Michael Lewis' situation another bad sign?

Veteran strong safety Michael Lewis, reportedly in danger of losing his starting job, might not accompany the San Francisco 49ers to Atlanta in Week 4.

Coach Mike Singletary cited "personal reasons" for Lewis' absence from practice Friday, and he would not elaborate when pressed by reporters.

So, is Lewis tending to a family matter, or is there something more at work here?

The latter seems plausible given all the tumult surrounding the 49ers following their 0-3 start. If Lewis' absence really were unrelated to football, the 49ers could make that clear without breaching any confidences. The fact that they're being so vague seems telling. The team already slashed Lewis' pay, used a second-round choice for safety Taylor Mays and lauded another safety, Reggie Smith, for strong play during camp.

"As far as if he will make the trip or not, I’m not sure at this point," Singletary said. "It depends on if things get worked out or not. Once again, it’s personal reasons and that’s on Mike. I don’t talk about that. You have to talk to Mike about that."

Lewis' mysterious absence is the latest surprising development on Singletary's watch. Kentwan Balmer forced a trade. Glen Coffee retired. Singletary fired offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye after three games -- one day after saying Raye would stay all season.

If Lewis is absent for reasons unrelated to the team, it's no big deal for the 49ers. If his absence reflects a rift with Singletary or other coaches, consider it another consequence of the 49ers' 0-3 start and another test for Singletary's leadership.

Update: Lewis has asked for his release, according to Matt Barrows. That tells us what we need to know, pretty much. I'd consider this a sign of discontent on Singletary's watch, pending elaboration from involved parties.