Preseason opener begins tune-up process for aspiring 49ers 

click to enlarge Players including second-year running back Kendall Hunter will be looking to establish their role on the 49ers in preseason games starting tonight against the Vikings. - GETTY IMAGE FILE PHOTO
  • Getty Image File Photo
  • Players including second-year running back Kendall Hunter will be looking to establish their role on the 49ers in preseason games starting tonight against the Vikings.

It wasn’t pretty, but Greg Roman remembers what happened this time last year.
Distinctly.

“I vividly remember walking out of the locker room talking to Joe [Staley, a 49ers offensive tackle],” the 49ers offensive coordinator said, recalling the 24-3 drumming his team received via the New Orleans Saints in last year’s preseason opener.

“I felt pretty good about how the guys handled the situation, didn’t see anybody panic ... so, felt good about that. But the execution was obviously not where we needed it.”

By preseason’s end, that had changed. After going 2-2 in preseason action last year, the 49ers rattled off their best season since 2002, going 13-3 in the regular season and advancing to the NFC Championship Game.

And today, preseason games start again.

“We’ve got a lot of respect for the Vikings and their organization,” Roman said of the opponent the 49ers will host tonight at Candlestick Park. “Look forward to getting out there and hitting somebody else besides ourselves. I know our guys are looking forward to that.”

But with the drama of last year’s lockout, the guys were looking forward to a regular offseason.

“When I came here last year, it seemed like somebody just threw me in there,” second-year running back Kendall Hunter said. “And it was just a bunch stacked up on me.”

Hunter, who has been lauded by coach Jim Harbaugh this offseason, is one of the four primary San Francisco running backs and will likely see heavy action today and the rest of August after his first full offseason.

“It’s big,” Hunter said of his preseason opportunity. “You gotta go out there and show the coach that you can do whatever you gotta do to help the team out.”

But Hunter isn’t the only one looking to have his offseason translate to gridiron success.

“I want to go out and perform my best, and show everybody what I’m capable of,” backup quarterback Colin Kaepernick said. “At some point you’re going to have to wait your turn to get out on that field. You just have to ready for when your opportunity comes.”

Many will welcome the opportunity, but what transpires on the preseason scoreboard will hardly determine the four months of football that looms ahead.

And judging from practice drills, the 49ers’ defense is thus far besting the 49ers’ offense. And that’s something San Francisco hopes to do in both the preseason and regular season.

“The fact that our defense is making the offense better, the fact that there’s 16 other teams that have to look down that gun barrel,” Harbaugh said, “makes me the happiest guy in the world.”

NOTE: Michael Crabtree and Ted Ginn will open today’s game as the team’s starting receivers. ... The 49ers waived cornerback Curtis Holcomb, who was a seventh-round pick by the Niners in 2011. He spent last season on injured reserve.

49ers vs. Vikings

  • WHEN: Friday, 6 p.m.
  • WHERE: Candlestick Park
  • TV: KPIX (Ch. 5)
  • RADIO: KTCT (1050 AM)
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