This is Grant Cohn, but some people call me Iggy. You can call me whatever you’d like. I’m your new 49ers blogger. I’ll be reporting and tweeting every day from training camp in Santa Clara as soon as it opens, whenever that may be. Until then, I’ll join Bob Padecky and Phil Barber in providing you with some blogging snack food to whet your appetite for the upcoming NFL season….
Tackle Anthony Davis and guard Mike Iupati were the objects of Niners’ fans obsession as offseason practices got underway. How big were these guys? Could they move? How were they looking in action? Were they ready to start? How about now? And now??
With the 49ers working without pads throughout OTAs, rookie camp and mini-camp, all of the questions regarding the first-round offensive linemen were answered with definite maybes.
Meanwhile, second-round pick Taylor Mays and third-rounder Navorro Bowman were stealing the show.
Does the depth chart mean anything in June?
I was especially interested in the chart when OLB Manny Lawson returned for the 49ers’ minicamp on Thursday. It made me wonder how Mike Singletary and Greg Manusky would divide the first-team reps when Lawson and Ahmad Brooks both took the field. I was mildly surprised that Lawson worked almost exclusively with the starters.
It meant something to me. But did it mean anything to the players? I inquired, and got very different responses.
The 49ers’ 2010 offseason is in the books. The team has concluded 14 OTAs, a rookie camp and a two-day, three-practice minicamp. That’s a significant amount of public work and, as you can imagine, not all men were treated equally. Here are the climbers and fallers from May and June. Consider this the last round of 7-of-7 for a while.
QB Alex Smith: Is Smith an improved quarterback? We’ll have no idea until at least preseason, and probably into the regular season. But it’s clear that he has greater confidence and command of Jimmy Raye’s offensive system, and that’s the first step.
CB Keith Smith and LB Brandon Long: You can’t fall any further than off the roster. These two were cut/waived this past week.
Sometimes, standing on the practice field and watching another 7-on-7 drill, it feels like there isn’t a lot going on around an NFL team in June. Then you get to the end of a five-day, six-practice week, and you realize there simply wasn’t enough time to talk about everything.
I’ll be adding some blog posts early this coming week, looking back on what just happened. In the meantime, here are some random locker-room quotes that seem worth echoing, even if they don’t fit into a larger story.
Notes and observations from this afternoon’s minicamp practice, the 49ers’ final offseason work of the year…
• The team released CB Keith Smith and waived LB Brandon Long. Smith had played three games with the Niners in 2009. Letting him go could be seen as a vote of confidence for players like Will James and Phillip Adams.
• Practice was open to a small horde of suite holders, who packed bleachers and stood along one sideline, cheering on Alex Smith and Michael Crabtree.
As they sweated through a one-day rookie camp in early May, then progressed through OTAs and into the current minicamp, gradually gaining first-team repetitions while absorbing a crash course in NFL blocking, tackle Anthony Davis and guard Mike Iupati probably were feeling pretty good about their progress.
Not that Davis and Iupati should suddenly be doubting their self-worth, but things have looked a little different the past couple days, as the 49ers ran their first one-on-one drills of the spring. Suddenly, the rookies were on that proverbial island, with no help and no chance of blending into the background – and the results weren’t always pretty.
Notes and observations from this morning’s minicamp practice…
• As many had suspected he would, coach Mike Singletary canceled the final day of this minicamp, meaning this afternoon’s practice will be the final team activity until training camp. That cleared up the mystery of the double-booked coach. Or did it? Singletary acknowledged to reporters after the morning practice that he was headed to Illinois for three services at Willowcreek Community Church, but denied he was set to speak at McHenry West High School.
Singletary explained his decision to cut work short this way: “These guys have worked hard. They worked their tails off, all offseason. The attendance has been high. … I knew early on, the last day of this, we were not gonna do it.”
It’s pretty clear that disgruntled NT Aubrayo Franklin will not be here in Santa Clara for the final day of minicamp tomorrow. But how about coach Mike Singletary?
As reported by NationalFootballPost.com, the United Way of Greater McHenry County in Illinois is advertising a fundraising event for Saturday, June 19, that includes a motivational speech by the 49ers head coach. It’s at the McHenry West High School campus from 12-3 p.m. local time, with Coach Sing speaking at 1 p.m.
That’s 11 a.m. California time, when the 49ers should be a half-hour into the morning practice.
I posted earlier on Manny Lawson’s return to the fold. Here is the entire transcript of Lawson’s interview session, which lasted just under four minutes. It probably would have gone on longer, but he had to hustle out of the locker room to a 2:30 meeting. Lawson’s a good talker and, apparently, a thinker, so I thought you might enjoy the full interview.
