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Robertson to Add Competition At Running Back
May 15 2002
By Bryan Hersh of 49ers Paradise
The 49ers have received a pleasant surprise this off-season. Amazingly that surprise has nothing to do with retaining 20 of 22 starters, or in the signing of key starters such as Tony Parrish and Ron Stone. The surprise wasnít that Steve Mariucci didnít run to Tampa Bay, or even that Mariucci and Terrell Owens seem to be getting along. Rather the surprise that a running back they shipped of to NFL Europe, who they had little to no hope for, has turned out to be quite the threat.

Running back Jamal Roberson is leading the NFLE with 587 yards rushing and heís on pace to beat the record of 1057 yards currently held by Mike Green. Thatís a heck of an accomplishment for any running back, and the 49ers are thrilled that they have the rights to him.

"It is a good feeling as a running back to bust a big play and perform well in what has been a passing league over the years," Robertson said. "I don't think I'm the fastest guy in the league. I just have good game speed. On the 90-yard touchdown, the Galaxy defensive backs are so aggressive that I knew if I could get past their linebackers I could have some fun."

The 49ers will bring Robertson in to training camp and expect him to compete for a roster position. It wonít be an easy time for Robertson though, as the team is already loaded at the position. At halfback the 49ers have Garrison Hearst and Kevan Barlow, neither of whom are likely to be unseated by Robertson. Behind Barlow thereís Jonas Lewis, Paul Smith (who may convert to fullback) and Terry Jackson (who plays both HB and FB). Robertson will have a heck of a time making this squad.

The 49ers have experimented with a NFLE success at running back before. His name was Lawrence Phillips and many try and forget his time with the team. The 49ers hope Robertson will be quite different. At the very least, Robertson will push the 49ers current running backs, improving the depth at the position. And if all goes as planned, the 49ers could end up as deep at running back as the Broncos were in recent history. The team likely couldnít imagine a more ideal situation.

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