Niners to get prime-time preseason tuneup

As a warm-up act to their first nationally-televised Monday night game in four seasons, the 49ers will kick off ESPN's 2007 preseason schedule with an Aug. 13 game against the Denver Broncos at Monster Park in San Francisco - a prelude to the 49ers' regular-season opener in the Monday night spotlight at home against Arizona exactly four weeks later.

The preseason game will mark the debut of ESPN's new commentator team of play-by-play man Mike Tirico, analysts Ron Jaworski and Tony Kornheiser and sideline reporters Suzy Kolber and Michele Tafoya. That revised ESPN crew will call four NFL preseason games during the month of August – three on Mondays and one Thursday – in anticipation of their regular-season debut on Sept. 10.

That's when the 49ers will return to the Monday night regular-season spotlight for the first time since they trounced the Pittsburgh Steelers 30-14 in November of 2003. The 49ers had played on Monday night at least twice - and more often, three times - in 17 of the previous 19 seasons.

But after former GM Terry Donahue gutted the San Francisco roster of its featured stars following the 2003 season, the networks started avoiding the 49ers like the plague. The only sniff the team got of the national spotlight while going 13-35 the past three seasons were a couple of Sunday night games in 2004 and a Sunday night game in Mexico City in 2005. The 49ers played a Thursday night game on the NFL Network last season.

But now the 49ers are being viewed around the NFL - and by the networks - as a team on the rise, and they'll be showcased in a Monday night season opener for the first time since their classic 44-14 rout of the Oakland Raiders in 1994 - the game that started the Niners on the way to their last Super Bowl championship.

San Francisco's preseason opener against the Broncos will be the last game played on the opening week of the NFL exhibition season.

The 49ers also will be at home the next week for their second exhibition game, which will be played during the week of Aug. 16-20. The Niners will go on the road for their final two exhibition games - at Chicago during the week of Aug. 23-27 and at San Diego during the week of Aug. 31-Sept. 2. Dates and times of those games will be announced by the NFL at a later date.

In other Niners' news, the team announced that its 2007 training camp will begin with players reporting to 49ers headquarters in Santa Clara on July 28. The team will begin its daily summer practice regimen the next morning.

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