SANTA CLARA – Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio on Thursday pumped the brakes a bit on how soon reinforcements like lineman Tank Carradine and cornerback Eric Wright could contribute on defense.
Both are eligible to begin practicing as early as Tuesday. But when they could join the roster, and most importantly help the defense, remains to be seen, Fangio said. The 49ers acquired Wright, a six-year veteran, in August. He's currently on the non-football injury/illness list, and he spends practices working out with the team's strength and conditioning staff.
"To get in shape and run with the strength coaches and the trainers and do drills is one thing, but football is another," Fangio said. "And he's learning our system in meetings. But learning it in a meeting and executing it on the field are two different things."
He said the issue is more pronounced for Carradine, a second-round pick last April, and for nose tackle Quinton Dial, a fifth-round selection. Fangio said that in a normal circumstance defensive rookies would get up to speed first in organized team activities, then in training camp and then the preseason.
"So here we are right dead in the middle of the regular season and these guys have missed all those steps," Fangio said, "So when they're ready, and I have no idea when that'll be, they'll place them. We'll activate them and play them. But until then, I think it'd be a mistake to put them out there too early."
The 49ers currently have six cornerbacks on the 53-man roster. When Wright eventually is activated, the team likely will have to release one among the group.
Fangio noted that Nnamdi Asomugha, who had been battling a knee injury, was healthy enough to play Sunday against the Texans but was not activated for the game. Instead, Tramaine Brock assumed the role of No. 3 cornerback, finished with two interceptions and was named the NFC's Defensive Player of the Week.
Willis on the mend – Last week, Patrick Willis and the 49ers coaches thought there was a better-than-even chance the Pro Bowl linebacker would be back in action against Houston after suffering a groin injury Sept. 22. When it came time to make the final decision an hour before the game, however, Willis said he "just wasn't all the way there."
"What I didn't want to do is lie to myself and to my teammates, and not be able to go out there and give them all of me," he said Thursday. "So me and the training staff felt like it was the right approach. (Wednesday) I was feeling better. I'm still feeling it a little bit, but it's certainly a lot better than it was."
As was the case last week, Willis has been a limited participant in practice this week. However, his movement seems better and it appears as if he will play against the Cardinals. The 49ers are 2-0 in the games he's missed.
Et cetera – Defensive end Ray McDonald, who said he will play against Arizona, missed his second consecutive practice after tearing a biceps tendon against the Texans. Fellow defensive end Justin Smith practiced after sitting out Wednesday's session.
On Monday, coach Jim Harbaugh said Dial was close to 350 pounds. That's news to Dial, who said he was actually 320 pounds – about what he weighed before the April draft. "I don't know where he's getting his (information) from," Dial said with a laugh.
Offensive coordinator Greg Roman said "it's possible" that wide receiver Mario Manningham will participate in practice next week. Manningham has been rehabilitating from ACL and PCL injuries suffered against the Seahawks last December.