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New Development Changes Running Back Battle
July 12 2002
By Bryan Hersh of 49ers Paradise
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Yesterday, the 49ers released running back Jonas Lewis. Lewisís release comes as a big surprise to me, especially before the start of training camp. Despite missing all of last season with a groin pull that he suffered on the opening play of the 49ers 2001 season, Lewis was ready to go this off-season, and looked good in the teamís mini-camps. The release of Lewis, who before Garrison Hearstís full return was actually the front runner for the starting running back position, gives a real indication of the Ďwhat have you done for me latelyí attitude in the NFL.

Jonas Lewis was a standout special teamís player. He was quick, could return kicks and was a punishing when it came to coverage duties. On the field, he looked good to - making the 49ers roster in two consecutive seasons. His release seems to indicate that the 49ers want to give another youngster a shot. Heading into training camp the 49ers have eight and a half running backs on their roster - Kevan Barlow, Garrison Hearst, Fred Beasley, Terry Jackson (who has not resigned with the club yet, but is expected to - hence the half), Paul Smith, Jasen Isom, Saladin McCullough, Jamal Robertson and Matt Stanley.

While I can completely understand the 49ers wanting to give a player like Jamal Roberston a shot at making the team, certainly Lewis was worth keeping over McCullough and Isom. Robertson, the NFL Europe MVP is about the same size as Lewis and about equally versatile. The only reason I can think that the 49ers cut Lewis instead of Isom (who plays primarily fullback), or McCullough is that Lewis would have prevented Robertson from getting a real look in training camp.

Personally, this is one move I really donít approve of. Normally I agree with the 49ers brass, but unless Jamal Robertson really impresses me this training camp / season, I have a feeling this is one move Iíll never be happy with. I hope that Lewis finds a home somewhere in the NFL (at this point in the off-season who knows) and that he continues his promising career with success.

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