The tackle 2-step: Rachal at RT; Reuber signs

The 49ers, still looking to bolster their depth along the offensive line, signed free-agent tackle Alan Reuber on Monday, and the journeyman veteran already was lining up with the second unit as San Francisco began its June session of organized team activities at 49ers headquarters.

In fact, with scheduled starter Jonas Jennings not in attendance for the first of the team's 12 June practices, Reuber got some immediate work at right tackle during his first day as a 49er behind Chilo Rachal, San Francisco's second-round draft selection in April who was moved from right guard to right tackle for OTAs and started there in Jennings' place Monday.

The 49ers are considering making the move of Rachal to tackle permanent, and the rookie performed well in his first day of full-squad practice at the position.

Reuber follows a trend of nominal scrap-heap veterans the 49ers have added to their roster for a look-see along the offensive line this spring before the serious roster building begins during training camp in July.

Signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the Minnesota Vikings in 2004, Reuber has spent time with four other NFL teams but has played in only three regular-season games during his career.

Those came with the Arizona Cardinals at the end of his rookie season. Reuber was claimed off waivers by the Cardinals after the Vikings released him prior to the start of the 2004 regular season.

Reuber then spent the 2005 season developing on Arizona's practice squad. After being released by the Cardinals, he caught on with the Cincinnati Bengals and spent the 2006 season on the Bengals' practice squad. After spending the 2007 offseason with Cincinnati, Reuber went to training camp with the Bengals last year but was released before the season began.

He spent the season unattached, but was signed by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers prior to the playoffs and spent two weeks during the postseason on the Buccaneers' practice squad.

Reuber's NFL qualifications are similar to two other veteran offensive linemen the 49ers signed during the offseason - Quasim Mitchell and Jeb Terry. Both players were running with the second offensive unit Monday, Mitchell at left guard behind starter Adam Snyder and Terry at right guard behind tentative starter Tony Wragge.

Wragge, who has played well in a reserve role at both guard and center the past two seasons, is starting in place of injured David Baas, who isn't expected back until late August after undergoing surgery in April to repair a torn pectoral muscle.

Reuber has nice size at 6-foot-6 and 307 pounds and also has the versatility to be tried at guard. As of now, he'll battle Damane Duckett for a reserve role at tackle as the 49ers attempt to address their depth deficiency at the position.

The 49ers have plenty of reasons to be concerned about their depth situation at offensive tackle, one of the primary reasons the team has decided to give Rachal an extended look at the position during the rest of this month. Rachal played right guard during his college career at USC.

When the 49ers selected Rachal with the No. 39 overall selection in the draft, they considered him a guard who had the potential down the road to play tackle. The future came early for Rachal, who will work behind Jennings at right tackle for the next three weeks. Jennings won't begin participation in OTAs until he arrives in town on Wednesday.

"Someone said he could play right tackle," 49ers coach Mike Nolan said after the club selected Rachal. "We're looking more for him to be a guard, but if that's something he could do, we'll certainly visit that because it's tougher to find tackles. We have some depth inside."

The 49ers have several interior offensive linemen with whom they feel confident. Snyder and Baas are slated as the starting guards with Eric Heitmann as the starting center. Rookie Cody Wallace is a center, which might allow Heitmann to play guard, a position he started at for several seasons earlier in his career. Wragge is a reliable backup at guard or center.

Veteran Larry Allen, who started all 16 games at left guard last season, is a free agent who has yet to publicly announce whether he plans to play again this season. The 49ers have left the door open for Allen to return, but Nolan said Monday, "I don't think it's 50-50," about the likelihood of Allen returning for a 15th NFL season.

The 49ers have a dearth of available players at the tackle positions. Joe Staley and Jennings are slated to be the starters. But the backups - before the decision to move Rachal to tackle and Monday's signing of Reuber - are Duckett and Mitchell. Duckett is a converted defensive lineman who has yet to play a NFL game on offense. Mitchell has seen action in just three NFL games since playing 14 games for the Bears in 2004.

Rachal was a highly recruited tackle out of high school. He began his career at USC at tackle before switching to guard after redshirting his first season. Rachal said he has no preference where he plays with the 49ers.

"Wherever the team needs my help, that's where I can go," Rachal said. "I can contribute anywhere I can play."

If history repeats itself, the 49ers will need a solid backup at right tackle. Jennings has missed all or parts of 32 games due to injuries in his three seasons with the 49ers. He has yet to play an entire 16-game schedule in his seven-year career.



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