49ers training camp report: Day 1

SANTA CLARA – Here are the highlights from the 49ers’ first practice of training camp, which took place at Levi’s Stadium.


1. WR Torrey Smith. Made the catch of the day – a one-handed catch near the sideline. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick lofted the pass over cornerback Shareece Wright’s head, and Smith reached out and caught the pass like Kevin Mitchell in 1989.

2. WR DeAndrew White. Caught two deep passes, one during one-on-one drills and one during team drills. First, White beat cornerback Mylan Hicks down the left sideline. Then White beat corner Marcus Cromartie down the right sideline. I still haven’t seen White drop a pass this offseason. He’s on fire.

3. OLB Eli Harold. Beat Joe Staley once during one-on-one pass-rush drills. Harold faked to the outside and then beat Staley to the inside. Later during team drills Harold looped around the inside and tagged backup quarterback Blaine Gabbert for the “sack.”

4. ILB Nick Moody. Intercepted a pass intended for Vance McDonald during one-on-one drills. McDonald ran a quick out route but couldn’t shake Moody. Gabbert tried to force a pass to the tight end, and Moody reached out and picked it off.

5. TE Blake Bell. Made four catches during team drills, including two deep ones down the middle of the field.


1. The grass. I watched the first hour and half of practice from the stands in Levi’s stadium – I wanted to get a view from above the field. I noticed players slipping and falling on the grass during warmups and team drills, but I couldn’t see why. So I walked down to the field for the final 30 minutes of practice and stood on the sideline. That’s when I noticed clumps of grass all over the field. One reporter said it looked like the aftermath of a buffalo stampede.

After practice, a reporter asked head coach Jim Tomsula if he expects to practice in Levi’s stadium tomorrow. “I expect it,” Tomsula said, “but we’ll reserve our right to make decisions as we need to.”

The next seven practices are scheduled to take place in Levi’s Stadium.

2. TE Vernon Davis. Dropped one pass, and failed to catch another because he never turned his head to look for it. He just ran down the field. As the ball flew past his head, a coach yelled out, “Come on, Davis!”

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  1. They’re gonna have a glut of talent at OLB. They have to trade Brooks if they can.

    Can Bell turn Vernon into trade bait? Could he be gone on a trade deadline move after Bell has proven to be the more effective TE?

    Can White sneak into the third WR discussion?

    Is this all overreaction to a single practice report? Probably.

    1. Regarding Bell, as I say in my post below, sounds like he’s more of a move TE at the moment. Davis is most likely safe as the in-line TE.

    2. Why do they have to trade Brooks? That would be a bad move. It is only the beginning of the season. If necessary he can also fill in at ILB having played there before. Lynch has been a little dinged. Plus Eli has yet to play a down in the pros. In case you haven’t heard he has been playing better than he ever has and has come in with a positive attitude this year. hate for us to trade him and he has a great year for someone else and we regret it because of injury or the player replacing him does’t live up to his previous years expectations.

  2. Matt Barrows says Bell spent a lot of time playing as the H-Back. Looks like they have identified the guy they want to take over Delanie Walker’s old role.

    Grant, was Vance McDonald or Bell the #2 TE based on what you saw?

  3. Grant Cohn’s Training Camp Report Report: Day 1


    1. Acting like a beat writer. This is one of Grant’s true strengths – access. Granted, it’s access gained through blatant nepotism, but its there, and Grant is putting it to good use. He’s managed to drive himself to a specific place at a specified time. Once at that location, he saw things, and attempted to convey some of what he had seen in a story. This is much better than when he attempts to build a narrative, or express an opinion.

    2. Spelling. Grant successfully spelled all words correctly in his piece.

    3. Timing. Grant managed to submit his piece in a timely fashion. People that were interested in catching up with the 49ers first day of training camp were able to do within a couple of hours of practice completion.


    1. The writing. I mentioned earlier that Grant spelled everything correctly. He saw things, he wrote down what he had seen, he submitted it in a timely fashion. Right now you must be saying to yourself, “Grant really wrote the heck out of that story!”

    Not so fast. I would argue that there are qualities one looks for in writing beyond what I have just mentioned. Qualities that are unfortunately still missing in Grant’s work. Let’s look at an excerpt:

    “I watched the first hour and half of practice from the stands in Levi’s stadium – I wanted to get a view from above the field. I noticed players slipping and falling on the grass during warmups and team drills, but I couldn’t see why. So I walked down to the field for the final 30 minutes of practice and stood on the sideline. That’s when I noticed clumps of grass all over the field. One reporter said it looked like the aftermath of a buffalo stampede.”