Notes and observations from the first day of the 49ers’ three-day minicamp…
• Didn’t take long for LB Manny Lawson or CBs Shawntae Spencer and Nate Clements to get back in the groove. All three moved smoothly into first-team repetitions, pushing Ahmad Brooks, Tarell Brown and Karl Paymah to the second unit. The three prodigal sons looked solid, if not perfect, in their returns.
• Rookie RB Anthony Dixon, limited by a sore hamstring the past couple of weeks, returned to full participation and looked quick for a big man.
Linebacker Manny Lawson generated most of the buzz today, but two other 49ers defenders made their locker-room debuts of 2010. Cornerbacks Shawntae Spencer and Nate Clements, both of whom skipped all the voluntary practices, are here for the three-day minicamp that is about to begin.
Both talked to reporters, and both sent out the same message: They’re happy to be here, but the workouts they really needed were elsewhere.
Manny Lawson finally spoke today, and there was little fire, no brimstone, and certainly no militant demands for more money. The fifth-year linebacker supposedly is upset with his contract, which calls for a base salary of $625,000 this year, but his feelings sounded more like mild disapproval during his first discussion with reporters this offseason.
Asked if he is dissatisfied with the contract, Lawson answered: “Not dissatisfied with it, but you know, everybody wants a new contract. I wanted to be here. I wanted to be a San Francisco 49er. I would like a new contract, yes.”
Manny Lawson, the 49ers’ disgruntled linebacker, is in Santa Clara for the team’s three-day minicamp. But that doesn’t mean everything is hearts-and-flowers on this front.
Lawson remains unhappy with his $625,000 salary for 2010, the final year of his contract, and his long-term plans are clouded.
“The 49ers are going to do what they feel is in their best interest, and Manny will do what’s in his best interest,” the player’s representative, Jonathan Feinsod, said early this afternoon. “Manny would like to be a 49er for the rest of his career, but that’s obviously not the 49ers’ plan right now.”
Couldn’t I just be Vernon Davis for 24 hours? The 49ers tight end leads such an action-packed and glamorous life, he must have a few premieres or ribbon cuttings to casually toss to the rest of us slobs.
Just check out a few of Davis’ Twitter posts from the past week.
10:33 p.m. Friday: “Thanks to Jim for letting me use his 30million dollar home tomorrow to for my fabulous pool party.”
10:00 a.m. Saturday: “Thanks to Porsche for giving me their new 4 door to drive around. I think I’m in love,”
The 49ers’ minicamp warms up at 1:45 tomorrow afternoon with media access in the locker room. The question: Who, exactly, will be in that locker room?
As I mentioned yesterday, there is no word yet as to whether professionally disgruntled NT Aubrayo Franklin or LB Manny Lawson will be here. The issue was not resolved today, at least not by coach Mike Singletary.
When I asked Singletary whether Franklin or Lawson would show, he answered: “As far as I know, I have heard that Aubrayo will not be here, which does not bother me one bit. If Manny is not here, does not bother me one bit. Those guys are working.”
In the grand scheme of things, a 2-minute drill in June, with key players missing on both sides of the ball, is about as meaningful as a Battle of Gettysburg reenactment in Fresno. But to those of us starved for action during the NFL lean months, it was the climactic conclusion of Super Bowl XXIII all over again.
The 49ers ran the 2-minute drill twice at the end of practice today, moving the chains and the huddle down the field as they went.
After the 49ers’ final organized team activity (read: voluntary practice) of the year, coach Mike Singletary said, “I thought the offense got better. I thought Alex (Smith) did a great job executing the offense.” But the defense may have won the day. Here are some notes and observations from today’s activity…
The 49ers will assemble Thursday afternoon, just as they will Wednesday morning, but the vibe will be a little different. Thursday marks the start of a three-day minicamp. Attendance is mandatory, and it will be very interesting to see who is here.
Of the four defensive regulars who have skipped voluntary practices this offseason, cornerbacks Shawntae Spencer and Nate Clements are both expected to arrive Thursday. They simply prefer to work out on their own this time of year.
The other two, nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin and outside linebacker Manny Lawson, are the big question marks this week.
Notes and observations from today’s voluntary practice in Santa Clara…
• RB Michael Robinson, absent Monday, was back at practice today. TE Vernon Davis remained elsewhere. He tweeted about running “the biggest hill in San Jose” and filming a movie. The other missing 49ers were the same ones we’ve gone without all offseason: NT Aubrayo Franklin, LB Manny Lawson and CBs Shawntae Spencer and Nate Clements.
• WR Brandon Jones (ankle) and T Matt Kopa (foot) did not practice. DL Kentwan Balmer and CB Will James were limited to position drills. After practice, LB Travis LaBoy and FB Brit Miller stretched while their teammates ran.