The reason for the 49ers' pursuit of Clark Haggans became clear today with the news that outside linebacker Parys Haralson has been placed on injured reserve after suffering an injury to his left arm in an Aug. 26 game against Denver.
Haralson, who started all 16 games last season at right outside linebacker, was going to be part of a rotation this season with starters Ahmad Brooks and Aldon Smith. That means that even with the addition of Haggans, 35, who officially signed a one-year deal today, the 49ers will head into the season with only three outside linebackers and may not be finished bulking up the position.
Because Haralson was placed on injured reserve today - and not after 1 p.m. Tuesday - he is not eligible to return to the field later this season under the NFL's new injured reserve rule. Reading between the lines, Haralson's injury appears to be severe enough that he would not have been able to participate this season.
It's unclear when Haralson was hurt against the Broncos. But he left the game early in the second quarter after examining his left arm and did not return. The 49ers have not disclosed the exact injury.
Haggans, meanwhile, could face a three-game suspension by the NFL this season after a DUI conviction in 2011 in Arizona. He also was convicted of DUI in Colorado in 2004.
A hearing on the matter will be held on Wednesday at which point Haggans' agent, Jeff Sperbeck, will try to have the suspension reduced. Haggans' most recent DUI occurred after Haggans, who was at a concert with his wife, received a frantic call from their babysitter who said that their daughter, five years old at the time, was having trouble breathing.
Haggans was cited for speeding and running a red light and was charged with DUI. He pled guilty to "extreme DUI" -- a DUI in which the blood-alcohol level is more than .150 -- and served jail time in June. The matter is not expected to be resolved this week and Haggans should be able to play in Sunday's opener in Green Bay.
The 49ers also will be playing two pass-oriented offenses over the first two weeks: Green Bay and Detroit. That means they likely will be in their nickel formation for much of those games. In those instances, Demarcus Dobbs would be able to fill in as an extra pass rusher if there were more injuries at outside linebacker or if the 49ers wanted to give one of their linebackers a rest.
The team released four outside linebackers last week, including their preseason sack leader, Eric Bakhtiari. The team also was impressed with Ikaika Alama-Francis, who joined the team late in the summer but who looked good in the finale Thursday.
Another option for the 49ers this season is seventh-round pick Cam Johnson, who was placed on the practice squad on Saturday. Johnson had knee surgery in June, missed the team's first three exhibition games, and it's not clear if he is ready to be part of a rotation at the position. Fellow rookie Darius Fleming suffered an ACL tear in May and went on the physically unable to perform list. He is unavailable for at least the first six weeks of the season.
Haralson, meanwhile, has been durable over his six-year career, missing one game in 2010 with an ankle injury and one his rookie year with a foot injury before going on IR later that season with a torn pectoral muscle. He started all 16 games last year and was a big part of the 49ers' dominance against the run. Haralson lost his starting spot to Aldon Smith this year but was going to be steadily rotated into games at both right and left outside linebacker.
Haralson is signed through the 2013 season.
-- Matt Barrows