First NFL start means double duty for Lewis

Second-year safety Keith Lewis has been such a valuable contributor for the 49ers on special teams that it actually prevented him from starting earlier in his career. On Sunday, with few other options at coach Mike Nolan's disposal, Lewis will get his first shot at starting against the Seahawks at Qwest Field.

Lewis likely would have been the starter after strong safety Tony Parrish went down with a season-ending injury. But Nolan opted to send newcomer Ben Emanuel out to start because he deemed Lewis more valuable on special teams.

Lewis ranks third on the team in special teams tackles, has a blocked punt and plays on every unit in the kicking game except the field-goal team.

"It was definitely frustrating," Lewis said. "I have a goal of being a starter someday in this league, so that was tough to swallow at the time. As it goes on, it makes a lot of sense. Special teams takes a lot of effort. I'm on the same page as (Nolan) when it comes to that. There's absolutely no way I could do all my stuff on special teams and still be able to perform the way I'm supposed to perform on defense. Special teams, that's a long sprint every play."

But on Sunday, Lewis will find a way to do both. He'll get his first NFL start because starting free safety Mike Adams is out with a knee injury.

Lewis probably still will see plenty of action on special teams. When Seattle quarterback Matt Hasselbeck was asked on a conference call with San Francisco-area reporters about facing a safety who also plays on several special teams, a light went on.

"I never thought of that," Hasselbeck said. "If he runs down to cover a kick, he's probably out of breath. I will go and bring that up to the coaches as soon as I get off the phone."

PLAYER NOTES

--- RB Kevan Barlow returned to practice Thursday and is expected to be available for Sunday's game, and he may even start after being upgraded to probable on Friday. Barlow missed last week's game against the Cardinals after taking a hit to his quadriceps. He said the contusion caused his left knee to ache.

--- DE Bryant Young tried to do some running at practice Thursday but does not appear ready to return to action quite yet. Young sustained MCL and cartilage tears to his right knee Nov. 20 against the Seahawks. He might be ready to return next week against the Jaguars. Young leads the team with eight sacks this season.

--- LB Brandon Moore is the 49ers' second-leading tackler with 63 this season. He also ranks second on the team with four sacks. Moore, who started four games his first three seasons in the league, already has started six games this season.

--- S Marques Anderson, whom the 49ers signed Tuesday, likely will be in uniform and filling the role as the third safety Sunday. He will be the primary backup to starters Keith Lewis and Ben Emanuel.

--- WR Johnnie Morton did not practice Thursday due to a sore Achilles tendon. He underwent an MRI examination that showed no damage, and then returned to practice Friday and was taken off the injury report. The 49ers expect him to make his 10th start of the season against the Seahawks.

--- CB Ahmed Plummer is out for Sunday's game, and he's 50-50 to play again this season, Nolan said. He received a second opinion on his left ankle this week in Florida, and the doctor concurred with the 49ers' doctors, Nolan said. Plummer is bothered by inflammation in his ankle. He will miss his 10th game of the season on Sunday.

--- LB Saleem Rasheed returned to practice Friday after sitting out on Thursday when his knee injury was aggravated in practice on Wednesday. He was upgraded from questionable to probable on the injury report.

--- FB Steve Bush suffered a concussion in the Cardinals game last week. He missed practice on Wednesday and then returned to the field on Thursday. He continued to practice but he is still feeling some effects form the injury and has been downgraded from probable to questionable on the team's injury report.


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