View Full Version : OTA Reports
06-04-2008, 03:10 PM
Matt Maiocco - Instant 49ers
Battle says he plans to attend workouts next week
Receiver Arnaz Battle said today he missed 49ers organized team activities this week "for personal reasons." He plans to attend the voluntary workouts next week, he indicated.
Battle's unexplained absence raised some eyebrows this week at the team's OTAs in Santa Clara. Coach Mike Nolan said Monday he expected Battle to attend the workouts and did not know his whereabouts. Battle remained in Dallas, where he makes his offseason home.
In an email exchange this morning, Battle wrote that he "will be back for next week . . . also have informed coaches." The 49ers are off today, but are scheduled to work out Thursday and Friday. The team will continue its routine of practices on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays through June 20.
Battle, the 49ers most reliable wide receiver the past two seasons, is fighting for playing time. He is the No. 2 flanker behind veteran Isaac Bruce, but could see considerable action this season as the No. 3 wideout in Mike Martz's offense.
Last season, the Lions had three wide receivers catch more than 60 passes under Martz's direction. Battle led the 49ers' wide receivers with 50 catches for 600 yards and five touchdowns
06-04-2008, 03:11 PM
Matt Maiocco - Instant 49ers
Lelie still looking to rebuild career after messy Broncos holdout
Coincidentally, one of the players who figures to benefit from Arnaz Battle's apparent decision to forego participation in the 49ers' organized team activities is a player who is still trying to rebuild his image after a holdout two offseasons ago.
Receiver Ashley Lelie, the No. 19 overall pick of the Broncos in 2002, did not want to play in Mike Shanahan's offense any longer. After the Broncos acquired Javon Walker in a trade, Lelie decided to skip the team's offseason workouts and training camp in order to force the Broncos to cut or trade him.
He was eventually shipped to the Falcons for one season. But the move cost Lelie nearly $1 million in bonuses and fines.
Lelie signed a two-year, $4.3 million contract with the 49ers a year ago. But he wasted away on the sideline, catching just 10 passes for 115 yards. He says the year of inactivity added a year to his career.
After playing split end last season, Lelie is now at flanker (the same position Battle plays). He is in competition for a roster spot, and hopes to see significant playing time in Mike Martz's wide-open offense. Lelie has spent the entire offseason working out at the 49ers' practice facility in hopes of getting a firm grasp of the offense.
"I think this year the competition is a little more fun because everybody is getting more opportunities," Lelie said. "Last year, it wasn't that wide-open of an offense, so your opportunities were slim to make plays down the field or even get the ball thrown your way. It was more of a run-first offense, so as a receiver it was more difficult to show what you can do.
"Even if you get one chances in practice, if you mess up that chance, you might not get another for three or four practices in a row. In these practices, you might get a chance early in practice, but you'll get another eight before practice is over. Really, it's an opportunity to play football and once you get into the swing of things you forget about right or wrong, you're just playing."
* * *
Here is more from Lelie . . .
QUESTION: How is the learning process going with this offense?
LELIE: It's getting a lot better. You have to learn the whole offense. You can't just learn your position. You have to learn the concepts of the offense. Once you learn that, it makes it so much easier.
QUESTION: Is it like being a rookie again, learning all this stuff?
LELIE: In some ways, yes. The language and the verbiage is different than it was last year, so you have to erase things in your head.
QUESTION: With Arnaz not being around, is it an opportunity for you to take advantage of increased practice time?
LELIE: Just the reality of it, yes, I get more reps. But I haven't looked at it like that. Even when he was here, I still got a good amount of reps. Now, with him not here, it's more of the rookies getting more reps. When he was here, we were still rotating with the ones and getting a lot of reps. Now, the rookies are getting to show what they can do, too.
QUESTION: Do you think the stance you took in Denver worked out for the best for you?
LELIE: Yeah, yeah. It was my plan from the get-go. I knew I was going to have to give money back. I knew I was going to have a black mark against me. But I knew that was the only way I was going to get an opportunity to show what I can do in this type of offense. I didn't fit that (Broncos) offense. It was like they weren't even trying to use me in that offense. It looked dark for a couple years, but I've gotten what I asked for. I have an opportunity to show what I can in this type of offense. So now I'm getting that opportunity and it's up to me to show it on the field.
QUESTION: Did you come to the 49ers because of the thought they'd be more of a vertical offense?
LELIE: Yeah, and with him (Mike Martz) coming, too, it worked out for me.
QUESTION: Do you view last year as a redshirt year?
LELIE: Yeah, in a way. I think I put an extra year on my career. I didn't get a lot of reps, and I didn't get in there in games, so my body feels fresher. I didn't get banged around. Although it was tough, that was one good thing that came out of last year. In going through a bad season like that, it puts everything in perspective and makes you re-evaluate how you feel about the game.
QUESTION: You were clearly frustrated last season, too, so why didn't you say much about your lack of playing time?
LELIE: There was nothing I could really do. At least in Denver, I had (1,084 yards) and the year after that I had (770). So I had some leverage to voice my opinion. Last year, I didn't get a chance to prove myself, so there was nothing I could've done but play ball and go after what they threw at me.
* * *
Justin Smith continues to get a long look at outside linebacker. . . . Martz appears to be a little more vocal in his coaching, compared to his laid-back approach during minicamp. He got on rookie WR Josh Morgan for a wrong route. . . . Vernon Davis did not get lined up properly, forcing Shaun Hill to abort the play and go back to the huddle. Other than that obvious mess-up, Davis has been a standout on the practice field for his pass-catching. . . . The 49ers offense likes to keep their tempo at a high level during practice. But after one play, the team did a do-over on a run play at slow-motion speed. . . . Alex Smith aired it out on a couple deep passes during the seven-on-seven passing drill. His pass to Jason Hill, which traveled 60 yards in the air, was broken up by Donald Strickland. On the next play, his deep ball to Morgan was dropped. In fairness to Morgan, the ball was slightly underthrown, forcing Morgan to turn his body toward the sideline for the attempt. . . . Hill said he is working hard on some changes Martz has made in his throwing technique. Hill has not always thrown consistent spirals, which is a must when playing at Candlestick. Martz is working with Hill on getting him to snap his wrist as he throws. Martz has also tried to get Hill to use his lower body to generate more velocity on his passes.
* * *
06-04-2008, 03:13 PM
Matt Maiocco - Instant 49ers
Door swings open for Niners wideouts competing for jobs
The reason for Arnaz Battle's absence remains unexplained, but there are some pretty happy 49ers wide receivers right now. With Battle back at his offseason home in Dallas, the door has swung wide open for Ashley Lelie, Jason Hill and Josh Morgan to get more work during organized team activities.
When asked if Battle is hurting himself by remaining away during this offseason while most of the other receivers are hanging around the team's practice facility and learning Mike Martz's offense, Nolan answered, "Next question."
But Nolan expounded on why it is important for a player, such as a wide receiver, to attend all the team workouts - even the voluntary ones.
"We do have an offense going in, and all the guys here are benefitting from that," Nolan said. "It's a great opportunity for all the guys, especially coming off a year like last year where we did not show the progress that we made the first two seasons. It is a great opportunity. Some of the guys who would not typically get a look are getting a look right now."
That includes rookie free agent Robert Jordan of Cal who was getting more practice time than expected.
The only receivers not affected are starting split end Bryant Johnson and flanker Isaac Bruce. They're getting the same amount of repetitions, however Bruce has a little less competition to win a starting job with Battle nowhere to be found.
"Isaac still has a lot of gas in the tank," Nolan said. "He's very subtle in his - I don't want to say 'leadership,' but it is - his leadership by example. The fact he's here is leadership.
"I see him interact with the young guys quite a bit and talk with them - that ability to convey a message that's not coming from a coach. I think he's been extremely helpful in the fact he's very willing to work with the young guys and talk to them between plays.
"Bryant Young was that way. The older guys with a lot of pelts on the wall, the good ones anyway, seem to show that."
The 49ers have not communicated with Battle about his reasoning behind skipping the OTAs. Because it is a voluntary minicamp, they are not too concerned. The club believes that if Battle wanted to send a message, he would've skipped the mandatory minicamp in May.
Battle has two years remaining on the contract extension he signed in March 2007. He is scheduled to earn $1.34 million in 2008 and $1.49 in 2009. He also can earn an additional $950,000 both seasons in incentives.
* * *
The 49ers will hold 12 OTA practices. The league allows each club to have 14 practices. Nolan said he will hold 12 practices as a reward to the players for attendance in the offseason program that reached over 90 percent again this offseason.
* * *
Upon reviewing the performance of rookie Chilo Rachal in his first day of practice at right tackle, Nolan said, "It looked new to him, which is expected." He added that if Rachal would've looked polished at right tackle, he "would've been pleased but surprised."
* * *
Quarterback J.T. O'Sullivan reported to OTAs on Tuesday and took some reps with the third team offense. Tackle Jonas Jennings is scheduled to report for practice on Thursday. The club is scheduled to work out Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays through June 20.
* * *
06-04-2008, 03:15 PM
Matt Maiocco - Instant 49ers
Alex Smith, Mike Martz and the never-ending playbook
Alex Smith was asked Monday what percentage of Mike Martz's offense has already been installed.
"I'd like to say a lot," Smith said.
Smith is the wrong person to ask, but he knows this is the most he has been asked to learn at this stage in the offseason.
Smith took the reps with the No. 1 offense on Monday, the first day of the club's organized team activities. Smith is competing for the starting job at quarterback against Shaun Hill and J.T. O'Sullivan.
Smith, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2005 draft, is the prohibitive favorite to win the job. On the practice field, he clearly stands out as the most talented player. He continues to round into shape after surgery in December. Though he is not quite 100 percent, Smith is making steady progress and says he can make all the throws required of him.
Now, Martz has to find a way to get more production from Smith during the games.
Martz is Smith's fourth offensive coordinator in four NFL seasons, and Martz is different unique in his approach. This is the most work the 49ers' offensive players have been assigned for an offseason. Smith said playing football will require hours and hours of study at home.
As far as learning the playbook . . . well, that might never happen. It's a never-ending process - a book that never ends, one reporter suggested. Martz is always adding plays and making adjustments.
"He demands a lot and expects a lot," Smith said.
* * *
Here are some of the questions-and-answers from Smith's meeting with the media after the first day of the 49ers' organized team activities:
QUESTION: How have you tried to learn this new system?
SMITH: Anyway you can. Obviously, you go over it. You're obviously listening to the coaching. Coach Martz is there with everyone, going over it. Then, obviously, (we) look at quite a bit of film - a lot of cutups. And then coming out here and practicing it. Coming out with receivers and throwing routes. So when we come out and do some team reps, we can execute it.
QUESTION: When you watch film are you watching Warner, Bulger, Kitna?
SMITH: Yeah, everybody - a lot of different quarterbacks. There's a lot of Rams footage out there, a lot of Lions as well. It's a mixture of all of it.
QUESTION: Are you at the point when you see a play on film, you know exactly what it is?
SMITH: The stuff we've done. Right now, there are a lot of cutups. With as much as we've put in, yeah, you can definitely recognize it and recognize a lot of what we've put in.
QUESTION: It looks like you're rolling out and moving more than those other quarterbacks with the Rams and Lions. Is that the case?
SMITH: Maybe. It's just something where you're trying to play to different strengths, maybe. It's something we've done here in the past. We have rolled out a lot and done a lot of movement. I think (Martz is) maybe incorporating that and watching some of the stuff we've done and been successful with. It adds another dimension. He doesn't want to be cookie-cutter. He's trying to mold it to the strengths here.
QUESTION: What are the things you emphasize in your mind that you have to do well in this offense?
SMITH: Executing is No. 1. For the quarterback, it's the clarity - understanding and being comfortable with it. So when we come out here and take these reps, you're really letting go and cutting loose and playing fast. You don't want to be out here thinking. I'm battling that right now. (I) try to be prepared to come out here and play fast.
QUESTION: Are you at the point where you can cut loose?
SMITH: With some stuff. Some of the stuff that's been in since the jump, I feel more comfortable with, for sure. Some of the stuff that was new today, that'll come with time.
QUESTION: Technique-wise, how much has Mike worked with you and does the stuff he's thrown at you still feel foreign?
SMITH: Yeah, we've all worked hard on the fundamentals and worked hard on the things he's emphasizing at the quarterback position - things he wants to see out here. Some are more comfortable than others and some are more foreign than others. That's the stuff you try to come out here and work on your own on our stuff, so when you're doing team reps, you're just playing. You don't want to be out there thinking about fundamentals. You want to be thinking about offense and defense.
QUESTION: How is the new offense different than the old one?
SMITH: It's hard to say. I think we do a lot. We do everything. Every style of offense you can imagine, we have a piece of that in there, it seems like. We're trying to incorporate as many different things as possible and give defenses as many different looks as possible. We're pushing that envelop.
QUESTION: There was an article about Tom Brady and Tom Martinez, his personal QB coach, around Super Bowl time that noted the lack of fundamentals you'd been taught at the NFL level. Do you expect that to change with Mike Martz here?
SMITH: All coaches coach fundamentals, and obviously each coach is different. Yeah, (I'm being taught) quarterback fundamentals, especially things that coach Martz wants to see that will help us be successful in this system. Coach Martz has spent a lot of time analyzing what it takes to play well in this and what you need to do and stressing those fundamentals -- what your feet need to look like, body posture, different things like that. You're constantly getting coached out here in all that stuff.
QUESTION: Is there a need now to seek outside coaching on your fundamentals?
SMITH: No. Obviously, I have enough coaching as I can handle out here. This is what I need to be focusing on. I don't need to be working on any fundamentals outside of this. This is where I need to be focusing my attention.
* * *
The 49ers will host 49ers Family Day at Candlestick Park on Saturday. Admission and parking is free to the public. Doors will open to F Plaza at 9 a.m. and activities will start at 10 a.m. The day will feature contests, games and appearances by 49ers players and alumni. The cheerleaders, the drummers and Sourdough Sam will also be there. The first 500 youth, 15 and under, accompanied by a parent or adult, who complete a youth football clinic or Gatorade Junior Training Camp Clinic will receive two complimentary tickets to a 49ers preseason game. For more information about the 49ers Family Day, please log onto www.49ers.com, or call the 49ers at (408) 562-4949. Media interested in attending Family Day, contact Jason Jenkins at (408) 562-49587 or firstname.lastname@example.org. * * *
06-10-2008, 04:55 PM
Matt Maiocco Santa Rosa Press Democrat
Goldson getting chance to show skills with first team
Safety Dashon Goldson is getting plenty of practice time to convince the coaching staff he deserves an enhanced role with the 49ers this season.
