SANTA CLARA — The San Francisco 49ers parted ways with their longest-tenured player Saturday, releasing two-time Pro Bowl long snapper Brian Jennings as they made their final cuts to get the roster down to 53 by the NFL's deadline.
“That was a big decision and personal because Brian Jennings, to me, we breathe the same air,” coach Jim Harbaugh said in a conference call. “There's nobody I can say I enjoy more.”
Jennings, drafted in the seventh round in 2000 by then-general manager Bill Walsh, played in a franchise-record tying 208 straight games and had a flawless 13-year career with the 49ers. His release hands the job over to rookie Kevin McDermott, an undrafted free agent from UCLA.
“I feel as though I've been honorably discharged from the team I love,” Jennings said in a statement.
General manager Trent Baalke said in a statement: “The 49ers would like to thank Brian for his 13 years of service to the organization and the Bay Area community. He has always represented himself, his family and this organization with the utmost class. We wish him, and his family, the very best.”
The move is likely financial. Jennings was scheduled to earn $940,000 while McDermott will earn the rookie minimum salary of $405,000.
“Brian and I both worked real hard during these past few months and left it all out on the field,” McDermott said. “We really had no inkling of what the coaches were going to be doing.”
Jennings left the facility by the time McDermott arrived so he didn't get a chance to speak with him.
“I hope to get in contact with him at some point to say what a good mentor he was to me because he really did help me out quite a bit since the day I've been here and was very professional through this whole process,” McDermott said.
The 49ers also released wide receiver Lavelle Hawkins, who had two of the exhibition season's biggest highlight plays. He had a touchdown reception in Thursday's exhibition finale in which he deflected a pass, caught it three yards downfield, bounced off a defender and went 45 yards for the score in a 41-6 victory over the San Diego Chargers. He also had a 105-yard kick return for a touchdown in the third preseason game, a 34-14 win over the Minnesota Vikings.