There’s no other way to say it. This morning’s practice was ugly. NFL teams go into training camp hoping for two things: 1) stay healthy, and 2) make incremental progress. The 49ers did neither today.
The offense had to re-huddle several times, there were a couple of false starts, the ball was on the ground more than at a typical golf tournament, and the coaches went hoarse chewing guys out. After a veritable day off (the 49ers had only a walk-through Sunday), the team simply came out scattershot.
Coach Mike Singletary stopped the action late in practice and said, “Guys, I appreciate the effort. But let’s think about cutting it now.” No, the players said (in unison, if you believe the coach), we can get this right. But they couldn’t. Shortly thereafter, Singletary called it for good, telling his athletes to regroup and come back refocused in the afternoon.
He may have had another reason for shortening practice. Players were dropping left and right. First C Eric Heitmann went down with an unspecified leg injury while leading a sweep by Frank Gore in team period. Then OLB Martail Burnett appeared to hurt his right knee while pivoting in pass coverage. Both left the field on carts.
LT Joe Staley left the action earlier with a neck spasm, ILB NaVorro Bowman sat out briefly while being attended by a trainer, and WR Josh Morgan had his neck jammed (he seemed all right) late in the session when he was popped by S Dashon Goldson. When OLB Parys Haralson ran into backup QB David Carr one play later, Singletary had seen enough.
It has been a tough start to camp, with guys like ILB Scott McKillop (knee), OLB Ahmad Brooks (lacerated kidney), OLB Travis LaBoy (concussion) and WR Brandon Jones (hamstring) already sidelined.
No telling whether the 49ers will be sharper this afternoon. But let’s hope they’re safer.
Other notes and observations from today’s practice…
• Stepping up to replace the wounded were Barry Sims at LT and David Baas at C.
• The 49ers waived KR/CB LeRoy Vann, the undrafted rookie from Florida A&M who had emerged as a fan favorite. Singletary explained after practice that he just didn’t see Vann getting enough reps moving forward – either returning punts or at defensive back.
• The Niners worked on backed-up plays in the first team session, snapping at the offense’s 1- or 2-yard line. Highlights included CB Shawntae Spencer killing two straight plays, a handoff to Gore and pass from Alex Smith to Ted Ginn, and DE Justin Smith running past T Alex Boone and RB Anthony Dixon to sack Carr.
• Carr got some work with the first-team offense in the final team period, running some no-huddle. ILB Patrick Willis sat it out, probably just getting a rest. He was replaced by Matt Wilhelm.
• Smith’s best throw was a completion over the middle to TE Vernon Davis that beat a strong rush and just cleared OLB Manny Lawson’s hand.
• Nice work today by a pair of cornerbacks, Will James and Nate Clements. James is starting to make his presence felt with physical coverage after a slow start to camp. Clements played well, and the one time he got beat today, Jason Hill let Carr’s deep ball slide off his fingertips.