After signing him on Monday, September 3, the San Francisco 49ers knew veteran linebacker Clark Haggans was up for a possible suspension. Once Parys Haralson, the only backup outside linebacker on the roster, was lost for the season with a torn triceps, the 49ers picked up the recently cut player from the Arizona Cardinals. On Tuesday, September 18, Haggans and the 49ers learned of his fate for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy.
For his DUI conviction in 2011 as a member of the Cardinals, Haggans will be suspended for the 49ers' next three games. According to league rules, he could have been suspended for as many as six games. Two weeks ago, Jeff Sperbeck, Haggan's agent, took part in a hearing to see whether the league would reduce his suspension.
"Earlier today the team was made aware of the NFL's decision to suspend Clark Haggans for three games," general manager Trent Baalke said. "We were certainly aware that this decision was a possibility as we evaluated Clark prior to adding him to our roster. Therefore, we are prepared to move forward accordingly."
It's not surprising to see Baalke and the 49ers be understanding of the situation. Knowing about this possible time missed well in advance, the team seems to be in support of the veteran linebacker and will now need to take steps for replacing him. Thankfully for the 49ers, Haggans has filled his role so far as the team's backup linebacker.
Active for the first two games of the season against the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions, Haggans did not play a single snap but accomplished his job by providing a veteran option in case starters Ahmed Brooks or Aldon Smith were injured. With little time to get familiarized with the team's playbook, it was clear Haggans would not play as much as Haralson had he been healthy. As the season goes on, Haggans role may grow as he tries to earn more playing time in the team's linebacker rotation.
As he misses the 49ers' next three games against the Minnesota Vikings, New York Jets, and Buffalo Bills, the 49ers now have to find a replacement for him at the backup outside linebacker position. With an opening on their 53-man roster, the 49ers could consider bringing in rookie Cam Johnson, the team's seventh-round pick and only outside linebacker on the practice squad. Other names that could find themselves back with the 49ers are Ikaika Alama-Francis and Eric Bakhtiari, both of whom were some of the last preseason cuts for the team's first 53-man roster.
As for an option currently on the roster, the versatile Demarcus Dobbs could work as the team's third outside linebacker. Since Haggans saw zero snaps in the first two weeks of the season, Dobbs could fit in this temporary role as an emergency option as long as Brooks and Smith are able to remain healthy and stay on the field for all plays in the 3-4 defensive alignment. Whatever the 49ers decide to do, the backup outside linebacker position will likely be a small concern for the 49ers for the next three weeks.
OLB Haggans suspended for the next three games, The Sacramento Bee
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Austin Chang is a lifelong football fan, San Francisco 49ers supporter, and a Featured Contributor for the Yahoo! Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @_austinchang.