SANTA CLARA Asked Tuesday if he had blitzed during the exhibition season, cornerback Carlos Rogers gave a conspiratorial smile. "No we're going to save all that," he said.
Indeed, defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, known for exotic blitzes in his 3-4 defense, was downright staid during the preseason. When the 49ers did blitz, the pressure mostly came from the inside linebackers. Starters Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman each finished the preseason with a sack.
Fangio's system promises to get spicier starting Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks. His coaching background is very similar to that of Green Bay Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers, whose objective is to disrupt the opponents' passing attack and who sends blitzers from all corners of the field, including the secondary.
Last season, Green Bay tied for second in the league with 47 sacks. Two of them came from cornerback Charles Woodson, who has seven sacks over the past three seasons.
Exactly who will be handling those blitzes for the 49ers remains fuzzy.
Fangio on Tuesday said two starting spots in the secondary, the cornerback who will play opposite Rogers and free safety, still are unsettled because of injuries.
Dashon Goldson will start at safety if he's healthy. Goldson is dealing with a knee injury that, while not considered serious, kept him out of last week's practices and Thursday's preseason finale.
Another option, Reggie Smith, returned to practice this week after dealing with his own knee injury, but the team is not certain if he's ready to play a full game.
The only healthy free safety right now is free-agent pickup Madieu Williams. He had strong preseason games against the Raiders and Houston Texans but struggled in run support Thursday against the San Diego Chargers. Williams took a poor angle on a 56-yard touchdown run by Chargers tailback Ryan Mathews.
The cornerback spot is likely to go to Tarell Brown. That's due in part to a strong preseason from the four-year veteran as well as a hamstring injury to Shawntae Spencer. Fangio said Spencer also would return to practice this week. Still, he noted that Spencer has been out for more than a month with the injury.
"That would be a tall task for him to come back this soon and play a full game," Fangio said. "Maybe he can come back and play parts of it, but that all remains to be seen and to be determined day-to-day as we go through this week."
In the spring of 2009, the 49ers thought Brown was ready for a starting role. Instead the job went to Spencer. Brown ended up starting four games in the middle of the season when Nate Clements was injured, but he eventually was replaced by Dre' Bly after a rough outing against the Packers.
Brown was relegated to the role of nickel cornerback last season he was in on 29 percent of the defensive snaps and said he was eager to prove himself to the new coaching staff.
"It's a fresh start, man," Brown said. "I think for all the guys, it's a fresh start. We all had to make a name for ourselves and let the coaches know who we are."
Brown, meanwhile, blitzed just once during the preseason. He didn't get a sack on that play, and he said he's never had one in his career.
Not yet, anyway.