SANTA CLARA – Newly signed quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson was asked this week how much things had changed with the 49ers since he spent training camp with them in 2011.
"The stadium got bigger," the former Sacramento State quarterback said. "That's the first thing I noticed. That thing went up quick."
Whether he'll be around for the new Santa Clara stadium's completion, however, is another matter.
The 49ers' third quarterback has become one of the most precarious jobs in the NFL. Three different players – Scott Tolzien, B.J. Daniels and John Skelton – have had it since August. Skelton spent seven days on the job before being replaced by Bethel-Thompson on Wednesday.
Coach Jim Harbaugh said Friday that the plan all along was to get Bethel-Thompson back on the roster.
"He showed really good arm strength, really smart," Harbaugh said of Bethel-Thompson's 2011 offseason performance. "He's got a good football character about him. And since then, he's been playing football, watching film, getting coached, taking reps. We feel like he's even further along than when we had him the first time."
Bethel-Thompson, 25, initially made the 49ers' practice squad in 2011 but was expendable when the 49ers signed Tolzien. Later that year, he played for the UFL's Sacramento Mountain Lions and ended the NFL season on the Miami Dolphins practice squad.
In 2012, he beat out Sage Rosenfels for the No. 3 quarterback job in Minnesota and held it until the Vikings signed Josh Freeman earlier this week. Bethel-Thompson said he had an opportunity to join Minnesota's practice squad but instead took the opportunity to return home – he played at Balboa High School in San Francisco – to the 49ers.
"It's a crazy business. Sometimes it happens really fast," he said. "This happened within a three-hour span. At least I don't have to get used to a new area. This is my home. I'm happy to be here."
Bethel-Thompson has yet to attempt a pass in a regular-season NFL game. Offensive coordinator Greg Roman, however, said the 49ers thought the young quarterback had a "darn good" preseason. Bethel-Thompson was 35 of 52 for 320 yards with two touchdowns and an interception in three Vikings exhibition games.
The 49ers signed Skelton on Oct. 2 and released him seven days later. Bethel-Thompson was asked if he's concerned that his stay with the 49ers could be as short-lived.
"That's something I can't control," he said. "I'm about controlling the things that I can, and that's my performance on a daily basis. If I perform well enough, then my stay will be longer than if I don't perform well."
"Hard Knocks" Harbaugh – Not only did Harbaugh say he wouldn't fight an appearance on the HBO show "Hard Knocks," he had some suggestions for the selection process.
NFL owners this week voted for the league to be able to compel one team per year to appear on the show, which follows – in often revealing ways – a team's training camp and its preparation for the regular season. In previous years, teams have been reluctant to appear, causing last-minute scrambling by the network and the league.
The new rule is designed to eliminate that uncertainty, but it already has drawn criticism from some coaches, including the Cardinals' Bruce Arians.
"A total distraction," Arians said on SiriusXM radio. "And I think it's an embarrassment to players. I think when players are released, some of the things that are said between coaches and players are too personal, and nobody else's business."
Arians' opposing coach this Sunday wasn't as resistant.
Harbaugh suggested that the selection be based on how a team finished the previous year, which is how the coaching staffs of the Senior Bowl and Pro Bowl are chosen.
"I think that would be something everybody would know going in," he said. "It would be fair, so it wouldn't be arbitrarily assigned."
The 49ers won't be featured anytime soon. The new rule includes several exemptions: teams that have made the playoffs in at least one of the past two seasons; teams that have a first-year head coach; and those that have been on "Hard Knocks" in the previous 10 seasons.
Harbaugh was asked if he watches "Hard Knocks." "I find it quite entertaining," he said.
Injuries – Ray McDonald (biceps) and Patrick Willis (groin) are listed as questionable on the 49ers' practice report. Both practiced on a limited basis Friday, and both are expected to play Sunday. Center Jonathan Goodwin (illness) did not practice.
Read Matthew Barrows' blogs at www.sacbee.com/sf49ers and listen for his reports Tuesdays on ESPN Radio 1320