There were times when Bruce Ellington looked like a star waiting to shine.
He was quick, fast and elusive, and the 5-foot-9 former South Carolina standout – a fourth-round pick of the 49ers in 2014 – showed flashes of what he could do as both a wide receiver and return man.
Yet this week, Ellington’s time with the Niners came to an end. Injuries – he appeared in just 26 of 48 possible games since joining the team – derailed what was a promising career.
On Thursday, the 49ers announced they had waived Ellington, who was targeted for a starting role in 2016 but then missed the entire season because of injury. He then had a hamstring problem this spring that kept him sidelined.
And, with a new coaching staff in place, the 49ers decided to cut ties with Ellington and focus on a new cast of wide receivers in 2017.
Ellington, best suited for a role as an inside slot receiver, went into camp hoping to win a job against Pierre Garcon, Jeremy Kerley, Marquise Goodwin, Aldrick Robinson, Aaron Burbridge, DeAndre Smelter and rookie Trent Taylor, a fifth-round pick in much the same mold as Ellington.
“I thought we were a little front-loaded with some more inside receivers, the slot-type position,” head coach Kyle Shanahan told the San Francisco Chronicle. “We had a little bit of a backup there. We’re trying to get some other guys who can play a little bit more on the outside.”
This week, in fact, the 49ers signed two larger wideouts in former Raider Louis Murphy (6-foot-2) – who also played for the Panthers, Giants and Bucs -- and former Raven Tim Patrick (6-foot-4).
Shanahan acknowledged Ellington was in a tough position, having to fight for a job after being injured, but felt it was best to cut ties early in camp.
“He came back and battled from some tough injuries and gave himself a chance to go for a week,” said Shanahan, who added he wanted to “get some different guys in here with different skill sets and mix up the group a little bit.”
The 49ers have a week to go before their exhibition opener on Aug. 11 vs. the Chiefs in Kansas City.