49ers notes

The 49ers feel a lot better than a year ago about their depth in the defensive backfield, but coach Mike Nolan is not altogether satisfied with the depth chart. In fact, he said he visits regularly with vice president of player personnel Scot McCloughan to check up on the possibility of adding potential starters to the mix before training camp opens in late July.

"I'm on him hard about trying to find some guys on the back end," Nolan said. "We're turning over a lot of stones."

The 49ers are in good salary-cap shape, and they believe they will have more options available to them when some veteran players shake free in June.

The 49ers have two players in the secondary the team envisions as no-questions-asked starters: cornerback Shawntae Spencer and strong safety Tony Parrish, who might not be ready to get back on the field until training camp after sustaining a spiral fracture of his left lower leg in November.

But there are plenty of questions about the other two spots. Two-year veteran Mike Adams is the frontrunner to start at free safety after making nine starts there last season. Rookie Marcus Hudson, a sixth-round draft pick from North Carolina State, appears to have the ability to challenge for a starting job in training camp.

Another of the team's big concerns is at cornerback. Last season, the 49ers were forced to turn to several players who did not even go to training camp with the club to fill important roles. Bruce Thornton started 11 games, B.J. Tucker saw action in six games after the 49ers picked them up after they had been cut elsewhere.

This year, the 49ers have more depth at cornerback. Mike Rumph returns from a foot injury that ended his season after three games; 10-year veteran Walt Harris was signed as a free agent, and Sammy Davis was acquired in a trade with the Chargers. Currently, Harris is listed as the top player on the depth chart.

The current 49ers coaching staff has never really gotten a look at Rumph as a cornerback. The former regime selected him with the No. 27 overall pick in the 2002 draft. He spent his first three seasons in the league as a cornerback, but last year the 49ers tried unsuccessfully to convert him to free safety. After three games, Nolan decided to move Rumph back to cornerback. But Rumph sustained a season-ending torn plantar fascia in practice that week, ending his season.

"They haven't seen me," Rumph said of the coaching staff. "My first day at corner I got injured. It's an audition. I'm coming in like it's my first day and I'm starting all over again. I understand the coaching staff. They've never seen me at the position, so I don't have any credibility with these guys."

NOTES, QUOTES

--Coach Mike Nolan would like to pay homage to NFL coaches of the past, including his father, Dick, by wearing a suit on the sideline. He said he is not alone.

Nolan said this week that several other NFL coaches would like the opportunity to wear something more dignified than the Reebok-issued gear that coaches must fashion during games. Reebok representatives will visit with Nolan in June to discuss some compromises that could be used this season.

--The 49ers offseason program has given receiver Antonio Bryant an opportunity to mesh with quarterback Alex Smith, who has just one NFL season under his belt. Bryant signed a four-year, $13.9 contract on March 14, and he began working out at the team's Santa Clara, Calif., practice facility the next week.

"We've hung out," Bryant said of his rapport with Smith. "And just getting on field, we're getting better every week. Now I think full swing of things."

Bryant said the team's recently completed minicamp gave the tandem a nice opportunity to work together because of the defensive players on the field.

"It's about working together and showing dependability," Bryant said. "If he puts the ball here, this is where I'll be."

--Tight end Vernon Davis obviously would like to report to training camp on time this summer, but his agent says in the grand scheme of things it makes little difference.

"You're always trying to avoid a holdout, but I don't think it really matters," agent Ethan Lock said. "I know (49ers chief negotiator) Paraag Marathe is one of the smartest guys in the league. We'll get something done."

Last year, Lock had a client fail to report to training camp on time because of a contract stalemate. Defensive end Erasmus James held out of Vikings training camp 10 days before reaching contract terms.

--The 49ers were rumored to have their eye on Steelers restricted free-agent cornerback Ike Taylor, who started 15 games for the Super Bowl champs. But Taylor signed his one-year tender with the club, though he would like a long-term deal before becoming an unrestricted free agent at the end of 2006. The 49ers say there will not be a trade.

--The 49ers will not hold another minicamp before the club reports July 27 for training camp. The 49ers' first day of training camp practice is set for July 28. The 49ers will again hold training camp at the team's practice facility in Santa Clara, Calif. Nolan prefers holding camp at a different location, so it is possible the 49ers could find a new summer home for 2007.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "He'll add something to our football team first and foremost which I'm excited about. He's an experienced guy. He's won a Super Bowl as the quarterback on that team. But his experience, I think, will be widespread as far as the people it touches on this team. It should touch Alex (Smith)" -- 49ers coach Mike Nolan on the acquisition of veteran quarterback Trent Dilfer.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

The 49ers have four quarterbacks on their roster, and that does not include Michael Robinson, the Penn State quarterback-turned-running back that coach Mike Nolan said at some point in the future could serve as club's No. 3.

The first two spots on the depth chart look secure heading into training camp with Alex Smith and Trent Dilfer, who was acquired in a trade with the Browns for Ken Dorsey and a seventh-round draft pick. Cody Pickett, who started two games last season, appears as the favorite to win the third-string job. But Pickett will get solid competition from Jesse Palmer, who spent three games on the 49ers' roster last season but did not appear in a game. Palmer threw the ball impressively during the team's recent three-day minicamp, and might have a chance to win a job if Pickett does not make enough progress to satisfy the team's front office and coaching staff.


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