Matt Barrows

Matthew Barrows: There's no room for soft spots on the 49ers

Published: Friday, Sep. 6, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1C
Last Modified: Friday, Sep. 6, 2013 - 8:30 am

SANTA CLARA – "Complacency is death."

That's a quote from new 49ers wide receiver Marlon Moore, the former Natomas High School player who said it a week ago when asked if he felt secure about his roster spot following a three-catch preseason outing against the Vikings.

But the phrase might as well be a team motto for 2013.

A team that came within 5 yards of taking a late lead in the Super Bowl, one that is the league's most well-stocked today and in the future – they have 13 draft picks in 2014 – also was extremely active in the offseason.

If being fat, happy and content was the bane of recent Super Bowl participants, then the 49ers were the opposite, obsessively hitting the treadmill as soon as last season ended. Every position has been scrutinized, every contract examined, every permutation considered. The 49ers are constantly checking themselves for soft spots.

As it stands now, there are 20 players on San Francisco's 53-man roster – 38 percent – that weren't in the locker room at the Super Bowl.

I use the qualifier "as it stands now" because when it comes to the 49ers, the roster can change daily. For example, the team worked out yet another quarterback, John Skelton, this week.

During the offseason, veteran center Jonathan Goodwin's contract was trimmed. Parys Haralson's was sliced, too, then the 49ers traded the outside linebacker to New Orleans. Another linebacker, Cam Johnson, had the game of his life Aug. 29; four days later, he was whisked off to Indianapolis.

Colt McCoy was awarded the No. 2 quarterback job, but not before his contract was restructured so that if he's not the No. 2 at any point this season he doesn't get all of his money. Message to Colt: Don't get comfortable.

Long snapper Brian Jennings never had a single snap go awry in 13 years with the 49ers.

One of most amazing games I've covered was in Chicago in 2005. The wind was so fierce inside Soldier Field that then-Bears kicker Robbie Gould couldn't stand up without being blown backward. Field-goal attempts shot up toward the center of the uprights and then made a sharp turn wide right as if they had struck an invisible force field.

Jennings' snaps, however, were all on target. He calculated the cross wind and snapped the ball as if the holder were 3 feet to the left.

But there's no room for gooey nostalgia on the 49ers. Jennings was cut last weekend in favor of undrafted rookie Kevin McDermott, a bold move for a team that hopes to go to the Super Bowl.

There is a practical reason for that and the other moves.

The 49ers must clear enough room in future salary caps to absorb the monster contracts expected for quarterback Colin Kaepernick, outside linebacker Aldon Smith, guard Mike Iupati and perhaps wide receiver Michael Crabtree. Any cap savings this year rolls over into next season.

What's more, keeping the roster lean and mean is a message from the coaching staff and front office.

Coming off a Super Bowl appearance, coach Jim Harbaugh and general manager Trent Baalke have all sorts of forces working against then, including a tougher schedule, the inertia from just having played in the big game and the extra-large spoonfuls of sugary praise that can make a preseason Super Bowl favorite bloated with self-satisfaction.

Constant roster housekeeping signals there is no sentimentality from last year, that no one is safe, and that everyone must continue to push ahead.

In other words, complacency is death.

You can practically see Harbaugh passing out T-shirts inside the locker room that say exactly that.

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

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