**UPDATE** Neither Vernon Davis nor Vance McDonald were on hand for the start of practice. Anthony Davis (hamstring) and Tramaine Brock (toe) also were not present.
SANTA CLARA -- Either Vernon Davis has a severe ankle injury or his acting skills have been honed to perfection from his stint as Captain Torpedo.
The 49ers' top tight end twice walked through the locker room today with an exaggerated limp. Davis injured his ankle in the fourth quarter of Sunday's game and, until today, has been using crutches to get around. He didn't practice Wednesday and seems very unlikely to practice today.
That combined with Vance McDonald's knee injury points to a bigger role for wide receiver-turned-tight end Derek Carrier, who finished with three catches for 41 yards, good for second on the 49ers behind Michael Crabtree Sunday.
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“He's definitely an ascending player,” offensive coordinator Greg Roman said of Carrier. “There's definitely things he needs to work on. But he's done a nice job. He's got a good feel for the passing game, has improved his blocking in the preseason. That was the No. 1 thing I've been most pleased with.”
Roman said Carrier was adept at finding soft spots in the defense, a skill he developed when he played wide receiver, and is good at using his body to block out defenders, which may come from Carrier's background as a basketball player.
Carrier played basketball in high school and spent two years on the hardwood at Beloit College in Wisconsin. But when he realized he probably wasn't going to excel as a 6-4, 225-pound small forward, he dropped basketball and concentrated on playing receiver. “I was outweighing everyone on the court by 30 pounds, and it was about time,” he said.
Now a tight end, he's up to 250 pounds.
“A lot of the moves you have in basketball are similar – posting up,” Carrier said. “Being able to move with your feet and your hands translates onto the football field.”
The 49ers have two tight ends on the practice squad, Asante Cleveland and Xavier Grimble, that they could bring to the active roster. They also could tap longsnapper Kyle Nelson, who proved in the preseason that he could fill in at tight end and who has been practicing there this week.
Read Matt Barrows’ blogs and archives at www.sacbee.com/sf49ers .