Coach Mike Nolan said Goldson has the best range of any of the team's safeties. He regularly is seen on the practice field in the middle of the action with interceptions and passes defensed. Last season, as a rookie, Goldson worked into a prominent role for the 49ers on third downs.
"Dashon Goldson is a good player and I look for him to get better and better," Nolan said. "He has some corner abilities, which is what he did at U-Dub (Washington)."
Veteran Mark Roman has the clear edge for the starting job at free safety, based on his experience and proven ability to be a traffic cop in the secondary. But Roman continues to be held out of the team's organized team activities after undergoing a recent arthroscopic procedure on his left shoulder.
Roman might return to the field next week. He will certainly be ready for the open of training camp. But does the increased time with the first team give Goldson a legitimate chance to win that job?
"I like to tell all the backups that they're pushing for a starting role," Nolan said. "There's got to be competition. But the guy he has to beat out is Mark. Because of Mark's injury, he's not practicing. But if he were practicing, he'd be working with the ones right now. That's not to say that Dashon can't beat him out. They're all in a competitive role."
* * *
The 49ers signed offensive tackle Joseph Toledo today and released Qasim Mitchell, who spent the minicamp at left tackle and had been playing left guard with the second unit during OTAs.
Toledo was a fourth-round pick of the Dolphins in 2006. He spent his rookie season on injured reserve with a knee injury. He signed with the Packers this offseason and was released last week.
The 49ers remain interested in signing former Raiders offensive tackle Barry Sims, who is scheduled to visit the Patriots, Ravens and Rams in the coming days.
If the 49ers sign Sims, the club might move rookie Chilo Rachal back to guard, Nolan said.
* * *
Nolan said he has still not talked to guard Larry Allen. Certainly, it appears Allen will retire, adding his name to an impressive list of players who do not plan to play again in 2008 that includes Brett Favre, Michael Strahan, Jonathan Ogden, Warren Sapp, Steve McNair and -- of course -- BRYANT YOUNG..
* * *
Cornerback Shawntae Spencer sat out of practice with a strained hip flexor. He is out indefinitely, Nolan said. Spencer wouldn't be able to participate in the workouts next week, Nolan said, because he's getting married.
Second-year cornerback Tarell Brown took part in practice. The team has been easing him back onto the practice field. Brown played the nickle back on defense and was also seeing work in special-team drills.
* * *
Nolan addressed the reason the media is allowed to watch only four practices during the team's organized team activities . . . well, not really.
The league told teams this year that a minimum of one of every three practices during OTAs should be opened to the media. In the past, the 49ers opened all their practices.
So why did the 49ers restrict media access - thus limiting the accounts fans can read about the practices?
"I figured that's what we'd do," Nolan said
So there was no reason?
"Oh, yeah, that was the reason," Nolan said. "We started at the minimum and stopped."
* * *
06-11-2008, 01:50 PM
June 10, 2008
Frank Gore seeks perfection in every practice and when he doesn’t see it, the 49ers star running back gets a little testy. Such was apparently the case on Monday when the 49ers offense started off the week with a few too many errors.
“There were just a lot of mistakes, dropped balls, bad plays,” said rookie receiver Josh Morgan. “Frank didn’t like it and he huddled us together and told us we couldn’t do that and we needed to be better. I think we were much more productive on Tuesday and I think it really helps to have veterans include the rookies in something like that. When they start patting you on the butt or patting you on the helmet, you are just like ‘THANK YOU’ and you feel part of the team.”
For his part, Morgan answered Gore’s call on Tuesday with a few pat on the butt-earning grabs. Although the defense may have argued that Morgan didn’t get both feet in on one of those catches, the big bodied rookie demonstrated that he can go up and come down with the ball.
“I thought I did much better doing everything right today in practice and when they do throw me the ball, I just try to catch it,” said Morgan. “On the endzone catch, it was a nine route, straight down the sideline. The quarterback threw it up, and that’s what I’ve been waiting for because I think everyone knows I can jump a little bit and that I’ve got a little athletic ability. I just went up and got the ball and tried to get both of my feet down in the back of the end zone.”
Morgan said big plays like that are just a glimpse into what he believes he can do, but that it’s a long road ahead.
“I’m nowhere near where I want to be,” said Morgan. “I’ve still got a lot more learning to do. I’ve got to get a lot more comfortable in the playbook. I’m more comfortable going full speed out here and correcting what I did wrong in the meeting room, but I’m nowhere near making the plays that I know I can make.”
Morgan said he was impressed by how fast Arnaz Battle, who arrived for OTA’s on Monday, picked up the offense and hopes to one day be as swift a learner.
“They put the plays in his locker room this morning and he came out here and had a great practice today,” said Morgan. “Veteran guys seem like they can just look over it and know it and they don’t have to think. I’m not thinking as much about where I need to line up or where my split has to be anymore, but I want to be able to recognize what defense they are playing and how it will change my route.”
Even though he might not grasp it as quickly as the 49ers sixth-year veteran receiver, the Virginia Tech rookie’s understanding of the playbook has come along faster than he thought, thanks to the countless extra hours he’s put in since mini camp. Breaking some of his on the field habits has proven to be a slightly tougher obstacle.
“Coach Martz is always getting on me about my 4 and 5 routes,” said Morgan. “They say I’m getting a lot better but I don’t think I’m anywhere near where they want me to be. I think it was just that bad at the beginning that it’s starting to look decent now.”
With Morgan already making plays in every practice session even without perfection on his routes, the sky would appear to be the limit for the 49ers sixth-round draft pick. And as he goes about his business in getting there, Morgan plans to ward off any frustration by recalling what yet another veteran 49ers had to say.
“Isaac Bruce told me I was good and that I just needed to keep working and that really made me smile a whole lot because he’s been in the league 14 years,” said Morgan. “So, telling me I’m good and to just keep working, that gave me confidence. He’s done everything I’m trying to do so if he told me I’m good, I’ll be okay. It’s like a father telling his son to take the wheels of the tricycle and go ahead and ride a bike and they’ll be fine.”
Gore’s Own Critique
Even a Pro Bowler like Frank Gore looks for veteran critique as well. Gore spent some time on Tuesday chatting with former Rams running back Marshall Faulk, who attended the practice to shoot a 49ers Facility Tour with the NFL Network.
“It’s good to have some guys out here talking about and to our team, especially Marshall,” said Gore of the NFL MVP winner while in the Mike Martz offense. “I got a chance to spend some time with him one on one and I asked him what he thought of our practice and what I myself have to do to get better in this offense.”
All Rookies In
Ohio State rookie linebacker Larry Grant was the last of the rookie class to make it in for the 49ers off-season program. Per league rules, Grant was not allowed at the team facility until he or his class had graduated.
Grant arrived last Thursday and began practicing last Friday.
“When you miss time like that, it’s kind of different,” said Grant. “It’s a lot of work for me and I have to come in extra every day and do all of the extra little things so I can play. I’m learning more every day and I came in over the weekend to work extra and that helped me too.”
CB's Shawntae Spencer (hip flexor) and Walt Harris (coaching decision) did not work during Tuesday’s open practice. Safety Mark Roman also continues to be held out of practice after having surgery on his shoulder. G David Baas remains out of practice after having surgery to repair his torn pectoral muscle, and is not expected back until mini camp.
06-11-2008, 01:52 PM
Why is everybody getting so exci-TED?
Veteran linebacker Jeff Ulbrich had just emerged from his post-practice weight workout, dripping of sweat. He looked up and saw a reporter, and you could tell he was amused about something.
"Man, you see so much stuff about the 'ted' linebacker," Ulbrich said. "You know what I'm saying? Four or five years ago, nobody knew what a 'ted' linebacker was. Now, it's the biggest spot on the team that needs addressing."
Yep, I wanted to speak to him about good ol' teddy.
And, yes, all this 'ted' talk is new. It's so new that I don't even know how to write it. Is it Ted, like a proper noun? Or is it ted, in lower case - just like you'd write quarterback, kicker or linebacker? (I've decided it's ted, lower case, but in quotation marks.)
* * *
Coach Mike Nolan said recently that the 49ers do not have a true "ted" linebacker. While that might be the case, Ulbrich looks around and sees plenty of guys within a 15-foot radius of his locker who he said he believes are capable of handling position.
Ulbrich is lining up with the first team at the aforementioned position -- the strong inside spot in the 49ers' 3-4 defense. The 49ers also have Dontarrious Thomas and Brandon Moore, along with rookie Larry Grant. They are all capable players, Ulbrich said. (Right now, Moore is lining up at the "mike" behind Patrick Willis, but he could easily enter the equation at "ted," too.)
The 49ers have flirted with a couple other veteran free agents: Takeo Spikes and Jeremiah Trotter. They passed on Trotter, and they're not willing to pay Spikes his $2.5 million asking price. Also, Spikes does not seem real interested in joining the 49ers, as he waits for something better to come along.
* * *
Ulbrich has mostly played the "mike" spot, but he sees the two inside positions as requiring similar skill sets. If you can play one position, you can play the other, he said.
Question: Is the "ted" position a selfless job, where you're giving yourself up a lot of times in order for someone else to make the tackle?
Ulbrich: "I think it was more of that in the past. I think if I had the opportunity to play that position, I wouldn't be limited to that. I'd have every opportunity to make the play as the 'mike.' That's my approach. I'm not opposed to doing the selfless thing. I'm not a selfish guy, and I'll do what I have to do. But at the same time, I'm in there to try to make plays myself.
"Whether it's me or whoever wins that 'ted' spot, I don't think there will be a huge statistical disparity between the 'mike' and the 'ted.' The only thing that might create that is if the guy playing the 'ted' is only playing first and second downs, and he's not playing all the sub downs. And potentially, if the offense is scoring a lot of points, then obviously that 'mike' is going to be on the field a lot more because we'll be defending the pass. But if it's a typical game where there's a lot of balance, run and pass, the statistics should be fairly close."
Question: Is it a fallacy that the 'ted' has to be the guy who has to be bulkier and taking on the guards? (Footnote: Ulbrich 6-0, 240; Thomas 6-2, 240; Moore 6-1, 240; Grant 6-1, 235).
Ulbrich: "Potentially, if you play against a bunch of power teams, the ted is going to have to come downhill. You can still try to make that play, but a lot of times he's going to be hitting the guard and fullback. Versus West Coast teams, Seattle, all those teams that run the leads, I think the 'ted' has the ability to make just as much plays as the 'mike.' "
The statistics from last season seem to support Ulbrich's case. Ulbrich last season played a lot of second downs. Later in the season, he played first downs when the opponent had "passing personnel" on the field but still had the threat of the run. Against Seattle, Ulbrich recorded nine tackles, while Willis had 10. Against the Bengals, Ulbrich and Willis both had seven tackles. Derek Smith had nine or more tackles in five of the first seven games before he saw a dramatic dip in playing time.
* * *
Despite making the drive up to Santa Rosa to take part in a seminar on shooting video more than a month ago, all I have is my little video phone. (And it's nothing like the $600 variety that Bee-rows is proudly displaying.)
Anyway, click here to see a near Robert Jordan TD pass from Alex Smith over cornerback Markus Curry during practice yesterday. I tried to keep it as steady as possible with the looming threat of getting drilled. Originally, I thought he was inbounds, but the crystal-clear video is pretty conclusive - out of bounds.
* * *
Offensive coordinator Mike Martz was on Jordan's case a little yesterday (before the TD grab) for not lining up at the proper width. In this offense, receivers have to line up precisely and run the exact depth on their routes, so the QB will know exactly where he'll be and when to get rid of the ball.
* * *
Rookie receiver Josh Morgan had a good day of work. He made a fantastic leaping catch in the back of the end zone, though the DBs claimed he was out of bounds. Morgan (6-0, 219) certainly looks the part. "He's got some real upside," Nolan said.
* * *
Another rookie who stood out with a nice play was cornerback Reggie Smith, who made a tumbling interception off a deflected pass. Smith has been working at corner and nickel. He is not seeing any time whatsoever at safety.
* * *
06-12-2008, 10:41 PM
June 12, 2008
At almost every level of his football career, 49ers outside linebacker Jay Moore has been able to overcome adversity.
Whether it was suffering a torn ACL during his senior year of high school, being overshadowed by St. Louis Rams defensive tackle Adam Carriker during his career at the University of Nebraska or having to be placed on injured reserve for his rookie season in the National Football League – Moore has no quit in him.
Moore’s rookie season unfortunately ended before it ever started when he and teammate Parys Haralson collided in the final preseason game.
“We were playing San Diego and I was the defensive end on the right side,” said Moore of the play that cost him his rookie season. “I was rushing the passer and I thought I was about to come clean, get a sack and maybe get a hit on the quarterback.”
But right before he could grasp the opposing quarterback, Moore was inadvertently clipped by Haralson.
“He got tied up and fell down. It wasn’t like his arm fell on me; his whole body fell on me and it bent my ankle the wrong way into the ground,” explained Moore.
After an MRI revealed an upper ankle sprain, a decision was made to put Moore on injured reserve.
“It was tough, but I’ve been in that same situation before. My senior year in high school I tore my ACL in the middle of football season and I had already accepted a scholarship to play football at Nebraska. I’ve been through it,” said Moore. “You’re kind of in the dumps for a day or two, but you try and do your best to forget about it.”
Moore said he spent his down time reading books, playing golf and rigorously rehabbing the injury. While on IR, Moore became increasingly aware of the extreme attention to detail required to succeed in the NFL.
“I learned that there’s so much more to the game, than just what you have to do [in your assignment] – there is understanding what everybody else has to do on the defense,” said Moore.
The injury is fortunately now in the past and did not prevent the second-year player from participating in the 49ers off-season program.
“My ankle is fine, it’s not even an issue,” he said. “I feel really good physically.”
With the ankle healed, Moore shifted his focus from rehab to losing a good amount of weight to help him in his, “hybrid” role with the defense. As of the second week of OTA’s Moore has been lining up at outside linebacker and has also been in a four-point stance as a defensive end in the 49ers 4-3 alignment. His combination of size and speed has also been utilized on the punt team.
And if Moore can replicate the NFL careers of other defensive linemen who attended the University of Nebraska, the 49ers will have found a steal in the fourth round.
“I was a big Nebraska fan, I idolized the program,” said the Omaha native. “Just playing and be a part of that tradition I think was the greatest thing.”
Moore grew up following the NFL careers of other Nebraska greats and envisioned himself following in their footsteps.
“I think the standard was set a while ago watching guys like Grant Wistrom, Kyle Vanden Bosch, Jared Tomich, Mike Rucker, and Chris Kelsay,” said Moore. “When I was there, I think Adam Carriker and myself did a good job.”
