Day 17, practice 25: Willis returns
It’s Day 21 since the first day 49ers rookies reported. It’s Day 17 of practices. And it was practice No. 25.
And looking back over my notes from the session, there’s not a whole lot that distinguished today from the other days. There’s still no sign of Michael Crabtree. The quarterback picture is static.
But the 49ers did get their biggest star back on the field today.
Linebacker Patrick Willis took part in individual drills after being out of action since Aug. 3, when he injured his right ankle/Achilles during a nutcracker drill against Michael Robinson. Guard David Baas sustained a left foot injury on Aug. 4 during the same drill.
The “nutcracker”, which coach Mike Singletary instituted at the beginning of camp, is a drill in which two like-sized players square off head-to-head with the object being to push the other directly backward.
Running back Michael Robinson (groin) and cornerback Tarell Brown (toe) were back in pads this morning. Robinson took part in individual drills and some limited team work, while Brown was scheduled to begin running. Robinson has been out since Aug. 4, while Brown was injured on the first day of camp. It is not known if they were injured during the nutcracker drill.
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Willis wanted to return to full practice today but he was kept out. It’s unlikely he will see full action when the 49ers practice Tuesday and Wednesday against the Raiders.
When Willis returns to the playing field, he will be outfitted with the helmet with the radio transmitter. Willis will call plays in the huddle. He was uncomfortable in that role last season. But this year he says he’s ready for the challenge.
“It verifies that this is my show to run,” he said.
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Defensive coordinator Greg Manusky singled out safety Reggie Smith and defensive lineman Ricky Jean-Francois for their play in Friday’s exhibition opener. Smith, of course, had an interception and also picked off a two-point conversion attempt. Jean-Francois held up well at the point of attack on run plays, Manusky said.
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Receiver Arnaz Battle, who was a forgotten man through most of the offseason, has put together a strong camp, 49ers QB Shaun Hill said. “He’s been the rock of the receiving corps,” Hill said. “He’s always shown up and made plays. I’m glad to see him do well.”
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There wasn’t much that can be read into the play of the QBs today – no surprises with Hill and Alex Smith. Singletary said on Friday that Hill is less of a mystery. Smith said his goals are to set the tempo for the offense, show a presence, stay level-headed, make good decisions and execute the offense. As far as his self-critique of Friday’s game: “Some good, some bad.”
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