NFL Nation: Bubba Ventrone

Examining the San Francisco 49ers' roster:

QUARTERBACKS (2)

Because of heavy competition elsewhere, the 49ers will likely only carry two quarterbacks. They finished last season that way. The competition will be to see if undrafted rookie Kory Faulkner can take McLeod Bethel-Thompson's spot on the practice squad.

RUNNING BACKS (5)

The fact that the 49ers drafted Hyde in the second round and Lattimore is healthy means some tough decisions will have to be made. Hunter is too valuable to let go. That means 2012 second-round pick LaMichael James will have difficulty making the roster.

WIDE RECEIVERS (6)

The 49ers are so much deeper here this year than last. That means they will likely have to keep six receivers. Lloyd may look good and Patton has too much potential to give up on. That means it could be tough for Kassim Osgood to make it even though he is a special teams cog.

TIGHT ENDS (3)

If Davis ends his holdout, I can't see the 49ers keeping more than three tight ends because of the glut at receiver. Unless Garrett Celek has a big camp, he may be in trouble. Carrier intrigues the 49ers because of his size and speed.

OFFENSIVE LINE (8)

Assuming Boone ends his holdout, this is a pretty nice group of eight players. It's improved from last year. A solid veteran like Adam Snyder and a promising youngster like Ryan Seymour will have trouble making the team.

DEFENSIVE LINE (9)

This is another power spot. It's deep. Players like Jerod-Eddie and Dial are too valuable to cut. Ramsey has looked good and I have a hunch the 49ers may like him too much to expose him to the waiver wire. That means Demarcus Dobbs could be in trouble.

LINEBACKERS (7)

Most teams carry six linebackers but the 49ers are stacked here, especially with NaVorro Bowman out for about half the season. Because fifth-round pick Lynch is promising he should make the roster. Dan Skuta is an excellent player, but there might not be any room for him. I could see him being one of those later-summer Trent Baalke trade specials because he has value.

CORNERBACKS (5)

This unit is in flux, but I see Johnson making it. Don't be surprised if there is some in-camp jockeying as the 49ers look for the best mix.

SAFETIES (5)

Ward, the 49ers' first-round pick, will play nickel cornerback as a rookie, but projects long term as a safety. Ventrone and Spillman should stick because they are great on special teams. Craig Dahl could be in trouble.

SPECIALISTS (3):

This group is set and it's excellent.

Arrow indicates direction team is trending.

Final Power Ranking: 4
Preseason Power Ranking: 2

Biggest surprise: The impact that Michael Crabtree's injury and then his return had on the team. When Crabtree suffered a torn Achilles in May, the 49ers knew it would affect their offense. But his absence was felt dramatically during the 11 games he was out. The 49ers had essentially nothing behind receiver Anquan Boldin and tight end Vernon Davis in the passing game. However, when he returned Dec. 1, the 49ers were instantly a better, more varied, dangerous offense. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick was more confident. The difference was stark.

Biggest disappointment: The loss at New Orleans on Nov. 17. The 49ers appeared to have sealed the game when linebacker Ahmad Brooks sacked and forced New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees to fumble late. But Brooks was called for a questionable personal foul. The Saints rallied to win. It was a major storyline in the NFL that week. Had the 49ers won, they would have finished 13-3, won a tiebreaker over Seattle in the NFC West and would not have had to play at Seattle in the playoffs.

Biggest need: The 49ers are deep. They don't have many holes. But they can use another young receiver. Boldin is 33 and a free agent. Fourth-round pick Quinton Patton looks promising, but San Francisco will likely take a speed receiver early in the draft. Expect the team to take a cornerback fairly early as well. The 49ers need to develop a young player there.

Team MVP: Inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman. The 25-year-old had an amazing season. He is an NFL Defensive Player of the Year candidate. He was dominant in virtually every game. He is a special playmaker. It was a sad sight seeing him being carted off in the fourth quarter of Sunday's loss at Seattle with a major knee injury. Bowman is expected back next season. The 49ers need him.

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- The San Francisco 49ers get it. It's going to be loud Sunday at CenturyLink Field when they play the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC Championship Game.

But they are not allowing that fact to intimidate them.

"It's just noise," San Francisco special teams ace Bubba Ventrone said. "We know it's a loud place, but we just have to deal with it. We've played in loud games before. Just go do it."

Ventrone and several 49ers players said they feel as if they've been through the rigors of the road and playing in a loud, hostile stadium is just another challenge as they try to qualify for the Super Bowl. This is the 49ers' fifth road game in the past six weeks.

"(Dealing with noise) is something that also we have practiced throughout the whole entire season," San Francisco left tackle Joe Staley said. "We are very familiar with going silent count, is what we call it, on the road. That is something that we have not just practiced for one week."