In 37 career games, Moore registered 103 tackles, 12 sacks, four forced fumbles and had one interception at the defensive end position, while playing next to Carriker.
His play and production were good enough to warrant his selection by the 49ers in the fourth-round of the 2007 draft. Now that he is been away from the cornfields of Nebraska for the last year and in the (computer) chip fields of Silicon Valley, Moore has almost completely adjusted to life on the West Coast.
Well, except for one minor problem.
“The traffic out here is berserk - I try not be anywhere around nine o’clock [in the morning],” joked Moore.
However, there is one place you won’t see Moore avoid anytime soon and that is the golf course.
“I’m a golfer. When I’m done for the day I watch the Golf Channel,” said Moore. “I enjoy the game because it’s just you out there. You can never be that good, and you can always get better.”
Moore has even been trying to convert teammates into taking up the game.
Last week, he took teammate and fellow linebacker Patrick Willis on a shopping trip for his first set of golf clubs and the two went to a driving range.
Willis might not be much of a golfer but the Pro Bowler made the kind of progress on the football field that Moore would like to see for himself.
“I’m doing my best to be a good player and make my mark,” said Moore.
And with his continuing hard work and dedication, Moore’s opportunity to shine will certainly come soon.
06-13-2008, 02:44 PM
Take 5 with Shaun Richardson
Outside linebacker Shaun Richardson signed with the 49ers as an undrafted free agent on May 1. A native of St. Louis, Richardson attended Joliet (Ill.) Junior College for two seasons before landing at Tennessee State, where he played with first-round draft pick Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.
Richardson (6-1, 248) was an All-Ohio Valley Conference selection as a senior after recording 46 tackles, including 13.5 for loss, and seven sacks. He also forced four fumbles, and returned an interception and a fumble for touchdowns.
A defensive lineman at Tennessee State, Richardson is working at the "will" linebacker spot - the weak outside position. He has been issued No. 50.
Instant 49ers: What's the biggest challenge facing you with the 49ers?
Richardson: Basically, the playbook. I have to get familiar with the playbook and know exactly what I have to do. That's the biggest thing.
Instant 49ers: How do you feel about where you are, as far as learning the defense?
Richardson: Right now, I'm coming along pretty well, but there's still a long way to go.
Instant 49ers: How have you gone about trying to learn the playbook?
Richardson: I just try to get around some veterans and guys who know the playbook and find out how they learned, what was successful for them. I'm trying to figure out the - not the shortcuts - but some other ways of learning the playbook.
Instant 49ers: If there's one guy on this team you and look to and say, 'I want to learn from that guy,' who would it be?
Richardson: I'd say Patrick -- Patrick Willis. He works hard. He's in the playbook. My guy, Rod (Green), he's a hard-worker, too. If I follow them, I can't go wrong.
Instant 49ers: What's the biggest learning experience you've had since you've been here?
Richardson: You got to come out every day and give it your best. You can't take plays off. You have to give it 110 percent every day you're out there. I'm looking forward to getting the pads on and going to training camp.
06-15-2008, 05:06 PM
By Matt Maiocco
The 49ers could have selected any wide receiver in the draft. But they passed on that position with the No. 29 overall pick. They debated taking Limas Sweed in the second round. Again, they passed on the position.
When the 49ers finally selected a wide receiver, they went with Virginia Tech's Josh Morgan in the sixth round.
Morgan (6-0, 219) has stood out more than any other rookie on the practice field in the three workout sessions open to the local media during organized team activities the past two weeks. Morgan looks the part. He's big, runs well and catches the ball.
Morgan is lining up at the X or split-end position, where Bryant Johnson is currently starting. He is a native of Washington, where he grew up down the street from new teammate Vernon Davis, he said. Morgan started 11 of 14 games as a senior and led the Hokies with 46 receptions for 552 yards.
Instant 49ers: What's the biggest challenge facing you with the 49ers?
Morgan: The biggest challenge is just getting more comfortable with the playbook. I'm learning the plays but getting to the point where I don't have to be standing at the line and thinking about what I have to do and second-guessing myself, that's going to be my biggest challenge.
Instant 49ers: What in your college career best prepared you for what you'll be facing with the 49ers?
Morgan: Just the adversity I went through in college. I came in as a freshman and had to work and basically had to do what I'm doing now -- learn the playbook and get more comfortable with the plays so I could become the kind of player I think I am. That's what helped me the most because I come in here and revert back to what I did my freshman year in college and how I adapted to the playbook.
Instant 49ers: When you came to the 49ers and looked around was there anyone you were in awe of?
Morgan: Of course, Isaac Bruce. When I first saw him it was like, "Wow, it's really you." All the records he has and the productive career he's had for 14 years in the NFL . . . it's great to see a man like that and be in the same huddle and the same meeting room as him.
Instant 49ers: Is he approachable?
Morgan: He's very approachable. He's down to earth. He talked to me a couple times when I first got here at the minicamp. He saw the coach getting on me. I just got there and didn't know the plays and the coaches wanted me to just go full speed. He came to me and said he saw me working and told me to keep working hard and that I looked good. Those comments took the load off my shoulders. For someone like him to tell me I was OK and to keep working hard meant a lot. He told me to get in the playbook and keep working hard. That's what I'm doing so far.
Instant 49ers: Is there anything from D.C. or Blacksburg, Va. (where Virginia Tech is located) you wish you could bring with you to California?
Morgan: I have great support, but I didn't bring them to Blacksburg. They loved and supported me from a distance. Whenever they can get to a game, they can. I take my Bible everywhere with me. Other than those two things, I'm good.
* * *
There was a report on Sirius NFL Radio that 49ers rookie guard Chilo Rachal tussled with outside linebacker Tully Banta-Cain during Friday's practice, according to several people who heard the show. Rachal reportedly threw Banta-Cain around like a rag doll. The local media were banned from Friday's practice, so I was not there. The incident was reported by radio host Tim Ryan. Team spokesman Aaron Salkin said Ryan watched approximately 20 minutes of practice because he was at the team's workout facility in Santa Clara to speak with coach Mike Nolan about a coaching internship.
* * *
06-15-2008, 05:21 PM
By Matt Barrows
SANTA CLARA – The rules of "Kill the Man with the Football" aren't complicated. You throw the ball to one of the other players, and everyone else tries to tackle him before he makes it to the other side of the yard. Win and you get to sit out a play. Lose and you find yourself face down at the bottom of a sweaty dogpile.
It was in that rough-and-tumble backyard crucible – with all the childhood politics that come when revered older cousins are in town – that Kentwan Balmer made perhaps his greatest tackle.
The 9-year-old Balmer not only was the youngest of four brothers. He also was the youngest of his cousins. And to make matters worse he was, well …
"Hey, Kentwan, I hear you were a bit chubby when you were little."
"A bit chubby?" Balmer replied. "Man, I was fat."
So much so that he wasn't "Kentwan" to his cousins. They called him "Jelly" and used him as a bicycle ramp. Up to that point, "Jelly" was a joke.
This, however, is the story of how "Jelly" became Kentwan again.
Balmer grew up in tiny Weldon, N.C., a town 10 miles down Interstate 95 from the Virginia border. The Balmers' extended family is scattered across the tidewater plains of both states.
One of his cousins is Shaun Stevenson, who is three years older and now lives in Norfolk, Va. Back in their "Kill the Man with the Football" days, Stevenson fancied himself a Walter Payton type – a quick-stepping runner with sweet moves.
Stevenson had the ball one day and thought he was in the clear when – wham! – he was leveled by what seemed like a massive bowling ball shot from a cannon.
"He came out of nowhere," Stevenson recalled in a phone interview. "He put the 'Jelly' on me, I guess you could say."
Being upstaged by your younger cousin was bad enough. More than a decade later, he still hasn't lived it down. But Stevenson also emerged from the collision with a knot growing from the center of his forehead.
Balmer remembers it as a "unicorn horn." Stevenson said it was like something out of a cartoon.
Stevenson said his opinion of Balmer – and that of all the eight or nine cousins on hand – changed that afternoon.
"When you're a little cousin, you're in awe of your bigger cousins," Stevenson said. "That's the first time he ever got the edge on me. I remember I had respect for him from that point on."
Balmer didn't remain the "little cousin" in stature for long, either. He grew tall – 6-foot-5 – and became a basketball star who led 300-student Weldon High School to the 1-A state championship game his senior season. When he left for Chapel Hill in 2004, however, he was set on playing football.
John Blake, who coached the defensive line last year at North Carolina and helped shape Balmer into a first-round prospect, said it was easy to tell Balmer grew up with older siblings.
"He could get very mean," Blake said. "I think that's one of the things he had to control. When he'd get a cheap shot in practice, he'd take it a little personally. He made sure he didn't get one again."
The fight in Balmer – who is sweet-natured off the field – is what prompted the 49ers to draft him 29th overall. It's still early, and Balmer and his teammates have yet to have a full-contact practice, but the 49ers like what they've seen.
The team says Balmer has the quickness to play defensive end in its 3-4 scheme and the tenacity to line up at nose tackle. The rookie received perhaps the highest of compliments when cornerback Nate Clements – viewed as the 49ers' hardest worker – noted Balmer's work ethic during a recent radio interview.
Balmer says that ethic comes from his parents.
His mother, Christa, worked two jobs when he was growing up and is now a prison guard in Jarratt, Va. His father, Charles, has been a long-haul truck driver for 20 years.
"She's always worked, and I have, too," said Charles, who was reached last week while hauling steel beams to Ohio.
On draft day, Kentwan Balmer knew the right people to thank, assembling his parents, coaches and cousins – including Stevenson – at the football stadium in Chapel Hill.
Stevenson said he and Balmer shared a few laughs over the unicorn horn story, and a few days after that Balmer related it to the Bay Area media.
Stevenson used to be embarrassed by it. Now he tells it with pride.
"I was telling him on draft day, 'At least you grew up to become a first-round draft pick,' " he said. "Now I don't have to feel as bad about it."
About the writer:
Read Matthew Barrows' 49ers blog at www.sacbee.com/blogs.
06-16-2008, 02:16 PM
Smith Strictly Business
June 16, 2008
When the 49ers brought defensive end Justin Smith in for a visit on the first day of the 2008 free agency period, general manager Scot McCloughan remarked that it would be a long shot to land the highly sought free agent.
"I really don’t have any hobbies. I’ve actually talked to my buddies about it before because I feel like I need a hobby. I mean, I’m not an avid golfer. Hunting season is during football season so that wipes that out. I fish, but not too often. Basically, I just work out, play football, and go home and lay down." - Justin Smith
“Just not a west coast guy, he’s a Midwest guy and that might be most important to him,” said McCloughan.
After all, this is a guy who appears most comfortable in cowboy boots and who spent his early years on his father’s Missouri cattle ranch, did side jobs like milking cows and bailing hay, and still uses words like neat and awesome in an accent that sounds more southern than anything.
In this instance, McCloughan found himself thrilled to be proved wrong when after a dinner with the 49ers coaches, Smith cancelled his next scheduled trip to the Vikings and signed on the dotted line with San Francisco.
“I didn’t care where I played. It was all about the opportunity to be on a great defense and win games,” revealed Smith. “That’s what I saw here with all the players and their potential, and also the way they were talking about using me. I just wanted to go somewhere for my last 5 or 6 years in the NFL and be on a great defense. I played in that division for a while, but kind of how Baltimore used to be. You’d hear the offensive coordinators say ‘damn, we have Baltimore this week.’ I want to be part of a defense that whenever we show up to play, that’s what teams are like – ‘Oh man, we’ve got these guys.’ I think we’ve got that opportunity to be like that here and that’d be awesome.”
As promised in their sales pitch, the 49ers coaching staff is making the most of Smith’s versatile offerings. Back at the team’s mini camp in early May, Smith was first spotted lining up as both an end and an outside linebacker.
“I play anywhere from a 3-technique to an outside linebacker and I love it,” said Smith. “I hated it when I was just stagnant and in one place all of the time, and the opportunity to be somewhere that they utilized all of my skills is really why I came here. I’m getting moved around a lot and they are getting the best guys on the field. We’ve got depth on the line and linebackers corps, so I think we can keep people fresh coming off the bench and I don’t think there will be a big drop off. You can see that with the Giants, how they can roll people in and out and have no drop off. I think we are potentially set up to be a great defense like that.”
Not that Smith will exactly be the one volunteering to come off the field. During his stint with the Bengals, Smith earned the reputation for being an every down player. The fact that he lined up for 97.9 percent of the Bengals defensive plays in 2007, the most of any defensive lineman in the NFL, was one of the attributes that McCloughan and company loved.
“I have no problem playing every snap, but if you do have guys who can come in and be productive and give you that one or two play rest, it just means you are going to probably be a little fresher and have more production when you are out there,” said Smith. “I’ve never really been in a situation where we had that, but I do think this whole defense is stacked and that it might be good to come off and catch your breath for a play or two.”
While the 8th year veteran believes it is important to pass along his knowledge to his younger teammates, he’s definitely not going to be the oneorganizing team bonding events anytime soon.
“I think this is a great group of guys, but I’m not here to make friends,” said Smith. “We’re here to win games. So, I think you come in, take care of business, help out the younger players, do your job and be the best you can be. Every locker room around the NFL has the loud mouths and the quiet guys. I’m just the guy who goes about his business.”
That being said, Smith expects his teammates to also pull their weight and handle their business as being a truly great defense takes more than just the efforts or talents of one man.
"When I’m done playing ball I’ll probably move to Missouri or Texas and get a ranch. That’s how I grew up. I think it teaches you survival. I’ve lived in the suburbs since playing in the NFL and I look around and see kids with nothing to do. On the farm, there was always something to do. We only had about two channels, but it didn't matter because I wouldn’t have dreamed of sitting around and watching television." - Justin Smith
“One thing I’ve really learned over the years is it really does take all 11 to play good defense,” said Smith. “You can have a great secondary that can shut down the pass all day, but me not getting anywhere close to the quarterback to where he has all day to throw makes that secondary look terrible. Or you can have a great front seven and yet they are still running on you because you spill to the outside and the corner has to tackle and doesn’t, and it makes your front look awful. It takes all 11 and I believe we have all of those ingredients here.”
Smith earned respect around Santa Clara in very short order, displaying his makeup and proving his mettle during the first week of the team’s off-season conditioning program when he attacked the sled workout. After winning the majority of sled pulls, a few of the 49ers offensive and defensive linemen referred to Smith as an “absolute beast.”
Strength is something Smith’s honed since those days back in Missouri when he used to join a few of his teammates from Jefferson City High School to bail hay for their football coach. Over a three or four day period, Smith helped to toss 2,000 bails of hay, and when the “piece of crap” barn elevator gave out, he’d shoulder the 100 pound bail and chuck it up by himself.
