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Veteran safety Roman returns to 49ers after unsuccessfully seeking trade

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- When safety Mark Roman shopped his services around the NFL over the last several weeks, he found nothing more appealing than his sketchy situation with the San Francisco 49ers.

So Roman was back at practice Tuesday with the 49ers, who have bumped him to a backup job after the 10th-year pro started the last 43 games. After absorbing his demotion and actively looking for another team that wanted him as a starter, Roman still insists he's happy to be in San Francisco.

"Whether I was going to be here or anywhere, I was going to be happy," said Roman, who reported back to the 49ers three days before the start of their official minicamp. "I wanted to get in and get my legs back under me."

Roman had been out of town since shortly after last season, when the 49ers made it clear that they would promote third-year pro Dashon Goldson past him into the starting spot at free safety. The 49ers gave Roman permission to seek a trade, but nothing of substance materialized.

Roman, who underwent surgery on his ankle in February, still is under contract through the upcoming season. His relationship with coach Mike Singletary and his San Francisco teammates made him feel comfortable returning to the 49ers even after he attempted to go elsewhere.

"Over the last few years, I've made some pretty good friendships with the guys," Roman said. "I was really looking forward to getting back in the locker room, kind of missing the camaraderie with the guys."

Roman's uncertain offseason is somewhat of a rarity around the 49ers. For all of this franchise's many faults during its string of six consecutive losing seasons, the front office has managed to keep players largely happy and under contract, with almost no significant holdouts or renegotiation demands.

Goldson's promotion was one of the most significant moves of Singletary's first few months in charge. The hard-hitting safety from the University of Washington has looked good in limited action with the 49ers while excelling on special teams, which could become Roman's responsibility in the new lineup.

"There has always been room for Mark Roman on the roster," Singletary said last month. "We've talked to Mark and let him know he's important to what we're trying to do. There was never a time that we said, 'We don't want Mark. He doesn't matter to us.' We want him, and we're very interested in keeping him."

Despite his lengthy starting streak, Roman has become a target of fan displeasure for managing only one interception in his three years with the 49ers -- none in the last two seasons. Roman's skills in coverage and tackling have been picked apart, with most critics believing San Francisco needs a more active safety.

The 49ers' coaches apparently agreed that the team needs more disruption from the position, promoting Goldson without ever taking much of a long-term look at him in a game. On Tuesday, Roman wouldn't acknowledge any anger about the decision.

"Starting, backing up, it doesn't matter to me," said Roman, who has played in 96 consecutive games in a streak stretching through his days in Green Bay and Cincinnati. "Through it all, I'm going to still be who I am anyway. I'm a football player, and I'm going to be that first of all."

Roman's participation gave the 49ers another healthy defensive back, something they're lacking right now. Nate Clements will miss every workout this week after coming down with pneumonia, while fellow cornerbacks Walt Harris and Shawntae Spencer are out with knee injuries.

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