    Wow Grant, what is it that compelled you to write any of that? Not about the turf, per se. If the Turf at Levi’s still sucks in year two, there is clearly a news item in that. Look beyond the subject matter, and just marvel at the composition! Have you had formal instruction in writing or journalism? It doesn’t look like it form this excerpt. This isn’t writing, Grant. This is typing.

    2. Story structure. I get what you are attempting to do with these reviews. Generating something light and informative that is easy to digest, and not cumbersome for the reader. You’re doing it. It’s just not particularly well done. What’s confusing to me is that you’ve been using this format for several years now. It just seems like a lazy one-off that ended up becoming your standard format because… I don’t know exactly why this happened. My best guess is that the existence of the internet has driven media revenues so far down that we all just live in some sort of post apocalyptic hellscape where editors no longer exist.

    1. Awww, I’m sure everyone here feels warm and fuzzy knowing someone of your self appointed stature and importance is out there to ‘set the record straight’ when it comes to proper writing style of a sports blog. You must feel really proud and important now. Will you also share it with your third grade creative writing students?

    2. You may write a lot, but if you want a critique since it sounds like you treasure them, try being less snarky and more succinct.

      1. Cant believe I am defending a Cohn, but I am enjoying this site, and Grant has done a good job writing about various topics and allowing the posters to comment on salient points.
        My only wee bit of criticism is that he will post something about another sport like soccer, but insert a football reference. he should just start a whole new post. It would make me happy, and be less confusing.

        1. I actually think that he often does a very good job on the BR. In his articles, unlike some of the ones written by others, it at least appears that he has actually watched some of the games rather than getting his info off media sound bites.

    3. Must be Eye of the Beholder, dude. It’s a blog. I don’t come here for Hemingway, Dickens, or Vidal. Grant has evolved this camp or game reporting format (Good/Bad) over a few years and it’s an efficient means of expressing his impressions of what he saw. Since I can’t go to practices, I like that.
      If like many readers here, you compare his dispatches to other reporters’, they hold up fine. You may or may not agree with his takes on players, coaches, strategy, butt that’s not writing style.
      I’m a frequent critic of Grant’s, but I usually am taking offense to some bias or attitude behind a conclusion he offers.
      Take the day #1 reporting: Grant noticed guys slipping so he went down to look closely at the field and saw that it was a mess. Matt Barrows reported that the field was nasty on the edges, he too evoked the stampede metaphor, but Matt said no one was slipping.
      OK, who’s lying?
      Answer, nobody. Matt related what he saw. Grant maybe had a better perspective from the stands and wrote what he saw.
      That’s what I’m looking for. First tell me what you saw, then layer on an opinion of what you think it means.
      I don’t need a Story Structure, just clear details I can compare to paint a picture in my head.

    1. I can’t tell anything worthwhile watching guys in shorts unless it’s track, basketball or softball, but I’ve never played football.

        1. You should of been able to tell. I never play GM, discuss defensive line techniques, or flexible hips in the secondary. ;-}

  4. Interesting quote from Tomsula as reported by Inman:

    “Asked if he’d like to see more of that Kaepernick-Smith connection all season, Tomsula gave a theatrical pause and said: “Oh yeah. We’d really like for that to happen, to go to Smith, and to Vernon (Davis) and to ‘Alabama’ (undrafted rookie DeAndrew White).””

    Looks like White is on track to make the 53. Eric Branch projects that Patton will be cut, but the other choice would probably be Simpson.

    1. Patton is a favorite of a lot of fans since he stood out during the 2013 for his enthusiasm and being one of the better WR in a really bad group. It wouldn’t surprise me though if he is cut. I always thought Ellington was better. This group of WR seems to have quite a bit of talent so the cuts will be pretty hard. I think this is one year when who ever is cut will have a pretty good shot at getting picked up by another team. I don’t know if I would cut Simpson though. He is pretty good insurance for an injury to Smith. This team needs to make sure that they always have a receiver to extend the field in the wings. White would be a good option if he continues to shine but he is still an unknown factor both for production or can he stay injury free. I think that is also a factor working against Patton. In two years he has not been able to stay on the field.

  5. Thanks for the report Grant. Especially like the Kevin Mitchell flashback. I saw that game live on tv and enjoyed the great Hank Greenwald’ description on Mitchell’ bare-handed foul ball catch.

    Bell and D.White are not only going to make the roster, but they will contribute sometime during the season as well.
    Bell does not impress me as a traditional TE type because of his lack of weight which impede his progress as an inline blocker, but as someone noted earlier, he could very be the SAK this offense has sorely missed since D.Walker left.

