The San Francisco 49ers returned to practice on Tuesday, and as would be expected, some players were expected to be limited or not participating. Matt Barrows confirmed that Alex Boone was not on hand for practice, but it appears that is contract-related. Beyond Boone, there are several players not expected to participate in OTAs because of injury issues. It would appear most of these players will be ready to go in time for training camp, but for now they are rehabbing or resting.
Matt Barrows and Christian Gin each took a detailed look at some of the 49ers injuries, and who will benefit in OTAs. Barrows had some particularly useful information about players expected to be involved in practice in some capacity in spite of a previous injury. This list included Tank Carradine, Mike Iupati, Ray McDonald, Joe Staley, and even potentially Chris Culliver. Barrows indicated they might not go through all drills, but they've moved beyond non-participant status. That's certainly a nice step forward for these guys.
You can see the full rundown of players, but here are four of particular note I thought were worth discussing. I say that because we've discussed the NaVorro Bowman situation plenty to date. We'll discuss it plenty more, but I'm skipping it for this particular article.
1st day of OTAs. My first day of back training since the surgery! Great day today!— Bam Davis (@AnthonyDavis76) May 27, 2014
He posted something on Instagram that he later took down, but it mentioned something about hitting the weights for the first time. I suspect he is focusing on strength, conditioning and rehab work, as opposed to the on-field game plan work of OTAs. He can still do plenty of classroom work, but we'll probably find out more during media availability tomorrow.
With Davis and Alex Boone out, it opens the door for reserves to show their stuff further up the depth chart. Adam Snyder would likely slot into the right guard position in place of Boone. If Iupati is limited, that would open the door for Joe Looney to slot in as well. And even if Iupati is a full participant in OTAs, Looney would at least be solidified with second team reps. It would also seem that Ryan Seymour would get a bump up in work. The 49ers signed Ryan Seymour off the Seattle Seahawks practice squad last December when they placed Tank Carradine on injured reserve. Seymour spent the remainder of the season on the 53-man roster, inactive each week.
As we discussed shortly after the 49ers selected the Northern Illinois defensive back, Ward had foot surgery on March 11. Ward fractured his metatarsal, and had a screw placed in it. We'll have more on what this injury entails, but for the purposes of OTAs, Ward will only take part in walkthroughs. Jim Harbaugh has stated that the rehab process is going fine, and they expect Ward ready for the start of training camp.
Ward is expected to compete primarily for the nickel back role, but also to learn some safety. We don't know where he fits into the depth chart at this moment, although I would suspect he would have been behind Eric Wright and Perrish Cox in OTAs. Those two will likely get a chance to split a lot of reps. Cox has plenty of experience in the system, but this is Wright's first offseason workout program with the team. The team ended up not adding him until last August, and he spent training camp on the non-football injury list. While he has had time to learn the playbook, this is the first real opportunity to take part in implementation and football school.
It remains to be seen whether Wright will be able to do enough to secure a roster spot. He's a solid veteran, but the 49ers have added some extensive competition. If Ward bounces back from his foot injury, and Dontae Johnson shows what he can do, it could come down to Eric Wright, Perrish Cox and Chris Cook battling for a single roster spot. Wright had an opportunity last winter, but an illness of some sort led to him only getting a handful of special teams snaps. It seems like we can sort of read the tea leaves, and right now his roster spot seems a bit tenuous.
Both Barrows and Gin discussed Williams, and it will be interesting to track just what his role ends up being in 2014. He is still recovering from his broken ankle, and has already said he expects to be back to 100 percent for training camp. He said that back in late January, but there has been no indication he will be back for anything extensive in OTAs.
Williams had secured the starting nose tackle role, but Glenn Dorsey emerged as a strong presence in his place. It will be interesting enough seeing how Williams and Dorsey compete, but it also gets interesting behind them with Quinton Dial and Mike Purcell looking for opportunities. Dial would seemingly be one spot ahead of Purcell on the depth chart, but both are battling for a roster spot.
Dial was activated off the NFI list fairly quickly last year, and while he did not get much playing time, he did get a few opportunities. The 49ers signed Ian Williams to a small contract extension last year, and he'll be hitting free agency after this coming season. If Dial looks strong enough, releasing Williams at some point before the start of the regular season would result in $333,334 in dead money. That's fairly manageable, especially if it means replacing him with a cheaper option. Of course, Dial might be considered a bit too tall for straight up nose tackle work. Some thought Alex Boone was too tall to be a guard, so we probably can't say anything with a ton of certainty. But it will be interesting to see how this impacts Williams roster spot.
A special teams standout, and occasional safety, Spillman had hand surgery earlier this month, posting a picture to Instagram as he was leaving the hospital. Barrows pointed out that he was likely to miss OTAs, but be ready for camp. This does not impact the first team safeties, but Craig Dahl, D.J. Campbell, L.J. McCray, and even potentially Dontae Johnson could benefit from this with more reps. Johnson seems most likely to work at cornerback through the rest of the offseason, but you never know how the 49ers might mix it up.