A largely quiet August for the 49ers got noisy on Monday, for all the wrong reasons. In addition to starting center Eric Heitmann breaking a leg, defensive tackle Kentwan Balmer busted out.
He missed practice Monday; Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News reports that the 2008 first-round pick actually left camp.
“I’m not going into that,” coach Mike Singletary said after practice regarding Balmer’s apparent decision to go AWOL. “He and I have to talk and figure some things out.”
Singletary nevertheless remains confident that Balmer’s absence is only temporary. “He’ll be back,” Singletary said.
Singletary attributes the issue to “personal reasons”; Brown theorizes that Balmer is upset regarding his playing time.
For a player who leaves camp, the team’s primary leverage comes from the sending of a “five-day letter.” Last year, NFL spokesman Michael Signora explained the five-day letter as it potentially applied to defensive end Richard Seymour, who initially failed to report to the Raiders after being traded to Oakland by the Patriots.
“The club sends a letter to the player warning him that, in five days,
the club has the right to place him on the reserve/left squad list,”
Signora told us at the time. “It explains to him that if they do place him in that
category, he cannot play again this season, etc. After sending that
letter and the expiration of the five-day period, the club does not have
to place the player on the reserve/left squad list, but it may do so.”
Even without the five-day letter, Balmer risks losing a year of credit toward free agency, if he doesn’t return fairly promptly. He also could be forced to return a portion of his signing bonus; however, the nuances of the rookie salary pool have resulted in few first-round picks receiving significant signing bonuses in recent years.
According to NFLPA records, Balmer is due to earn a base salary of $583,000 in 2010. He is signed through 2012.