JOHN LOK / Seattle Times

Some NFL teams are giving Brian Banks a look after the former high school standout wrongfully spent five years in prison.

Niners, other teams express interest in wrongfully convicted ex-prisoner

Published: Saturday, Jun. 9, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 1C
Last Modified: Wednesday, Jun. 13, 2012 - 10:22 am

SANTA CLARA – The 49ers are one of a handful of teams interested in Brian Banks, the 26-year-old linebacker from Southern California who was wrongfully incarcerated for five years.

Banks had a workout Thursday with the Seahawks and one Friday with the Chargers, agent Bruce Tollner said. Tollner said Banks has several visits scheduled next week, but there is nothing concrete with the 49ers at this point.

Banks was a star linebacker at Long Beach Poly High School a decade ago, and during his junior year he made a verbal commitment to play at USC.

When he was 17, however, a teenage girl he had known all his life accused him of rape and kidnapping.

Banks pleaded no contest on the advice of his attorney, and he served more than five years in prison. He spent the past five as a registered sex offender. The woman, however, later recanted her story. He was completely exonerated in a hearing last month and has been trying to resume his life.

"This is a great illustration for us why people deserve a second chance," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, who was at USC when Banks committed to the school, told the Seattle media Thursday. "Because of what he has overcome and because of what lies ahead for him in his life. This is just one step, but it's a step he's been dreaming about for a long time."

One of the first steps a prospective team must take is deciding which position Banks would play. Tollner said some teams envision him – he's 6-foot-2, 240 pounds – as an inside linebacker, some see him playing outside linebacker.

The 49ers' bigger need is at outside linebacker after both of their draft picks at the position, Darius Fleming and Cam Johnson, went down with knee injuries. Johnson is expected back for training camp; Fleming is likely out for the season with an ACL tear.

Banks has been working out with a trainer in Orange County but is not yet in football-playing condition. After being released from prison in 2007, he played a season at the junior college level. But the terms of his probation were altered the following year and he was unable to continue playing.

Carroll and the Seahawks invited him to take part in their minicamp next week on a tryout basis.

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