Last year's 49ers rookies eager to make impact

Published: Wednesday, Mar. 27, 2013 - 12:12 am | Page 1C
Last Modified: Wednesday, Mar. 27, 2013 - 6:40 am

Another reason the 49ers have only gently dipped their big toe into the free-agency pool this offseason?

In addition to their 14-pick haul in next month's draft, there are five players from last year's class who either played sparingly or not at all during their rookie seasons.

Outside linebacker Darius Fleming, for example, tore his ACL just a few minutes into the team's first minicamp last May.

"I just cut wrong," Fleming said Tuesday. "My foot went one way and my leg went the other way."

Fleming, a fifth-round selection out of Notre Dame, sat out the 2012 season as a result. The experience, he said, made him hungrier to make his mark this year.

"Me and Cam (Johnson) talk about it all the time," he said. "We began looking forward to this coming preseason and this (training) camp since the middle of last season. We're looking forward to being able to play together."

Not every player who suffers a season-ending injury in the spring decides to stay at the team facility all season. Fleming did just that, working out daily with strength coach Mark Uyeyama and fellow outside linebacker Parys Haralson, who tore his triceps in August. A silver lining to his injury, Fleming said, is that he was able to spend a lot of time next to Haralson – both in rehab and on the sideline during games – and that he picked up plenty of tips from the veteran linebacker.

Fleming is a little more than a month from the one-year anniversary of his injury, and he said his knee feels as if it is back to normal. He's back in Santa Clara and is part of a workout group that includes other young guns, like Johnson, safety Trenton Robinson and nose tackle Ian Williams, who are eager to find a role on the team this year.

"We're all good players," Fleming said. "We're excited to prove it."

Read Matthew Barrows' blogs and archives at www.sacbee.com/sf49ers and listen for his reports Tuesdays on ESPN Radio 1320. Follow him on Twitter @mattbarrows.

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