Pre-game pep talk . . . and Q&A with RJF

Pre-game pep talk . . . and Q&A with RJF

There will be plenty to watch tonight when the 49ers open the exhibition season against the Broncos at Candlestick Park. And I plan to watch it – several times.


With the family out of the house — visiting Uncle Great in the woods of northern Minnesota – I plan to pull an all-nighter to supply an all-80-player review that (hopefully) will be compiled and posted in the wee hours.


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Obviously, the main focus of this game will be the quarterback play of Shaun Hill and Alex Smith. Both QBs have looked good in training camp. However, Mike Singletary stops short of expressing complete satisfaction with what he has seen. He said neither quarterback has fully asserted himself and won the job.


I’d love to see objective analysis in the comments section of my in-game blog this evening. I can already anticipate the observations from those who have firmly expressed their positions on the quarterbacks repeatedly in the past. Here’s your assignment for the night: Watch this game as if it were the first time you’ve ever seen (or heard of) Hill and Smith. Fair enough?


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Six of the 49ers’ seven draft picks are expected to see significant action. (Receiver Michael Crabtree remains unsigned.)


Previously flamboyant defensive lineman Ricky Jean-Francois should get a lot of time at right defensive end. He missed several days at the beginning of camp to receive treatment for a staph infection. After getting back on the practice field, he has worked hard and remained uncharacteristically quiet. I spoke to his this week about that and some other things.


Q: You seem to be taking a more low-key approach after being known for your personality at LSU?

Jean-Francois: “At LSU, I was more up front. I didn’t have the person like Coach (Mike) Singletary to shoot out front and tell you. ‘This is what we need to do.’ When I got here, I had Takeo (Spikes) . . . I had older guys who’ve been in the league for years. So I look at them. I sit back, keep my mouth closed and listen to what they do. Sooner or later – hopefully, I have a long NFL career – and when my time comes, I’ll know what to say at what time. Being here and being around players like this makes me more mature. It makes me feel like I’m growing as an adult every day, not just on the football field. When I walk outside this building and hang out with some of the players, I see what they do and how they carry themselves.”


Q: Are there times when you have to bite your tongue?

Jean-Francois: “We’re rookies. There’s a down payment you have to pay. The price you have to pay is being on this field every day for two-a-days. It’s lifting weights. It’s running. You can’t say much. You don’t have the stripes to say it. When I get those stripes, I want to carry myself the same way. Rookies should be seen and not heard.”


Q: You’re playing right defensive end, so are you picking Justin Smith’s brain?

Jean-Francois: “I talk to all of them: Justin, Demetric (Evans), Ice (Isaac Sopoaga) and I talk to Aubrayo (Franklin) because I can slide to the nose. I try to find out everything they know and hopefully perfect my technique. A lot of coaches have told me that the hardest position coming in from college is defensive line. If you don’t perfect your craft, you’re not going to be very good that first year. I want everybody to see I’m making progress game by game.”


Q: Did you focus as much on technique in college?

Jean-Francois: “I just knew I was stronger and faster that most of the guys. So I used some of my technique, but I didn’t use all of my technique. When I ended up here, I was told, ‘You can use some of the stuff you did in college, but don’t think you can come out here and outrun everybody and be stronger than everybody.’ I’m not going to outmuscle linemen, because some of them have been here 8, 9, 10 years. They’ve seen guys like me come in and try to outmuscle them. At the same time, I’m talking to the other D-linemen. I use their techniques and put it in my game. I don’t look like them, but I’m taking pieces from each player.”


Q: Who’s the most technically sound defensive lineman among your teammates:

Jean-Francois: “Aubrayo Franklin. If you’re a nose in the 3-4, you got to have a nose. You must be the most technically sound. If you’re not, you’re going to get drilled off the ball every play. . . . He’s an athletic nose tackle. I understand that some teams like the big 320- or 330-pound guy. We have athletes on our defensive line. If you want to put somebody else at nose and move him to end, it would be easy. He has good habits. He does not practice bad habits. And when I see that, I know I have to do the same. This is training camp. This is when you need to learn and engrain it so it becomes second nature in the regular season.”


Q: Is your head swimming with everything you’re learning, as far as the playbook and working on your technique?

Jean-Francois: “I’m not like this yet (snaps fingers quickly). I’m like this (snaps fingers at slow intervals). But at the same time, it feels like I’m taking steps day-by-day. I feel when I get to the point of putting technique and playbook together, I’ll be an outstanding rookie.”


Q: How much is Michael Crabtree missing by not being in camp as a rookie?

Jean-Francois: “I wish he could be here so he can help the team out, but we can’t sit here and let the world stop spinning. We got to keep going. Like coach said, they’re looking for 53 guys out this bunch right here. I hope he hurries up and makes a decision and comes in here and makes up for lost time and get rolling. As a rookie, missing every day hurts. There’s something being installed every day. As rookies, you just need to get in your playbook and do what the coaches tell you, so when your number’s called you’re not off-beat.”


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