely be the team's starting right guard, as he competes there with Eric Heitmann, who played every snap last season at left guard. Snyder can play right tackle, where he'd compete against Kwame Harris, or left guard, where he'd be up against Justin Smiley and Heitmann. Heitmann has been responsive to some of the things new offensive line coach George Warhop wants from his offensive linemen. "He has done a great job in the offseason program," Nolan said. "He has gotten a lot stronger, which was one of the knocks on him." All the changes on the offensive line, beginning with the free-agent signing of left tackle Jonas Jennings, has veteran center Jeremy Newberry optimistic for the coming season. Newberry said he is feeling as well as he's felt in several years after missing 15 games last season with knee and back problems. "I think you'll see a different mentality," Newberry said. "We are certainly making it a priority to run the ball this year." Only two teams in the NFL had fewer yards rushing last season than the 49ers, who before last season had ranked among the NFL leaders in rushing yards dating back to 1998. THE 49ERS WILL open their second consecutive training camp at their in-season practice facility in Santa Clara, Calif., when players report on July 28. The first practice sessions begin the next morning. Nolan talked as if he'd like it to be the last time training camp is held so close to home. Nolan said he likes the camaraderie that training camp builds on a team, and doubts it will be as effective if the club remains in the area. He said there are many advantages to training elsewhere. "It's all football typically, no distractions," Nolan said. "They don't have people pulling at them to do different things." JED YORK, THE 24-year-old son of owner John York, became a full-time member of the organization last week. York, who many believe will take over as team president before his 30th birthday, will spend time in every area of the organization learning about the operation of the team. He will start off with the training staff. ANDRE CARTER RECORDED 12.5 sacks in 2002 and appeared destined to be one of the better pass rushers in the NFL. But his production has dropped off the last two seasons, due partly to injuries. He has recorded 8.5 sacks in his last 22 games. There were plenty of questions whether he would fit into the team's new 3-4 scheme, and his name surfaced in trade talks around draft time. If the team's first full-squad minicamp was any indication, Carter will have a significant role with the team this season. "Andre Carter is guy that early on everybody said, 'How's he going to fit?'" Nolan said. "He's going to fit extremely well." Nolan said the 49ers are looking at Carter to fill the old pass-rush specialist role that the organization employed with Fred Dean and Charles Haley. Carter and Jamie Winborn, both listed as outside linebackers, will have different roles. Nolan said that both occasionally will be on the field at the same time.
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