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ST. LOUIS -- Quarterback Blaine Gabbert has made strides as the 49ers’ backup since he was last seen during the exhibition season, coach Jim Harbaugh said.
The 49ers released No. 3 quarterback Josh Johnson on Friday to re-sign special-teams ace Kassim Osgood.
Harbaugh said the 49ers hope to re-sign Johnson at some point in the near future.
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Gabbert, meanwhile, has been Colin Kaepernick’s backup in each of the first five games. Gabbert has yet to see action in a game during the regular season. Harbaugh said the competition for No. 2 remains very close, even while Johnson did not make the trip to St. Louis for Monday night's game.
“They’re both neck-and-neck,” Harbaugh said. “They’re both doing really well. Josh had a real strong preseason. Blaine really came on. Has practiced extremely well the first five weeks, and so has Josh. They both have been playing at a really high level. Very confident in either of those two if they were to go into a ball game.”
The 49ers shuffled their 53-man roster in the past week. Osgood was released to make room for Bubba Ventrone. Then, Johnson was released to bring back Osgood. Why?
“Wanted Josh to get to practice,” Harbaugh said.
Johnson took part in one full practice during the week, which occurred on Thursday. The 49ers’ typical schedule was pushed back a day due to their Monday night game.
There might have been another issue at play, too. If the 49ers had cut Johnson earlier in the week, it would have given the Rams an opportunity to sign Johnson and learn about the 49ers’ game plan.
But, when asked if that factored into the 49ers’ roster decisions, Harbaugh stated flatly, “No.”
Johnson completed 75 percent of his preseason pass attempts for 259 yards with three touchdowns and one interception to win a roster spot. Gabbert completed just 46.8 percent of his pass attempts for 186 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.
Gabbert has a fully guaranteed salary this season of $2.011 million.