“It wasn’t easy,” said Smith matter-of-factly. “I got paid 5 cents a bail whether the elevator was working or not, so that sucked, but you didn’t really think about it. You just did it, and I do think it taught me how to work. I mean, football is all about work ethic, and doing things you don’t really want to do all the time. When you think about two-a-days, nobody really wants to be out there when it’s 100 degrees out. But I think to make it this far, and it doesn’t matter where you come from, you’ve got to be mentally tougher than a lot of people are.”
Smith has taken a similar no-nonsense, just get it done approach to the game ever since coming in as the fourth overall pick in the 2001 Draft. During his seven-year career with the Bengals, he missed only one game due to contract negotiations as a rookie, and as a mainstay in the Orange and Black lineup, Smith led the defensive line in tackles in six of those seven campaigns.
“I’m proud of the production in my career but I really couldn’t tell you hardly any of my good plays,” said Smith. “I can tell you about every bad play, but I can’t really remember good ones. I just remember the ones that I screwed up. Any blown assignments, blown coverages, those I remember. The great plays or the great games are what you are supposed to do, so those don’t stand out to me.”
Some might have found themselves overwhelmed by the high expectations of a top five pick or a little unprepared to step into a starting NFL role by the age of 21, but Smith relied on the high motor and tenacity that characterized his three-year record-setting career at Missouri.
“I never stopped to think about what any of it meant,” said Smith of his rookie year where he set a Bengals rookie record with 8.5 sacks. “I just went full speed ahead and played the same way I’d always played the game. You just take it one day, one year at a time and think about how cool it is when it’s all said and done. That’s how I’ve always approached everything.”
Smith might prefer to stop and smell the roses when his NFL days are over, but through the years he has learned that slowing down can sometimes reap rewards. In his early days, Smith exploded off the ball full speed ahead with every intention to just blow up and blow by his blockers. Now, he’s gotten a little craftier in his approach off the ball.
“The bottom line of football is still being physical, but instead of just going willy nilly like I used to do, I pay more attention to what they are trying to do to me,” said Smith. “By recognizing formations and understanding their tendencies, you can know what blocks you might get and work the angles better.”
Against the run, it’s nearly impossible to find fault in Smith’s play, but he does have his doubters when it comes to his pass rush ability. He had only two sacks last season, but he posted at least five sacks in six of his seven seasons in Cincinnati, good for the team lead in three of those campaigns.
With a relentless motor and a strong supporting cast in San Francisco, one that Smith never benefited from in Cincinnati, the 49ers coaching staff sees no reason why he can’t take a major jump in sack production this season.
Raising his sack total or topping 100 tackles for the third consecutive season might be heavy on the minds of the 49ers Faithful, but Smith really plans to measure his stock by only one stat.
“I’ll take the win,” answered Smith when asked what ranks as his ultimate high. “All of it doesn’t really mean anything if you lose. I’ve been on teams where guys were happy if they had a great game and lost, but if we won and they had a terrible game, they were pissed. Any team that I’ve been on with people like that wasn’t a good team. In high school, we won a state championship because we just cared about winning. You didn’t care about sacks or tackles – it was all about winning. You take care of your job and not worry about the other stuff and just win, all of the accolades will follow.”
So far, all good things have followed his decision to finish out his career with the 49ers. Whether it’s been the return to old school power lifting or his versatile role on defense, or even the California weather, signing with the 49ers has fit Smith like a glove.
“It’s just been a very welcomed change,” said Smith. “I haven't gotten around much to see the sights, but I love the weather. I love knowing I won’t be practicing in snow and ten degree weather in a few months. Everything has just been like getting fresh blood. I feel re-energized and I’m excited about the year. That’s a big deal.”
And with Smith wearing so many hats in the 49ers defense, he’ll likely be a big deal in making it an exciting year for everyone.
06-16-2008, 02:32 PM
Instant 49ers 6/16
Offensive lineman Alan Reuber is the newest addition to the 49ers. He was signed during the first week of organized team activities after the club parted ways with Qasim Mitchell.
Reuber was born Jan. 26, 1981. He shares the birthdate as Wayne Gretzky, Douglas MacArthur, Eddie Van Halen, Paul Newman and the staff here at Instant 49ers (though Reuber is 14 years older).
Originally signed by the Vikings as a free agent, Reuber has also been with the Cardinals (he played three games for Arizona in '04), Bengals and Buccaneers.
Reuber (6-6, 310) is lining up at right tackle for the 49ers.
Instant 49ers: In your short time with the team, has anything stood out to you about how the 49ers conduct business and operate?
Reuber: Everything has been top-notch so far; everything has been really pleasant. The O-line gets along great. That's the one thing that's different here than other places I've been. The O-line seems to be a good, close group. They all hang out on the weekends and they hang out after practice. Sometimes that lacks on other teams. And I think that's how you come together as a group -- you hang out off the field.
Instant 49ers: That's interesting because it seems like with the 49ers the O-line is always the closest group. It's not like that everywhere?
Reuber: No, it's not always like that. Maybe an O-lineman and a tight end hang out with a quarterback. Here, it seems pretty consistent. Maybe a quarterback or two will be allowed it, but that's about it.
Instant 49ers: Did you know offensive line coach George Warhop before you came here?
Reuber: When I came out of college, he was at the Cowboys. I remember because he recruited me a little out of college. I was from Dallas, so I remember him being the Cowboys coach. We've met. He interviewed me coming out. I did a workout with him and an interview with him. And he called me a day or two before the draft and said good luck. I don't know why I remember his call. A lot of teams called, but why I remember his, I don't know. But I definitely remember talking to him.
Instant 49ers: What do you see as the biggest challenge you face?
Reuber: Just coming in, behind everybody, they had a base with this offense before, running it in the minicamps and installing it. They've had a little more time with the offense. The biggest hurdle for me is to get the offense down like the other guys have it already. I'm playing a little bit of catchup but I'm getting there fast. They threw me right in the mix. Day 1, I was running at tackle, so I didn't miss a beat.
Instant 49ers: Do you and Jeb Terry know each other from the Bucs?
Reuber: Actually, we missed each other at the Bucs, but we played with each other in the Senior Bowl. He was a guard and I was a tackle. He's helped me a lot (with the 49ers) because he was playing right guard and I'm playing right tackle. He's been able to say, "Hey, we're going to do this or do that . . . watch the twist, watch the movement." When you get that kind of communication it helps a lot. We played together a little at the Senior Bowl, and first two seasons I was with the Cardinals and the third I was with the Bengals, and he was always with Tampa. I coincidentally did see him in Tampa because he was still living there. We went out to eat and I saw him at dinner.
06-16-2008, 06:10 PM
Niners remain in the running to acquire Sims
The 49ers remain in the running to sign veteran offensive tackle Barry Sims, who visited four teams last week. The Raiders released Sims in a salary-cap move earlier this offseason. The 49ers are in need of a veteran who can play tackle.
Joe Staley and Jonas Jennings are slated to start at left and right tackle, respectively. But the 49ers have little - or no - proven depth behind the presumptive starters. The 49ers moved rookie Chilo Rachal to right tackle at the beginning of the organized team activities (OTAs). But Rachal would probably move back to guard if they acquired Sims.
Ken Vierra, Sims' agent, spoke with the 49ers and the Patriots on Monday. When asked if the 49ers remain in the mix, Vierra answered, "Absolutely." When asked if the Patriots still have a chance to sign Sims, Vierra replied, "Absolutely." Vierra said he plans to speak with the Ravens and Rams either later today or tomorrow.
"They all have something to offer," Vierra said.
There are a number of factors Sims will weigh, Vierra said, so he will not necessarily sign with the highest bidder. Among the factors, as outlined by Vierra, are: 1) Chance to earn a starting job; 2) chance to make the postseason; 3) overall organization; 4) offensive line coach; 5) offensive coordinator; and, of course, 6) money.
* * *
Undrafted receiver Cam Colvin was the last of the 49ers rookies to report to work for OTAs. Because Oregon is on the quarter system, their school wrapped up late. Under league rules, a rookie is not allowed to join an NFL team full time until his school has concluded classes (or he has graduated).
The 49ers have three practices remaining during organized team activities. Tuesday's practice will be the last one open to the media. Practices conclude Wednesday and Thursday.
* * *
06-17-2008, 03:27 PM
Hot reads are the hot thing at 49ers OTAs
During 49ers practice today at their organized team activities, there was something obvious about the team's offense that had not been seen in a while. When a blitz was coming, the quarterback got rid of the ball quickly.
"The hot thing is new around here," 49ers quarterback Shaun Hill said.
In the recent past, whenever the 49ers saw a blitz coming, they'd try to adjust the blocking assignments to pick it up so they could stick with the same play. Now, if the 49ers under new coordinator Mike Martz recognize a blitz is coming, they can also get rid of the ball quickly in hopes of making a big play.
Coach Mike Nolan said he sees quarterback Alex Smith working on some things during practices that he's never seen before -- things he'd like to see carry over into the exhibition games. The first thing he mentioned was getting the ball out quickly against blitzes. A lot of the responsibility for beating the blitz falls on the shoulders of the quarterback to get the ball out quickly -- before the rush arrives.
Smith said this offense relies a lot anticipation and timing. Smith said when he watches film he admits that it looks like he's adopted more of a "gunslinger" mentality.
"It looks like that from an outsider's perspective, but it is structured," Smith said.
Tight end Vernon Davis, who is the target of some of those hot reads, said this is a different mentality than in the past. He said he couldn't remember being the target of any hot reads in the past.
* * *
Offensive tackle Ramiro Pruneda (6-6, 317) has been assigned to the 49ers as an international practice squad player. He will join the club at the beginning of training camp.
The 49ers are one of 16 games in the league who will have a ninth practice squad player this season.
Pruneda, who led Monterrey Tech to four Mexican national championships, went to training camp with the Chiefs last season and spent the 2007 season on the practice squad for the Chiefs and the Eagles. He was named the best offensive lineman in Mexico three times, and was scheduled to play in NFL Europa last season, but pulled out due to a knee injury.
* * *
Incumbent fullback Moran Norris did not see a whole lot of practice time, as Zak Keasey worked a lot at that position. When asked about the role of the fullback in this offense, Nolan said some of the fullback responsibilities are filled by the tight ends and H-back.
* * *
There was no update on free-agent linemen Barry Sims and Larry Allen. Sims visited the 49ers last week. He is weighing the merits of four clubs: 49ers, Patriots, Rams and Ravens. Meanwhile, Allen, who is expected to retire, has not spoken with the 49ers about his plans for the coming season.
* * *
Former Redskins defensive tackle Joe Salave'a, currently on Dick Tomey's staff at San Jose State, is working for the 49ers during the three-week OTAs. Nolan said he wanted to speak with Tim Ryan last week about a spot as a coaching intern during training camp. Ryan is a former player who now is a co-host of a show on Sirius NFL Radio.
* * *
Check back later. I'll have more recaps from the practice field.
* * *
06-17-2008, 06:34 PM
RE: whether or not a fullback will be used in this offense
“Fullback will be a part of the offense. As is the case with a lot of offenses, the tight ends also typically serve that role also. Some guys can not, but there are a lot of H-back/tight end guys who can do dual roles. That’s been a lot of what Mike Martz has done in the past, used the fullback in dual capacity whether that’s an H-back or fullback. Most of it will have to do with the capabilities of the guy we have in. Whether you have a Moran Norris or a Zak Keasey in versus a Billy Bajema or a Delanie Walker or a Michael Robinson, you have a lot of scenarios for what their strength and weaknesses are and so it’ll come down to getting our best players on the field and creating a little bit of a change up for the defense from a personnel standpoint.
RE: the evaluation process with the coaches on how the quarterbacks have done
“I’ll talk with Mike and Ted Tollner quite a bit and we’ll try to summarize everything to his point. We’ve summarized it as we’ve gone along but we’ll pull it all together and talk about what we want to do in training camp. The preseason games will be very important but obviously there’s only four and really only three that you use extensively. That’ll be important but there won’t be a final decision made until training camp. Going into camp we’ll have to decide which quarterbacks work with which groups a little bit more often just to get some continuity and consistency for everybody. Not just the quarterback but the guys who are standing there listening to the cadence. That won’t be the determining factor. It’ll have a lot to do with what they’ve done in practice and in the games.
RE: if he feels he has to select at one to at least get the reps with the first-team unit in camp and then see if one can jump ahead of the other
“You do lean on that a little bit because at some point you do have to make a decision who takes more reps with the first group than the second, but it doesn’t decide who your quarterback is. You do have to do some of that in all fairness to the other players. If they are getting a different quarterback all of the time, it’s hard for them as well. You do have to create some of that, but it’s not the deciding factor. It’ll have to do with how responsive everyone is, players and all when we get on the field.”
RE: his assessment of the quarterbacks from the OTA sessions
“It’s good. I’m pleased. The pleasing part about the whole thing is that I do believe we have three guys who can win a game for us and that’s huge. Even though JT O ‘Sullivan isn’t taking a lot of reps, he does a very good job. He’s probably as competitive as anyone we’ve had around here from just an individual personality standpoint which is really important to being good. He knows the offense, like I said before. He does have a little bit of an advantage because he’s been in it an entire year already. But all three guys in my opinion have done a good job.
RE: if it is fair to say that Alex has the edge right now
“I wouldn’t even go there right now, for one, I don’t have to go there.”
RE: his thoughts on his entire team at this point
“We’ve got a talented group. As I said a year ago, we have to stay healthy. There are some players even out here who haven’t practiced quite yet. Walt Harris isn’t getting a lot of work and Manny Lawson hasn’t done much. There are a few guys I’m still looking forward to getting out there. Outside of that, on the field and in shorts, it looks pretty good. I’m more concerned about getting the pads on. I like what I see on the offense a lot. They’ve been doing a good job and getting a good grasp of it from a players’ standpoint, and even a coaching standpoint. It’s Mike’s offense so the other guys, although they understand the language when a play gets called, it’s Mike’s call, and so the coaches are also getting familiar with how he does it. I think we’ve had a lot of good reps. We’ve made good progress.”
RE: the strengths and weaknesses of the QB after the last few weeks
“Some of this is biased by knowing players. I know what Alex looks like in a game. I know what Shaun looks like in a game and what I think their strengths and weaknesses are. What I would like to see when we get into games this year, is that they improve on their weaknesses. Alex is very athletic, has the strongest arm out of all of the guys. He’s really intelligent. He’s got a lot of good qualities, those I count on all of the time. Now he has to go in there and put together four quarters with the group and move the ball consistently and make plays that he should make. He’s doing a good job of that out here at practice. Some of that has to do with the offense we’re running which I’m really pleased with. There are some things I hadn’t seen Alex do in the past that he’s doing now, just against blitzes for example, getting the ball out quicker, little things like that. Shaun on the other hand has been more of a gamer all along. That’s what he proved last year. He’s okay in practice, but he’s been more that type of player. JT O’Sullivan, what I know about him is from what I’ve seen on film and being around him. I know the least about him. They are still the same people they were before, but I’d like to see them work on their weaknesses.”
