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49ers want Solomon Thomas to learn LEO role ‘just in case’

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The 49ers have considerable depth along the defensive line, and Solomon Thomas will get a chance all over the place.

The San Francisco 49ers are looking for somebody to fill their edge rusher roles in 2017, both in the base LEO look, and the nickel defensive end positions. The base has seen Arik Armstead and Aaron Lynch competing for the role. The addition of Elvis Dumervil brings more competition, although he seems more likely to focus on nickel end work.

One player who will get work at a variety of positions that is likely to include nickel is Solomon Thomas. The 49ers first round pick has been viewed primarily as a strong defensive end player in the base, and then an interior lineman in passing downs. However, Thomas recently said the team wants him learning the LEO role. In a recent interview with SiriusXM NFL radio, Thomas said the coaches want him learning LEO, “just in case because anything is possible.”

This makes a lot of sense given Jeff Zgonina’s desire to have significant rotation on the defensive line. And of course, we know that injuries are a fact of life in the NFL. You want players to master things, and there is always the concern he spends too much time on too many position. But for the time being, cross-training across positions makes sense along the defensive line given the number of players to potentially bounce around.

Thomas told SiriusXM that he is frustrated by the rule that keeps him away from the 49ers facility until Stanford’s final exams end. They will be done on June 14, and he will then be able to join the 49ers. The 49ers have minicamp June 13-15. He will get in the June 15 session, but it is not clear if he will be there for the June 14 session.

In the meantime, he talked about some of the things he has been doing to get ready for his rookie season. We learned previously that he has worked out with DeMarcus Ware this offseason. It turns out the workout was 90 minutes, and there other interactions have been some texting. Although it is not a lot, it was enough to inspire Thomas to switch from No. 96 to No. 94.

Thomas has also been in regular contact with Zgonina and the strength and conditioning staff. He likely has a playbook, and then access to practice tape on a team-issued iPad. It is not an ideal situation, but it is better than nothing for the time being.