The 49ers’ recent reshuffling of their offensive line has allowed Erik Pears to play the position – guard – he was signed to play.
“He came in under one idea we had for him and had to move,” coach Jim Tomsula said Wednesday. “And (he) never blinked, never said a word. Just said, ‘Yeah, got it.’ ”
The 49ers needed Pears, who signed as a free agent in the offseason, to play right tackle after Anthony Davis decided in June to sit out the season because of health concerns. Pears, 33, started the first 14 games at right tackle but moved inside to right guard when Marcus Martin suffered a concussion Dec. 20 against Cincinnati.
Pears started at guard against Detroit last Sunday and may do so again in Sunday’s finale against St. Louis. Martin has not passed through the league’s concussion protocol and was limited in Wednesday’s practice.
Pears, who has struggled at times at tackle, was called for two holding penalties after moving to guard against the Bengals. The scouting service Pro Football Focus gave him a minus-2.0 grade against the Lions. His grade last year, when he played guard for Buffalo, was minus-22.1.
With Pears at guard in Detroit, rookie Trent Brown made his first start at tackle. Tomsula said Brown, a seventh-round draft pick earlier this year, played well in the first half and that he was good in his individual matchups.
He didn’t do as well, Tomsula said, in situations where he had to make adjustments on the fly, errors typical for rookie linemen.
“There’s a natural progression you’ve got to keep going through,” Tomsula said. “The next time you see it, you’ll have it again.”
Draughn out – The 49ers placed running back Shaun Draughn on injured reserve because of a knee issue and signed tight end Je’Ron Hamm, who spent time this year on Washington’s roster.
Draughn joins fellow running backs Carlos Hyde (foot) and Reggie Bush (knee) on injured reserve. Another runner, Mike Davis, is eligible to rejoin the 53-man roster this week after being placed on injured reserve/designation to return earlier this year because of a broken bone in his hand.
Draughn started six games, averaged 3.5 yards per carry and scored one touchdown. He will be a restricted free agent in March and is expected to be one of several running backs competing for roles next year. Jarryd Hayne, DuJuan Harris and Kendall Gaskins handled running back duties in Sunday’s loss to the Lions.
Injuries – Defensive end Quinton Dial (back), linebacker Michael Wilhoite (ankle) and linebacker NaVorro Bowman (not injury related) did not practice Wednesday.
Dial arguably has been the team’s best defensive end this year, and his absence Sunday would mean increased playing time for first-round draft pick Arik Armstead and Tony Jerod-Eddie. Armstead was limited in practice because of shin and shoulder injuries.
Napa Rams – Instead of heading east to St. Louis after Sunday’s win in Seattle, the Rams flew south to Napa. The team is practicing where the Raiders spend training camp. St. Louis has a chance to win its fourth straight game and finish 8-8 – its best record under coach Jeff Fisher.