Harper Filling Walker's Shoes

After losing versatile tight end Delanie Walker to free agency, the 49ers had been looking for a versatile player to fill the void. Monday they signed former Seahawks wide receiver Chris Harper to do so.

Rookie Chris Harper is joining a new a team and learning a new position. The regular season starts in five days.

"I've never gotten in a three-point stance before," Harper said. "So that's going to be different for me."

A three-point stance is customary for a tight end. Harper, a fourth round pick of the Seahawks in the spring, came into the league as a receiver. Before transferring to Kansas State he played quarterback at Oregon. Changing positions is not a foreign concept for the first-year pro.

One of the 49ers' most versatile offensive players during last season's Super Bowl run was H-back Delanie Walker, who had the speed akin to a wide receiver and the size of a linebacker. He excelled as a blocker, particularly in the running game.

"I had already watched him before so I already knew of him before and how they used him before. I knew he was an H-back, they had him all over the field. He was a great athlete. He's a big guy that can run."

Walker's departure to the Tennessee Titans in free agency left a void San Francisco did not fill this offseason. The team spent a second-round pick on tight end Vance McDonald, who is more of a traditional pass catcher than versatile blocker.

Harper considered himself a good blocker in school, but blocking defensive backs in the Big 12 might come easier than front seven players in the NFL.

"Now I got to block dudes like Aldon (Smith) and Patrick (Willis), so we'll see," Harper said.

The Seahawks lost Harper after releasing him while forming their 53-man roster. They were hoping to retain him on their practice squad, but he elected to leave and pursue a roster spot to their No. 1 rival. They were offering more than the $6,000 per week allotted to practice squad players, but he declined in favor of making the 49ers.

"It just came down to me wanting to play. And that's what happened," Harper said."

Seattle will enter the season with five wideouts and two tight ends. It drafted Harper in the fourth round at No. 123 overall. The 49ers drafted Quinton Patton five spots later at 128.

Harper will wear No. 13 to start and is officially listed as a wide receiver. He's the team's sixth on the roster and unlikely to suit up on game days for time being until he learns the complexities of the H-back. Vernon Davis, McDonald and Gerrett Celek form the team's group at tight end.

"Learning the offense and stuff isn't going to be hard. But the thing for me that will be hard is learning the fronts and stuff like that," Harper said.

"Even as a quarterback we had to look at the nose and stuff, but we never had to identify a front straight off the bat. That will be the most difficult thing for me probably."

Currently weighing 232 pounds, Harper will gain weight and get stronger in order to help with his blocking responsibilities. But the team told him they didn't want him to add bulk at the cost of speed.

As far as the rivalry between the Seahawks and 49ers, there's not much to it for Harper.

"Everyone's a rival. I don't want to make any game bigger, because at the end of the day we're trying to win all the games," he said.

A roster spot was made available for Harper when the 49ers traded outside linebacker Cam Johnson to the Indianapolis Colts for a seventh-round pick Monday morning.


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