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Baalke likes the way 49ers "continued to grind" this season despite injuries, other issues

Published: Saturday, Oct. 26, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1C
Last Modified: Saturday, Oct. 26, 2013 - 3:20 pm

LONDON – General manager Trent Baalke said Friday he's proud of the way the 49ers have "continued to grind" through the first half of the season despite injuries to high-profile players, a two-game losing streak and a messy off-the-field incident involving Aldon Smith.

Baalke said he planned to meet with Smith, who entered a treatment facility Sept. 23, "in the near future" but that there was no timeline for the Pro Bowl linebacker to return.

He said the 49ers must be convinced Smith, 24, has made progress and that there must be a "trust factor" with Smith, who was arrested for DUI early on Sept. 21, his second such arrest in two years, and also is facing gun-possession charges.

"Our ultimate goal is to help Aldon get back to a place where he feels very comfortable and can move forward in a very positive manner," Baalke said during a 2 1/2-hour conversation with reporters at a London hotel before the 49ers went through their final practice prior to Sunday's game against Jacksonville at Wembley Stadium. " … Obviously we're hopeful. But at the same time we're prepared for either outcome."

Smith, on the reserve non-football injury/illness list, is one of six players who could be added to the 53-man roster in coming months.

The others are wide receivers Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham, cornerback Eric Wright, defensive end Tank Carradine and linebacker Nick Moody, all on various injury lists. If they are activated, the 49ers must make a corresponding move to clear space on the 53-man roster.

The 49ers have been rumored to be interested in trading for a receiver, perhaps Cleveland's Josh Gordon or the Giants' Hakeem Nicks. The trade deadline is Tuesday.

However, the looming influx of players like Manningham and Crabtree, plus the fact that the 49ers will be in London until Monday, makes a trade unlikely.

Baalke would not tip his hand.

"You never know," he said. "You never know what tomorrow brings."

Among the other topics Baalke discussed:

• He said he would not trade running back LaMichael James despite the 49ers having no obvious role for him. James, a second-round pick last year, has been inactive the last two games and showed his frustration via Twitter earlier this month.

"You respect and understand the frustration," Baalke said. "You'd be disappointed if a player wasn't playing and wasn't frustrated because of it."

He called James a "key player" whose role would expand with time.

• He stopped short of saying the 49ers would try to extend or re-sign wide receiver Anquan Boldin, who is only signed through March, but he heaped praise on the 11-year veteran.

Boldin has the most catches among the team's wideouts this year and is the only one with a touchdown.

"There is no better pro, in my opinion, than Anquan," Baalke said. "He is the consummate professional. He's a leader; he's a mentor. He's a great family man. He is a class act."

• He also said the team continues to try to "make it right" with cornerback Tarell Brown, who lost a $2 million workout bonus before the season began.

"We'll do our best to make sure T-Brown feels he's being treated fairly by the 49ers organization."

Read Matthew Barrows' blogs at and listen for his reports Tuesdays on ESPN Radio 1320.

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Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.

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