It looks as if Sunday will mark the return of three letter that have thus far been missing from the 49ers' game-day roster: T. B. C. Mike Nolan said this afternoon that there's a "better than favorable" chance that Tully Banta-Cain could be in uniform against his former team. Banta-Cain has been inactive thus far this season. But with Manny Lawson (hamstring) unlikely to play, the 49ers will need an extra outside linebacker. Parys Haralson is Lawson's primary backup and likely will start in place of Lawson.
That's assuming, of course, that the 49ers don't open the game in their "Big Sub" package. If they do, neither Haralson nor Banta-Cain should expect to see much action.
Here's a brief Q&A I had with tight ends coach Pete Hoener today. The subect -- surprise, surprise -- was Vernon Davis. The gist seems to be that fans and the media expect Davis to be a pass-catching tight end while Hoener and the 49ers expect him to be an all-around tight end.
Q: What does he need to do to get more involved in the passing game?
A: He's doing a good job with his routes and everything. Some of the games have dictated that we use him more for protection than run blocking and things like that which give him fewer reps. He's doing what we ask of him. It's just that sometimes the opportunities aren't there and I really think they will be at some point.
Q: Do you think his production will increase as the offense continues to evolve and he gets used to it?
A: It isn't a matter of him getting used to it. He knows what he has to do to be an all-around tight end. And he is one of the better blockers in the league and probably one of the better pass protectors for sure. And each game and each practice his experience grows. Good things are going to happen for him.
Q: Should Vernon expect fewer passes but bigger plays in Mike Martz's offense?
A: Yeah. Whenever we do anything, it's obviously predicated on moving the ball and scoring and on winning the game. And he has great ability to get down the field, so we utilize that.
Q: Do you think his pass-catching ability lends itself to downfield routes? It seems he's better when he squares up to the ball.
A: He can run a lot of routes. He's now doing what we tell him to do as far as what fits into the system and what we think we need to do to win. That's kind of the guy he is. He'll do whatever it takes to win.
Q: Is it dramatically different than what he was asked to do last year?
A: Yes. It's different. Any time you change offenses there are going to be changes. But he's adapted well and done a real good job.
Q: Would you expect him to be more productive as the season goes on?
A: Yeah, well, I don't know if it's so much of that than it is the situations that we're in. the biggest thing at that position is you're not just a receiver. You do multiple things at multiple positions. And he does them all well.
-- Matt Barrows