The way we hear it, the perception that the back-to-back exits of 2008 first-round DL Kentwan Balmer and 2009 third-round RB Glen Coffee might be indicative of some sort of teamwide morale problem is totally off base.
"While both departures were very odd in their timing, it really was a case of apples and oranges," said one source on the scene. "It was just a case of two pretty unusual situations that just happened at the same time.
"If there was a morale problem, you sure couldn't tell the way everybody was flying around in the preseason opener."
In the case of Balmer, however, his steadily declining morale had indeed become an issue that head coach Mike Singletary was not willing to tolerate.
"Balmer was frustrated because he just didn't feel he was getting enough playing time," the source said. "But the Niners thought that before you get playing time, you actually needed to earn it."
After a face-to-face meeting between Balmer and Singletary went nowhere fast, we hear Balmer was as good as gone.
Coincidentally, that decision just happened to be followed by Coffee's decision to retire, which really did come out of nowhere.
"Very strange," the source said. "He was one of the team's biggest gym rats. He had added 12-15 pounds of muscle and was looking really good. Everybody was commenting on how determined he looked running the ball.
"But then he must have just gotten a divine message. It was very reminiscent of former Raiders RB Napoleon Kaufman's decision to suddenly retire (in 2001)."
Coffee apparently decided once and for all to go in a different direction in his life while cutting off the tape on his ankles after a special-teams practice.
"He said removing that tape was like removing shackles," the source said. "And the organization completely supported him."
Enter veteran free-agent addition Brian Westbrook.
"The Niners were happy to get him, and he's happy to be here," the source said of the dual-threat two-time Pro Bowler.
"He's a real student of the game who gives Alex Smith a lot of options out of the backfield. But the big question is his health. One big hit, and it could be lights out."
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