Add another name to the list of San Francisco 49ers who are missing time with an injury.
According to San Francisco’s official release, The latest comes in the form of 30-year-old linebacker Mark Nzeocha, who is in the midst of his fourth season with the 49ers and his sixth NFL season since being drafted by the Dallas Cowboys.
It’s a blow to lose Nzeocha for several reasons, mostly due to his reliability in special teams as well as his depth of experience as a 49er and in the league as a whole.
While the injury and Nzeocha’s absence won’t garner nearly as many headlines as something like defensive end Nick Bosa’s ACL tear, it’s still a loss and the 49ers will feel it one way or the other.
Die-hard Niner with something to say? Join our community at Heavy on 49ers on Facebook!
There’s few NFL players with a more interesting background than Nzeocha’s, as the Neusitz, Germany-born linebacker has come a long way, geographically and technically, to chase an NFL career.
After growing up in Germany, Nzeocha got his shot at college football in America with Wyoming, where he began to develop his chops and earned three sacks and three forced fumbles in his final two seasons in Laramie, Wyoming.
His impressive 6-3, 240-pound frame and adaptation to a higher level of play with the Cowboys saw the NFL’s Cowboys take a seventh-round shot on the German, which he validated by making Dallas’ 53-man roster the next two seasons.
He made eight appearances for the Cowboys before moving on to Santa Clara, California, where he grew into a sizably more important role with the 49ers.
For one, he earned his first NFL starts with three nods in the 2018 season, while also solidifying himself as one of the team’s most important special teams players.
In fact, Nzeocha hadn’t missed a game since San Francisco’s 33-10 loss in 2017 to the Philadelphia Eagles, playing throughout the playoffs all the way through this past weekend’s win over the New York Giants.
While some may write it off as a backup getting an injury, there’s a reason that Nzeocha has continued to be a piece for the 49ers, and they will miss him accordingly.
49ers Release Kyle Nelson
If one needs further proof that NFL teams don’t mess around with special teams and take the area very seriously, look at Kyle Nelson.
As of last week, Nelson was the longest-tenured player for the 49ers. As of this week, he is a free agent.
The longsnapper had a bit of a nightmare against the Giants, having not one or two, but several bad snaps that ended up being inconsequential in the context of the win, but still something that NFL teams can’t accept if they have legitimate hopes of winning their division or making the playoffs.
So, San Francisco dropped Nelson and have signed Taybor Pepper, a 26-year-old snapper who has experience with Green Bay and Miami. As long as he can keep the bad snaps to one or two every few games, he ought to be able to keep his spot.
Evan Reier is a sportswriter covering the San Francisco 49ers for Heavy.com and local sports for the Montana Standard in Butte, Mont. Reach out to him on Twitter at @evanreier and join our 49ers community at Heavy on 49ers on Facebook.