With recent news that second-year linebacker Darius Fleming injured his knee in training camp during the weekend, there has to be some concern over depth at inside linebacker in San Francisco, per Jimmy Durkin of The San Jose Mercury News. This comes on the heels of the Notre Dame product tearing his ACL in the very same knee last year.
Veteran backup Larry Grant was suspended four games for violating NFL's policy on performance enhancing drugs and was not retained by San Francisco in the offseason:
Meanwhile, Tavares Gooden remains without a team after filling a special teams, backup role last year in San Francisco.
Depending on the severity of Fleming's injury, San Francisco could very well be facing the possibility of Michael Wilhoite and Nick Moody competing for the primary backup jobs to All-Pros Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman.
This isn't an issue as long as these two starters play all 16 games and are ready to go in the playoffs. However, what happens should either Bowman or Willis go down to injury?
While unlikely, Super Bowl teams need to prepare for the off chance that something like this could happen.
Unfortunately for San Francisco, there don't seem to be a whole lot of options on the free-agent market at this point in the summer.
Other options on the open market seem to be modest upgrades at best. The likes of Bart Scott, Bradie James and Keith Brooking don't really stand out.
If that's the case, what about former San Francisco linebacker Takeo Spikes? The veteran was released by San Diego earlier in the offseason and is currently without a team.
Spikes went on NFL AM on the NFL Network back in June and indicated that he still wants to play, according to Pro Football Talk.
Do I want to be on a team at the start of training camp? Not really...After 15 years of playing in the league, they’re not making anything new up. The only thing new you have to understand is terminology, and I would like to think I’ve been around long enough to understand that.
This is an indication that Spikes, while not looking to sweat out training camp during the summer, still has something to offer teams around the league.
The interesting thing here is that San Francisco likely wouldn't need Spikes in the fold at this point during camp. Instead, it makes more sense to let the youngsters get reps.
On the field, Spikes still has a lot to offer. He has started 16 games in each of the last three seasons, including next to Patrick Willis back in 2010. Overall, Spikes started 44 games during his three-year tenure in Northern California.
If Spikes' expectations are to start and play a huge role on a defense, San Francisco isn't the spot for him. If he wants to go to a winning atmosphere and be part of a playoff club for the first time in his career, this is a perfect situation.
After all, Spikes left San Francisco under pretty much the best circumstances a veteran could leave. Fans still followed what he did in San Diego and respect him for what he did previously with the 49ers. He has a built-in relationship with the community and worked well together with pretty much the same linebacker group that we see in San Francisco today.
As it is, San Francisco will surely look for a veteran upgrade at backup inside linebacker at some point prior to the start of the regular season. Why not bring back a familiar and respected face who will only add more character to the locker room?
Vincent Frank is an NFL featured columnist at Bleacher Report.
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