RE: if that means there isn’t anything he can learn from how Alex practices and that it has to be in a game
“Not totally, no. I wish I could say that because it would make it easier for me. There’s a lot of things in practice that I think are real important that I see him show the ability to do and then when you get in the game, do it. Sometimes guys look great in practice and they get in the game and don’t do the same things. Right now I’m seeing him do things in practice that he hasn’t done in practice or in a game before, like I said, putting the blitz on his shoulders and getting the ball to the receiver real quick instead of going back and hoping the protection has picked it up. Those little things, he’s shown the ability in practice. Now when you get in the game and you get another team and you aren’t looking at Michael Lewis or Dashon Goldson anymore and you are looking at a whole another team, do you see it as quickly? When you are out here with repetition and you are looking at the same guys, you get to read their body language and you kind of know when they are blitzing and when they are not. When you get into a game and see a whole new guy, it’s a different thing. It’s good that I’m seeing things in practice that I haven’t seen, and that’s just Alex, Shaun is the same way. You see some things in practice and then if I see them in a game, I’ll know we’ve made some very good progress.”
RE: if he’s uncomfortable with such an unclear quarterback position heading into camp
“I like our situation better now than any other time I’ve been here. Maybe it’s unsettled who the guy will be but I feel pretty good that whoever takes that job will do well and if something happens to him and there has to be a change made, we’ve got another guy who wants the job every bit as bad and then another guy behind him who wants the job and can do it. Not just wants it, but someone who can do it. Really I feel better now. Before, I knew Alex was supposedly the guy and Trent Dilfer was his backup, but feeling totally confident that a guy is capable to do four quarters, as a young quarterback, that’s hard to rely on a guy like we’ve tried to do.”
RE: Is Alex reacting quicker because of more experience or something Martz has helped with?
“I think it’s experience in practice and it’s also the demand of the offense. To get technical for just a moment, some people redirect all their protections so that everything is picked up every down. I’m a defensive guy, so I’m always trying to see if I can get you to think I’m coming here and come over here instead. If you are right on offense, that’s great. You picked up the blitz and the quarterback has a lot of time and everyone still has to get open. If you throw right into the blitz, there is usually a guy wide open standing there, you just have to get him the ball. Some teams don’t redirect. They try to take advantage because they know you are coming but they also know what they are going to do with the ball. Some guys just protect everybody so we have time. Others are, if you do come from where I think, I already know it and I know what I’m going to do with the ball. Those are two entirely different schools of thought. We’ll see. Our guys have been trained in both and they are getting a lot more training right now in this one, but I know defensively if you expose my blitz, and that’s your philosophy, that makes me a little more nervous going into a game than someone who is always going to pick up everything. If you are going to pick it up, I know I just have to play coverage. But if you are exposing me and hitting receivers that I’m not accounting for because I’m hoping the blitz will take care of them, then I have a chance for a big play that can hurt me. If you look at Mike’s numbers in his offense, that’s a lot of what happened. The greatest show on turf wasn’t because it was three yards and a cloud of dust or even if the receivers aren’t getting much on the catch, those receivers break one tackle, you have a chance for a big play.”
RE: there being more responsibility on Alex Smith’s shoulders in this offense
“Right now he’s being challenged to do more than ever. It’s on his shoulders to get the ball out and to the receivers. It’s a great opportunity for a big play. It works hand and hand. The receivers have to now look quicker for the ball on some things than they have in the past. They have to also recognize when it’s a blitz. You can’t have the quarterback raise up and see it’s a blitz and fire the ball at them and they are looking in to the ground or downfield thinking they have all day to run a route. It works together. It’s just a style of offense. It’s not like it’s unique to us. There are a handful of teams who use the same philosophy.
RE: update on Barry Sims or Larry Allen
“Sims, nothing right now, no. I haven’t had any conversation with Larry. Saw Sims last week. I think he’s done doing his tour. We talked a little yesterday, Paraag Marathe, Scot McCloughan and me. I haven’t had any conversations yet this morning.”
06-18-2008, 11:09 AM
Complete rundown of final OTA practice open to the media
Today was the last of the offseason workouts the media was allowed to witness in 49erland, so the staff here at Instant 49ers figured we better make this report count.
At the beginning of practice, the 49ers divided into position groups as usual and went through individual drills. One thing that stood out was watching the linebackers. LBs coach Mike Singletary is old school. He makes his guys work hard.
Rookie Larry Grant was really struggling going back and forth laterally over bags. Dontarrious Thomas also didn't look like he was having much fun. Singletary, as usual, was really on his guys. (As an aside, one source told me that a reason free-agent Takeo Spikes might be reluctant to sign with the 49ers is because he's heard about the killer workouts Singletary puts his linebackers through. That is just hearsay, as neither Spikes nor his agent has spoken publicly since the Eagles released him after he failed a physical several months ago.)
There was a lot of teamwork at today's practice - that being 11-on-11 "non-contact" scrimmage. The team went through some regular 11-on-11 work and then practiced their two-minute drill.
Some of you might find the following description of practice as boring as watching end-zone paint dry. Today, we're going to try to appease the hard-core fans who just can't get enough of this stuff. . .
--The first thing noticeable was that Zak Keasey got a lot of the snaps with the first-team offense. The 49ers did not use a fullback often, but when they did it was almost always Keasey. Incumbent starter Moran Norris was on the field for only a couple snaps, including one time when Grant put a nice move on him on a blitz and would've gotten to QB Shaun Hill for a sack.
--Walt Harris and Nate Clements did not participate in practice. Marcus Hudson and Donald Strickland lined up as the corners with rookie Reggie Smith coming in as a third corner.
--The timing was off on one pass from Alex Smith to Bryant Johnson. Smith made a nice throw of an intermediate route, but Johnson did not turn his head in time and the pass fell incomplete. This offense is predicated on timing, timing, timing, so these are the hiccups you'd expect to see in June. Johnson was the split end, Arnaz Battle was the flanker.
--Ashley Lelie (flanker) and Jason Hill (split end) got in on the action with the second team.
--I wrote earlier today about the "hot reads." Well, folks, at practice today it was really obvious. I can't recall the last time I saw the quarterbacks get rid of the ball this quickly to avoid the oncoming blitz. Shaun Hill got the ball out quickly to Jason Hill to beat a blitz early in practice.
--Three plays later when Smith was at QB, he delivered the ball quickly to tight end Billy Bajema. In fact, I saw Bajema catch more passes today than I've seen him catch in the past three seasons.
--Safety Keith Lewis had a good day. He broke up a pass down the field to Vernon Davis. Later, in a red zone situation, Lewis made an interception of a Smith pass in the end zone intended for Johnson.
--Things are still looking a little rough, as you can imagine. The 49ers had a two-TE formation with Battle and Delanie Walker lined up on the same side. Smith came to the line and noticed Battle and Walker were lined up improperly. They re-huddled to get things straightened away.
--The second offensive line on this day featured LT Joe Toledo, LG Brian de la Puente, C Cody Wallace, RG Jeb Terry and RT Chilo Rachal.
--Receiver Josh Morgan, who looked good the last time the media was allowed to watch practice, wasn't as sharp today. He dropped a nicely thrown deep ball from Hill.
--Hey, what was that? Oh, another hot-read thrown from Hill to Hill.
--On a third-and-five, Hudson broke up a Smith pass attempt to Battle.
--The 49ers featured an empty backfield (get used to it). Johnson, Ashley Lelie, Hill, Battle and Gore were all lined up as receivers. Smith hit Gore as a . . . you guessed . . . hot read.
--The next receiver on the field was undrafted rookie Robert Jordan. I know there have been a lot of questions about Cam Colvin of Oregon. He was allowed to join the team on Monday. I did not see him get on the field for teamwork today. That is not a surprise. Obviously, he's so far behind the other receivers, the 49ers wants to keep the tempo at a high level. So rather than learning while he was on the field, he did not take part in any 11-on-11 drills.
--I was sent scrambling for my roster when No. 20 picked off a Shaun Hill pass. No. 20? Oh, that's return specialist Allen Rossum, who is also listed as a cornerback.
And then the two-minute drill began . . . This is absolutely futile, but you can check out some video of a Smith first down pass, followed by an incomplete pass.
--The Smith drive ended with the aforementioned Keith Lewis pick in the end zone.
--The 49ers' nickel defense - some starters and some second-teamers -- consisted of CBs Rossum and Markus Curry, with Hudson playing the slot. The safeties were Lewis Baker and D.J. Parker (who looked pretty darn good, by the way). The inside linebackers were Jeff Ulbrich and Dontarrious Thomas, with a four-man line consisting of Louis Holmes (RDE), Tully Banta-Cain (LDE) and DTs Isaac Sopoaga and Ronald Fields.
--On a third-and-15, Hill hit Jordan for about 25 yards.
--Parker knocked down Hill's wobbly pass in the end zone for Dominique Zeigler.
--Hill hit Lelie in front of Reggie Smith for an apparent touchdown, but who's counting? The next play, Hill threw out of bounds in the end zone for DeShaun Foster. Reggie Smith was defending on the next play, an incomplete pass to Lelie.
--With Alex Smith back at QB, Keith Lewis broke up a pass for Johnson. But Smith came back to connect on a short pass to Lelie. And, then, Smith hit Battle for a TD in the back corner of the end zone over Lewis.
--J.T. O'Sullivan, the third wheel in the QB competition, got onto the field for four snaps at the very end. He completed a ball to Jordan on a crossing pattern, and also hit Foster on a shovel pass.
* * *
The obvious question: Who has the lead in the race to be the 49ers' quarterback?
Clearly, it's Alex Smith. He looks so much better on the practice field. He has the best arm; he throws a nice ball; he moves well; he has all the attributes. But the big question is whether he can carry it over into games.
Conversely, Shaun Hill was described by Nolan as a "gamer." He is the kind of guy who does not look great on the practice field, but is pretty darn effective in games.
When told what Nolan said about him, Hill did not seem all that pleased. It was meant as a complement, but Hill said, "I'm not sure that's a good thing when you're trying to win a job on the practice field."
Right now - again, based on what I saw in four practices - O'Sullivan is a distant third. That is based primarily on the fact that he rarely gets on the practice field.
Regardless how it turns out, Nolan said he feels so much better about the QB situation this season than he has in years' past. He said he believes the person who wins the job will give the 49ers better QB play than they've had since Nolan arrived in 2005. Moreover, he said he believes the No. 2 and No. 3 QBs will be better-equipped to win games if they're pressed into action.
* * *
06-18-2008, 11:28 AM
June 17, 2008
Rookie wide receiver Cameron Colvin picked up his degree at Oregon on Saturday and then drove out a U-haul first thing Sunday morning. He arrived in Santa Clara at 5AM, slept for about an hour and then headed in for lifting and his first organized team activity on Monday morning.
“It was tough, not being able to get entrenched here like everyone else,” said Colvin.
While studying for finals, Colvin also managed to cram in some time looking over the 49ers playbook.
“I had to take some time to look at it considering how complex the offense is,” said Colvin. “Learning on paper is different than actually getting the reps out on the field but I do feel better when it comes to knowing the terminology from studying so much.”
As he gets caught up Colvin has been limited mostly to individual work.
“I’m just making sure I know the right routes and basically doing stuff that most of the rookies got to do two weeks ago,” said Colvin. “But, better late than never and I’m hoping to get to do something other than watch during the team periods in the next few days.”
Allen Rossum is best known for his special team return skills, but he got to show them on defense too on Tuesday when he notched an interception.
For a brief moment, running back DeShaun Foster found himself split out wide and uncovered, but linebacker Jay Moore made it out to the edge in time to slow Foster up some coming off the line. Foster still got to the corner of the end zone to chase down the touchdown throw, but rookie Lewis Baker batted the ball down and prevented the score.
WR Bryant Johnson got the corner to bite on an inside fake and then slid out to the left side of the end zone for a wide open touchdown catch during a redzone period. WR Arnaz Battle and RB Frank Gore also had touchdown catches in the same session.
DT Joe Cohen, LB Manny Lawson, DE Melvin Oliver are still limited to individual work.
Safety Mark Roman remains out of commission after having surgery to clean up his shoulder, as does guard David Baas who was not expected to return until training camp after having surgery to repair his torn pectoral muscle.
Cornerback Shawntae Spencer missed some time in week two of OTAs with a sore quad, and is gone this week for his impending nuptials.
NT Aubrayo Franklin missed practice on Tuesday with a sore calf. T Damane Duckett was also held out due to a sore knee.
CB Walt Harris was present but did not work per a coaching decision based on his veteran status. After participating in the first week of OTAs, WR Isaac Bruce has not taken part in the last week and a half per an agreement with head coach Mike Nolan.
Name to Note
Retired defensive lineman, television and radio sportscastor Tim Ryan visited 49ers headquarters last week to meet with head coach Mike Nolan. Nolan informed media on Tuesday that he’s considering hiring Ryan as a coaching intern for training camp.
06-18-2008, 11:30 AM
49ers Offense Gets Hot
June 17, 2008
The weather isn’t the only thing heating up in Santa Clara right now as the 49ers appear to have adjusted their offensive philosophy to include hot reads.
In the past, the 49ers kept things simple for their quarterback and relied on the offensive line to pick up the blitz, but offensive coordinator Mike Martz apparently plans to go on the attack.
“We’ve got a lot of hot routes and sight adjusts and I think that’s very important,” said tight end Vernon Davis who is thrilled to have found himself on the receiving end of several hot reads. “You take advantage of a blitz, get rid of the ball quick, and try to make a play out of it. That’s where big plays come from a lot of times, off of hot routes.”
Head coach Mike Nolan explained the difference between the past and new offensive approach following Tuesday’s open OTA session.
“To get technical for just a moment, some people redirect all their protections so that everything is picked up every down,” said Nolan. “I’m a defensive guy, so I’m always trying to see if I can get you to think I’m coming here, and then come over here instead. If you are right on offense, that’s great. You picked up the blitz and the quarterback has a lot of time and everyone still has to get open. If you throw right into the blitz, there is usually a guy wide open standing there, you just have to get him the ball. Some teams don’t redirect. They try to take advantage because they know you are coming but they also know what they are going to do with the ball.”
As a former defensive coordinator, Nolan said Martz’ system makes him a lot more nervous to defend.