    D.White may turn out to be this years biggest surprise. Hidden behind the shadow of A.Cooper at Alabama could have been the best thing for the 49ers because in a few years when White becomes a fixture on offense we will look back and be thankful NFL teams overlooked him on draft day because Cooper was dominating all their attention.

    I like Harold a lot but would like to see him add more overall muscle. Relying on speed will suit him well early in his career, but as he approaches his 4-5 year he will find that his speed will start to diminish and his strength will become a big asset.

    At the moment (and it’s only one practice), this years draft and FA class may be one of Baalke’ best in years.

  6. Heavy competition at a lot of position groups. WR will be very interesting, and I’ll be watching Patton. One thing I’m curious about is his speed. He may lack suddenness but he builds up to speed. I saw a tape of CK’s long td against the Chargers. Towards the end, Colin’s in full stride, a db (Weddell?) not gaining in pursuit, but Patton IS gaining on both trying to set a block or pick for Colin. That’s pretty fast, but he comes into the frame 60 or 70 yards downfield.

  7. The solution to the RT problem is easy; since Vernon doesn’t even look for the ball and is probably the second or third best blocker on the line anyway let’s just slide him over a spot and fill a need. Who cares if he’s 60 pounds light for the position, it’s all about leverage anyway. Since Bell is already the better receiver he can start in Vernon’s spot. Dang, this GM thing is easy! I can fix our line and I wouldn’t have let our best RB leave, or fired a winning coach or….

    FIRE BAALKE…and hire me!


  8. Grant, how about CK? Three of your top five players were WR’s and a TE, it seems to me if that’s true the QB’s or a QB must have been good also.

  9. Form a Maiocco tweet:

    Matt Maiocco ‏@MaioccoCSN 12m12 minutes ago
    Matt Maiocco retweeted Kurt Warner
    Practice is closed to the general public, which means Kurt Warner can have some quiet time with Colin Kaepernick. Matt Maiocco added,
    Kurt Warner @kurt13warner
    Looking 4word to checking out all the changes in SF – heading @49ers TC today! I want to see ALL u Niners fans showing out!

  10. “We’re not going to come out if it’s not safe. Our grass guys… they’re fantastic; they’re phenomenal. And they wouldn’t let us come out here if there was a problem.” … JimT on grass

    The “fantastically phenomenal” 49er grass guys won’t let the team practice on grass that’s not safe. Which grass guys installed the grass and scheduled a High School game in front of the first 49er practice of the new season? I’m sure it was other “grass/money” guys who did that.

    Evidently, while individual work was going on, Baalke and JimT were busy putting chunks of grass back where it belonged. That’s good team work at a high level.

    1. Being an expert on grass, I wonder what variety of sod are they using, and the composition of the soil mixture. I would also not use recycled yard waste/ compost because they may contain chemicals that do not break down and are detrimental to root growth. The length of time to ensure the knitting of roots is another factor. Maybe the sod is being watered too much. A drier field is better to take the punishment. Were players falling down?
      I am not too worried about the field. Those players are big and exerting a lot of force, so the sod is doing its job to give a little. Many fields can take a lot of punishment and recover nicely. After a county fair or festival, some fields look brown and desolate, but once water is applied, it springs back and recovers nicely.
      Well, thats my 2 cents .

      1. Also, I am not in favor of rolling the fields, because it is compacting the root zone. It might be just a moisture factor, and having a drier field will solve the problem. Finally, the length of the cut could be adjusted, but it looked good to me just seeing the pictures of the practice.

        1. Lastly, if the fields are rolled like they said they would be, no big deal, but I would plug the field and pick up all the plugs so the players will have better footing.The field will drain better when plugged and air can penetrate farther into the ground, which will help in root growth.

          1. Caveat, I would not over plug so the players could kick up bigger divots, and it would be best to plug and let the field rest and grow for a while.

            1. Hmm. I keep thinking of new things about the grass. In the past, I have top seeded with Chewings red fescue. It is a finer bladed grass, but also has a dense fibrous root system, so it would help prevent large divots from being torn up. I used that strategy on a playing field that had hard traffic and play, and seemed to work
              .However, I would experiment with different seed mixes on a different field and assess the results before employing that strategy.

      2. The 49ers seem to have planed to replace the field after a concert in August, and then planed to replace it again about a week later after a second concert. Are they treating the field as a cash flow asset rather than a home field advantage?

        They don’t seem to care about their playing surface in the way that your suggestions indicate that you see the care of a playing surface.

        1. Yes. I do not know why they would keep replacing the field, when it would be best to let the field grow and let the roots knit together, but they roll out 4 foot wide rolls and can replace a field in a couple days.

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