Stars won't come out tonight for Niners

The NFL didn't do the 49ers any favors this preseason, so don't expect the team to be taking any chances tonight when San Francisco plays its third exhibition game in a 10-day span. When the Niners take on the San Diego Chargers at Candlestick Point, they will do so without several conspicuous faces. Check back on Sept. 5 to see the time next guys such as Jeff Garcia and Terrell Owens are in the lineup.

Coach Steve Mariucci didn't come right out and say Tuesday that some of his top stars won't be playing. He didn't have to. No way are the Niners taking a chance with several key players in a fifth exhibition game that comes eight days before the season opener in New York against the Giants.

The star starters won't be the only ones not to play. Dozens of players on the top end of the roster will be held out of the game. Even Mariucci admits it will be a "makeshift" unit the Niners have on the field most of the time.

"We know we have about 11 defensive players that are unable to play because of injuries," Mariucci said. "And probably six or so on offense."

Garcia and Owens - the team's biggest offensive stars, neither whom is injured - will be among the offensive players who won't get in the game, though Mariucci said, "I can't tell you that," when asked directly if they weren't playing.

There still are tickets to be sold for the contest, you know.

But Mariucci did say of Garcia, "He's going to leave that up to me. And he's already been looking at Giants film with (offensive coordinator) Greg Knapp and I. His focus, his mind, is on the Giants right now."

In other words: Forget about the Chargers.

But several San Francisco regulars will start. Just don't expect them to play very long. Tim Rattay will take Garcia's place and at least get some playing time with most of the first unit before the reserves start flowing into the game.

"We don't want to play our ones very long," Mariucci said. "We simply have to use caution and be conservative for obvious reasons. So we'll play it that way. We're going to be with our young guys for most of the game. So it's a little bit of patchwork as far as our personnel and how we're going to play our guys. But that's all right. We're going to play some ball and get a chance to see these guys for the last time."


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