The reinforcements are coming!
Jim Harbaugh today said the 49ers' two rookie defensive linemen, Tank Carradine and Quinton Dial, are on track to begin practicing for the first time next week. After they start practicing, the team has a three-week window with which to add them to the 53-man roster or shut them down completely for the season.
Carradine, a second-round pick who is coming off an ACL injury suffered in November, will play defensive end and is ostensibly the long-term replacement for Justin Smith. Dial, who Harbaugh said was up to 340-350 pounds, would play nose tackle. "Moving real well," Harbaugh said of Dial, a fifth-round pick. "So high hopes for him." He said he expected both to contribute this season, although they likely will need plenty of practice before they are game-ready.
That news comes as the 49ers await word on defensive end Ray McDonald, who suffered a right biceps injury in the third quarter Sunday. McDonald is having an MRI on the arm today, which will determine how much time he'll miss. The results of that MRI were not available in time for Harbaugh's noon press conference.
Harbaugh also had good news about wide receivers Mario Manningham and Michael Crabtree. Like Dial and Carradine, Manningham is on track to resume practicing with the team next week as it prepares for a two week trip to Nashville and then London. He said Crabtree is on schedule to return to the field by mid to late November, which is in line with a six-month rehabilitation from his May 21 Achilles' tendon tear. Crabtree has been running and doing agility drills, and he has looked remarkably spry for someone who had a complete rupture less than five months ago.
Two more defensive players could join the ranks in coming weeks as well. Like the others listed above, cornerback Eric Wright currently is on the non-football injury list, and Harbaugh said he, too, could start practicing next week. All of the players on NFI are eligible to start practicing after Week 6 to Week 11. From that point, there is a three-week window for putting them on the 53-man roster.
He said he also believes that Aldon Smith, currently in a substance abuse treatment program, is making progress. "A few texts," Harbaugh said. "Heard things are going very well, very positive, (from the) reports back."
He said there is no timetable for Smith's return.
-- Matt Barrows