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August 2, 2012
Forget Parys? No way. Fangio sees three starters at OLB


Reports of Parys Haralson's demise are greatly exaggerated. At least according to defensive coordinator Vic Fangio.

Yes, Haralson has lost his starting job to second-year player Aldon Smith, inevitable after Smith's 16-sack rookie campaign. And Haralson has a cap number this year - nearly $3 million - that's larger than what a team would like for a backup outside linebacker.

But Fangio didn't speak about Haralson Wednesday in back-up terms. "We feel fortunate to have all three of them," he said of Haralson, Ahmad Brooks and Smith. "We feel we've got three starters there. So, he gets as much (practice) work as Ahmad and Aldon does."

Haralson has been seeing a lot of work at left outside linebacker in training camp after playing on the right side last year. In fact, he sometimes substitutes for Brooks on the left side with the starting unit.

That doesn't mean Brooks is in trouble. In fact, he's in better shape this summer than any previous summer of his career. But it does signal that Brooks, who played an impressive 93.1 percent of the defensive snaps last season, will have a lighter workload next year. Only Tarell Brown (99.31 percent), Carlos Rogers (98.72) and NaVorro Bowman (97.53) played more than Brooks. In 2011 Smith (48.22) was the No. 3 outside linebacker. But he came in almost exclusively for Haralson (49.8) on third downs and played on the right side.

Another reason not to write off Haralson: There are no youngsters on the roster pressing him for playing time. Fifth-round pick Darius Fleming is unlikely to play this season after tearing his ACL in May. Seventh-round pick Cam Johnson has potential. But he's still recovering from a June knee procedure and is not yet playing at full speed.

Notable: Pro Football Focus, which looks at every snap a player plays and which ranks every player in terms of position, is not as down on Haralson as the fans seem to be. They ranked Haralson No. 17 out of 28 3-4 outside linebackers last year, two spots ahead of Brooks.

Smith was ranked No. 2 overall behind Miami's Cameron Wake. For what it's worth, New Orleans' Scott Shanle - remember him? - is ranked 43 out of 45 4-3 outside linebackers.

-- 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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