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SANTA CLARA ? There is a logical reason cornerback Nate Clements surrendered more than a handful of completions in front of him in the 49ers? first three exhibition games.

Clements said he was merely working on an aspect of his game that he?s determined to improve.

?I?m always trying to work on my weakness,? Clements said Wednesday. ?I know everybody knows me as a physical corner, but I want to work on my weakness because I know my strengths are always going to be there.?

Clements, an eight-year veteran who is the team?s highest-paid player, is known for his bump-and-run coverage and helping out in the run game. But rather than play a physical style of coverage in the exhibition games, Clements has worked on playing off the line of scrimmage.

He yielded three completions on the first drive against the Denver Broncos before intercepting a pass in the end zone. Clements was called for a 22-yard pass interference penalty, then failed to drop deep enough on a 24-yard scoring pass to Raiders rookie receiver Louis Murphy.

Clements was beaten by undrafted rookie Kevin Olgletree on passes of 15 and 21 yards early in the 49ers? game Saturday against the Dallas Cowboys. Patrick Crayton also caught a 19-yard pass on him.

Defensive coordinator Greg Manusky said he is not worried ? yet.

?As long as it is done in the preseason, it is OK and it doesn?t happen in the regular season,? Manusky said. ?He has had a pretty good camp leading up to a couple of those games and having those things happen. You have to keep on working at it and trust his technique and his eyes.?

Clements is not expected to get much playing time Friday night when the 49ers conclude the exhibition season against the San Diego Chargers. But he promises to be up to the challenge when the 49ers open the regular season Sept. 13 against the Arizona Cardinals.

?I?m going to be ready when the season starts,? Clements said.

Clements had two of his better games against the Cardinals last season, limiting All-Pro receiver Larry Fitzgerald to his two lowest-output games of the year. Fitzgerald caught just 11 passes for 77 yards in two games against Clements.

Manusky said he is confident Clements has worked hard to get ready for the regular season.

?He had a heck of an offseason during the (offseason program) and training camp leading all the way through,? Manusky said. ?He is eager. You just have to trust his technique and keep building on it.?

EXTRA POINTS

Coach Mike Singletary gathered his team around him at the conclusion of a practice that did not meet his standards to launch into an animated challenge. The 49ers must cut 20 roster spots by Saturday to get down to the 53-player limit.

Third quarterback Nate Davis said it was bittersweet to win a roster spot at the expense of respected veteran Damon Huard, who was released Tuesday to make room for the rookie on the 53-man roster. He said he planned to call Huard to wish him well. He said both men knew they were likely competing for the same roster spot.

?We have talked a couple times about that,? Davis said. ?But we always stayed positive with each other and said, ?We hope that we?re both here.?

Read all of the PD's fire coverage here

Backup quarterback Alex Smith (thumb), and offensive linemen David Baas (foot) and Adam Snyder (knee) returned to practice after missing last week?s game with injuries. Baas has yet to play in an exhibition game.

Safety Michael Lewis (concussion) will not play Friday. Mark Roman will start in place of Lewis. Also, veteran Dre? Bly will start at right cornerback. However, Manusky said Bly, Tarell Brown and Shawntae Spencer are still in competition for the starting job.

For more on the 49ers, go to Instant 49ers at http://blog.press

democrat.com/49ers. You can reach Staff Writer Matt Maiocco via e-mail at matt.maiocco@pressdemocrat.com.

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