Jeremy Zuttah’s time with the 49ers ended almost as soon as it began.
The veteran center – who earned a Pro Bowl invitation in 2016 while playing for the Ravens – was released Wednesday after less than two weeks of training camp. The move means incumbent Daniel Kilgore will remain the starter. That hardly seemed the likely the scenario back in March when San Francisco acquired Zuttah. Then, it appeared the former Raven would be the favorite to win the job by opening day. Instead, Kilgore outplayed Zuttah consistently in practices and drills.
The 49ers decided to make the move while discussing personnel moves Tuesday night, said head coach Kyle Shanahan.
“It just looked to us like we weren’t going to get Zuttah a lot of playing time throughout the preseason,” Shanahan told Nick Wagoner of ESPN.com. “He’s a guy I have a lot of respect for. He’s done a lot of good things in this league. I just told him this morning I had a hard time doing that to him, and I wanted to give him a chance to go somewhere else instead of keeping him here and making him go through that.”
Shanahan said he and general manager John Lynch believed it “better for him and better for us to move on.”
With Zuttah gone and starting right guard Joshua Garnett sidelined by a knee ailment, the 49ers’ starting offensive line looks like this heading into the team’s first exhibition game Friday night in Kansas City vs. the Chiefs: Joe Staley and Trent Brown at the tackles, Zane Beadles and Brandon Fusco at guards and Kilgore at center.
With the release of Zuttah, veteran Tim Barnes – a former Ram who signed with the 49ers in the offseason and can also play guard – will be Kilgore’s primary backup.
The Niners are hoping Garnett can return in time to play Week 1, but until then, Fusco will hold down the job at right guard.