As expected, Ray McDonald was placed on the physically unable to perform list today as he continues to rehabilitate from ACL surgery earlier this offseason. McDonald was Justin Smith's primary backup at right defensive end last year.
Here's how the PUP works. If McDonald's knee heals quickly -- and so far the rehab has gone well -- the 49ers can take him off PUP before the regular season and he'd be eligible for the 53-man roster. If he's still on PUP when the regular season begins, the 49ers must keep him there for the first six weeks of the season. He can attend meetings and continue to rehab at the team facility, but he cannot practice or play games. After that period, the 49ers have a window in which they can either activate McDonald or place him on injured reserve. He does not count toward the 53-man roster while on the PUP.
For the sake of argument, let's say that McDonald is still on PUP when the season begins. What does the defensive line look like? As of now, the starters are Isaac Sopoaga at LDE, Aubrayo Franklin at NT and Smith at RDE. The second teamers are Kentwan Balmer at LDE, Sopoaga at NT and Demetric Evans at RDE.
Conceivably, the 49ers could go into the regular season with those five players. The wild card is seventh-round draft pick Ricky Jean-Francois, who shows promise as a defensive end but whom the 49ers also could safely stash on the practice squad.
In other news, the team released guard Matthew Huners, an undrafted free agent from South Florida. ****Huners was replaced on the roster by Matt Spanos, a guard/center from USC. Spanos was picked up by the Dolphins after the 2008 draft, later released and picked up by the Cowboys. The Cowboys released him earlier this month. *****
-- Matt Barrows