Battle's role to change after bye?

The 49ers have seven wide receivers on their roster, which means there are fewer opportunities for some of the players who've been around a while. And with first-round draft Michael Crabtree about to get in the mix, those opportunities could become even fewer.

Veteran Arnaz Battle, the No. 3 wideout, is expected to see a reduction in playing time with the arrival of Crabtree, who signed with the team on Oct. 7 and is expected to make his NFL debut when the 49ers return from their bye week on Oct. 25 at Houston.

But Battle will be counted upon for contributions in the return game after the club released return specialist Allen Rossum.

The 49ers under offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye are throwing fewer passes to their wideouts than any team in the league. Battle, Isaac Bruce and Josh Morgan are the only 49ers wide receivers who have caught passes in the first five games.

Yet, the 49ers have seven receivers on their 53-man roster even though the emphasis of their offense is on the running game.

"Last year we had five (receivers), and that was with (Mike) Martz, and we threw the ball a lot," Battle said. "So it's backwards. It's frustrating, but what can you do?"

Battle was the team's primary punt returner in 2004. He averaged a solid 8.6 yards on 31 returns with a touchdown. But he returned only 12 punts over the next four seasons. Now, Battle appears to have regained his role from five years ago.

"Any time I have an opportunity to get on the field, I want the result to be positive," Battle said.


--- QB Alex Smith, the backup, remained in the area to work with rookie WR Michael Crabtree during the bye week. Smith, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2005 draft, has yet to see any playing time this season, as Shaun Hill has taken every snap at quarterback.

--- WR Michael Crabtree will see his first NFL playing time on Oct. 25 against the Texans, coach Mike Singletary said. Crabtree is expected to see action as a slot receiver, as the 49ers look to improve a passing attack that ranks 30th in the NFL.

--- TE Delanie Walker is seeing more action as an H-back, along with starting TE Vernon Davis. Walker has just three catches for 66 yards on the season. He has also averaged 20.3 yards on four kickoff returns, and should see more time in that area now that the team has released return specialist Allen Rossum.

--- WR Isaac Bruce has slowed down after a solid start this season. In the past four games, Bruce is averaging just 23.3 yards receiving a game. He was held without a catch last Sunday against the Falcons.

--- S Michael Lewis has undergone further medical tests after sustaining his third concussion since Aug. 18, but early indications are that he'll be available after the bye week when the 49ers play the Texans. Lewis' symptoms cleared shortly after he sustained a concussion Sunday against the Falcons.

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