SANTA CLARA – Tank Carradine picked up a few things in the 49ers’ film room last season, and he learned some tricks of the trade from watching teammates such as Justin Smith, whom he’ll likely relieve at times this year.
But his biggest lesson was this: Play each snap as if it might be your last.
“You can be out there and everything could be going good and you could be having an amazing season, and all of a sudden get a knee injury or something like that,” Carradine said Wednesday. “I just learned to be grateful to be out here playing sports. And take advantage of it. Don’t let opportunities pass you by.”
Concerns about whether he had already played his final snap must have been running through Carradine’s mind last year.
Carradine, taken early in the second round in 2013, had recovered from an ACL tear suffered a year earlier at Florida State. But he never felt like himself. His usual explosion wasn’t there and he never regained full flexibility in the joint.
“I didn’t really know if I was ever going to be the same again,” he said.
An end-of-year MRI of the knee showed a buildup of scar tissue, and in January he had it cleaned out. Carradine said he felt better almost immediately. “I was able to get a full range of motion in my knee, I was able to bend it,” he said. “I also got the strength back in my leg.”
That means Carradine is back on track to resume the role everyone expected him to have last year – as a backup to starters Smith and Ray McDonald and perhaps as an inside rusher on passing downs.
Vic Fangio, however, said it’s too early to define Carradine’s role.
The ever-cautious defensive coordinator noted that Carradine has yet to go through a single padded practice with the 49ers. In addition, the team has an abundance of defensive linemen, many of whom – like Demarcus Dobbs and Tony Jerod-Eddie – have more experience than Carradine, whom Fangio said is essentially just starting his career.
“He’s basically not much different than a rookie coming in right now,” Fangio said. “So this is his first shot.”
Jim Harbaugh on Wednesday said the 49ers will hold four joint practices with the Ravens in Maryland following the teams’ Aug. 7 preseason opener in Baltimore. The next day, Jim Harbaugh said, there will be a joint practice at M&T Bank Stadium.
Over the following three days, the teams will practice together at the Ravens’ training camp in Owings Mills, Md., which is about 15 miles northwest of Baltimore.
The 49ers’ most recent scrimmages with the Raiders in Napa have been day-and-a-half sessions.
• On offense, wide receivers Quinton Patton and Bruce Ellington stood out. With so many veteran wideouts taking scant repetitions this spring, young players like Patton and Ellington have received plenty of chances.
• Harbaugh said the 49ers probably would wait until the current minicamp is over to fill their open roster spot. The team has an opening after cornerback Eric Wright announced he would retire from the game.
Read Matt Barrows’ blogs at www.sacbee.com/sf49ers.