When will second-round draft pick Tank Carradine start practicing? Vic Fangio says he doesn't know, but that it won't be soon. "I'm sure I'll be alerted when he's close to coming back and I haven't been alerted yet," the defensive coordinator said Friday.
Carradine, the 40th overall pick in the April draft, is recovering from an ACL tear suffered in November at Florida State. Like fellow draft pick Marcus Lattimore, a running back, Carradine worked furiously in the run-up to the draft on his rehabilitation to show teams that he was on his way toward recovery and that he could contribute this season. But also like Lattimore, the 49ers felt it was prudent to slow down that process.
Carradine and another rookie defensive lineman, fifth rounder Quinton Dial, have been rehabilitating together on a side field during practices. Dial, who tore a toe ligament last season and had offseason surgery, appears to be ahead of Carradine.
All of the injured rookies have been placed on the non-football injury (NFI) list. If they remain on that list when the regular season begins, they cannot practice or play for the first six weeks. After Week 6 and continuing through Week 11, there's a three-week window during which they can join practice. If the 49ers feel they are healthy at that point, they can be moved to the active, 53-man roster.
Fangio was skeptical about how much his injured linemen could contribute when they finally are cleared to practice. "To just think you're going to take them off (NFI) and their first total action is going to be Week 8 - yeah they might be physically cleared to do that and physically able," he said. "But to think they're going to be as good as they were had they had all of this work, I think is pretty naïve. So I wouldn't say 'point of no return,' but they won't be where they should be."
Carradine will be used as a defensive lineman, and the 49ers are eying him as an eventual heir to Justin Smith at right defensive end. However, Smith's primary backup right now is Demarcus Dobbs while Will Tukuafu backs up Ray McDonald at left defensive end.
The 49ers' most talented spot on the line in terms of depth may be nose tackle. Ian Williams, Glenn Dorsey and Lamar Divens all have looked formidable in recent practices. Williams and Dorsey also can play defensive end in San Francisco's 3-4 scheme, although their natural position is nose tackle. The 49ers typically activate five defensive linemen on game days.
- Matt Barrows