Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio has a rule of thumb: An injured player, no matter how special he is at his position, is not as good as a healthy player. It's a rule that has allowed Fangio to take a good look at most of his cornerbacks this season.
Shawntae Spencer, for instance, dealt with hamstring injuries throughout training camp and has been battling a toe injury as of late. That allowed Tramaine Brock to serve as the team's No. 3 cornerback early in the season. When Brock broke his left hand Sept. 18, rookie Chris Culliver stepped into the role and played well.
This week, Culliver is recovering from a shoulder injury but is still expected to serve as the No. 3 cornerback against the run-heavy Browns offense. Spencer, who got into some of the 49ers' nickel packages against Detroit, also is close to being back from his toe injury. He went through a full practice Wednesday. "He's still not 100 percent," Fangio said. "He's ready to play, but he's still not 100 percent yet."
Brock, meanwhile, had the cast on his
broken left hand removed today. The hand was still heavily bandaged, however, and it's unlikely that Brock will be able to be effective for Sunday's game. But it means Fangio is close to having a fully healthy stable of cornerbacks, all of whom can step in and be effective.
"Nothing would change, one way or another, depending on who we have in there," Fangio said.
Odds & Ends
* Offensive coordinator Greg Roman stuck to the script in saying that the 49ers would evaluate receiver Braylon Edwards "day to day" as far as his availability Sunday. Still, he said he likes what he's seen in practice this week from the 6-3 receiver. "He looks like he's in pretty darn good condition physically," Roman said. "He's been working hard."
* On the Browns defense, Roman said: "Extremely disciplined. They're the kind of defense that if you're going to score, you have to do it in 12 plays."
* Roman said the 49ers tend to script 30 plays for the start of the game. Whether they stray from the script depends on whether the defense throws something at them they weren't expecting. "Sometimes we go right down the list," he said. "Sometimes we scrap the list."
* Fangio said that Ahmad Brooks, Patrick Willis, NaVorro Bowman, Carlos Rogers, Tarell Brown, Justin Smith and Ray McDonald have played nearly every defensive snap this season. He highlighted the two defensive ends, Smith and McDonald. "They play a higher percentage of plays than most defensive linemen in the league," he said. Because of that, Fangio said, the bye week was a welcome respite for Smith and McDonald.
-- Matt Barrows