SANTA CLARA –- Cornerback Tramaine Brock is virtually assured a starting spot in the 49ers’ secondary, but he is not completely satisfied with his role in the team’s defense. Brock also wants to earn the job as the team’s nickel back, which would entail moving inside when the opposition goes with three wide receivers to cover the slot receiver.
“My mindset is to be the No. 1 corner, and I want to win the nickel job, too,” Brock said on Thursday.
“I want to play it. I’ve always wanted to play it, but the defensive coordinators in the past, they didn’t want me in the slot. They wanted other guys there, so I never got a chance or opportunity. Now, they’ve given me the opportunity to play it. I want to start.”
Brock was regarded as the 49ers’ No. 1 cornerback a year ago when the season started. But early in the season opener against the Dallas Cowboys, Brock sustained a hyperextended big toe, which derailed his season. Perrish Cox started 14 games in place of Brock last season.
Later in the season when Brock attempted to return, he sustained a hamstring injury that continued to plague him during the offseason. But according to Brock, he was finally 100 percent healthy when he reported to training camp on July 31.
Brock is currently the front-runner to win the nickel role with Jimmie Ward unable to take part in 11-on-11 drills as he continues to recover from the fractured foot that ended his rookie season a year ago. Coach Jim Tomsula said Ward is making progress while taking part in individual work.
"Brock's a good fit for the nickel job -– in addition to his base-down duties on the outside –- because of his physical attributes and his desire to take on the difficult assignment," Tomsula said.
“Quite frankly, the foot quickness,” Tomsula said when asked what suits Brock for the task. “He’s got that small-box quicks. He’s a good athlete. He can run. He can change direction. He can plant and drive. You start looking at some of those slot positions, those are jitterbug dudes. With his skill set, he’s bright, he gets it, and he’s a competitive little son of a gun.”
If Brock wins the nickel job to open the regular season, another cornerback, such as Dontae Johnson or Keith Reaser, would enter in nickel situations to replace Brock at left cornerback. If Ward ends up with the job, Brock would remain at left cornerback in those situations.
“Whether he’s that guy and somebody else is the corner when it’s all said and done, we’ve just created depth at that position,” Tomsula said. “T-Brock is having a wonderful camp.”