SANTA CLARA – The 49ers' quarterback merry-go-round took another spin Wednesday, this time dropping off John Skelton, who was acquired last week, and picking up former Sacramento State quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson.
Bethel-Thompson, who spent the 2011 training camp with the 49ers, had been serving as the Vikings' No. 3 quarterback. Minnesota, however, released him earlier this week to make room for former Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman, whom the 49ers also reportedly showed interest in.
Skelton, meanwhile, was signed last week to ostensibly compete with Colt McCoy to be the primary backup to starter Colin Kaepernick. In explaining the move, coach Jim Harbaugh cited Skelton's height – 6-foot-6 – and his experience in starting 17 games during his career.
"Good stature in the pocket," Harbaugh said. "Experienced guy. He's played, won games and been in those battles."
Bethel-Thompson, 25, is 3 inches shorter than Skelton and has never attempted a pass in a regular-season game.
The move underscores the uncertainty the 49ers have at the position after Kaepernick. The team signed Seneca Wallace in late August, only to cut him a few days later. In acquiring Skelton, the 49ers had to release promising rookie B.J. Daniels with the hope they could later add him to the practice squad. Instead, division rival Seattle signed Daniels to its active roster.
Bethel-Thompson also is familiar to Harbaugh, having faced him and Stanford in the opening game of the 2010 college season, a 52-17 Stanford win. Bethel-Thompson (6-3, 230 pounds) was injured early in that game. The San Francisco native also served as the Sacramento Mountain Lions' quarterback during the 2011 UFL season after spending the offseason with the 49ers.
Bethel-Thompson initially made the 49ers' practice squad in 2011 but was made expendable when the 49ers signed Scott Tolzien. Tolzien was released this year in favor of Daniels. Daniels was released to make room for Skelton, who was replaced by Bethel-Thompson.
McDonald rests – The 49ers practiced without starting defensive ends Ray McDonald and Justin Smith.
McDonald suffered a partially torn biceps tendon in Sunday's game but said doctors have cleared him to continue to play this season. Smith has been dealing with a shoulder injury. The 13-year veteran often gets a day off from practice.
Meanwhile, both Patrick Willis (groin) and Nnamdi Asomugha (knee) appeared to be moving better than they were last week. Neither played in last Sunday's win over the Texans.
Brock honored – The player who replaced Asomugha as the team's No. 3 cornerback, Tramaine Brock, was honored as the NFC's Defensive Player of the Week. Brock had two interceptions against Houston, including one he returned 18 yards for a touchdown.
Brock is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent in March, one of five 49ers cornerbacks who are playing in the final year of their contracts.