49ers Blog and Q&A

News, notes and reader questions about the San Francisco 49ers

August 30, 2008
Nolan: Lelie was a durability issue

Perhaps the most surprising cut for the 49ers today was Ashley Lelie, a prolific receiver early in his career, who at 28, still seems to have something to offer. Here's what Mike Nolan had to say about that and other cuts today.

On Lelie: "When it comes down to it, it really just became a durability issue. If you can't count on someone for whatever the reason ... It's a tough call. But we made the decision we did."

The decison to cut Lelie leaves the team with five receivers. Nolan said if the 49ers had their druthers, they would have at least six. It doesn't look like they will add anyone off of waivers because whomever they add would face a steep learning curve in the offense ... unless he had already played for Mike Martz. Nolan also said it was likely the team would keep two receivers on the practice squad because of the demands Martz's offense places on wideouts. Those two receivers would appear to be Dominique Zeigler and Cam Colvin. ... Any old Martz wideouts out there? Devale Ellis, a third-year-guy out of Hofstra, was released by Detroit today. He started two games last year and caught four passes for 41 yards.

On Larry Grant: Early on, the team thought Grant could compete with Jeff Ulbrich for the starting "Ted" spot. As training camp got underway, it was clear the rookie would not. When the 49ers signed Takeo Spikes, the handwriting was on the wall for Grant. "He was still inexperienced to the point where we didn't see him pushing for the job like we had hoped." Grant seems like a lock for the practice squad. It should be noted that Spikes hasn't edged Ulbrich out yet, either and that it seems as if Ulbrich will be the "Ted" starter on Sept. 7.

On Thomas Clayton: The question was put to Nolan about the relative strengths of Michael Robinson and Clayton. Nolan said that Robinson offered an array of skills. he was good out of the backfield, excellent on special teams and a locker room leader. "A master of none but a jack of all trades," Nolan said, which is why he landed a spot on the 53-man roster and Clayton, who is perhaps a better pure running back, did not. When I spoke to Clayton this morning he sounded optimistic that another team would see his game film from this summer and take a chance. The Lions, for example, are light on running backs at the moment. If not, he is a lock for the practice squad.

On keeping 12 defensive backs (including Allen Rossum), which is a whopper of a number, Nolan noted that DBs are valuable on special teams. He also suggested that the team is looking for Walt Harris' eventual replacement and hasn't identified who that is. He also said that all those DBs makes it unlikley the team will keep a cornerback or safety on the practice squad. That's bad news for D.J. Parker.

On Moran Norris: Nolan said that Norris was one of the most difficult cuts of the day because it's not as if his play had deteriorated since last year. Norris simply is not the right kind of fullback for Martz's offense. Nolan hinted that he had tried to trade Norris over the summer ...

So who makes the practice squad? Assuming that they all make it through waivers, look for the following:

1. Clayton
2. Zeigler
3. Colvin
4. Grant
5. Louis Holmes
6. Brian de la Puente
7. Ramiro Pruneda (int'l exemption)
8. Atiyyah Ellison
9. ?

It was a bad day for Brandons. Former 49ers Brandon Moore and Brandon Williams were released by the Cardinals and Rams respectively.

-- Matt Barrows


Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.


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