Lelie, Norris let loose at final cutdown

Ashley Lelie finally ran out of lives with the 49ers. The veteran WR, who spent most of his two summers in San Francisco nursing leg injuries, headlines a list of 21 players waived by the team Saturday to reach the NFL's final roster limit of 53 players. Lelie wasn't the only prominent veteran released from a team whose talent level obviously is rising, considering the players it had to let go.

The 49ers also released fullback Moran Norris, a starter the past two years who helped pave the way for Frank Gore's franchise-record 1,695 rushing yards in 2006, when Norris gained league-wide recognition as one of the NFL's best blocking fullbacks.

"There were obviously some tough cuts today," 49ers coach Mike Nolan said. "There were some people that I thought in some cases were less of a player than they were a year ago. I thought some of the guys actually improved. Moran Norris would be an example."

Norris lost out on a roster berth to emerging youngster Zak Keasey as the 49ers opted to go with just one fullback on their final roster. The 49ers also decided to go with just five wide receivers in offensive coordinator Mike Martz's wide-open passing system, and the oft-injured Lelie was the odd-man out after missing most of training camp with a calf injury. Lelie also missed most of training camp last year with a leg injury.

Lelie, who leads the NFL in yards per reception since he came into the league as Denver's first-round draft pick in 2002, never fulfilled his potential with the 49ers. He had just 10 receptions for 115 yards in his only season with the team last year, and made no impact whatsoever in Friday's exhibition finale against San Diego, his first action of the preseason.

"When it gets right down to it, it really became just a durability issue," Nolan said. "He did not practice much here, as we are all aware of. Since he's been here, there's been some durability issues. If you can't count on somebody for whatever the reason, it's a tough call, but we made the decision we did. I did not count Ashley out really until last night's game was over and I just kind of looked at the roster and thought this is a move that is going to be a tough move, but this is a move that we're going to have to make to keep our best 53 going forward and who is going to stay healthy."

Other veterans released were defensive tackles Atiyyah Ellison and La Juan Ramsey, linebacker Dennis Haley and offensive tackles Alan Reuber and Joe Toledo.

First-year players released were running back Thomas Clayton - who led the 49ers in rushing in the exhibition season for the second consecutive year - cornerback Markus Curry, defensive tackle Walter Curry, wide receivers Dominique Zeigler, Robert Ortiz and Jerard Rabb, offensive tackle Chris Patrick and kicker/punter Ricky.

The 49ers also waived rookies LB Larry Grant, WR Cam Colvin, OL Brian de la Puente, TE J.J. Finley, DE Louis Holmes and S D.J. Parker. Grant, the team's seventh-round draft pick, was the only selection from this year's six-member draft class to be waived.

Linebacker Jay Moore, the team's fourth-round draft pick in 2007, was placed on injured reserve for the second consecutive year after tearing a biceps during Friday's 20-17 loss to San Diego. Moore also was injured in the preseason finale last year before being placed on injured reserve.

First-year offensive lineman Ramiro Pruneda will transfer to the practice squad, where he will spend the season as part of the NFL's international practice squad program, giving San Francisco an eighth man on its developmental roster. The 49ers can begin filling the other seven slots on their practice squad on Sunday.

The most unusual dynamic of San Francisco's roster as it is configured today is the 49ers kept 11 defensive backs while going light at both wide receiver (5) and running back (4).

"We have 11 (defensive backs) on the roster and that is one more than we usually have on the entire roster when it includes practice squad," Nolan said. "We need the numbers there to practice against. The other thing that is a compliment to those guys is that most of those players who that are defensive backs for us do contribute quite a bit to the special teams area, and that is really important. Now, if some of those guys were one-dimensional and were backup players…for example, all of the backup defensive backs we have contribute on special teams. If they did not, those are the guys we would probably have to let go."

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