Day 10, practice 18: Smith banished to hill
Moments after tight end J.J. Finley coughed up the ball and cornerback Dre’ Bly stripped running back Thomas Clayton, 49ers coach Mike Singletary offered a challenge to his team in the afternoon practice.
Before the 49ers were going out for two more sessions of 11-on-11, and Singletary gathered the offense around. It’s a major emphasis for the team to cut down on turnovers. Therefore, Singletary said the next person responsible for a turnover would have to sit out the remainder of practice on the hill.
On Alex Smith’s first pass, the ball was tipped at the line of scrimmage. The ball, intended for Vernon Davis, was deflected by Allen Rossum. Marcus Hudson came up with the acrobatic interception.
“As soon as it went up, I figured it was going to happen,” Smith said.
So he had to watch the remainder of practice from the hill. Smith still had his helmet, so he could listen to the play calls while Damon Huard, Shaun Hill and Nate Davis finished off the practice. Injured wide receiver Brandon Jones was the first to join Smith on the hill. Then, after the first-team offensive line was replaced, the entire unit — center Eric Heitmann, tackles Joe Staley and Adam Snyder, and guards Tony Wragge and Chilo Rachal — sat around Smith on the grassy knoll in a show of solidarity.
“There probably aren’t too many linemen and quarterbacks who have a chance to do that,” Smith quipped.
After being allowed to descend the hill, Singletary met Smith with a smile and a handshake. This was not the classic case of a bad decision or a poorly thrown ball. It was tipped at the line. As Smith said, “If you’re trying to throw the ball around defensive linemen’s hands, good luck,” he said.
Added Smith, “The bottom line, is you can’t turn the ball over.”
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Receiver Isaac Bruce (eye/veteran courtesy) sat out his first practice of camp. Others who missed their first work of camp were rookie cornerbacks Terrail Lambert (right hip) and Carlos Thomas (hamstring). The club said both are expected to return to practice Tuesday.
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Shaun Hill opened the afternoon with 12 consecutive completions. He finished the day with 19 completions in 23 pass attempts.
Damon Huard took his first snaps since the opening day of camp. Huard completed all four of his passing attempts.
After the practice, Hill and Smith got a chance to test a shipment of game balls. They decided on 12 footballs that passed the inspection and will be used in the exhibition opener Friday night against the Broncos.
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