Mike Iupati, Tank Carradine and several other top-name 49ers who ended the 2013 season on the sideline with injuries are back to full speed as the team kicks off organized team activities this week.
Iupati broke his fibula on a goal-line play in the second quarter of the team’s Jan. 19 loss in Seattle during the NFC Championship Game. There was no ligament damage, however, and the guard has been part of the team’s recent practices and figures to take part in all or most of the drills this week.
The same goes for Carradine, a second-round pick a year ago who missed his rookie season while recovering from an ACL tear in 2012. Carradine needed another surgery after the 2013 season to clean out scar tissue in the same knee. That procedure was successful, and the 49ers hope Carradine will be the understudy for veteran right defensive end Justin Smith this season.
Tackle Joe Staley (thumb) and defensive end Ray McDonald (biceps) also had offseason procedures and are back at full strength.
Another injured player, cornerback Chris Culliver, will take part in at least some of drills this week after he tore his ACL early in last year’s training camp. Culliver is the top candidate to start opposite Tramaine Brock at cornerback.
Several other players still are recovering from injuries or recent surgeries and will not take part in the OTAs.
Linebacker NaVorro Bowman is expected to begin the season on the physically-unable-to-perform list after tearing his ACL and MCL on Jan. 19. Nose tackle Ian Williams was injured in an earlier meeting with Seattle, breaking his ankle when he was cut-blocked by an offensive lineman. The injury is more complicated than Iupati’s and Williams will need more time to recover. Offensive tackle Anthony Davis (shoulder) and safety C.J. Spillman (hand) had surgery recently, but both are expected back for training camp in late July.
Boone, who went undrafted in 2009, has started every game at guard the last two seasons. He signed a four-year contract extension in 2011, before he became a starter.
The 49ers have an unusual situation on the offensive line in that the top player there, Staley, signed a long-term extension early in his career and is making only a modest salary – $2.7 million in base pay – this season.
Therefore it’s difficult to pay other worthy linemen like Boone and fellow starting guard Iupati more than Staley. The team already hiked right tackle Davis’ salary in the offseason. And the 49ers are working on a contract extension for quarterback Colin Kaepernick, one that likely will make him by far the highest-paid player on the team and one of the highest paid in the league.
Boone is scheduled to earn $2 million in base pay and count $2.6 million against the salary cap. Of the 49ers’ projected offensive line starters, only center Daniel Kilgore will earn less.
Thomas played outside linebacker for 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio at Stanford. There are now three former Cardinal players on the squad: Thomas, tackle Jonathan Martin and linebacker Shayne Skov.