There isn't an easy way for a coach to tell a player who has been working hard for weeks that he isn't good enough, that his dream of playing professional football might be over.
But that duty took up much of Thursday for Mountain Lions head coach and general manager Dennis Green as he and his staff cut 20 players to get to the United Football League-mandated 51-player roster by Friday afternoon.
"It's always tough, but you have to make the judgment calls, and hopefully they are the right ones," said Green, who has one week to prepare for the season opener Sept. 17 against the visiting Las Vegas Locomotives. "But I think we had a very good camp, and the guys we have really worked hard to make this team."
Notable cuts included running back Andre Dixon.
"Andre had a good camp, but we decided to go with three backs," Green said of the former Hartford Colonial. "We've got Cory (Ross) as the starter and John-David Washington and then Steve Baylark, who is one of the best special-teams guys in the league."
Other cuts included local products Josh Leonard (Center High School) and John Faletoese (Jesuit, UC Davis).
The only Mountain Lions with local ties are wide receiver Otis Amey and quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson, who both played for Sacramento State, and quarterback Ryan Colburn, a Sacramento native whose family moved to Visalia when he was a toddler. He went on to play for Fresno State.
The quarterback position was in flux throughout training camp. Adam Tafralis retired, and Arkelon Hall was cut. Former Atlanta Falcons quarterback D.J. Shockley was in camp for a few days, then was cut, too.
Bethel-Thompson made the Mountain Lions' roster after getting cut by the 49ers.
The 49ers also cut quarterback Josh McCown, who played for Hartford last season. McCown might join a UFL team this week, although Green said earlier he had no interest in pursuing him.
So the quarterback trio, at least entering the UFL season opener at Hornet Stadium, has Colburn with the inside edge to be named the starter, with Jordan Palmer and Bethel-Thompson battling for the backup role. Palmer is the younger brother of former Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer. Colburn has the edge because he has been in training camp since it opened.
"It's still a wide-open battle, but we are getting closer to naming a starter," Green said. "I'm still surprised the Niners didn't keep McLeod on their practice squad. But that's fine by us."
Daunte Culpepper, the Mountain Lions' starting quarterback last season, remains without a team.
Scaccia returns Another 49ers castoff is kicker Fabrizio Scaccia. He couldn't usurp David Akers' job with the team and returned to the Mountain Lions, with whom he finished third in scoring in the UFL last season with 53 points.
Scaccia is relatively famous for making the longest field goal in football history without a tee. The 68-yarder came in 2009 while he was playing for the semi-professional Port St. Lucie Bobcats of the Florida Football Alliance.
"Sure, it was a swirling wind," Scaccia said. "But I was able to work it in."
Scaccia and the kick were mentioned in the April 20, 2009, edition of Sports Illustrated's "Faces in the Crowd."
Scaccia was the UFL's Special Teams Player of the Week twice last season. He also kicked for the Arizona Rattlers of the Arena Football League the past two seasons.
"It's been a fun ride," Scaccia said. "Especially for a guy who didn't go to a major college, really any college."