The 49ers have avoided major injuries of late, but training camp is starting to look like a war of attrition as we get into the dog days of summer. Five new players joined the unofficial injury list before today’s practice: CB Shawntae Spencer (sore hamstrings), ILB Matt Wilhelm (headaches), WR Jason Hill (groin), T Barry Sims (oblique muscle) and TE Tony Curtis (quadriceps).
None of the five is described as serious. But some of these players, locked in competition for roster spots, can’t afford to miss much time. Hill could be battling Kyle Williams for the final wide receiver job, for example. Curtis might already be on the outside looking in as the 49ers search for a third tight end. And Sims seems to be locked in a battle with Alex Boone and Adam Snyder for a backup spot on the offensive line.
Of course, Boone soon leveled the playing field by clutching his right hamstring and limping off the field during team period. No word yet on whether he sprained/strained the hammy or was simply cramping up in the heat.
As we prepare some IV drips and ice baths, here are other notes and observations from today’s practice in Santa Clara…
• Practice ended with a bang today as offense and defense lined up for an “ownership period” – backups and coaches on the sidelines, no communication between coaches and guys on the field. The first-team offense set up on the first-team defense’s 18-yard line, and it took three plays for Alex Smith to find Josh Morgan at the goal line; Morgan spun into the end zone for the score.
Things didn’t go so well for the second-team offense as QB David Carr threw back-to-back interceptions. The first he telegraphed to TE Nate Byham over the middle and ILB Keaton Kristick got it. The second ricocheted off RB Anthony Dixon’s hand and into the arms of CB Phillip Adams.
That seemed like the end, but after a tumult of whooping and hollering, the starters re-entered the field, and coach Mike Singletary gave the offense five plays to score. Three plays later, it was first-and-goal at the 4-yard line, but Smith threw over RB Frank Gore on a flare and then led TE Delanie Walker out of bounds.
A vehement argument ensued about whether Walker got both feet in bounds. I was about 20 feet away, and he got neither.
• Tough day at the office for Carr. In addition to those two interceptions during “ownership,” ILB NaVorro Bowman got him on another pass over the middle intended for Byham.
• With Spencer down and veteran CB Nate Clements getting some rest, the first-team nickel defense in team period had Karl Paymah and Adams at the corners, and Tarell Brown in the slot. Paymah nicely broke up a pass from Smith to Morgan.
• Tony Wragge got the snaps at center during the final team period, but offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye confirmed after practice that David Baas is “in the lead” in the race to fill in for Eric Heitmann while the starter rehabs his broken fibula. Heitmann was at practice today, leaning on crutches.
• Morgan has been sort of quiet lately, but he had that TD in team period, and Raye suggested he would play an even bigger role in the offense this season. “I think Josh has made tremendous strides in terms of route-running as a receiver,” Raye noted.
• Punt returners today were Ted Ginn, Phillip Adams and Reggie Smith. Punt blocker was Mike Balogun, who got fingers on one of Andy Lee’s kicks.