Moore a 49er no more

Brandon Moore's precipitous slide from prominence with the 49ers hit bottom Sunday when the team abruptly released the seventh-year veteran. Believed to be a contender for the starting inside linebacker position next to Patrick Willis this year, Moore instead played his way out of a roster berth this summer, and now the team is looking at other options at the position.

Option No. 1 is free-agent Takeo Spikes, who was scheduled to arrive at the 49ers' Santa Clara complex Sunday afternoon for a physical. The 49ers had visited with Spikes earlier this year, but he apparently was holding out for a better deal than the team was offering at the time. Spikes would immediately challenge incumbent Jeff Ulbrich for the strong-side "Ted" linebacker slot.

Moore never presented the challenge to Ulbrich that the team had hoped to see from him since training camp began. Moore's play has been steadily disappointing San Francisco coaches since he lost his starting job at Ted with spotty play last summer.

After leading the team in both tackles and sacks in 2006 – and at the time establishing himself as a force in San Francisco's improving 3-4 defense – Moore's status with the team declined consistently. Moore had career-high totals of 114 tackles and 6.5 sacks in 2006, but was hardly a factor at all last season, starting just one game and finishing with 30 tackles and 2.5 sacks.

Still, after the team released veteran Derek Smith in March, it was believed Moore would be a prime contender to bounce back and replace him in the starting lineup this year.

But Moore was worked in behind All-Pro Willis at the weak-side "Mike" linebacker this spring before coaches switched him back to compete at the Ted position. Moore did not record a tackle in Friday's exhibition game against the Raiders, and he has increasingly fallen out of favor with the team.

"In Brandon's case," 49ers coach Mike Nolan said, "I just felt looking down the road, with our roster and the numbers that we have, both on the D-line, on the defensive side of the ball, I felt pretty confident that in the end that I was probably going to have to make a move with Brandon.

"Doing it at this time is partly because he has been a loyal 49er for the last six years and this gives him an opportunity to get with another squad. He wasn't getting as many reps as I know he would like to have. He has not said anything about it. He has not complained. I felt at this time to give him an opportunity to hook up with another team and possibly play for somebody; this would be the better time. I could have easily kept him here and gone to the end, but I didn't think it was best for him or ourselves."

Moore, who made the team as an undrafted rookie free agent in 2002, finished his 49ers career with 262 tackles, 15 sacks and five fumble recoveries. He also was a standout on special teams, recording 63 career tackles on those units.

Moore, the recipient of the team's Matt Hazeltine Award in 2006 which annually recognizes the team's best linebacker, was the NFC's Defensive Player of the Week in Week 9 of that season. He was one of just four players remaining on the San Francisco roster from the 49ers' last playoff team of 2002.

"I think that the biggest thing is that we have gotten better from a personnel standpoint," Nolan said. "For no other reason, I like to think that is the reason. There are other teams that are interested in him. He's worked his tail off. (That's) never been an issue. He's a good character person. I think he can play, and he can add something to somebody's position."

As the team pursues Spikes – who would presumably become the starter if he signs with the team – rookie seventh-round draft pick Larry Grant moves up, at least temporarily, to second on the depth chart behind Ulbrich. Grant has displayed promise since joining the team and had four tackles Friday against the Raiders.

Offseason free-agent acquisition Dontarrious Thomas, who has been playing mostly behind Willis this summer, also is a candidate to play at the Ted position. Thomas, who has been inconsistent since joining the team, has come on during training camp and had an excellent debut with the team Friday, recording a game-high eight tackles against the Raiders.

"Right now, Dontarrious and Grant are the two (backups behind Ulbrich)," Nolan said."(Dennis) Haley hasn't gotten as many reps, so I'd say Dontarrious and Grant. Grant has been working there more, so it'd probably be him more. Earlier in camp and in the spring, Dontarrious was working over there earlier. We moved him to the Mike to get the rook some more work. But for right now, we'll probably just leave Grant there behind (Ulbrich)."


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