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Banged up 49ers may turn to Swain

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POSTED December 29, 2011 8:47 p.m.

SANTA CLARA (AP) — Wide receiver Brett Swain didn’t take it personally when the Green Bay Packers released him with two weeks left in training camp.

Having landed in San Francisco with a team that could pose the biggest threat to the defending Super Bowl champs in the playoffs has made it easier to handle.

“There’s no point in running around having hard feelings against anybody, especially when we have a great situation here,” Swain said Thursday. “We have an opportunity to go and win a possible Super Bowl, too. What we need to be focused on right now is the next game. That’s all we’re really worried about.”

Swain, who has just one catch this season, has a chance to make an even bigger impact on the 49ers’ postseason than he did a year ago when he helped the Packers to their first championship in 14 years.

With San Francisco’s receiving group depleted by injuries and the team’s decision to release veteran Braylon Edwards earlier this week, offensive coordinator Greg Roman hinted Swain may start with Michael Crabtree in Sunday’s regular-season finale in St. Louis.

“I think there’s a good chance of that,” Roman said. “We’ll mix and match things pretty loosely.”

Edwards was released by San Francisco on Tuesday after being held to one catch for 9 yards in last week’s win against Seattle, ending a disappointing season marked by injuries and a lack of production.

That’s been the case for almost every wide receiver on the roster, with the exception of Crabtree.

The 49ers’ first-round pick in 2009, Crabtree has 64 catches for 788 yards and has remained mostly injury-free after having problems with a lingering foot injury in the offseason.

The other five receivers the team has used this season, including Edwards, have combined for 70 catches, 871 yards. All have either missed time with injuries or, in the case of Swain, been buried on the depth chart.

Swain played sparingly for three seasons in Green Bay but was cut by the Packers late in camp and didn’t sign with San Francisco until Oct. 12.

He spent the past two months trying to get up to speed with the 49ers’ offense and, before this week, played primarily on special teams coverage units.

With Edwards gone and Ted Ginn Jr. (ankle) and Kyle Williams (head injury) questionable to play this week, however, Swain’s workload has increased. It’s somewhat similar to what happened in Green Bay a year ago when injuries opened the door for Swain to play more. Just not to this extent.

“I’ve never been in a situation where that many guys have gone down and they needed another guy to step into a bigger role,” Swain said. “I’m excited to attack it. I fell into something good.”

The 49ers have some other options, too. They have a roster vacancy because of the Edwards move and could activate either Joe Hastings or John Matthews from the practice squad to help out the depleted receivers.

Hastings, an undrafted free agent out of Washburn University, has not played in the regular season but regularly meets with quarterback Alex Smith on the field to warm up before games. That could help if the 49ers decide to activate Hastings for Sunday’s game in St. Louis.

Smith doesn’t think it will matter much which receiver is in the lineup for San Francisco.

“It’s just part of the deal,” Smith said. “I feel good about all the receivers. They’re all extremely talented and I think they’re all chomping at the bit to get their opportunity, which is what you want.”

Note: Injured LB Patrick Willis was on the field and did some light running before practice, but the 49ers haven’t determined if he will play against the Rams. “He looks fine to me right now,” defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said. “This is a game that we have to win, and if he’s healthy enough to play he will play.”

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