The curious case of Kentwan Balmer

Kentwan Balmer's absence from the San Francisco 49ers over what the team called personal reasons deserved careful handling in the beginning.

The phrase "personal reasons" could cover anything from tending to a sick relative to, say, dealing with allegations he was part of NCAA violations at North Carolina.

But with the 49ers telling reporters Balmer's absence was no longer an excused one and they will begin fining him, the situation no longer demands as much sensitivity. The team is no longer sympathetic.

Balmer has previously said he deserved more playing time last season. His role on the team has remained somewhat vague, unusual for a recent first-round draft choice (2008). Here is one potential problem for Balmer: The people most responsible for drafting him -- general manager Scot McCloughan and coach Mike Nolan -- no longer work for the organization.

The people in charge now have less invested in Balmer because they are not directly tied to his selection, even though coach Mike Singletary and player personnel director Trent Baalke would obviously like to see Balmer succeed. The book on Balmer coming out of college was that he might not be a self-starter.

"Has some intriguing natural tools, but must first demonstrate that he is not motivated strictly by a contract," Nolan Nawrocki wrote in his 2008 Draft Preview for Pro Football Weekly. "Could be satisfied as a career underachiever. Is not instant coffee and will require some patience."

That patience is being tested.

The unexcused nature of Balmer's absence and his previous disillusionment over the playing time issue are two examples of a disconnect between player and organization. The 49ers hold the power here. They'll still be around and playing football in 2010 and beyond. It's tougher to say the same for Balmer without hearing his side of the story.

I left a message for Balmer's agent, Gary Wichard.