Niners on WR watch

As the 49ers head into their summer break after concluding organized team practices last week, the team continues to be in the market for a veteran wide receiver, and coach Mike Nolan said the Niners would pursue all avenues to add another wideout to the mix.

The 49ers have shown interest in free-agent receiver Johnnie Morton, whom the Chiefs recently released, but the club has determined that Morton is asking for too much money. But the team is in serious need to add another established veteran to the mix, and it will be on the lookout for that kind of player at the right up until training camp begins July 29.

Third-year veterans Brandon Lloyd and Arnaz Battle currently hold down the starting positions on the team's depth chart. In a true indication of the state of the unit at this point, the receiving talent and experience on the roster falls off dramatically after those two, neither of whom have exactly established himself as legitimate NFL receiving threat.

The 49ers recently added unheralded third-year veteran Jason McAddley to the mix, but Nolan said the No. 3 job as of today would be a competition between second-year players P.J. Fleck and Rashaun Woods.

The team was hoping to groom second-year player Derrick Hamilton as its No. 3 receiver this summer, but he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during a workout late last month and probably will miss the entire 2005 season.

Fleck is an undrafted player who has impressed the coaching staff with his will and desire. Woods, the team's top pick last year, is just now showing some positive signs, but has been slow to come around this year under the team's new coaching regime.

Woods has a laid-back, quiet personality that has been difficult for last year's and this year's coaching staffs to figure out. Nolan said he has been trying to break through with Woods and has started to see some promise there.

"I think as he's been coached by (receivers coach) Jerry Sullivan and he's been excited about that, he knows he's getting better," Nolan said. "Jerry has given him a lot of positive attention, as well. I think he's come out of his shell a little bit."

Woods caught just seven passes for 160 yards and a touchdown last season, yet he's the No. 3 returning wideout this season. Lloyd caught 43 passes for 565 yards and six touchdowns, while Battle had eight catches for 143 yards.

Besides McAddley, who was used primarily as a kick returner by the Tennessee Titans last year, those three are the only receivers on the San Francisco roster to catch a NFL pass.

The 49ers lost their two most established veterans from 2004 – and their combined 85 receptions last year – during the offseason. Cedrick Wilson led San Francisco wideouts with 47 catches last year, and the team was interested in bringing him back, but he left the team during the offseason to sign a free-agent contract with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Conway, a 12-year veteran with 594 career receptions who also is an unrestricted free agent, still is available, but the team hasn't been interested because – at age 34 – he no longer fits into San Francisco's rebuilding plans.

The team might not be so choosy the closer it gets to the season. The other three receivers currently on the roster are rookies, two of them low-round draft picks who didn't distinguish themselves at the position in college.

IN THE CONTINUING RESHAPING of the 49ers' personnel and scouting departments, the team has named Tom Gamble as its new director of pro personnel.

Gamble will oversee all aspects of San Francisco's pro personnel department, including structure and free agency. He also will help to improve the team depth-wise on the pro personnel front by evaluating and knowing every team's roster.

Gamble with work with and under head coach Mike Nolan and vice president of player personnel Scot McCloughan.

"We are excited that Tom Gamble has joined our personnel department," 49ers coach Mike Nolan said. "Tom will be instrumental in putting together our team from a pro personnel standpoint. He comes from a football family and has a great deal of both pro personnel and college experience."

Gamble comes to the 49ers after working the last seven seasons as an area scout for the Indianapolis Colts. He worked in 1997 as a part-time scout for the Carolina Panthers while also working as a pro scout with the Baltimore Ravens.

Gamble entered the NFL as an assistant in the player personnel department of the Philadelphia Eagles in 1986. He stayed with the Eagles through 1994, serving as an area scout, handling contract negotiations, and later as director of pro scouting. Gamble also served as a defensive quality control coach with the New York Jets from 1995-96.

THE FIRST ROUND OF the 49ers' diversity training did not go so well for the team.

Many players were not informed of a diversity workshop that was scheduled after practice on June 7. Then, when the meeting ran in violation of the rules governing organized team activities, player representative Ahmed Plummer informed his teammates they could leave if they wished. Twenty-eight mostly veteran players of the 67 at practice that day left the meeting with about an hour remaining in the three-hour presentation, coach Mike Nolan said.

The 49ers said there are two more diversity training sessions scheduled, which will require full participation from all of the team's players. The sessions were scheduled before the release of the 49ers' scandalous in-house video that was presented to players last year as a media training tool.

The video, the brainchild of former public relations director Kirk Reynolds, was intended to be a comedy to be viewed only by the players. But it included insensitive material toward Asian-Americans and gays and lesbians and has become a huge embarrassment to the organization, which earlier this week conducted a second community meeting to discuss – and apologize for – the videos.

At that meeting, before an overflow crowd at a Chinatown community hall in San Francisco, 49ers owner John York said, "The 49ers want to apologize directly to you for this very offensive, tasteless and stupid training video. We are here to listen to you and incorporate your ideas to make sure this never happens again."

THE 49ERS GOT AN early start on signing their 11-player draft class when tight ends Billy Bajema and Patrick Estes – selected on back-to-back picks in the seventh-round in April – inked deals with the team last week.

Typically, the Niners don't begin signing their draft picks until the weeks leading up to training camp in July.

Estes, the No. 248 overall pick out of Virginia, signed a four-year deal and Bajema, the No. 249 selection out of Oklahoma State, agreed to a three-year deal.

Both players were drafted as tight ends, but the club has already moved Estes to offensive tackle.


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