In the NFL, continuity breeds success. For the 49ers in recent seasons, continuity has ran way and hidden.
After already losing two players who were thought to have significant roles with the team in training camp, the 0-3 49ers are on the brink of losing veteran starting safety Michael Lewis.
Lewis has left the team and his agent has recently asked for his release.
Reports surfaced of Lewis being benched in favor of adding speed to the secondary in the form of either third year player Reggie Smith or rookie Taylor Mays after Sunday's poor performance in Kansas City.
Speedy running backs Jamaal Charles and Dexter McCluster were masterfully used by Chiefs' offensive coordinator Charlie Weis to create mismatches against some of San Francisco's slower defenders in last Sunday's loss. Lewis was a prime suspect, especially after attempting to play through an ankle injury.
After hearing the reports, Mike Singletary said that there would be no changes in the defensive starting lineup Sunday in Atlanta.
So where did the reports come from? Chances are there are some discrepancies between what the coaching staff says amongst themselves and the media. Either way, Lewis is likely unhappy at the lack of accountability the 49ers are taking in the situation.
But by alienating one of the more respected veterans on the team, San Francisco's greatest strength may be dangerously close to imploding. Coming into the season the team's defense was by far its strongest of its three units.
Remember, it was Lewis who accepted a decrease in pay to roughly half of what he would have made ($4.1 million in base salary) to come back to be apart of the promising defensive unit. It's pretty reasonable to understand why he would not accept a diminished role after doing the team such a favor.
San Francisco's brass must hope to avoid the domino effect when it comes to its other veteran players.
Lewis was not alone in the reports of changes coming in the starting lineup. Takeo Spikes was also mentioned and holds a very similar leadership role on defense. The team must be very careful in the way they deal with Spikes from here on out. Veterans' presence in the NFL is invaluable, especially on a team with so many unproven players.
Would Spikes follow Lewis' example and look for greener pastures? That has yet to be seen, but it's not unimaginable.
If it did happen, the team's strongest unit would have lost two of its most vocal and followed leaders. It would set a bad example to the team's younger players and take incentive away from the important pieces that are in contract years (see: Dashon Goldson, Manny Lawson, Aubrayo Franklin).
Credibility and accountability are what attract players to NFL teams. Players want to play for people that have been there before and take care of their assets.
If the Lewis situation is indicative of the relationship between veterans and 49ers' management, it's hard to imagine players like Goldson and Lawson even considering coming back to the team that drafted them.
If not, then the Lewis story will soon be forgotten.