What a day it was for Taylor Mays, the rookie safety. He got a bunch of reps as the 49ers practiced nickel situations. He broke up a pass in the end zone, and got to chat with Hall of Fame defensive back Rod Woodson. And after all that, the main topic of the day was the sanctions handed down against the USC sports program.
The 49ers moved one step closer to assembling the entire roster today. And no, Patrick Willis didn’t make a surprising recovery from knee surgery, nor did Manny Lawson decide he was happy after all. But another linebacker, rookie Keaton Kristick, finally entered the fold.
Kristick’s class graduated at Oregon State, meaning he could practice with his new team. He was the final 49ers rookie to take the field this offseason. He confirmed that it pretty much drove him crazy to follow his NFL team from afar for the past month.
Impostor linebackers, Hall of Fame defensive backs and other notes from today’s voluntary practice in Santa Clara…
•The 49ers practiced third-and-long plays on the short end of the field today, with the defense in nickel coverage. That led to some interesting formations. The defense frequently lined up just two D-linemen (Ray McDonald and Justin Smith with the first team), flanked by two outside linebackers, with two inside backers behind them. On some plays, the OLBs had their hands on the ground while the DTs were standing and showing rush. S Michael Lewis manned one of the ILB positions for a while.
Travis LaBoy brought 23½ career sacks with him when he signed with the 49ers on Apr. 20. But the sixth-year NFL veteran and Marin Catholic High graduate hasn’t been much of a factor on the practice field so far.
Still rehabbing the torn tendons in his left foot that cause him to miss the entire 2009 season while a member of the Arizona Cardinals, LaBoy has been taking part in position drills during offseason OTAs (voluntary practices), but has seen almost no time in 11-on-11 team period. That changed this morning, when he found himself in the mix at outside linebacker.
Fourth-and-long, baseball draft picks and other notes from today’s voluntary practice in Santa Clara:
• The 49ers spent the first team period practicing fourth-and long plays, everything from fourth-and-4 to fourth-and-10.
• Alex Smith was feeling it today. The QB overthrew a few receivers, but he fired several touchdown passes, including two strikes to Vernon Davis and one to Delanie Walker.
Notes and observations from today’s voluntary practice in Santa Clara…
• Absent from the festivities were RB Frank Gore (travel issues), DL Aubrayo Franklin (unhappy with franchise tender) and Kentwan Balmer (injury rehab), LBs Manny Lawson (possible holdout) and Keaton Kristick (college class hasn’t graduated yet), and CBs Shawntae Spencer and Nate Clements (both working out elsewhere).
The 49ers will hold seven days of voluntary practices over the next 10 days. During that time, we in the media will be filling your brains with the minutiae of practice, telling you every time Taylor Mays runs without tripping or Alex Smith tells a wide receiver “good job,” while you keep reminding yourself that it’s just June and perhaps none of this is as important and it’s sometimes made out to be.
For some young players, however, the OTAs will have real significance.
On the surface, Nate Davis wouldn’t appear to be in any better position right now than he was a year ago. Last May, Davis was firmly entrenched behind the guys competing for the starting quarterback job, Alex Smith and Shaun Hill. Flash-forward a year and Davis is still No. 3 – now behind Smith and his primary backup, David Carr.
Speaking last week at the 49ers’ OTAs, however, the second-year QB said the feeling was a night-and-day difference.
A lot of readers have been asking (breathlessly, in some cases) for some evaluations of the offensive line – specifically, of first-round rookies Anthony Davis and Mike Iupati.
Unfortunately, it’s all too easy to lose sight of the linemen while watching a practice. (I know, these guys weigh 300 pounds, but still…) So I trained my eyes on the big men this morning, and came away with a few observations.
Enough with machinations of the guys in suits! Here, finally, are some random notes, observations, little hairlines and drops-and-rolls from the fourth and final day of OTAs this week:
• Rookie RB Anthony Dixon did not participate in practice. Coach Mike Singletary: “Some of these young guys, we’ve pushed them pretty hard so far. Anthony is a guy where everything he does, he does full speed, whether it’s running in the morning, running after practice, running the plays during the drills. I just think that he ran out of gas a little bit.”
“Today was a good day,” rookie wide receiver Kyle Williams said in the locker room after practice today.
The on-field session had ended with punt returns, and that didn’t go particularly well for Williams and his cohorts as the ball moved and twisted in the breeze. So why was he so jazzed about the day? Three reasons:
When Aubrayo Franklin, the 49ers’ incumbent nose tackle, finally signs his $7 million franchise tender and rolls into town, he’ll encounter happy teammates, relieved coaches – and one very long list, courtesy of Ricky Jean Francois.
“Oh yeah, I got a book for him,” Jean Francois told me with a laugh after practice today. “Like I’m already telling coach (D-line coach Jim Tomsula), just get all the OTA tape together so when it’s time for him to come back: ‘Tell me what I should’ve did on this, and tell me that one.’ ”