“If you are going to pick it up, I know I just have to play coverage. But if you are exposing me and hitting receivers that I’m not accounting for because I’m hoping the blitz will take care of them, then I have a chance for a big play that can hurt me,” explained Nolan. “If you look at Mike’s numbers in his offense, that’s a lot of what happened. The greatest show on turf wasn’t because it was three yards and a cloud of dust or even if the receivers aren’t getting much on the catch, those receivers break one tackle, you have a chance for a big play.”
Quarterback Shaun Hill is a fan of the addition of the hot reads and the quick and short throws, but he also believes Martz’ offense lends itself to taking shots deep.
“What’s nice is there are times when the defense is being aggressive and we need to get the ball out quick and make plays, but there are also times when the defense is being aggressive and we can take shots down field and take advantage of them in that way too,” said Hill. “There are both of those in this system and it’s up to us to know when we can do those.”
Making the best decisions in those situations is something that could play into the 49ers starting quarterback battle.
While Nolan called Hill a “gamer,” and a player he knows can step in and command the offense, the 49ers head coach touted Alex Smith for his raw and natural abilities.
“Alex is very athletic, has the strongest arm out of all of the guys,” said Nolan. “He’s really intelligent. Now he has to go in there and put together four quarters with the group and move the ball consistently and make plays that he should make.”
And Smith, like all of the 49ers quarterbacks, has more being demanded of him than ever before.
“We certainly do more; really giving defenses different looks, running a combination of different things,” said Smith. “There’s a lot new for me. From a quarterback perspective, I’m asked to do a lot of different things and I have to have a lot of different tools.”
Thus far, Nolan likes how Smith has bitten off some of those new responsibilities.
“Right now I’m seeing him do things in practice that he hasn’t done in practice or in a game before,” said Nolan. “For instance, putting the blitz on his shoulders and getting the ball to the receiver real quick instead of going back and hoping the protection has picked it up. Those little things, he’s shown the ability in practice.”
Translating that to an actual game can be a different story, which is why Nolan is in no rush to name a starter, reiterating on Tuesday that he intends to include preseason play in the evaluation process.
However, Nolan did concede that his staff might at least put together a pecking order for the start of training camp.
“At some point you do have to make a decision who takes more reps with the first group than the second, but it doesn’t decide who your quarterback is,” said Nolan. “You do have to do some of that in all fairness to the other players. If they are getting a different quarterback all of the time, it’s hard for them as well. You do have to create some of that, but it’s not the deciding factor.”
Other Tidbits from the Offense
TE Vernon Davis said he’s also running more deep routes this year, and even routes that Martz has used Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce for in the past.
Asked whether or not the offensive playbook is heftier than in year’s past, QB Alex Smith had this to say…
“It’s more demanding. For the amount we’ve put in, in this amount of time, yes, this is more than past years of new offenses, just from a sheer amount. I don’t know when that ends.”
To the untrained eye, Mike Martz’ offense might feature the typical gunslinger at quarterback, but Smith argued that it’s actually very controlled.
“I think a lot of times it comes off that way because there are balls getting thrown all over the place and lots of types of throws,” said Smith. “From an outside perspective and even for me watching film early-on and not having the knowledge of the offense, yeah, it looks like the gunslinger back there. But it’s very fundamental in how it is put in and installed. It’s very much the opposite of just go out there and make it happen. This is very thought out. Everything is done for a reason. Everything is coached extremely hard.”
With OTAs nearing their end, QB Shaun Hill will turn to Camdenton High School quarterback Kyle Simpson to help keep him prepared in the final weeks before training camp. The two hooked up last off-season when the youngster was part of a crew painting Hill's house in the Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri.
"His boss told me he was a quarterback and so after he got done, we’d head out and throw," said Hill. "I talked to him through his whole season, had him bring over some of his film, and when I'm home we go out and throw spots to each other. Sometimes when i need extra conditioning, i’ll run routes for him."
06-18-2008, 10:33 PM
Another few words -- but certainly not the last -- about 'hot reads'
There isn't much that surprises me anymore, but I'll admit to being flabbergasted to learn yesterday that the 49ers are using "hot reads" this season for the first time in a while.
I definitely recognized something looked different when I saw a handful of quick passes to a slot receiver or tight end during practice. But it wasn't until later that Mike Nolan, Vernon Davis, Alex Smith and Shaun Hill discussed the new emphasis under offensive coordinator Mike Martz.
I asked around today and got a little more clarification. What was confirmed is that the 49ers' strategy in dealing with the blitz has indeed changed quite a bit this season.
Martz has the team working on getting rid of the ball quickly to a "hot receiver" at times when a blitz is coming. If a blitz is coming from the right side, the quarterback might get the ball out quickly to the side of the blitz to take advantage in the defense's imbalance in personnel. The thought process is, "If you're going to blitz us, we're going to take advantage of it."
This is not something you'll see the 49ers do every time a team brings a blitz or it would become too predictable.
But what's shocking is that wrinkle was not in the 49ers' offense prior to Martz's arrival. The 49ers of last season under Jim Hostler had other ways to deal with a blitz.
First, the quarterback ran like a scared rabbit to avoid getting skinned and served for dinner. No, actually, that was the third option.
Actually, when the 49ers detected a blitz coming, they would try to slide their protection to account for the presence of an additional pass-rusher. They tried to have the protection hold up to take advantage of the defense committing more than the typical four pass-rushers.
The safety valves were generally check-downs designed to get the ball out of the quarterback's hands if the protection was not there. If the first receiver in the progression was not open, the ball was designed to go underneath.
Clearly, the strategy did not work very well - for a number of different reasons. Niners quarterbacks were sacked a franchise-record 55 times. Trent Dilfer was sacked 27 times (once every 9.1 dropbacks); Smith was sacked 17 times (once every 12.4 dropbacks); Shaun Hill was sacked six times (once every 14.2 dropbacks); and Chris Weinkie was sacked five times (once every 5.4 dropbacks).
There were other times - but not many - when the 49ers would try to get the ball out quickly to a wideout. In those instances, the receiver generally caught the ball flat-footed a couple yards behind the line of scrimmage. I can't recall those plays every netting positive yardage.
The advantage with the hot reads the 49ers were practicing yesterday is that the receiver has a chance to make big yardage because he's catching the ball on the run. Just think back a long time ago to how the 49ers used the quick slant with John Taylor and Jerry Rice and now you see what Martz envisions as a way to combat the blitz.
The idea of the hot reads is to take the pressure off the offensive line and placing the control on the quarterback.
Perhaps the biggest knock on Smith has been is inability to get the ball out of his hands with decisive, split-second decisions. Coach Mike Nolan alluded to that yesterday.
"Right now I'm seeing him (Smith) do things in practice that I haven't seen him do in practice or games before," Nolan said.
Specifically, "putting the blitz on his shoulders and getting the ball to the receiver real quick, instead of going back and hoping protection picks it up."
* * *
In going back over my notes from yesterday, I realized I failed to mention one important thing about rookie linebacker Larry Grant. I wrote about how he appeared to be really struggling during individual drills at the beginning of practice. Position coach Mike Singletary was on him pretty hard. What I failed to write was that long after practice had concluded - probably at least 30 minutes - I saw Singletary and Grant leave the field together engaged in conversation. The professor remained long after class for some one-on-one tutoring with the pupil.
* * *
06-19-2008, 11:34 AM
Staley's Final Diary
June 18, 2008
Tackle Joe Staley checks in with the fans for his final Rookie Diary, updating everyone on OTAs, the offensive line and his upcoming plans.
Three weeks of OTAs have gone well. It’s been a great chance to get out here and learn the offense and get everything down before training camp. It’s also been fun to get out here and see all of the rookies. I’ve been impressed with a lot of the guys.
I feel that all the rookie offensive linemen are bringing something to the table. Chilo Rachal is very aggressive and he’s got an attitude which is good. Cody Wallace is really smart and he’s making a lot of good calls out there. Brian De La Puente also looked good out there this last week and has shown a lot of improvement. He doesn’t make the same mistake twice. John Booker has been asked to do a lot of different roles and he’s accepted them and done well. He’s just got a good pop. I think each one of those guys has a good chance of bringing something to this team, whether that be on the practice squad or the active roster.
The transition for me to left tackle has been good. I’ve done a lot of work and Coach Warhop and Coach Foerster have been working with me a lot in individual periods as I hone down my technique. Then, it’s just a matter of me getting out there and going full speed against the defense during team periods and keeping that technique in order.
It’s different without pads, but I think it has been good because you do then really focus more on your technique and your footwork. I feel comfortable on the left side and feel like I’m going to have a really good year, and I’m excited for the season to start.
Everything on the line has been pretty seamless. Jonas Jennings is doing real well on the right side, and I think I’m doing well on the left. I think having everybody participate in the OTAs is key because you get that cohesiveness. You really have to trust and depend on all five guys on the offensive line and that’s why it’s a definite benefit to have a close group on and off the field. I think when you do have those off the field friendships that you tend to trust that guy that much more than you would if you only had a business relationship with them.
Defensive end Justin Smith is awesome and the defense is doing all sorts of things with him which we have to account for on the offensive line. So not only do we have to handle him personally, we also have to account for him from a schematic standpoint because he’ll be outside, at 3-tech, or defensive end and so he gives you a lot of different looks to handle. He definitely gives us trouble and you have to be on your game when you are going against him because if you aren’t perfect, he’ll exploit you. I’m glad he’s on our team now.
So now, let’s talk about our offensive line dinner we had on Tuesday night. It was unbelievable. It was at my new house and everybody loves it because I do have a great house. It was a great time, a lot of food, too much food. Everybody brought like three pounds of food. I made my mom’s cheesy potatoes and they were unreal. They were obviously the hit of the whole dinner. Everybody took huge servings and came back for seconds. I was really impressed with myself because I don’t cook and I did a great job if I do say so myself.
The highlight of the night was when we played washers, which is similar to horseshoes. There was a battle between Eric Heitmann and Jeb Terry vs Adam Snyder and David Baas. Eric and Jeb won and it was about a 45 minute match that went back and forth with many clutch shots made. You know, now that I think about it, it’s kind of sad that was the highlight because that’s not very exciting. Now that I think about it, I don’t know if anyone really had a good time. Everybody did kind of leave early.
My parents are coming out on Thursday and they’ll be here until Tuesday. In the works possibly is a chance for me to go to a NASCAR event in Sonoma and meeting Jeff Gordon, which would be cool for my parents to get to check out with me. We also might go to Monterrey, and I actually want to go to the Winchester House. I’ve heard it’s kind of weird and I like weird stuff. Mom said she just wants to relax and not do anything, and I’m down for that too. So, we’ll see. Obviously, mom will be cooking because she just loves cooking for me and I’m looking forward to great eats.
I’m heading to Michigan after their visit and renting a lake house on Lake Michigan. Some of my friends are heading up so we’ll jet ski and hang at the beach and take it easy.
My rookie year was finished last year after the final game, and I’m kind of sick of people telling me I’m still a rookie until after a certain game. We have four rookies on our team and I talked about those earlier in this diary, and I am not one of them. I just wanted to be clear because I’m now passing the rookie diary to Kentwan Balmer. He’s a pretty funny guy and he’s pretty outspoken. I’m hoping he has some good stories to share with everyone on here. I’ll be checking.
I’ll be moving over to 49ersfaithful.net later this summer where I’ll have a profile, and where I will also be a blogger. Make sure to add me as a friend once I’m on there.
- Thanks for joining me on my rookie season and my non-rookie off-season!
06-20-2008, 11:20 AM
49ers Complete OTA's
June 19, 2008
The 49ers finished their 12th and final organized team activity on Thursday, signaling the end of the team's 14 week off-season conditioning program.
“A lot of guys were amped up today, excited and out there talking a lot," said safety Dashon Goldson. “We came out here and worked and got a lot done today. We stayed focused even though it was the last day because we know that’s something we have to do every day we come out here.”
With safety Mark Roman missing the OTA's in order to recover from shoulder surgery, Goldson enjoyed getting a chance work with the first-team defense. The second-year safety took advantage of his reps and churned out one of the more impressive off-season performances with several heads-up plays.
“I went out there and did pretty good coming back in my second year,” said Goldson. “Last year I was playing a lot slower last year because I was learning the system. I felt more comfortable coming in this off-season, and it put me in the situation to play faster.”
His partner in the backend, safety Michael Lewis, is seeing faster play from his entire unit.
“Last year was a struggle sometimes, but I know this year is something totally different,” said Lewis. “We’ve improved. Everybody was here working and that’s a big plus when you have pretty much the whole team in here trying to get better. It’s going to be a fun defense this year and we are looking for great things obviously.”
The offensive unit also walked away from the off-season program with a greater sense of understanding of coordinator Mike Martz and his complex system.
“I think once we started in mini camp it did seem kind of thick, but once you learn this system and take it one day at a time, one play at a time it starts to generate in our heads almost like a computer,” said center Eric Heitmann. “The plays are coming out fast, the guys are on point and they know what to do. I think that's what's important going into training camp - that guys understand the system and know what they're doing.”
Hit with some off-season departures and some position transitions, the 49ers offensive line greatly benefited from the opportunity to work together as a unit. With guard David Baas unable to practice as he recovers from his pectoral injury, Tony Wragge worked with the first-string line which featured Heitmann, Adam Snyder at left guard, Joe Staley at his new spot of left tackle, and Jonas Jennings at his new place on the right side.
“For me, I wanted to use this time period to gel and be on the same page with my center calls,” said Heitmann. “This is also the time for guys to have the opportunity to learn more positions and to prove that they're more versatile than just playing in one spot. It's definitely been good, and it's a benefit to have guys playing different positions because when you get into a game and a guy goes down, you need to have guys ready who can play that position. It's important to learn more than one spot.”
Rookie Chilo Rachal was one of those offensive linemen learning a new spot as the former USC guard used the three weeks of practice to transition to right tackle.
“I think Chilo has definitely shown the ability to do some great things out there,” evaluated Heitmann. “With any rookie coming in there are going to be some things they have to do to get their technique where it needs to be at the NFL level. Chilo has definitely shown the ability to understand and appreciate that technique and that's something he's going to have to continue to work on. From what we've seen, it's all been good.”
Not to be cheated too much, Rachal and the 2008 rookie class will visit the Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, on Sunday and then return to Santa Clara for an additional four days of work with strength coach Duane Carlisle.
“Since the rookies didn’t get to come in until the latter part of our program, it’s just an opportunity for them to get in a few more days of conditioning before we let them loose,” said head coach Mike Nolan. “We want them to leave here with a good understanding of where they need to be at physically when they check back in for camp.”
