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What If Hearst Goes?
March 7th 2002
By Bryan Hersh of 49ers Paradise
Last year at this time it was hard to imagine Garrison Hearst ever playing football again. This year, it's hard to imagine that Garrison Hearst leaving the team that stuck with him through five surgeries. Is it a matter of loyalty? Well not really, it's just hard to believe that Hearst would not be a little more forgiving to the 49ers in working out his contract. In any event, should Hearst leave - the 49ers don't have to be overly worried.

There's no doubt that Hearst was amazing last season - especially considering the odds that were stacked against him. But it wasn't all Hearst, and the 49ers do have others who can step into the starting role. A bigger priority for the 49ers should be getting Fred Beasley back for next year. Beasley, a devastating lead blocker was a big part of the success of Hearst and Garner. As was the offensive line, an area the 49ers seem to want to further improve this off-season.

Now it would be a huge loss if the 49ers lost Hearst, an even bigger loss if they lost Beasley - but they do have the players on their roster to make up for it. Kevan Barlow would naturally move into the starting running back role. Barlow had a tremendous rookie season, and while he could use an extra year of development in the 49ers system, to learn about opposing defenses, he certainly looks like the future of the 49ers at runningback. Jonas Lewis would be a very good change of pace for Barlow providing he is all the way back from his pre-season injury. And Paul Smith could also challenge for the backup role, or compete with Terry Jackson (in the event Fred Beasley follows Hearst elsewhere).

So yes losing Hearst would hurt, losing Beasley would hurt more - but it's not something that the 49ers have to be overly worried apart. The team has the talent on the roster to make up for the loss. The team should not invest free agent dollars to this area to anyone not formerly part of the roster. A move to Barlow as the starting back may even increase the amount of passes the team would throw - and that would certainly make somebody [cough] Owens [/cough] happy.

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