Peterson takes turn on Niners' kicking carousel

Updated: October 29, 2003, 11:36 PM ET

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Todd Peterson sees himself as a football player who just happens to be a kicker.

The San Francisco 49ers just hope Peterson can kick well enough to keep his job for a while -- something the last three men in the position couldn't manage.

Peterson signed with the 49ers on Tuesday after Owen Pochman was waived. He is the Niners' fourth kicker in 15 games, but he has no more fear for his job security than any other veteran.

But after nine NFL seasons in Seattle, Kansas City and Pittsburgh, Peterson knows all about the high-pressure nature of his job. He believes he has a handle on the mechanical aspects of the position -- and it won't take long to get back in practice, even though he hasn't kicked in a game since last November.

"Well, I've had 10 years of (experience), so I don't think a few months off is really going to be that big a deal," Peterson said Wednesday. "If I miss kicks, it's not because I haven't been in a game."

Pochman was dropped after missing seven field goals in the last four games, including a potential go-ahead field goal from 35 yards in the final minutes of last Sunday's overtime loss to Arizona.

Pochman also never provided the depth on kickoffs that was the primary fault of Jeff Chandler, who was waived earlier in the season. To make matters worse, Pochman never earned the respect of his teammates -- something Peterson prizes.

"If you have a kicker who's just walking around here like it's Club Med, and in the hot tub and the cold tub all the time -- I'm not saying names, but he's no longer here with us anymore -- how can you respect that?" defensive end Chidi Ahanotu asked.

"I mean, he's in the hot tub and cold tub more than me, and I'm beat up all the time. I'm already looking at it like (Peterson) is a football player. I'm on his side."

Peterson's experience should allow him to earn respect quickly. He has been a tremendously accurate kicker with an above-average leg, though his struggles on the difficult turf at Pittsburgh's Heinz Field last season led to his departure.

But Peterson doesn't isolate himself from his teammates, even after failures. He always has believed in participating in every aspect of the NFL training regimen, including the camaraderie.

"The more I treated myself like that, carried myself that way, the more respect my teammates had for me," Peterson said. "They saw me in there lifting with them, and running after practice and doing the things that needed to be done. I think that creates a little credibility, and then you go out and make a kick, and they love you."

Peterson immediately endeared himself to his San Francisco teammates Wednesday by participating in conditioning drills and showing up for the morning practice in shoulder pads.

Peterson worked out for the 49ers twice before signing. He played for San Francisco coach Dennis Erickson for four years in Seattle.

"He was very solid for us," Erickson said. "You weren't on the sidelines wondering whether it was going to happen or not from within 30 to 35 yards. I have tremendous confidence in him. That's why he's here."

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^LUCKY LAFLEUR:@ Bill LaFleur won't be doing things backward any more.

LaFleur, the 49ers' punter and kick-holder, botched two snaps on extra points in recent games. Though he won't admit it, LaFleur's butterfingers probably resulted from holding for Pochman, a left-footed kicker.

LaFleur had always played with right-footed kickers before this season, dating back to his college career at Nebraska and his days in NFL Europe. Peterson is right-footed.

"I know that some of the stuff that has happened is unacceptable," LaFleur said. "I'm always working as hard as I can out there to correct things, and do things the right way."

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^BRONSON OUT:@ Safety Zack Bronson is expected to miss San Francisco's game against St. Louis on Sunday with a bulging disk in his back.

Bronson, a seven-year veteran who has spent his entire career with the 49ers, has started every game this season. He was hurt early in the 49ers' loss to Arizona last Sunday.

"I don't think it will keep me out for a long time, but we're just going to take it day by day," Bronson said. "We've got our bye coming up, so that will give me some time to get healed up."

The 49ers also will be without top reserve safety Ronnie Heard, who sprained his left knee against the Cardinals. That will leave plenty of responsibility for backups Dwaine Carpenter and John Keith, but Bronson isn't worried.

"This is the NFL, and they wouldn't be here if they couldn't step in," he said. "They're ready, believe me."

Keith is expected to start in Bronson's place. Keith has started six games in his four seasons with San Francisco, but began the season on the practice squad.

The 49ers still are without Jason Webster, a starting cornerback for the past three seasons. He hasn't played this fall because of a knee injury, but he's expected to return after next weekend's bye.

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index