But after returning to practice three weeks ago, Shaw has looked good enough that the Niners feel it's important to keep him with the team the rest of the year so the progress he's making can continue. If Shaw isn't activated to the roster, he would have to spend the rest of the year on injured reserve, which would prohibit him from practicing with the team.
"He's been practicing pretty well and he seems ready to go," Niners coach Steve Mariucci said. "Right now, I think it's important for him to be practicing with us, stay on the practice field, in the meetings. If we put him on injured reserve, now he's on a different program and he can't even practice with us. We'd like to keep him active. Because, really, he's one injury away from being in the rotation."
Shaw, who had reconstructive surgery on his right knee after suffering major ligament damage last year as a senior at Michigan State, has been on San Francisco's reserve/physically unable to perform list since training camp. Even though the team is confident he is ready to play, there are no immediate plans to push Shaw onto the field.
"If everything stays just the way it is right now, he may not even be active this year," Niners general manager Terry Donahue said. "But by having him on the 53-man roster, he's going to be practicing, he's going to be improving. And if anything were to happen to our three defensive tackles who are active every week, we have an answer. We have a good answer – to put Josh in a game and let him go. He's healthy enough to be active so we need to activate him."
Shaw will be the fourth defensive lineman on the roster behind starters Bryant Young and Dana Stubblefield and top backup Jim Flanigan. With their injury problems on defense, the Niners are unlikely to release a defender to make room for Shaw. The most likely candidates to be released Tuesday are rookie Craig Osika – the team's ninth offensive lineman - rookie Mark Anelli – the team's third tight end – or James Jordan, the team's fifth receiver.
"Steve and I talked about it this morning," Donahue said. "We have a number of options that we're looking at. We just haven't determined what space we're going to make available to get (Shaw) up there."