With Coffee gone, Dixon must step up

Anthony Dixon has a long way to go, but with Glen Coffee gone, he'll have a chance to win the backup role to starter Frank Gore. His goal: keep getting better.

SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Anthony Dixon knows his learning curve is suddenly going to get very steep. With former teammate Glen Coffee shocking the San Francisco 49ers on Friday with his decision to quit the team, Dixon – ready or not – will have to take on the role of No. 2 running back behind Frank Gore.

"At first, you know, it was kind of depressing because Glen was like a brother to me," Dixon, the sixth-round draft pick out of Mississippi State, said of the news that Coffee was leaving. "So first, I had to deal with that. But then, I also knew it was time to step up. Coach is always talking about when you get called, pick up the phone. So I knew it was my time."

Dixon was referring to offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye, who tells his players that when their number is called, they have to be ready to jump in. And although Dixon knows he's still in a learning mode, he and reserve running back Michael Robinson will probably get the majority of calls on Sunday when the Niners open the preseason in Indianapolis against the Colts.

"I've just got to keep on getting better, keep on preparing," Dixon said. "And I think I got better today. I almost had a perfect day, but I tripped up the quarterback on one play, so the coach didn't give it to me."

Robinson, who's in his fifth season with the 49ers and is a better pass-protection blocker, said Dixon impresses with his work ethic.

"Anthony tries hard every day," he said. "He's doing what's asked of him. The NFL is different from college. You have to adjust not only to the speed but the language we speak here. But he's coming along fine. Once he gets under the lights and gets some games under him, I think things will start coming for him."

The 49ers also have a roster spot to fill with Coffee's absence and may look for a veteran to join the team next week.

McKILLOP ON IR: Linebacker Scott McKillop cleared waivers Friday and was placed on injured reserve. McKillop has been out since undergoing surgery for tears to the anterior cruciate ligament and patellar tendon in his right knee.

NO AFTERNOON WORK: The team condensed two practice sessions into one on Friday, finishing up before noon. Still out was wide receiver Michael Crabtree (neck strain), who spent the morning pedaling on a stationary bike. Linebacker Travis LaBoy (mild concussion) did some running on an adjacent field. The 49ers practiced without pads and completed their day with special teams work.

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