The 49ers will take a close look at Auburn defensive end Quentin Groves when he and his Tiger teammates hold their pro day workouts tomorrow. The team wants to find out whether Groves would fit at outside linebacker and whether he is worthy of their first-round pick, No. 29 overall
Manny Lawson, who is recovering from an ACL tear, is the long-term answer at one of the outside spots, but the team has question marks at the other. Tully Banta-Cain, Parys Haralson and Roderick Green played there last year. Barring any additions, Jay Moore, who was on injured reserve last season, also could figure into the mix in 2008. Ideally, that position should provide the 49ers their best pass-rush option, but that group accounted for only eight sacks last year.
Groves is intriguing because of his size-speed combination. At 259 pounds, he ran the 40 in an impressive 4.57 seconds at last month’s combine. And perhaps even more eye-catching than that, he hoisted 225 pounds 30 times. That was one of the top showings for defensive ends, and the very best mark for linebackers.
He tied the career sack record at Auburn with 26, although injuries – dislocated toes -- slowed him at times last season and he finished with only three sacks in 2007. The 49ers like big defenders and they like taking defensive players from the SEC (Haralson, Ronald Fields, Melvin Oliver, Patrick Willis, Ray McDonald, Joe Cohen). As of now, Groves is considered a late first-round, early second-round selection. However, the buzz around him has been getting louder since the combine. And with several 3-4 defensive teams – Pittsburgh, San Diego, Dallas – picking ahead of the 49ers, there’s a growing chance Groves won’t be around at pick No. 29.
It seems my comments yesterday about the 49ers’ stadium initiative ruffled some feathers at 4949 Centennial Drive. I wrote that I thought the stadium measure wouldn’t fare as well in November due to the high voter turnout in the presidential election. My rationale: More voters = more non-sports fans = bad news for stadiums. The 49ers, however, counter that the stadium issue has been polling very well in Santa Clara among sports fans and non-sports fans alike and that they want as many people as possible to vote. They are confident the measure will pass no matter when it is on the ballot.
Isaac Bruce hasn’t decided on a jersey number, but Jerry Rice said he’d be just fine with Bruce wearing Rice’s old No. 80. On his Sirius radio show last week, Rice said the situation was similar to the one in Seattle a few years back when former Seahawk receiver Steve Largent gave Rice his blessing to wear No. 80.
“I have always respected Isaac Bruce,” Rice said. “I don't know what is going to happen in that scenario but if it was left up to me I would say, ‘Yeah.’ For Steve Largent to do what he did for me he showed me a side of him where I just feel like I have to do the same thing. He set the standard. It would be left up to Isaac and myself to sit down and talk or if the 49ers decide to do something like that it is okay with me.”
No one has worn No. 80 for the 49ers since Rice left San Francisco following the 2000 season.
-- Matt Barrows