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SANTA CLARA -#8212; For a guy with a bum leg, Carlos Rogers looked pretty spry as he strode across the 49ers' team parking lot Tuesday. The veteran cornerback declined to stop for interviews, other than to toss an answer over his shoulder when an Associated Press reporter asked him if he'd play against the Carolina Panthers on Sunday.

"I think so," Rogers said, "I've been running."

And so begins another episode of As the Secondary Turns, one of the few cliffhangers here in the land of the 49ers, a team that looks highly stable in the 2013 postseason. Rogers missed the Niners' first-round victory over the Green Bay Packers with a strained hamstring after being listed as questionable for the game.

That a player with a balky hamstring would be a game-time scratch in single-digit temperatures is no shock, nor was San Francisco's starting cornerback tandem in Rogers' absence -#8212; Tarell Brown and Tramaine Brock. The surprise was Brown's replacement at nickel back. It was not Eric Wright, who had seemed like the logical candidate, but Perrish Cox, who re-signed with the 49ers on Dec. 30.

Asked whether he expected heavy playing time at Green Bay, Cox answered: "Oh, I had no clue, no clue at all. I think that's the most snaps I've played since preseason."

It certainly wasn't the way Wright, the San Francisco native, envisioned the game developing.

"Obviously it was disappointing, but playing this game you know how it goes," said Wright, a seven-year vet in his first season with the 49ers. "Sometimes things happen, and you try your best to fight through that type of adversity. I think that's what the game is all about."

Wright's adversity, like Rogers', was a tight hammy. He suffered his strain in practice last week and was also questionable for the Packers, though he insisted he could have gone.

"Yeah, I was ready to play," Wright said.

He played zero snaps on defense, though he did get in for five plays on special teams. Was it the injury that kept him on the sidelines, or did the 49ers coaching staff simply have more confidence in Cox?

"It really wasn't my decision, so that's something that you have to ask somebody else," Wright said. "But obviously I think if you do have a hamstring injury like that, it's a little hard to get warm and stay warm."

For Cox, the busy day at Lambeau Field was just the latest twist in a season paved with sharp turns. He looked like a solid backup DB and special-teamer for the 49ers when the campaign began, but the team waived him Nov. 12, eight days after they activated Wright from the Reserve/Non-Football Injury list.

The rival Seahawks signed Cox on Nov. 26, the same day the NFL announced that Seattle cornerback Walter Thurmond had been suspended four games for violating the league's drug policy, but they released Cox just 24 hours later.

The Seahawks signed him again on Dec. 11, the day safety Jeron Johnson went on Seattle's injured reserve, and released him again Dec. 27, when Thurmond returned from his suspension. The 49ers re-signed Cox on Dec. 30.

Oh, and somewhere in the midst of all that, Cox celebrated the birth of his first child, daughter Carter, in Fort Worth, Texas.

"I tell everybody it's been the craziest two months ever in my life," Cox said. "Back and forth to Seattle. Had to have my little girl Nov. 29. And coming that Friday when I got released (by Seattle the second time), my agent had called me and told me (the 49ers) had already contacted me right after I went across the waivers. I knew I was coming back before anyone else did. But I didn't have no clue I was playing that much."

Cox practiced as the dime back for most of last week, and figured that would be his role against the Packers. Instead, he played 62 defensive snaps as the nickel, against an opponent that virtually lives in three-receiver sets.

And the San Francisco secondary, which had looked shaky in its final two regular-season games, came up big, holding Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers to 177 passing yards, his lowest output in nine career postseason starts.

This week, Cox expects to practice at nickel back, though he is likely to be bumped to the dime if Rogers can play. The Carolina Panthers also play a lot of three-receiver sets, perhaps more so if star wideout Steve Smith returns from a sprained knee ligament for Sunday's game.

"Coach told me I had to come in early and get more film in, so he just told me be prepared for anything," Cox said. "And after the Green Bay game, I will be prepared for anything."

You can reach Staff Writer Phil Barber at 521-5263 or phil.barber@pressdemocrat.com.