Every rookie dreams of being a star in the NFL. This week, Thomas Clayton and
Jason Hill get to do the next best thing - impersonate a star in the NFL. As low men on the 49ers' totem pole, their job is to run the scout team offense so that the first-team defense can get a sense of their upcoming opponent. That means that Hill is playing Cardinals receiver Anquan Boldin this week while Clayton has won the part of Edgerrin James.
Both rookies are embracing their roles.
Hill said playing with the scout team allows him to line up against Nate Clements and Walt Harris, something he rarely got to do as a third-string receiver in training camp.
"I played against them a little," he said. "But what the coach tried to do was make our starters better."
As for Clayton, he said he was disappointed when the team released him from the active roster on Saturday. But it's quite possible that there will be more opportunity to improve himself as a member of the practice squad than there would have been had he made the active roster as the 49ers' fourth tailback.
And besides, he gets to observe and mimic some of the best running backs in the league. After James this week, his next four roles are St. Louis' Steven Jackson, Pittsburgh's Willie Parker, Seattle's Shaun Alexander and Baltimore's Willis McGahee.
I was a little surprised last week when Mike Nolan said he doesn't always want the players who have been placed on injured reserve to hang around team headquarters all season. I figured that even though those players could not get on the field, Nolan would want them to learn as much as possible while they recuperate.
An injured player, however, places a big burden on an already busy team medical staff. If that player can get the same medical treatment elsewhere, sometimes it's better for the team. Nolan also doesn't want a player to attend position meetings if he's just going to yawn and daydream during the sessions. Only players committed to learning and participating are asked to stay. And sometimes - as is the case with injured Melvin Oliver - the player uses IR as an opportunity to go back to school and get his degree.
Jay Moore, however, plans to stick around all season. Moore suffered a high-ankle sprain on Thursday that will take eight weeks to heal. By then the season will be half over. But Moore, who is converting from college defensive end to NFL linebacker, said he could really benefit from watching film, sitting in on meetings and familiarizing himself with the defensive verbiage.
"I'm not going to be going back to Nebraska anytime soon," he said.
Moore said he would probably spend a week on crutches and two weeks in a plastic boot.
Mark Roman has nothing against Marquand Manuel and he doesn't want to see another player lose his job. But he couldn't help but smile when he heard Manuel had been released last week from the Green Bay Packers. The Packers, of course, not only gave gave Manuel a five-year, $10 million contract last season, they also handed him Roman's job, which prompted his jump to San Francisco. Roman had played 98 percent of Green Bay's defensive snaps in 2005 and he finished with a career-high 105 tackles. But he had only two interceptions, and the Packers felt that Manuel would make the sort of game-changing plays Roman wasn't supplying. Now Roman is a starter and Manuel is out of work. Oops. **Tuesday update ** Manuel was signed by the Carolina Panthers on Monday. Oops.
Nolan said Jonas Jennings (ankle) and Darrell Jackson (hamstring) would begin practicing on Thursday. Nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin (knee) is ramping up his workload, practicing a little more Tuesday than he did Monday. The team has Wednesday off.
-- Matt Barrows