The blogosphere finally got something to sink its teeth into this rather calm off season, and man alive they were a ravenous bunch. The strange and sudden saga of Kentwan Balmer’s MIA provoked a feeding frenzy as the howling dogs, who had lurked manacingly at the edge of the woods for months, roared out of the trees and ripped away at his big ass carcass with a fury.
My goodness. You’d think Alex Smith had just thrown a bad pass or Mark Roman had been re-signed.
Balmer’s absence, in reality, isn’t worth getting hysterical about. He has yet to be more than a marginal player. Whether he’s on the team or off is not something that’s likely to be noticed or have much impact on the team this year. Unless, in his third year, he started to live up to his potential and became a core member of the D-line rotation.
What he represents, however, is what brings out the dogs. He’s a former #1 draft pick whose main achievement thus far has been to provide fodder for those who like to excoriate the departed GM, Scot McCloughan, often throwing Mike Nolan and the entire 49er organization under the bus as well. One poster even tried to rub the McCloughan juice off on our current quasi-GM, Trent Baalke, who was head of the college scouting department at the time Balmer was drafted.
Since the day Desean Jackson caught his first TD pass for the Eagles, he and Balmer have been linked in 49er blog lore by those who enjoy criticizing the Niners. Jackson was a local boy from Cal and could have been selected instead of Balmer, and this point will probably still be brought up ten years from now by those with the aforementioned critical bent. It may even be a part of the lore of the other 31 teams in the NFL who also passed on him in the first round. Jackson, of course, was an instant star. Balmer so far has been anything but a star.
Even the normally cautious Matt Maiocco got a little foam on his lips and went so far as to give Balmer NO CHANCE of ever playing for the Niners again. Yet by nightfall (and sunrise), Balmer was still on the team. I guess we’ll see today whether he’s in or out. If he’s in, it would mean the Niners still feel like he’ll develop into a good player and not a head case. If he’s out, it means they don’t. Despite the cavalier attitude bloggers can sometimes have toward players, teams do not cut young players with talent that other teams, such as a division rival, would snatch up in a heartbeat.
Nothing much else was going on at practice Wednesday, which was conducted in shells, not pads, and mostly by the 3rd stringers. The team seems content to rest its bruises and prepare for Sunday’s game against the Colts. There are two practices scheduled for today, but it’s hard to envision anything more than some wrap up work and probably a final teaching session with the third stringers.
Scot McKillop was waived/injured yesterday, which was an interesting decision by the 49ers. He could have been kept on the roster until the final cut down to 53 players, then simply placed on IR. As it is, he can now be claimed by another team. It indicates that the team considers the 53rd guy, who would not have made the cut if McKillop were on the roster, to be less expendable at this point than McKillop.
It also indicates the team doesn’t feel that 53rd guy would clear waivers and be available for the Niners to re-sign after putting McKillop on IR. I’m thinking here of a player like Curtis Taylor, a valuable young safety and special teams player. Or Diyral Briggs, another young guy with intriguing potential.
Like Balmer, we’ll know the fate of McKillop today, as well.