Santa Clara, CA (Sports Network) - The San Francisco 49ers released a trio of veteran players Thursday, as running back Garrison Hearst, offensive lineman Derrick Deese and defensive lineman Sean Moran were handed their walking papers.
"It's always difficult trying to get under the salary cap and you hate to say goodbye to players like these," said 49ers general manager Terry Donahue. "We wanted to give each player a chance to continue their career early in the free agency period."
Hearst spent a highly successful five seasons in San Francisco, gaining 5,590 yards to go along with 26 rushing touchdowns. He also made two Pro Bowl appearances (1998 and 2001) during that time. The emergence of Kevan Barlow this past season, however, spelled the end of his tenure in the Bay Area.
"After we signed Kevan Barlow to a contract extension, Garrison asked for and was granted his release," Donahue said. "Garrison is a true warrior and one of the greatest guys in all of professional football. No one has ever been more competitive or has defied the odds like Garrison. He is a special player and person."
The 33-year-old Hearst ran for 768 yards and three touchdowns last season despite missing the final four games due to a knee injury.
The departure of Deese leaves the 49ers with just one player (Bryant Young) remaining from their last Super Bowl championship team of 1994. Deese originally came to San Francisco as a rookie free agent in 1992 before going on to start 115 games for the franchise.
"Derrick informed me after this season that he felt he could be a starter in the league for the next couple of years," Donahue said. "We released him at this time with the idea that this would be helpful to him in pursuing that goal. He has had an outstanding career here and we appreciate all of his work for the organization."
Moran spent two seasons with San Francisco. He played in all 16 games in 2003 but had a total of just 1.5 sacks.
The move marked the end of a busy day for the 49ers, who earlier learned that a snafu by star wide receiver Terrell Owens' agent kept him from exploring free agency.