Veterans on both sides of the ball couldn’t stress enough how important it is to correctly handle the month off before training camp.
“It’s important mentally to get away a little bit, but it’s a fine line of not getting away too much,” said quarterback Alex Smith, who plans to take his playbook with him wherever he goes. “You have to continue to workout. You make all of these strides in the off-season and you can’t let it go to waste by slacking off in the last month. So for me, I’ll stay in shape and throw, stay in the playbook, but also get away a little bit so when you come back, you come back fresh.”
A veteran of six training camps, Lewis concurred, “I think you need some alone time away from football, spend time with the family and get your mind off of football because when you get back here in July, it’s time to go. Being in shape for camp is the most important part. You’ll be taking 20 or so reps on a period and if you are not in shape, it’s going to show. Coaches are evaluating every play, every day so it’s very important to come back in shape, know your assignments and execute.”
LB Manny Lawson progressively saw more action during the three weeks of OTAs, including some plays in Thursday’s team period.
“It made my day,” said Lawson.
The 49ers hope to have Lawson, along with DT Joe Cohen, LB Melvin Oliver, and S Mark Roman ready to go for the start of training camp. G David Baas is the only player the 49ers do expect to still miss time once the team returns for camp.
The rookies final commitment before returning for training camp will be a trip to San Diego for the NFL’s Rookie Symposium. The league's annual orientation will begin on June 29 and conclude on July 2.
06-23-2008, 11:23 PM
June 23, 2008
49ers.com writer Chrissy Mauck is one of a few official bloggers over on 49ersfaithful.net. Make sure to check out our social networking site, and in the meantime, here's a quick update.
Monday, June 23...
I’m officially on my three-week vacation, but in reality, there won’t be many days where I’m not working on something for the website. We’ve got a re-design coming on both 49ers.com and shop49ers.com, so there is much to do.
While I hopped on a flight to Nebraska to visit family over the weekend, our rookies took off for Canton, Ohio and their visit to the NFL’s Hall of Fame. I’ll be going there myself in July when Fred Dean is inducted, but for now, I’ll live vicariously through some of our rookies. A few photos that the Hall of Fame staff was courteous enough to provide are shown here in this blog, but to see more, click here now!
We also sent a video camera along with rookie wide receiver Josh Morgan. Josh shot me a text message to let me know all was going well, and that he's shooting EVERYTHING. So, hopefully by week’s end, fans can enjoy seeing a little bit more of the trip.
Another note for everyone, last week as the OTA’s came to an end I caught up a few minutes with strength coach Duane Carlisle. Carlisle shared some numbers with me in terms of the off-season conditioning program.
This year, the 49ers had 48 players who attended 90 percent or more of the workouts with 27 players hitting 100%. These numbers did not take into account the rookies since they had no shot of participating in the program in full.
“We had an outstanding off-season,” remarked Carlisle. “The team gave tremendous effort, and worked every day with purpose. As Coach Nolan wanted, we took them one at a time and they gave it their all every day. The guys are in excellent shape, and it was the start to hopefully great things to come this season.”
06-24-2008, 11:21 AM
By Matt Barrows
SANTA CLARA – When Vernon Davis watches film of Mike Martz's past offenses, he doesn't follow the tight end. He is told instead to watch receivers Isaac Bruce or Torry Holt streaking downfield.
And therein lies one of the biggest differences between Martz's St. Louis Rams offenses from early this decade and the one he is building in San Francisco. He'll still use four receivers to put pressure on defensive backs. Two of those receivers just might happen to be tight ends.
"I don't know if anyone in the league can run like he can at that position," Martz, the 49ers' first-year offensive coordinator, said of Davis. "He gets down the field so fast. I don't know who beats him in a footrace."
Martz said none of his offensive players worked harder this spring than Davis, who was on the field before practice started and hung around after it ended to hone his receiving skills.
Davis entered the NFL in 2006 very much the opposite of most young tight ends. He was a willing and able blocker who relished the opportunity to put an opposing linebacker on his back.
But sometimes that ability worked against him.
Davis caught a respectable 52 passes for 509 yards last season, but he disappeared from the passing game for long stretches because he was being used as a blocker.
"I would say I didn't have many opportunities to really showcase my talent," Davis said.
That shouldn't be an issue in Martz's offense. Davis said his biggest task this offseason has been polishing his pass routes. And he has used film of Bruce, Holt and other former Martz receivers as a model, signaling that the 49ers' tight end will run routes atypical for his position.
"Instead of breaking down and head-faking and doing all these things, we're going to use his speed," Martz said. "And I think he understands that really well at this point."
While Martz was familiar with Davis upon joining the 49ers, he said he has been pleasantly surprised by another 49ers tight end, Delanie Walker. A wide receiver in college, Walker always has shown quick hands and elusiveness after the catch in practice. But he has been lightly utilized in games.
Martz was so impressed with Walker during organized team activities (OTAs) that Martz has over the past two weeks installed new plays just for him.
"He has some real wow factor to him," Martz said. " … You talk about some jets and some ability to run and eat up the field. Holy cow. I didn't know anything about Delanie until I got here."
Having Davis and Walker in the game also will keep defenses guessing.
Davis in particular is one of the league's premier blocking tight ends, and that ability meshes well with what running back Frank Gore, the focal point of the offense, does best.
"He's such a violent, physical blocker," Martz said, noting that many modern tight ends are more finesse-oriented, content to simply keep defenders at bay. "Vernon will try to knock you out. He's such a pleasant blend of power and physical with speed.
"He's such an unusual player in that respect."
With that, Martz caught himself and said he realized everything out of his mouth had been a compliment. But in the afterglow of successful June practices, Martz said he can't help it.
"I can't hold down my enthusiasm," he said. "These guys are pretty special.
06-24-2008, 11:42 AM
Take 5 with 49ers G Brian de la Puente
He started all 13 games at left guard for Cal last season, earning All-Pac-10 honorable mention. He was the winner of the Bob Tressier Award, given to Cal's most improved offensive lineman. But I still had one very basic question for him.
Is it an upper case "D" and an upper case "L"?
"Lower case 'd,' lower case 'l,' capital 'P,' " said Brian de la Puente.
Oh, I bet that never gets screwed up.
"Oh, you have no idea," de la Puente said. "You learn to deal with it. But if it's on a jersey or something, you want it spelled right."
De la Puente (6-3, 308) lined up at left guard for the 49ers' second team during OTAs after working at right guard during the May minicamp. The undrafted rookie has a long road to earn a spot on the 53-man roster. He was able to report on time for the offseason program in mid-May because he had already graduated. He majored in legal studies and minored in city and regional planning.
Instant 49ers: You have your degree. Does that mean you have your career after football mapped out?
De la Puente: But I did an internship one summer with a commercial real-estate firm in Oakland. That definitely interests me. I might pursue something in that field, but nothing is set in stone.
Instant 49ers: At the local combine, did you have an inkling you could be joining up with the 49ers?
De la Puente: Coach (George) Warhop came up and talked to me before drills. He also coached me up during the drill work, so I knew he knew about me. I wasn't sure how interested they were. But everything worked out well. I knew they were interested.
Instant 49ers: What do you see as the biggest challenge ahead of you?
De la Puente: I think the biggest challenge is getting comfortable with the offense. I think coach (Mike) Martz brings a lot of new stuff to the table. The veterans have been doing it for a while, and they're helping out, but it's a new offense and that's probably the biggest thing. That, and the speed of the game. Just learning the plays and learning the terminology and that comes with time, and getting reps. I've been getting more reps, so that's good in the learning process
Instant 49ers: What's the difference between a Jeff Tedford offensive meeting and a Mike Martz offensive meeting?
De la Puente: Not that much. It's a similar offense, I think. The biggest thing is the different terminology. Coming from coach Tedford's offense, which is a pro-style offense, it definitely made my transition a little easier because we've been running similar plays. Protections were similar. There are just different words or terms for it. Coming from Tedford's offense made it easier.
Instant 49ers: What's jumped out at you since coming to the 49ers?
De la Puente: What I've noticed is that it is a business. There are a lot less people telling you what you need to get done. It's your responsibility to be on top of your stuff. Some guys have been catered to in college with the coaches and the training staff. But once you get out here, it's pretty cut-throat and you got to be responsible for everything. You're working for the 49ers. And if you're not getting your job done, they can fire you at any moment.
* * *
I'll go ahead and answer this question before it's asked: Even though the "d" in de la Puente is lower case, it is still capitalized at the start of a sentence.
* * *
Here's the link to my article in that thing called a newsaper about Barry Sims' signing with the 49ers. "The 49ers' backup right tackle is now the Raiders' starting left tackle. And the Raiders' starting left tackle is the 49ers' backup right tackle " with a chance to win the starting job."
* * *
Posted June 24, 2008 11:46:50 AM
06-27-2008, 11:35 AM
Take 5 with 49ers DE Louis Holmes
It didn't take long to transcribe my five questions with rookie defensive end Louis Holmes. He did not have a whole lot to say when I spoke with him. That's OK. His football ability will do his talking as he competes for a spot on the squad.
Holmes spent three years attending high school in the Memphis area. Then, he transferred to Dillard High (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.). He originally committed to Ohio State, but went to Brighton Academy (Maine) to improve his grades after he was ruled academically ineligible.
Holmes was rated as one of the top three defensive ends in the junior college ranks, based on his play at Scottsdale Community College.
But after transferring to Arizona, he did not pile up the kind of stats the Wildcats were expecting. He recorded six sacks and 10.5 stops behind the line of scrimmage in two seasons.
In addition to the adversity on the field, Holmes also got into incidents off the field in 2005 (domestic violence), 2006 (excessive vehicle music) and 2007 (criminal damage and disorderly conduct). When I asked him what about his college experienced got him most ready for the NFL, he answered, "Some things came up in college that happen to college players. It prepared me for adversity. If it doesn't kill me, it should make me stronger."
Holmes attended the NFL scouting combine, where he checked in at 6-foot-3 (five-eighths) and 263 pounds. He went undrafted, and the 49ers coughed up $3,000 to sign him as a free agent.
During the OTAs, he played rush end - right defensive end in third-down packages.
Instant 49ers: What's the experience been like for you since coming to the 49ers?
Holmes: It's been great. These guys have given me an opportunity come out and play football.
Instant 49ers: How did it shake out after the draft that you ended up with the 49ers?
Holmes: They called me a week before the draft, and then they called me after the draft and picked me up as a free agent.
Instant 49ers: What is the biggest challenge you face with the 49ers?
Holmes: The biggest challenge is gaining the trust. I have to prove to my coaches and teammates that they can trust me, that I know my responsibilities and can be a great player.
Instant 49ers: Has the transition to an NFL defense been difficult?
Holmes: It pretty much carried over. The position I'm playing now is more of a rush-end spot. There are different plays and stuff, but they put me in to try to get a good pass rush and make plays. It's a speed package, where I'm trying to get some sacks and trying to make stuff happen off the edge.
Instant 49ers: Are there any guys you can really lean on and learn from?
Holmes: Just my coaches. I think for right now, I'm leaning on my coach's words and trying to gain the trust of my coaches first. After that, everything else will fall into place.
06-29-2008, 07:53 PM
Take 5 with 49ers OL John Booker
John Booker started at left guard, right guard, right tackle and left tackle during his four seasons at San Jose State. He started 35 games in his career with the Spartans, including one game at left tackle as a senior. He was a second-team All-WAC performer as a senior.
At the 49ers' OTAs, the undrafted rookie lined up at right guard. Booker was listed at 6-foot-4, 313 in the days leading up to the draft.
Booker grew up in the East Bay, attending Hayward High. So . . . Raiders or 49ers?
"Growing up, I was actually a Raiders fan," he said. "That's changed now."
Instant 49ers: How are things going for you as you make that adjustment to the NFL level?
Booker: Things are going well. It's always a struggle learning the offense and all the adjustments to each play and how to run each play and all the different variations of sets. It's going good for me. I'm pretty much on pace, as far as the learning curve. The main thing is getting better with my technique.
Instant 49ers: When you came to Santa Clara for the local combine did you have an idea the 49ers were interested in signing you?
Booker: Yeah, coach (George) Warhop was there and he was kind of taking an interest in me and telling me how to do things better. He was helping me. I had a pretty good showing at the local combine, so I thought they might be interested. I had a good all-star game (Texas vs. The Nation). I got hurt before the season, so things kind of dropped off. I had a good pro day, so I was optimistic I'd get drafted - but I wasn't unrealistic. I felt I might go in the sixth or seventh round. But it didn't happen.
Instant 49ers: What's the biggest challenge facing you with the 49ers?
Booker: Just getting all the techniques down for each play and knowing how to execute your assignment. For the most part, I know what to do, but it's how to do it - that's what I'm struggling with.
Instant 49ers: What do you think prepared you most for this from your college experience?
Booker: Coming out of San Jose State, there were a lot of issues you don't have to deal with at a bigger school. They were always rotating linemen. And there are other situations that pop up at a smaller school that has less funding. It's dealing with the adversity. When things go wrong, you just have to keep working at it and keep plugging away. That's the biggest thing I've carried over. If you have a bad day, you have to keep going and not worry about it.
Instant 49ers: What have you learned most since you've been with the 49ers?
Booker: Just how many details go into everything. In college, if you're running a simple play, you have to eliminate your guy. But here it's like you have to do it a certain way or else you're probably going to get beat.
06-30-2008, 10:52 AM
Take 5 with 49ers TE J.J. Finley
J.J. (Joe Jon) Finley put together a solid career at Oklahoma, starting 29 games and catching 62 passes for 775 yards (12.5 average) and 10 touchdowns.
He grew up in Cuero, Texas, where he played junior high football with 49ers draft pick Cody Wallace. Finley was the quarterback; Wallace was the center. Finley played high school ball in Arlington for his father, Mickey. He was rated as the 24th-best prep quarterback in the country by Super Prep, and the 32nd-best athlete by The Sporting News and Rivals.com.
The 49ers signed Finley (6-6, 254) as an undrafted free agent, and he's battling for practice time at tight end.
When I asked him during OTAs what he wishes he could bring with him to California from Norman, Okla., or Texas, he answered, "The first thing I wish I'd brought with me is a vehicle. I'm kind of stuck in the hotel. Other than that, my mom's cooking, really. That's what I like the most, as far as food goes."
Instant 49ers: What's the biggest challenge facing you with the 49ers?
Finley: The biggest challenge is we got a lot of good players at my position already. I'm really going to have to perform at a high level to stick around.
Instant 49ers: Were you expecting to get drafted? How did the situation work out with you joining the 49ers?
Finley: I didn't know for sure about getting drafted. I knew it would be a late round if it was going to happen. When it didn't happen, I had a couple teams call me, and I thought the 49ers was the best situation for me.
