Disappointing Woods placed on injured reserve

The 49ers placed receiver Rashaun Woods on injured reserve Tuesday, leaving observers to wonder if the team was just looking for a way – any way – to keep the disappointing second-year receiver on the 2005 roster without having him actually burn a spot on the team's 53-man roster.

If that's so, then mission accomplished.

And it might not be a stretch to suggest this could be the first step toward dumping Woods from the roster at some point next year.

To be fair, Woods damaged ligaments in his thumb last week during practice, and he underwent surgery on the thumb Monday, after which the team made the decision to end Woods' sophomore NFL season before it even got started. Woods was inactive for each of San Francisco's three games this year.

Woods, however, was able to practice with the injury last week before a further examination determined he would need surgery. Woods, after missing much of training camp with leg problems, finally realized that he had to keep pushing to get on the practice field to get an opportunity in games – and perhaps even keep his job with the team.

That will be an issue for 2006 now. By placing him on injured reserve, the Niners won't have to face the consequences of releasing Woods outright, which was something the team was considering during the summer as Woods didn't practice and failed to make any impact in the preseason when he did finally get in games.

The 49ers would have absorbed an immediate hit of almost $2.5 million against their salary cap had they waived Woods this year and he was signed by another team. Essentially, that detail all but guaranteed the 49ers would keep Woods on their roster this season.

Woods finally had his breakout party in San Francisco's preseason finale at San Diego, producing game-high totals of eight receptions for 89 yards, and that seemed to secure his place on the roster as the 49ers opted to keep six receivers on their final 53-man squad and go light at other positions.

But Woods was no better than the fifth receiver on the depth chart, and the 49ers opted to activate unpolished rookie Rasheed Marshall as their fifth receiver in Sunday's game against the Dallas Cowboys.

That may have been because of Woods' thumb injury. It also may have been because the new coaching regime is fed up with Woods and has absolutely no confidence at all that he can help the team.

That will be something everybody can wonder about now until 2006 as the 49ers have temporarily shelved the Rashaun Dilemma and what they plan to do with the 2004 first-round draft choice.

He may get a fresh start to prove what he can do next spring. But then again, that's what this season was supposed to be.


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