NEW ORLEANS -– The 49ers on Saturday promoted first-year outside linebacker Chase Thomas to the 53-man roster, and he is expected to make his NFL debut on Sunday against the New Orleans Saints.
Thomas is expected to suit up in place of veteran Dan Skuta, who has started seven games in the absence of Aldon Smith. Skuta sustained a left ankle sprain in the 49ers’ loss to the St. Louis Rams on Sunday and he is not expected to be available to face the Saints.
Smith is expected to be reinstated on Monday after serving a nine-game suspension for violations of the NFL’s policies on substance abuse and personal conduct.
Coach Jim Harbaugh on Friday told CSNBayArea.com that Thomas could be promoted to the 53-man roster after he has performed very well as a member of the 49ers’ 10-player practice squad.
Ahmad Brooks and Aaron Lynch are expected to start against the Saints. Thomas and Corey Lemonier are backups at outside linebacker and potential special-teams contributors.
Thomas recorded 27.5 sacks during his career at Stanford. As a fifth-year senior in 2012, he was a team captain and first-team All-Pac-12. Thomas was named as one of four finalists for the Ronnie Lott IMPACT Trophy, national defensive player of the year award that places equal weight to personal character and athletic performance.
Thomas went undrafted but signed with the Saints as a rookie free agent. He played two exhibition games with the Saints as a rookie and two with the Raiders before spending most of last season on the Atlanta Falcons’ practice squad.
He signed with the Green Bay Packers in the offseason, but lasted just three weeks during the team’s offseason program before he was released to make room for a class of undrafted rookies.
Thomas said he contemplated careers in real estate and marketing before landing with the 49ers in mid-May. Now, he’s looking forward to appearing in his first NFL regular-season game.
“Plus, I started in New Orleans,” Thomas said. “It would be extra motivation if I got a chance to play in this game. It would be pretty sweet.”
The 49ers did not have to create a roster spot for Thomas. After the team waived Demarcus Dobbs, who was subsequently claimed by the Seattle Seahawks, the 49ers did not fill the final vacancy on the roster until they elevated Thomas on Saturday.