49ers Blog and Q&A

News, notes and reader questions about the San Francisco 49ers

September 12, 2008
In Peterson, 49ers face the one who got away

The 49ers have excellent pass rushers. They just happen to be playing in different cities these days. Andre Carter, for example, had 10.5 sacks for Washington last season and the back injuries that plagued him when he was in San Francisco appear to be, ahem, behind him. Perhaps a bigger regret is Julian Peterson, who had 9.5 sacks in Seattle and whose versatility would make him an excellent fit in the 49ers' chameleon-like defense. Peterson had a so-so season in 2005, Mike Nolan's first with the 49ers and Peterson's first since rupturing an Achilles tendon the year before. He has made the Pro Bowl every season since joining the Seahawks.

Asked about whether the 49ers miscalculated about Peterson, Nolan today said they did not. "We had another problem we were dealing with at the time. And it wasn't the player. It was a situation where we wanted to get our (salary) cap right. So it was unfortunate. It was the same thing with Carter. We would have liked to have kept Carter. But again, that was way back when ..."

Nolan said the decision to cut ties with Peterson was difficult on the linebacker and "he took it kind of personal." Indeed, the excitable Peterson seems to ratchet up the intensity level a few more notches when he plays his former team. He had four sacks against the 49ers last season and celebrated each one by pointing at the name on the back of his jersey as if to say, "Remember me?" (By the way, Peterson is back wearning his familiar No. 98 this year). Nolan said that signing Peterson to the long-term deal he was after would have prevented the team from adding some of the big-name free agents, like Nate Clements, it added in subsequent years. "But that's not to take away from the fact that we were not happy about having to lose him."

The 49ers' defensive backs are in an unusual situation in that they don't know whom they'll be facing on Sunday. Walt Harris said today that he usually spends the week watching film and figuring out the tendencies of the player he will face. How does he react to jams? What does he look like coming in and out of breaks? Is he a strong downfield blocker? Against the Seahawks, that evaluation will have to come on the fly. "As far as my experience, it only takes a few minutes in the game for you to figure out the kind of guy you're lining over," he said. One of the players the 49ers figure to see at wideout is Seneca Wallace whose background at quarterback means the 49ers will have to watch out for trick plays. Harris also believes the segue to receiver will be an easy one for Wallace. "Actually, he understands a little bit more about what the quarterback wants for his routes. You can't sleep on that. When he comes in the game, obviously you want to have your thinking cap on and alert everyone to be ready." After all, who knows Matt Hasselbeck more than his understudy?

Defensive back Donald Strickland said he'd thought he'd play Sunday. He said he injured his knee early in Sunday's game when he was sandwiched between receiver Anquan Boldin and linebacker Patrick Willis. If Strickland can't go, Nolan said there were plenty of candidates to replace him. The 49ers have 11 - yes, ELEVEN! -- defensive backs. And that's not including return man Allen Rossum.

The 49ers will have a walk-through in Santa Clara tomorrow before flying to Seattle. Nolan said he typically has Saturday walk throughs early in the season but has eliminated them later in the year if he feels his team needs a day off their feet.

-- Matt Barrows

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Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.

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