Contra Costa Times

Plummer expects to be tested
January 10, 2003
49ers notebook

SANTA CLARA -- Even though rookie cornerback Mike Rumph started last Sunday in place of the injured Jason Webster, New York Giants quarterback Kerry Collins targeted third-year cornerback Ahmed Plummer. Or, perhaps more accurately, Collins looked for wide receiver Amani Toomer, who totaled all eight of his catches (136 yards, three touchdowns) against Plummer's coverage during the 49ers' first-round playoff victory.

Because of Toomer's success, Plummer said this week he won't be surprised if the Tampa Bay Buccaneers also seek him out Sunday when they host the 49ers in an NFC divisional playoff game. "If that's what they want to do, I welcome the challenge," Plummer said. "I'm ready for that to be their reaction because that's what most teams do."

Defensive coordinator Jim Mora said he put a lot of pressure on Plummer, often leaving him in single coverage against Toomer while Rumph got safety support.

"He fought through a really tough day, and now he's better for it," Mora said of Plummer. "We survived that storm. When one of your best players has a tough day and you're still able to win, that's a great feeling."

Mora said Plummer often may match up with Buccaneers leading receiver Keyshawn Johnson, but it won't be a full-time assignment.

Secondary shuffle

Webster hasn't practiced since spraining his ankle in the Dec. 30 regular-season finale, so Rumph likely will start again. For Mora, he's used to making changes in his secondary. "We've been kind of muddying through it," Mora said. "It's been ugly, but as long as we win, that's all that matters right now." The 49ers had the same starting defensive backfield throughout the 2001 season; there's been six combinations this season.

Weary of the pass

Quick pass routes and a three-step drop helped Buccaneers quarterback Brad Johnson produce an NFC-best 92.9 efficiency rating. "They're a team that's going to go 1-2-3 and get rid of it," Mora said. "If you watch how the Raiders play, how everything's quick and timing, Tampa's a lot like that."

Tampa's receiving corps of Johnson, Keenan McCardell and Joe Jurevicius could cause the 49ers headaches.

"We've been playing great run defense, so I don't think that's going to be a problem," linebacker Julian Peterson said. "They've got receivers that can make big plays."

Injury notes

Wide receiver Terrell Owens (right groin) practiced for the first time this week, and afterward, he dressed up in a Spiderman suit for an ABC skit. ... Left tackle Derrick Deese, right guard Ron Stone and center Jeremy Newberry did not practice because of sprained left ankles, but coach Steve Mariucci said all three will start Sunday.

-- Cam Inman

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