I had a friendly, one-on-one interview with No. 81 this week. No, not that No. 81. I'm talking about tight end Sean Ryan, who was recently added to the roster when the 49ers released fullback David Kirtman, who in turn had been signed to fill in for injured fullback Zak Keasey. With neither Kirtman nor Keasey on the 53-man roster, the 49ers have no true fullback.
Ryan (6-5, 260 lbs.) was a fifth-round draft pick by the Cowboys in 2004. He's also been on the Jets, Saints and Dolphins rosters before this season. He's in the mold of Billy Bajema, which is to say he's been used purely as a blocker in five seasons. Against the Rams on Sunday, he lined up as a fullback in goal-line situations and seems to be the guy the 49ers call on when they need a bruiser in the backfield.
Is that how you see the 49ers using you over the next six games?
SR: Well, I've always been a blocker. Obviously, I don't have a lot of catches to my name. I have 11 in my career over five years now, so it's not like I'm out there ripping up the stat sheet. You've got to do something to get on the field, and blocking was that thing.
Was what you did Sunday a new role for you?
SR: Yeah, we did it a bunch in New York (Jets) and also in Dallas when you were the second tight end. In certain formations, you're in the backfield. It's a little bit different than being on the line of scrimmage. But it's something to get used to.
Are they feeding you the offense one phase at a time?
SR: Learning an offense is an ongoing thing, obviously. They're giving me stuff in installments and telling me what to look at and what to learn that will be beneficial to myself and to my team.
And this offense seems particularly dense.
SR: It's good though. Because no matter what situation comes up, you know you've got a play for that situation. You can attack certain things. In some offenses that aren't as detailed or not as voluminous, you have to go with what you have.
When are we going to see you do the fullback dive from one yard away?
SR: (Laughing). I have never gotten a handoff in a game. So, I don't know. You'd have to ask coach Martz.
He's probably got it in the playbook somewhere.
Patrick Willis is practicing today and will be listed as probable. Tarell Brown, Michael Robinson, Mark Roman, Delanie Walker and Barry Sims also are probable. Arnaz Battle, Dashon Goldson and Josh Morgan won't play.
The NFL has started a pretty cool tradition - a competition among players to see who has the best story. Joe Nedney and Tony Wragge are representing the 49ers in the annual event, which whittles down the contenders until there is one left standing in the Super Bowl. To view the ads, and to vote, click here ...
-- Matt Barrows