By PHIL BARBER
Several 49ers practice squad players – including Rohnert Park’s own Al Netter – were offered contracts by other NFL teams this season, but declined the offers and opted to stay in San Francisco.
Any NFL team can poach players from other clubs’ practice squads and sign them to the 53-man roster. But those players have the right of refusal. Netter was approached by more than one team during the 49ers’ bye week, but chose to stay put. He declined to name the teams publicly.
“Ultimately, it’s my goal to play in the NFL, not be on the practice squad,” Netter said. “But sometimes it’s important to look at the big picture and not just the immediate future. Look at the long run of things.”
Netter knew that by staying with the 49ers, he was running the risk of never advancing to the active roster. On the other hand, he could have signed somewhere else, only to be waived in three weeks, or three days. It happens in the NFL. He didn’t want to give up his chance at being part of something uncommon.
“I knew all along this team was something very special,” Netter said. “I mean, you look at our offensive line, we had two guys in the Pro Bowl and the other three guys were alternates for the game. And I think we just won the Madden Best Offensive Line award yesterday. There’s only 10 guys in that room including the practice squad guys. So to be part of that group … is pretty special.”
It was coach Jim Harbaugh who drew attention to some of the 49ers’ lesser names on Thursday, when he said this in his morning press conference: “I would really love to have a … what is it, a mimeograph? Photocopy? Photocopy of yesterday. … The energy we had at practice, the execution we had at practice, if we could go to the machine and get a photocopy of exactly what we had yesterday and come back and get that today would be outstanding.
“If I could just elaborate a little bit, we had a lot of things go good for us yesterday as I said, execution, the energy. Outstanding by our scout team players. I’d just like to talk about that for just a little bit because it was so striking. Our young players, our future starters on future championship teams have progressed, and it’s been wonderful, wonderful that we’ve gotten five extra days of practice than 20 other teams have gotten.
“There’s been some guys – Ricardo Lockette was outstanding. He was flying around the field. Ricardo Lockette, Tony Jerod-Eddie, Cam Johnson and Al Netter are four guys that are on our squad who had a chance to go to other teams during the season. They got offers to be brought up to other teams’ 53 but chose to stay with the San Francisco 49ers.”
Harbaugh went on to cite several other members of the Niners’ scout team, charged with mimicking the Ravens this week to give the SF starters some meaningful practice reps.
“When guys are coming up to you, saying ‘Thanks for the look,’ you feel like you’re helping the team out, doing a good job and helping the team get better,” Johnson said.
According to Netter, the scout-teamers put as much work into their jobs as the starters.
“We watch the film after every practice, and we really critique ourselves as if it is a game for us,” he said. “We take it very seriously. We’re out there just trying to give our starting defense the best look we can possibly give ’em.”
Lockette has a particularly vital job this week. Big and fast, he is starring as Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith in practice.