Tolzien survives 49ers cuts, earns No. 3 QB job

Associated Press  |  Last updated September 01, 2012
Scott Tolzien had no idea where he stood in the competition to win the San Francisco 49ers third and final quarterback spot after Thursday's final preseason game against San Diego. If it were based on the final game, that nod would have gone to Josh Johnson. Going into his fifth season, Johnson was nearly flawless against the Chargers, completing 9 of 14 passes for 125 yards and two touchdowns. Tolzien, meanwhile, was 3 of 8 for 42 yards with an interception. Fortunately for Tolzien, the decision encompassed more than just the preseason finale and included his time serving as the team's No. 3 quarterback last season. After spending much of Friday morning doing laundry and catching up with friends and family, Tolzien finally got a call from his agent, Joe Panos, who informed him the team was bringing him back for a second season. ''It was awesome news and I'm pumped to be here,'' Tolzien said. ''The work was put in at that point and there was nothing you can do, but just wait.'' Johnson, who played for coach Jim Harbaugh at the University of San Diego, appeared in 26 games with five starts over four years with Tampa Bay before signing with the 49ers on March 22. He and Tolzien traded text messages Friday night after the 49ers made their decision. ''I wish Josh the best. He's a good quarterback,'' Tolzien said. ''That was so evident Thursday night during the game. Josh has got some good years ahead of him and that's not me trying to sugar-coat anything. I really think a lot of him as a quarterback and as a person. Hopefully he gets a great opportunity and I feel confident he'll make the most of it.'' Harbaugh said little about what went into his decision to keep Tolzien. ''I can't tell you how close it was,'' Harbaugh said. ''It was a dead heat, both those players made a great argument for both of them to help our team win on any given Sunday. It was close in the beginning, it remained close all the way through and it was a tough decision.'' In Tolzien, the 49ers have a player that fits the traditional mold for a quarterback. He's at his best when working in the pocket and, for the most part, delivered accurate passes throughout training camp. Johnson would have provided a completely different element. While he possesses a strong arm, the Oakland native's strength is his athleticism and the ability to create plays on the run. With backup quarterback Colin Kaepernick already on the roster, the added dimension Johnson's speed would have added wasn't as much of a need. Tolzien signed with the 49ers on Sept. 4 last season after the Chargers waived him following the preseason and was inactive for every game. Up to this point, he had been known best for playing the part of Drew Brees in practice before San Francisco beat the New Orleans Saints 36-32 in an NFC division round playoff game last season. He started 26 games at Wisconsin, where he set the school record for completion rate (68.1) and QB rating (153.2) and was the recipient of the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award. Tolzien said he'll do everything he can to help starter Alex Smith prepare to be successful. Smith, along with defensive tackle Justin Smith, was voted a team captain for the second time in his career on Saturday. They join Frank Gore and Patrick Willis, who were voted captains last year and are now in the second season of a two-year term. ''They have a two-year term,'' Harbaugh joked. ''Next year they would have to be - it's like the President of the United States - they'd have to be re-elected.'' Notes: The 49ers signed S Michael Thomas, DTs Matthew Masifilo and Tony Jerod-Eddie, LBs Cam Johnson and Michael Wilhoite, WR Nathan Palmer and OTs Al Netter and Kenny Wiggins to the practice squad. ----- Online: http://bigstory.ap.org/NFL-Pro32 and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL
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