Nelms spent last year on 49ers' practice squad
The 49ers pared down their roster to the NFL-mandated 75-player limit on Monday by making two moves with injured rookies and releasing 12 young players, including two that finished the 2011 season on the team’s final roster and another that cost them a sixth-round draft pick this spring.
The most notable veteran name to leave the building at 4949 Centennial Boulevard in Santa Clara was wide receiver Joe Hastings, who spent last season on San Francisco’s practice squad as an undrafted rookie before being promoted to the 53-man roster during the final week of the season. Hastings was the No. 4 wideout in uniform for a depleted San Francisco receiver corps in January in the NFC Championship Game, though he did not see action in that contest.
Defensive back Cory Nelms, who spent last season on the Niners’ practice squad as an undrafted rookie, also was given his pink slip Monday as the Niners gave two of their developmental players a chance to catch on with other teams before Friday’s final roster cutdown to the 53-man limit NFL teams will take into the regular season.
Two rookies were put on injury lists that will exempt them from counting against the team’s active roster. Outside linebacker Darius Fleming, San Francisco’s fifth-round draft pick in April, was placed on the Reserve/Physically Unable to Perform List. Running back Jewel Hampton, an undrafted rookie free agent, was placed on the Reserve/Non-Football Injury List. Both players will not be eligible to practice until at least the Tuesday following the completion of week six of the NFL schedule
Fleming, who suffered a knee injury during spring workouts, is unlikely to be ready to play at that point and could be headed toward the Injured Reserve list for 2012. The team will have a week to decide the status of the two players once they become eligible.
The most notable name among rookies to be released was offensive lineman Jason Slowey, the team’s sixth-round draft pick out of Western Oregon.
Other undrafted rookies that were waived by the team included fullback Cameron Bell, outside linebacker Kourtnei Brown, defensive tackles Patrick Butrym and Matthew Masifilo, wide receiver Brian Tyms, cornerback Deante' Purvis, tight end Ben Sawyer and kicker Giorgio Tavecchio. Wide receiver Ben Hannula, a first-year player with previous NFL experience, also was released.
Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said the 49ers would consider some of the players released for this year's practice squad.
''Obviously at this time of the camp you have to let some guys go,'' Fangio said. ''Sometimes we don't want to, we think they're young guys who have some potential. We'll look into some of them potentially as practice squad players or maybe to bring back next offseason when you start signing players in February or guys to keep on in case you have some injuries.''
On Friday, the Niners must make another round of cuts to finalize their 53-man roster ahead of the season opener Sept. 9 at Green Bay. San Francisco's last preseason game is Thursday night against the San Diego Chargers at Candlestick Park.
Everybody is eager to start the season – with high expectations of reaching the Super Bowl after last season's near miss.
''The guys are ready to go, that's for sure ... ,'' Fangio said. ''This is still a great time to learn, perfect your craft, excel in your technique. We have to be able to do that, and we weren't perfect on that the other night by any means.''
Cornerback Tramaine Brock is among those players considered on the bubble to make the team after he struggled to defend the Broncos in the Niners' 29-24 exhibition win at Denver on Sunday night. San Francisco has depth in the secondary, with starting cornerbacks Carlos Rogers and Tarell Brown and capable backups in Perrish Cox and Chris Culliver.
''He's got a little hand injury that he's fighting through but nothing that should affect him a great deal,'' Fangio said of Brock. ''He's played better.''
The coaches will make more critical evaluations in the coming days.
Fangio said playing time for Thursday night for the defense would be ''more so on an individual basis than on a unit basis.''
Yet Fangio would like to see some things cleaned up in the preseason finale after a frustrating performance by San Francisco's D against Denver. The 49ers fell behind 17-0 in the first quarter before rallying to win, outscoring the Broncos' backups 19-0 after halftime.
While the 49ers brought all 11 defensive starters back from 2011, Fangio said it was the backups who also had problems and he was ''particularly disappointed'' with some of their performances.
''It was just nothing special,'' he said, noting his players might not have been as well prepared as they would be game-planning for the regular season. ''You're still disappointed in the results because all the defenses we played yesterday are things that we'll carry into each and every game.''
They also watched Peyton Manning complete 10 of 12 passes for 122 yards in less than a quarter on the field - including TD completions of 10 and 5 yards to Eric Decker.
Linebacker Aldon Smith understands Fangio's disappointment and insists the defense is ready to get to the games that count.
''It is preseason and you're figuring a lot of things out,'' Smith said. ''Every game's not going to be the best you may hope for. We've come a long way and we've still got a long way to go. I'm optimistic about it and I think we'll be fine. I think we're ready to go.''
NOTES: Wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr. moved slowly through the locker room with a walking boot on his right foot Monday after hurting his ankle early in the second half Sunday. He didn't comment when asked when he might return. ... DE/TE Demarcus Dobbs was on crutches Monday with his left leg wrapped.