Practice notes II: Defense’s honor at stake

Niner42 and mcniner felt I skimped on the practice notes, and I aim to please, so here’s some more.

Most of training camp has been fully padded but light on tackling. The lineman bang into each other, but the skill positions basically play two-hand-touch. Jim Harbaugh constantly reminds the players to “Keep them up! Keep them on their feet!” He doesn’t want any injuries.

Today was a full-on tackling day, and the first major collision happened right in front of me.

Alex Smith pitched the ball to Anthony Dixon, who swept left and got around the corner. He rumbled down the left sideline past the fans and towards me. Patrick Willis sprinted across the field to meet him and the two players crashed helmet-to-helmet.

The collision made a horrfying crack – it was the kind of sound you don’t get to hear unless you’re on the sideline of a football field, and it reminds you just how vicious this game is.

The fans gasped, fearing injury, but both players popped right back up. Dixon jumped to his feet and started hooting and hollering – he loved giving the great Willis a hard lick. The fans cheered for Dixon, too. In a sense, he showed Willis up with his celebration.

From that point on it seemed like every time Dixon got the ball the 49ers defenders hit him extra hard. Two and three guys would fly at him and give him a crunch.

On one play Dixon got the handoff and ran up the middle. Justin Smith filled the hole Dixon thought he had, and Smith planted him on his back. Smith flexed and yelled at the top of his lungs and all the defenders jumped on him and slapped his helmet.

He restored their honor.

 

Follow me on twitter @grantcohn.

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