Niners notebook

The 49ers have taken their time working safety Tony Parrish back onto the practice field. They're taking no chances because the ninth-year veteran represents the team's really only proven commodity in the defensive backfield.

Parrish returned to the practice field June 12 for the final week of the 49ers' organized team activities at their practice facility in Santa Clara. It was the first time he stepped on the field with his teammates since sustaining a broken left ankle Nov. 13 against the Chicago Bears.

Parrish's return is a key for a 49ers defense that is thin at safety. He is coming back after sustaining a broken ankle, a separation between his tibia and fibula, and a spiral fracture that ran approximately six inches up his fibula.

Before the injury, Parrish had started the first 121 games of his career, the longest streak by a defensive back since Herman Edwards, who began his career in 1977 with the Philadelphia Eagles.

The 49ers have been deliberate in getting Parrish back on the field, but Parrish said he wanted to get out there before training camp opens in late July so he could establish a baseline for his physical health.

"Once I was put on (injured reserve), I wasn't racing anything," Parrish said. "It's not like I was trying to beat the clock to get back."

Parrish was not the only 49ers player who saw an increased workload in the non-contact practices. Running back Kevan Barlow returned to the practice field last week after arthroscopic surgery on his left knee, and running back Frank Gore saw more action as he returns from surgeries to repair torn labrums in both shoulders.

Also, backup quarterback Trent Dilfer, acquired this offseason in a trade with the Cleveland Browns for Ken Dorsey and a seventh-round draft pick, got more snaps in the 7-on-7 portion of practice. Dilfer underwent February surgery to repair a partially torn patellar tendon in his right knee.

--- Parrish was a hot-shot youth soccer player, but then he made the decision as a freshman in high school (Huntington Beach, Calif.) to go with American football.

"It's been the catalyst for the weight gain," Parrish said, "but other than that, I can't complain."

Yes, results have been pretty good for Parrish, who has played eight seasons in the NFL. But after his football career concludes, he plans to get more involved in soccer.

"When I'm done playing, the World Cup is on the top of my list of places I want to go," Parrish said.

--- In 2004, the 49ers rewarded cornerback Ahmed Plummer with a hefty free-agent contract that included $11 million in guaranteed money. Last week they received a letter officially notifying them of his retirement from the NFL.

He played just nine games for the 49ers after the big contract because of injuries, but people in the organization believed Plummer lost his desire to play after signing the big contract. He played six games in '04 because of a neck injury. Last season, he missed the final 13 games after having bone chips removed from his ankle.

Plummer was a first-round draft pick in 2000, and he spent his entire career with the 49ers. The club released him in February.

--- The 49ers waived receiver P.J. Fleck, but 49ers coach Mike Nolan said he would like to keep him in the organization, possibly as an entry-level coach.

Fleck spent most of 2004 on the 49ers practice squad after being signed as an undrafted free agent from Northern Illinois. He played one game with the team. Fleck sustained a shoulder injury last summer, and was placed on injured reserve. Nolan said Fleck was waived because of the 49ers' depth receiver, where 11 players remain on the roster.

--- Tight end Trent Smith and quarterback Bryson Spinner remain in Birmingham, where they are rehabilitating injuries sustained in NFL Europe. Smith has a torn rotator cuff, and Spinner had an abdominal condition during the season and also has a sore shoulder.

--- The 49ers have much better depth at tight end than last season when that position accounted for just 20 receptions. The club selected Vernon Davis with the No. 6 overall pick, and Eric Johnson, who caught 82 passes in '04, is back after missing last season with a foot injury.

Also, the club has shifted draft pick Delanie Walker to tight end after initially listing him as a fullback. Currently, Chris Hetherington and Moran Norris are the top candidates for the fullback position. Hetherington is more versatile than Norris, who is primarily a punishing blocker.

--- Safety Marcus Hudson, the second of San Francisco's three sixth-round draft picks, has signed with the 49ers. Terms of the deal were not announced. He joins Melvin Oliver, Vickiel Vaughn and Delanie Walker as 2006 draft picks who have signed with the 49ers.

Walker and Oliver, the first and third of the team's sixth-round picks, signed contracts worth $1.71 million and $1.695 million, respectively. Seventh-round pick Vickiel Vaughn received a contract worth $1.64 million. All three players received minimum base salaries for the four years of their contracts and all three deals include a possible "escalator," which could increase their base salary for 2009. Walker got a signing bonus of $102,000, Oliver of $85,280 and Vaughn of $33,534.

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