Today’s morning practice wasn’t nearly as ragged as yesterday’s, and the 49ers seemed to suffer no major injuries. But one element was off-kilter: QB Alex Smith, who has looked fairly accurate through most of camp, had perhaps his worst day of the summer.
It wasn’t like Smith missed everything. For example, he threw one gorgeous pass to rookie WR Kyle Williams down the right sideline, hitting him in stride for a sure 58-yard touchdown over CB Will James.
All in all, though, it was a morning the 49ers’ field leader would like to forget, starting with the first play of team period when he had to step up and run away from pressure. Later in that period, third-string CB Patrick Stoudamire broke up two Smith passes in three snaps; the second one was thrown directly at Stoudamire, forcing WR Josh Morgan to play defense. A little later in 7-on-7, Smith sailed a ball so high over RB Frank Gore on a wheel route that it short-hopped a cameraman’s shin on the sideline; then he overthrew WR Ted Ginn in the end zone. When team period began anew, Smith threw behind Williams on a crossing route, tossed a pass over the middle to TE Delanie Walker that S Dashon Goldson nearly picked off, and missed Ginn on a ball that CB Nate Clements leaped to intercept.
The 49ers were working on a lot of red-zone situations today, but Jimmy Raye said that was no excuse for Smith’s struggles. The offensive coordinator had a different explanation, noting that TE Vernon Davis and WR Michael Crabtree were rested in the morning, and that several receivers ran bad routes.
Raye went on to explain that Smith may have gotten “arm-weary.” The 49ers chart Smith’s throws, and yesterday he unloaded 94 in the morning and, according to Raye, 86-90 in the afternoon.
“He hit a wall, got a little arm-weary,” the coach said.
Raye had no concern in his voice, but Niners fans can’t be too thrilled to hear about Smith hitting the wall 10 days into camp.
Other notes and observations from this morning’s practice…
• Still no sign of DL Kentwan Balmer, whom coach Mike Singletary excused from practice. Singletary did not address reporters today, but he did go on KNBR’s “Morning Show” during a.m. drive time, and had this to say on the subject:
“There isn’t any more news than I gave them yesterday, today. It’s on Kentwan. As far as I’m concerned, we’re gonna continue to practice and do what we have to do, and Kentwan’s gotta make up his mind in terms of how he’s gonna handle some of the personal issues that he has to handle. … Sometimes things come up in life and you have to decide which is more important, and that’s where Kentwan is. And until he makes a decision, I’m gonna give him the time to handle it. Because there’s certainly a lot on his plate right now.”
There has been no clarification of Balmer’s issues. His agent cited “family matters” to Comcast Sports. Some wonder whether it has to do with an ongoing probe of the University of North Carolina football program, an investigation that has linked Balmer to trips taken by Tar Heels tackle Marvin Austin.
• The 49ers waived OLB Martail Burnett injured and signed a couple guys to help plug the gaps at linebacker: Brandon
Jones Long and Bruce Davis. Jones Long was with the Niners earlier this year before they released him June 18. Burnett sprained his knee yesterday morning.
• Out of commission today were C Eric Heitmann (broken fibula), ILB NaVorro Bowman (shoulder), WR Brandon Jones (hamstring) and OLB Travis LaBoy (concussion). TE Vernon Davis and WR Michael Crabtree got veteran courtesy. CB Phillip Adams returned to action, sore hammy and all.
• Perhaps because the 49ers are working on special teams this afternoon, they focused almost exclusively on team period in the morning. They ran a lot of red zone, including some plays inside the 10-yard line, and shuffled up units so that the first-team offense sometimes went against the second-team defense, the second offense against the third defense, etc.
• Stoudamire had a great day. The undrafted rookie from Western Illinois also broke up a pass from Smith to Dominique Zeigler in 7-on-7.
• Zeigler did some damage of his own, going high to make a sweet catch over CB Shawntae Spencer on a pass from Smith.
• Nate Davis came on to play QB three times in various team periods – and got exactly one snap each time. He threw two incomplete passes, and the final try of the day was a broken play; OLB Diyral Briggs wound up touching Davis down. His third-team offense started to line up for another go, but Raye angrily yelled, “Get ’em off the field!”
• One connection that was working: backup QB David Carr to TE Nate Byham. They combined on two touchdowns in red-zone practice.
• Strangest formation of the day: ILB Takeo Spikes drops 25 yards deep in coverage in nickel package, while the safeties creep close to the box.
• CB Tarell Brown broke up a pass from Smith to Delanie Walker in the end zone. Looked like good coverage, perhaps even pass interference, but tight ends coach Pete Hoener ripped into Walker afterward.