Oh, yeah, in case you forgot: The 49ers have a head coach prowling the field.
Mike Singletary, for all his scowling charisma, generally is not a vocal presence on the practice field. He strides from drill to drill, letting his assistants do most of the coaching. The running joke around here is that Singletary’s main function during practice is to alternate sporadically between his two catch phrases: “Stay off the ground” and “Catch the ball, son.”
Today, Singletary was in fine form. And it all revolved around one pass-defense technique.
Running backs and tight ends were going one-on-one against linebackers in a passing drill when Coach Sing suddenly yelled at rookie NaVorro Bowman: “Bo! You playing zone or man-to-man?” When Bowman answered man, Sing asked, “Then why you looking at the quarterback?”
Then Mike Balogun got a turn against a fullback and Singletary barked at him: “Forty-eight! What’d I just tell Bo?” He added: “Guy weighs 245 pounds. How you gonna miss him?”
Somehow, the message did not seep down to every linebacker on the field. A couple plays later, Singletary was barking again, this time at Keaton Kristick: “Kristick! You hear what I just said?”
Afterward, Sing said man coverage is “one of those things that can get you killed.” It’s a significant concern, considering that the 49ers currently have six first- or second-year linebackers on the roster, with at least a couple in the mix for roster spots.
“Linebackers, particularly our young linebackers, normally when they come in from college, they haven’t worked a lot of man coverage,” Singletary said. “We’ve talked about man coverage, we’ve gone through some of the technique. But it’s just getting out of a habit. … If you got man-to-man coverage, just cover the guy.”
Other notes and observations from this morning’s practice in Santa Clara…
• Today’s wounded: WR Michael Crabtree (neck), TE Vernon Davis (knee), DE Ray McDonald (general soreness), TE Nate Byham (sick), G/T Adam Snyder (concussion), OLB Brandon Long (knee) and WR Kyle Williams (toe). Crabtree caught passes but did not work against defenders. RB Brian Westbrook and DE Demetric Evans received veteran courtesy.
• Travis LaBoy returned to full practice – the team was in shells – and got second-team reps at OLB.
• Quarterbacks coach Mike Johnson rode rookie free agent Jarrett Brown during position drills, telling him “You gotta get it out in five (seconds). Throw the damn ball.”
• TE Delanie Walker hasn’t missed much this August, but he dropped a spot-on crossing pass from Alex Smith in team period.
• Physical play by RG Chilo Rachal. During a 1-on-1 blocking drill he threw DT Khalif Mitchell to the ground.
• In the second (and longer) team period, Nate Davis got more snaps at QB than anyone. Brown probably got as many as Smith, with David Carr receiving only a few.
• S Michael Lewis sat out much of team period, allowing Reggie Smith to work with the first team. Smith stepped up again with a textbook interception on Smith’s out pass to Walker. When Smith moved up to No. 1, Curtis Taylor worked with the twos.
• Smith found WR Dominique Zeigler wide open against CB Tarell Brown and hit him with a touchdown pass.
• The first teams (with Jarrett Brown subbing) worked live action at one point. The offense was forced into a fourth-down play with just three seconds remaining; Brown found TE Tony Curtis at the 3-yard line, but he would’ve gotten blasted.
• Embarrassing moment for young WR Bakari Grant, who broke off the line all by himself on the wrong snap count. “He’s open!” a defensive player yelled from the sidelines.
• Nice play by ILB Mike Balogun to plug the hole on a running play to Anthony Dixon.