With all due respect to the Seattle noise, few 49ers feel like it will reach the challenge of playing in near sub-zero conditions.

"Seattle is tough, but I'd rather play there than what we dealt with in Green Bay," 49ers' fullback Anthony Dixon said. "Noise doesn't hurt."
LONDON – The San Francisco 49ers roster is about to change.

The 6-2 49ers -- who have won five straight games going into their bye week -- are poised to get much better. They have six players who are likely to come off various different injury/illness lists including linebacker Aldon Smith, receivers Mario Manningham and Michael Crabtree, cornerback Eric Wright, rookie defensive lineman Tank Carradine and rookie linebacker Nick Moody.

The 49ers will have to subtract from the 53-man roster with each activation. It will be interesting because this is a deep roster and some good, young players will be out. But that’s the trouble with having a good team. There’s no doubt the 49ers will get markedly better with the return of most of these players.

Here are some candidates to be removed from the roster: Cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, receivers Marlon Moore and Quinton Patton (only if he is put on the injured reserve because his foot is not responding), linebacker Jermaine Cunningham, No. 3 quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson and defensive lineman Demarcus Dobbs.

The most likely to go are Asomugha, Moore and Cunningham. They have not had a role in the past several weeks.

Complicating matters (again, which is a positive in the big picture) is the special teams coverage units are much improved. So players like Kassim Osgood, Bubba Ventrone, Darryl Morris, Nate Stupar and Anthony Dixon will be difficult to cut even though their role is nearly all special teams. The 49ers know improved special teams make them much more dangerous and that’s difficult to tinker with.

The roster roulette will likely start to occur next week. Manningham, Wright and Carradine all must be activated by early next week.
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- San Francisco 49ers tight end Vernon Davis made progress Tuesday even as he was limited in practice.

Davis
Davis is trying to bounce back -- in a short work week -- from a hamstring injury that kept him out of Sunday’s 27-7 loss to the Indianapolis Colts. The 49ers play at St. Louis on Thursday. San Francisco offensive coordinator Greg Roman said Tuesday the team expects Davis to be a game-time decision. The fact that the eighth-year pro got some work Tuesday is significant; Davis didn’t practice all last week.

San Francisco struggled offensively without Davis in Sunday's loss. He had not missed game since 2007.

Meanwhile, as expected, inside linebacker Patrick Willis did not practice Tuesday in the wake of a groin injury suffered in the third quarter Sunday. It would be a remarkably quick turnaround for Willis to be ready for Thursday, though the NFL Network reported earlier Tuesday Willis hopes to play. San Francisco defensive coordinator Vic Fangio echoed that sentiment.

“He’s getting better,” Fangio said. “He’s making a lot of progress. It remains to be seen whether he’ll be ready on Thursday or not.”

Michael Wilhoite is set to take Willis' spot if he can’t play.

Cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha didn’t practice Tuesday because of a knee injury. The team promoted cornerback Darryl Morris from the practice squad to boost the roster if Asomugha can't go.

Special-teams player Bubba Ventrone was limited Tuesday after leaving Sunday's game with a concussion. He would have to pass an NFL-mandated test before being cleared to play Thursday.
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Count 49ers defensive back Bubba Ventrone among the many who was caught off guard Wednesday afternoon when the Indianapolis Colts acquired second-year running back Trent Richardson from the Cleveland Browns.

The massive trade shook the NFL.

Richardson
“A lot of people were surprised,” said Ventrone, who played with Richardson in Cleveland last season. “The fans liked him and the guys on the team all seemed to like him.”

The trade directly affected the San Francisco 49ers. They host Richardson and the Colts on Sunday. Coach Chuck Pagano said Thursday Richardson is not being brought to San Francisco to be the team’s water boy and he will play extensively Sunday despite having just two practices with the Colts.

The 49ers know it and are preparing for him.

"You just have to study his running style,” Ventrone said. “See how he carries the ball.”

Added star San Francisco linebacker Patrick Willis, who began studying film of Richardson on Wednesday night: "You don’t know why Cleveland would let go of a guy like that."

San Francisco defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said Thursday he was informed of the deal while on the practice field Wednesday. He said he immediately started to watch film of Richardson, and the players watched the film Thursday.

Fangio said Richardson will affect the team’s game plan somewhat. The team does have some help as it studies Richardson. Along with Ventrone, quarterback Colt McCoy, fullback Owen Marecic and kicker Phil Dawson were in Cleveland with Richardson last season, so they can give some helpful hints. Also, safety Eric Reid said he faced Richardson while he was a safety at LSU and Richardson was at Alabama.

So, the 49ers aren’t dealing with his late addition totally blind.

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