San Francisco 49ers

If Ahmad Brooks is shelved, where do 49ers turn at outside linebacker?

Houston Texans' Tom Savage (3) is pulled down by San Francisco 49ers' Eli Harold, left, during the second half of an NFL preseason football game, Saturday, Aug. 15, 2015, in Houston.
Houston Texans' Tom Savage (3) is pulled down by San Francisco 49ers' Eli Harold, left, during the second half of an NFL preseason football game, Saturday, Aug. 15, 2015, in Houston. AP

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The 49ers have sent Ahmad Brooks back to California but haven't booted him off the team, which signals that a decision on Brooks' future with the club is not imminent.

That's different than the cases surrounding Aldon Smith and Ray McDonald, both of whom had been involved in myriad legal issues and who were released shortly after their names appeared in police reports. McDonald, ultimately indicated on a rape charge this week, had not been arrested in December when the 49ers let him go.

The 49ers seem poised to take their time with Brooks' situation. They've known for months that he was part of a police investigation -- the criterion for releasing McDonald -- but have allowed him to practice as usual. Without Smith, Patrick Willis, Justin Smith and McDonald on the team this summer, in fact, Brooks has tried to take on more of a leadership role on the defense, and team officials have looked on with approval.

For now, the 49ers appear to be taking the same approach they did with fullback Bruce Miller, who was arrested in March after a public spat with his then-fiancee and eventually pleaded no contest to disturbing the peace, a lesser charge. Both Miller’s and Brooks’ cases currently are being reviewed by the NFL. Miller was asked to stay away from the team during spring OTAs and minicamp while the case was being resolvd in the leagal system.

If that's the way it plays out with Brooks, it will mean that he is away for the team for weeks, if not months. Who would take over his role at right outside linebacker?

* Aaron Lynch. He's already the starter on the left side and could remain there. Lynch proved he could handle a big role last year when he co-led the squad (with Brooks) with six sacks as a rookie. Lynch, however, dealt with a back injury this offseason that has been a reoccurring issue during his career.

* Corey Lemonier. The third-year player did not take the leap between his rookie and second years that coaches expect. He mostly has been an invisible man in the team's practices this offseason. However, he's smart and capable of playing either on the left or right. At one point Lemonier seemed disposable. He now appears indispensable.

* Eli Harold. The team's third-round draft pick has been a ball of energy and has shown good quickness both off the edge and on inside moves. Harold mostly has played on the right side, which makes him a possible match with Lynch. Like many rookies, Harold must get stronger and the former defensive end needs more snaps in which he drops into coverage, something the 49ers are asking their outside linebackers to do more of this season. Harold certainly would embrace the added responsibility. Here's a story on him from June.

* Shawn Lemon. He was signed after Aldon Smith was released and while Lynch still was recovering from his back issue. The 27-year-old is a veteran of the CFL and Arena league and has a certain relentlessness that all good pass rushers must have. But he lacks idea size or speed (6-2, 250) and has not really jumped out at practice.

* Marcus Rush. The undrafted rookie out of Michigan State might get the hustle award. He's definitely undersized for the position and looks more like an inside linebacker. But Rush never stops attacking and has made a handful of notable plays this offseason, including a sack in Sunday's preseason game.

Matt Barrows: @mattbarrows, read more about the team at sacbee.com/sf49ers.

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