If you're going to suffer a season-ending injury, it's best to suffer it early in training camp. That's what happened to three young 49ers - Dontavia Bogan, Nate Byham and Curtis Holcomb - who are now ahead of schedule and should be at full strength for the next 49ers training camp.
That's in contrast to three 49ers from the 2010 season - Phillip Adams, Scott McKillop and Dominique Zeigler - who were still recovering from injuries during the 2011 training camp and who were eventually released. Zeigler and Adams suffered injuries during the season (Adams in the penultimate game of 2010) while McKillop suffered mulitiple knee ligament tears during the 2010 training camp.
Here's an update of each of the injured 49ers and where they might fit in 2012:
Receiver Dontavia Bogan: The 6-foot, 192-pound Bogan was the biggest name of all the undrafted free-agent receivers the team signed in July. Bogan was a second-team All-Big East player who led South Florida in receiving in 2010. Bogan tore his ACL early in training camp but did not do his rehab work in Santa Clara. Bogan is under contract through 2013 and is currently rehabbing in Arizona. He has resumed running.
Tight end Nate Byham: Byham suffered an ACL tear on July 31. The sixth-round pick from 2010 had just caught a pass in practice - in fact, he had caught several and looked good - when he went down in a heap along the sideline. If Byham hadn't gotten hurt, he would have had a significant role this season as the 49ers' third tight end, and he would have been very important once Delanie Walker went down with his jaw injury.
The day after the season ended, Byham said he had resumed running and was doing everything except the most strenuous cutting and changing directions. Byham, who played at 275 pounds as a rookie in 2010, dropped nearly 15 pounds before the 2011 training camp in an effort to be more agile and a better blocker and pass catcher.
A Pitt product, Byham said he planned to go back to Pittsburgh for part of the offseason and train with cornerback Shawntae Spencer and McKillop, who also played at Pitt. Jim Harbaugh, of course, loves tight ends, and his Stanford squads were teeming with talented players at the position. Perhaps his best one, Coby Fleener, will be in the April draft and may be available when the 49ers pick at No. 30.
"GRo's (offensive coordinator Greg Roman) like a mad scientist - he just finds ways to switch it up and give the defense different looks," Byham said. "Next year, we could have four tight ends in there. It just opens up another chapter in his playbook."
Cornerback Curtis Holcomb: No one had a tougher 2011 than Holcomb, a seventh-round pick in 2011, who ruptured his Achilles tendon during a conditioning exercise that preceded training camp. Still, Holcomb stuck around the practice facility all season as he went through his rehab, sitting in meetings and watching practice as if he was on the 53-man roster.
That, I think, went a long way with the coaches and players. The 49ers adopted a we-are-family philosophy this season, and Holcomb was part of that family. More important as far as his future chances, however, is the state of the cornerback position. Spencer likely will be cut for salary-cap reasons and there's no guarantee Carlos Rogers, a free agent, will be back.
That would leave the 49ers with three cornerbacks - Tramaine Brock, Tarell Brown and Chris Culliver - signed for 2012 with the Saints, Lions, Giants, Packers, etc., etc. on the schedule. Should Rogers leave, I think the 49ers would sign another veteran cornerback, and they're also likely to sign a cornerback or two in the draft. But Holcomb has a good chance to stick. He's resumed running, but he might not be cleared for full practice until later in the year or in training camp.
Receiver Josh Morgan: Morgan bounded out of the team facility after a workout Thursday as if there was nothing wrong with him. Morgan broke his lower right leg on Oct. 9 and was placed on injured reserve. He told AP's Janie McCauley that he's begun sprinting again, and he promises to be at full speed in the spring.
The 49ers badly could have used Morgan in the playoffs, especially after Ted Ginn went down with an injury. Harbaugh has said the 49ers want to re-sign Morgan, who is a good fit for their power-based West Coast Offense. Morgan, however, likely will test the market in free agency before agreeing to a new deal in San Francisco.
-- Matt Barrows