SANTA CLARA -- Running back Anthony Dixon, who was a source of frustration for 49ers coaching staffs of the previous two seasons, has an uphill climb to retain his spot on the team's 53-man roster.He was the seldom-used No. 3 back a year ago behind Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter. And this offseason, the 49ers added to the depth at the position with Brandon Jacobs and LaMichael James, as well as special-teams ace Rock Cartwright.One of the knocks on Dixon in previous seasons was his reluctance to use his 235-pound body to his advantage. Dixon has typically done a little too much "dancing" in the hole.But Dixon is apparently willing to prove he can be physical. And he has asked if he can see some action at fullback.
"(Dixon) is really doing everything he can do to contribute to the football team, special teams, running back, (and) he has asked to be given an opportunity to compete at the fullback position, which we have done and we're very pleased with," 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said. "Great idea by him. We'll take the best idea on the table. He's responding with a great focus. We've seen it all throughout the offseason and he continues to elevate that."Dixon was not seen taking any snaps during the first three days of practice at fullback. The 49ers' second padded practice is scheduled to begin Monday at 2:30 p.m.Bruce Miller, a defensive end in college whom the 49ers drafted last year, appeared in 15 games with seven starts as a rookie. Miller does not appear to have any serious competition for his full-time role.
"(We) certainly don't think of him as a defensive end with how far we've come in a year with Bruce," Harbaugh said. "I think he's one of the finer fullbacks in this league."The 49ers might keep just one true fullback on this year's roster, as the team can also use a tight end, such as Delanie Walker, or defensive lineman Will Tukuafu in that role.Undrafted rookie running back Jewel Hampton will not participate in training camp after recently undergoing surgery on a "lower extremity" to remove a bone spur, Harbaugh said. Hampton will likely remain on the non-football injury list into the start of the regular season, Harbaugh said.Harbaugh spoke at length Sunday about rookie receiver A.J. Jenkins, but it was another rookie who made a big impression during practice. Nathan Palmer of Northern Illinois was the 49ers' top target among the 49ers class of undrafted rookies. And he has not disappointed. It might be difficult for the 49ers to retain Palmer on the 53-man roster, but he is a strong candidate to bring back to the practice squad."He has done a good job here, learning the system," Harbaugh said. "He had an excellent day yesterday. That really stood out to all of us."Meanwhile, another undrafted rookie receiver, Brian Tyms, had a rough day. He upended rookie safety Trenton Robinson and then Tyms was observed taunting Robinson. Harbaugh ordered Tyms off the field."It was an incident, the way we do things, how we do them, it didn't meet that standard -- well below it," Harbaugh said. "And we addressed it, and we'll handle it better going forward."Veteran Leonard Davis has spent most of his time working at right guard, but he has also been seen taking a few snaps on the left side, too.When asked for his evaluation of Davis after three practices, Harbaugh said, "Good to real good right now, especially in certain areas we ask our linemen to do. Technique looks outstanding. Fundamentals look real sharp."It doesn't like like there's any rust there. He's been working real hard with (offensive line coach) Tim Drevno. The two of them are meeting extensively. Leonard is coming along real fast, getting up to speed with the system."
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