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49ers release Robert Nkemdiche; get to the 85-man limit

The team continues to bet on its culture

Green Bay Packers v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images

The 49ers had to make a roster move Tuesday to get under the 85-man limit by 1 PM PT. So the team released defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche, who signed with San Francisco on July 26.

There’s no denying Nkemdiche flashed the talent that made him a first-round pick during training camp and even in the first preseason game. I projected him to make the team over Kerry Hyder, given the two are close, but Nkemdiche has the athletic upside.

That’s viewing football in terms of Madden and ignoring the power of chemistry in a locker room and the value of a veteran leader. Here’s defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans on Hyder last week:

“Kerry does and it’s so great to have Kerry, just first and foremost, the guy that he is, the man that he is off the field. He’s an unbelievable person, unbelievable teammate and leader. And Kerry’s a very, very smart player, so he makes plays that you think he wouldn’t make, he makes those plays just because he’s very smart out there. And the ability of what Kerry has is he can play in, he can play tackle, like he can move up and down the defensive line at any position. And he’s smart enough to where he won’t bust. And he’s the guy who never makes mistakes inside no matter where you put him.

He’s always on it. And he’s always leading that group and bringing guys along with him. A true veteran leader, Kerry Hyder is the epitome of that and we’re excited to have him back. After he left us in ‘20, we’re excited to have him back for his leadership.”

Smart. Leadership. Those were the words Ryans repeatedly used to describe Hyder.

During the first week of training camp, Kyle Shanahan yelled at Nkemdiche for tackling a running back to the ground. You’ll always hear coaches scream, “keep him up” during practice. Shanahan has been vocal about protecting your teammates.

So, when Nkemdiche took a running back to the ground the second time in a week, it shows you he’s not taking to coaching. It’s not fair to say because Nkemdiche tackled his teammates twice, he can’t be trusted. But that lack of attention to detail could be the difference between jumping offsides on third down.

You know what you’re getting from Hyder in the locker room and in meetings. Nkemdiche is still new, so if the team is deciding between the two, or Nkemdiche and another veteran, the answer is clear why they let go of the former first-round pick. Plus, Hyder is a Kris Kocurek guy.

That’s the second defensive tackle the 49ers have released after Tomasi Laulile. However, the team still has ample options with Arik Armstead, Javon Kinlaw, Kevin Givens, Hassan Ridgeway, and hybrid defensive linemen such as Charles Omenihu and Hyder.

We’ll see if another roster move is announced with a couple of members in the secondary nursing injuries.