49ers assistants all the rage at practice

Break out the Fisherman’s Friends. The 49ers assistant coaches must be in need of a good throat coat after spending much of the morning yelling at their players.

Right off the bat, tight ends coach Pete Hoener lit into rookie Nate Byham during 9-on-7. Hoener was livid at Byham’s perceived offense, and after another failed play, the coach angrily pulled him from the huddle. Offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye praised Byham today, but the kid has been a frequent target of Hoener’s tirades.

Next it was defensive line coach Jim Tomsula who got red-faced. It was the end of the first team period, and he took exception to something Khalif Mitchell and/or Will Tukuafu had done in the nickel package. It was hard to tell whom Tomsula was chastising, as he didn’t look directly at either player. But he did some bellowing.

Defensive coordinator Greg Manusky got into the act, hammering ILB Matt Wilhelm during 7-on-7. Manusky felt Wilhelm should have done something that wasn’t executed on the previous play. Wilhelm actually defended himself and explained why he couldn’t do it. Manusky counter-argued, in rather colorful terms.

A few plays after that, wide receivers coach Jerry Sullivan blasted young Bakari Grant for taking the wrong split while lining up. Sullivan reminded Grant that the overturned garbage tubs were meant to represent tackles, not guards.

At least these assistants limited their attacks to the verbal. Outside linebackers coach Jason Tarver, helping out with special teams, knocked S Taylor Mays to the ground with a pad while helping the rookie on his gunner release. Tarver looked sheepish afterward.

Other notes and observations from today’s practice in Santa Clara…

• TE Vernon Davis (knee), OLB Brandon Long (knee) and WR Kyle Williams (toe) all sat out practice with injuries. WR Michael Crabtree (neck) caught passes against air, but retired to the sidelines when defenders entered the picture. DE Demetric Evans and OLB Travis LaBoy got veteran courtesy. CB Will James (ankle) is out 4-6 weeks with an ankle sprain. I’ll now give James the Heitmann-Brooks treatment and stop mentioning him every day.

• Bad starts for Alex Smith: His first pass in 7-on-7 was intended for WR Ted Ginn, but CB Nate Clements had textbook coverage and picked it off. And ILB Patrick Willis jumped TE Delanie Walker’s slant and intercepted Smith on the initial snap of 11-on-11.

• The rollercoaster ride of an NFL rookie: CB Tramaine Brock displayed some fine coverage on WR Jason Hill in a 1-on-1 coverage drill and, the next play, was used by WR Josh Morgan on an out-and-up (from Smith).

• In a 1-on-1 blocking drill featuring LBs vs. FBs/TEs, ILB Keaton Kristick cast FB Brit Miller to the ground, and Miller came up limping. He was nursing a sore ankle last week. The defense dominated this one. Willis beat RB Michael Robinson at least three times.

• Brian Westbrook got some work in team period today. His first reception was a flare from David Carr that Clements covered quickly. Offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye said he wasn’t sure if Westbrook would play against the Favres this Sunday: “We don’t want to put him out there and he’s not sure what he’s doing.”

• Heads-up play by RB Frank Gore in team period, zipping downfield to pop Mays with a block after Morgan had caught a short pass from Smith in the seam.

• It wasn’t all bad for Byham. He made a superb play – at least, I think he did; not entirely sure he controlled – on Smith’s high post pass, leaping and tipping the ball a couple times as he fell to the ground.

• The final two passes of 7-on-7 were pretty entertaining. Carr wanted WR Bobby Guillory deep, but CB Tarell Brown read it the whole way and intercepted. Then Nate Davis sent a wobbly pass right on the money to WR Ted Ginn, who had beaten S Chris Maragos deep.

• You think that sounds like a mismatch? Tukuafu wound up covering Delanie Walker down the middle on one pass.

• Clements, who had his best practice in a long time, victimized Smith again when he intercepted a pass that was tipped at the line of scrimmage.

• The final team period was mostly in the red zone; the coaches called it an “ownership drill.” The offense set up with a first-and-10 at the 12-yard line (full set of downs), then a first-and-goal at the 6 (one play, do or die). Smith found TE Tony Curtis at the goal line for a score, but missed on his first-and-goal play when he overshot WR Dominique Zeigler; Clements got his hands on that one, too. Carr telegraphed a pass to Hill and Wilhelm intercepted. Then Carr found Curtis all alone in the end zone and hit him for the touchdown.

• On the final play of team period, Davis tossed a perfect deep ball to Guillory on a flag route, but Guillory dropped it amidst Brock’s tight coverage.

• After watching film of the Colts game, Smith acknowledged that Vernon Davis ran the proper route on a wide-open post pass that the QB threw to the wrong side. Asked how he was feeling about that game, Smith answered: “As good as you can feel with a QB rating of 7.”

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