Instant 49ers: Playing high school football for your father, is that an advantage? Do you see the game through the eyes of a coach?
Finley: I think it gave me an advantage coming out of high school. It helps me a little here. I look at the concepts of the play, rather than just memorizing assignments. It's helped me throughout my career.
Instant 49ers: Did you want to go to college as quarterback?
Finley: I got recruited to some places as a quarterback. I thought I was going to play there until late. And then Oklahoma, looking at my size and everything, offered me a scholarship as a tight end or defensive end. They didn't know which when I went there. In high school, we didn't throw the ball much, so I thought tight end would be the best position for me to be successful at the next level.
Instant 49ers: What have you learned most about the game since coming to the 49ers?
Finley: At this level, every player is pretty much the best player you played against in college. It's all mental. Everybody is going to have good technique. It's about knowing your stuff and not questioning yourself at all when the ball is snapped.
07-02-2008, 03:36 PM
Take 5 with 49ers C Cody Wallace
When the 49ers selected center Cody Wallace of Texas A&M in the fourth round (No. 107), some viewed it as a bit of a surprise. Wallace was one of those who did not expect to hear his name called so soon. "I really didn't think it was going to happen this soon," Wallace said. "I'm really excited about it."
Wallace (6-4, 290) was a consensus All-Big 12 first team selection and was named the league's co-offensive lineman of the year. He was an academic All-American second team and first-team Big-12 all-academic. Wallace also showed a lot of leadership, as a two-year captain.
But Wallace is being asked to know a lot more than he did at Texas A&M, which runs a very basic offense. Asked when he knew things would be a lot of different at this level, Wallace answered, "Probably the first meeting we had at minicamp. It didn't take long to figure that out."
Wallace entered the 49ers' locker room and immediately recognized a familiar face. Tight end J.J. Finley and Wallace went to junior high and elementary school together. Wallace was the center of the Cuero (Texas) Gobblers and Finley was the quarterback.
Finley's family moved to Arlington, but Wallace and Finley remained in touch. "In high school we talked every once in a while," Wallace said. "When he went to Oklahoma and I went to A&M, we talked throughout the year - mostly the week leading up to the game and after the game. It was a cool thing to keep in touch with him."
Instant 49ers: What do you see as the biggest challenge you face with the 49ers?
Wallace: The main thing for me is to learn the offense right now. I'm trying to get everybody on the same page. I have to make the correct calls so we're going to the right linebackers. It's my job to clear up the confusion among the guys. If I don't make the right calls, that kind of messes everything up.
Instant 49ers: What can you draw on to learn the offense?
Wallace: First, I was looking at my assignments to try to get a base feel of the offense. I know what all the base rules are, but now the defenses are getting more complicated and they're throwing different things at us and moving around a lot. I have to be able to handle that stuff and tell everyone where to go. That is my main point of emphasis -- to make all the adjustments.
Instant 49ers: Has Eric Heitmann been available to help you much or do you have to figure out this stuff on your own?
Wallace: Actually, all the older guys have been good about helping us out. They'll tell me what I messed up and what I can do to make it better. It's good that they're taking the time to do that.
Instant 49ers: What has helped you most from your college experience to make the transition?
Wallace: I guess just playing in the Big 12 and going against good competition most of the time. Assignment-wise, everything is quite a bit different than the offense we ran. There's not a lot whole lot I can relate to. I'm learning everything for the first time.
Instant 49ers: In a lot of aspects are you learning to play center from scratch?
Wallace: Yeah. The pass protection is the main difference, because ours at A&M was really simple. We just kind of had one pass protection, basically, and that was it. Coming in here, there are all kinds of different identifications we have to make with linebackers and D-linemen. And then we have to make the calls to get everyone on the same page.
07-03-2008, 11:00 AM
Take 5 with 49ers FS D.J. Parker
D.J. Parker started the final 27 games of his career at Virginia Tech at free safety, the same position he played for the 49ers during OTAs. He collected five interceptions in his career, and was named honorable-mention All-ACC as a senior.
NFLdraftscout.com rated Parker (5-11, 192) as the seventh-best free safety in the draft, and projected him getting selected as high as the middle of the fourth round and as low as the late sixth round.
When he did not get selected in the draft, the 49ers stepped to the plate. They paid him $6,000 to sign as a free agent - that's the most the 49ers paid for any of their undrafted free agents.
Last year, the 49ers signed Virginia Tech safety Jake Patten as an undrafted free agent. Before Parker joined the 49ers, he called Patten.
"He told me I'd love it out here," Parker said. "Once he said that, I was excited to get here."
Parker had a strong showing at the East-West Shrine game. He has good cover skills and more of a cornerback's size. In the final OTA practice the media was allowed to watch, Parker had a very good showing with a couple of passes broken up.
Instant 49ers: Was it a disappointment when you did not get drafted?
Parker: Yeah, I was kind of disappointed, but I thank the 49ers for coming and getting me. I'm glad to be here and to be a part of this organization.
Instant 49ers: What do you see as the biggest challenge you face?
Parker: I just want to go out and compete every day and know the playbook and help this team win. I want to do anything I can: defense, special teams, anywhere. That's my goal.
Instant 49ers: Can you lean on any of your older teammates to help mentor you?
Parker: Yeah, all of them. I think everyone on the secondary has helped me: Mark (Roman), Dashon (Goldson), Michael Lewis, Keith Lewis, all of them. I can even ask Nate (Clements) questions, and he can help me out. Everybody has been great in helping me out with the playbook.
Instant 49ers: Josh Morgan was a teammate of yours in college. What would be the scouting report on him if you were going up against him?
Parker: He's a big, physical receiver who can jump real well and go get the ball. I know I have to be physical with him or it's going to be a long game. I really haven't gone up against him much in practices here. We've seen each other a couple times on pass drills, but we haven't gone up against each other one on one, yet.
Instant 49ers: Anything you'd want to bring with you from your hometown of Hampton, Va., to the West Coast?
Parker: Just my family. If I had my family out here, I'd be ready to go. I talk to them every night. Being out here alone and being alone is the roughest part.
07-04-2008, 01:57 PM
Take 5 with 49ers S Lewis Baker
Lewis Baker has the kind of size that the 49ers like to see out of a safety. He's 6-3, 204. He played strong safety in 2005 before moving to linebacker his final two seasons at Oklahoma. He was All-Big 12 honorable mention as a senior.
With the 49ers, he saw action during OTAs at both safety positions. Although he didn't get onto the field in the dime package, he was asked to learn that position, too. He is also involved on all the special-teams units.
Baker was born in Bremerhaven, Germany. "When I was born, my dad was just getting out of the military," Baker said. "I was born in Germany, but we moved back to the Florida when I was 2 years old. I haven't been back to Germany. My older brother has, though. He's in the military."
Instant 49ers: What's the biggest challenge facing you with the 49ers?
Baker: The biggest challenge is not so much the mental aspect -- because all systems are similar -- but I got to get used to the terminology and words we use for our defense as opposed to what we used in college. That's the biggest thing for me right now.
Instant 49ers: What part of your college experience got you most ready for the NFL?
Baker: It's all the stuff they threw at us. If you're a decent athlete and you have the mental capacity to get out there and make the checks, I feel it's way, way, way more mental than being physical and having the athletic ability. There's more thinking going on than you'd think. That's the biggest difference.
Instant 49ers: Have you and Reggie Smith been leaning on each other?
Baker: Yes. We study together when we're in our hotel room. A lot of the stuff they do here, we did in college. But they called it something totally different. When the offense does a lot of shifting and motion and get in a certain formation, you have to be able to communicate with everybody. Sometimes you want to say the stuff you'd say in college, but it's not called that anymore. You forget what to say. You know what to do but you forget what to say and it doesn't do any good because not everybody's on the same page. Those are the things you have to get worked out.
Instant 49ers: What will you do from the end of OTAs to the beginning of training camp?
Baker: I'll just stay in my book, day and night. I have to. All I could ask for is this opportunity to be where I'm at. Now, it's up to me. I'll do everything in my power to make that 53-man roster. That's all I can do.
Instant 49ers: You grew up in Ocala, Fla., and spent five years in Norman, Okla. Is there anything from those places you wish you could bring with you to California?
Baker: More than anything, I try to relate everything to football. I just want to bring my football savvy and my teamwork. I always put my teammates first because everyone is counting on each other to do things. This is different than college. It's a job, but I'm still a team guy. I want to bring leadership, even as a young guy. Who said a young guy can't be a leader? I want to do all the things that I've done to get me to where I am now.
* * *
Click here to read an article I wrote for NFLplayers.com on 49ers safety Michael Lewis: "Lewis Encourages Regular Heart Testing."
* * *
Hope everyone has a happy and safe Fourth of July today. Best of luck at the U.S. Olympic Trials to Chico State's Scott Bauhs in the 10,000 meter final tonight in Eugene. Bauhs is coached by my former high-school classmate and good friend Gary Towne.
* * *
The countdown to football season enters its final three weeks. The 49ers report to training camp in Santa Clara on July 24. The first practice is scheduled for July 25.
* * *
07-06-2008, 12:11 PM
Take 5 with 49ers WR Jerard Rabb
Receiver Jerard Rabb performed a major role in one of the greatest plays in college football history. Hyperbole? Absolutely not.
Rabb scored on a hook-and-lateral play on a desperation fourth-and-18 to help Boise State pull off an improbable victory over Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl. More than a year later, Rabb is again surrounded by Oklahoma defensive backs -- in the 49ers locker room.
Undrafted rookie Lewis Baker (No. 16) lined up at right cornerback on the play and pursued Drisan James after he made the catch of a deep-in. Baker probably would've made the tackle of James, but the ball was tossed to Rabb, coming back the other way. Rabb sprinted the final 35 yards for the tying score with :07 remaining in regulation. The Broncos won 43-42 in overtime.
(Niners third-round draft pick Reggie Smith, No. 3, was also on the field for that play for the Sooners, though it's difficult to pick him out.)
Rabb is well aware that there are a couple Oklahoma defensive backs on the 49ers. I asked if he's had much of a chance to speak with Baker or Smith.
"Yeah, I've had little, short conversations - maybe a couple zingers," Rabb said, laughing. "They're really quick talks. I don't think they like talking about that game."
Rabb (6-2, 198) signed with the 49ers' practice squad on Dec. 18 after the Cowboys released him in August. The Cowboys signed Rabb as an undrafted free agent. Rabb is playing the X - or split-end position - with the 49ers.
Rabb transferred to Boise State from Saddleback Community College in Mission Viejo. His QB at Saddleback was Colt Brennan. As a sophomore, Rabb was named Mission Conference offensive player of the year after catching 83 passes for 1,368 yards and 15 touchdowns.
Instant 49ers: Last year you were on the practice squad for a couple weeks. What's the difference between the practice squad and what you've experienced so far this offseason?
Rabb: Mike Martz is incorporating a new system and it's a lot more detail-oriented than being on the practice squad. You're pretty much reading from a card so you know what to do for the practice squad. Now, we have to think about what we're doing, where we're lining up, and what we're going to do if the defense does certain things. It's learning the details, instead of going out and playing.
Instant 49ers: When you were on the practice squad, did you really study the 49ers' offense or were you focused on what the opponent for that week was doing?
Rabb: Yeah, I pretty much had to know what the opponent was doing. I would go to the offensive meetings, but they told me I might as well not even learn the (49ers') offense.
Instant 49ers: What's the biggest challenge facing you?
Rabb: The biggest challenge is getting a decent look - getting in there and getting a chance to show what I have. The key thing is when I do get in there, not making any mistakes. I feel pretty good. I've been in the playbook pretty hard, but I'm not getting a lot of reps right now. I try to take more mental reps than anything else. That way, I'm not behind when it comes to camp.
Instant 49ers: What from your Boise State experienced helped you out the most in making the transition to the NFL?
Rabb: In college, we had a detail-oriented offense, as well. It taught me discipline, as far as being where you're supposed to be when you're supposed to be there. That part, I'm kind of used to. But different coaches have different philosophies, so those are the things you have to get used to. Different words for the same things.
Instant 49ers: All the guys at X have never been in a Martz system, so can you really learn from the veterans at your position?
Rabb: I guess we're on pretty much equal footing. I guess B.J. (Bryant Johnson) has had a little bit of experience in this offense, so I've asked him some questions, but he's also trying to pick it up.
07-11-2008, 03:02 PM
Take 5 with 49ers TE Cooper Wallace
Tight end Cooper Wallace, like everyone in the 49ers locker room, was a standout at every level of football. He played at Auburn, where he became the school's all-time leading receiver among tight ends with 63 catches for 829 yards and four touchdowns.
Wallace (6-3, 259) was not drafted, but he signed with the Bears as a free agent in 2006. He was among the Bears' final cuts. He moved onto the Titans' practice squad in his hometown of Nashville. He played two games with the Titans in '06, but was released in September '07. He signed with the Bengals' practice squad in November, and finally hooked on with the 49ers. I asked him what it's like to get cut.
"It's tough. I went to a small high school I never got cut from any team I tried out for," Wallace said. "Then I went to college and was pretty successful. To come into the NFL, to have someone tell you you're done and you have to go home, it's tough at first. But it's part of the business and a part a lot of the public doesn't realize. It's a part you have to get used to, and you realize it's part of the game. Most of the people around the league have been cut multiple times. You have to find the right situation where you can fit in and contribute. Hopefully for me, that's here."
Instant 49ers: What's the biggest challenge you face with the 49ers?
Wallace: It's tough. I'm kind of down on the depth chart. I'm not going to get as many plays as I'd like, so I have to make the plays I get count. When I have the opportunity to do something, I have to jump on it. I don't have too much leeway. I have to make the most of what they let me do and make a good impression on the coaches and the GM and management. I need to let them know that I want to play here and be a 49er.
Instant 49ers: Do you ever think it might be best to give the CFL or Arena League a try to get a foothold?
Wallace: Honestly, no. I've played in a couple (NFL) games in my career, I fully believe I'm capable and good enough and there's a team that could use me and need me. I want to make it in the NFL. I've been close and missed a couple of opportunities maybe here and there. I have to stick with it and trust everything will work out.
Instant 49ers: What's difference here with the 49ers as opposed to the other places you've been?
Wallace: The biggest difference is the coaching and teaching of coach (Mike) Martz. I guess he's got one of the more intricate and detailed offenses that I've ever been around. I've been under three different offensive coordinators. I think coach Martz has some good stuff, and I've learned a lot just listening to him talk.
Instant 49ers: Is this something you could use in the future to be a coach?
Wallace: I don't know if I'd ever want to coach in the NFL or college, but I like being around kids. So maybe I could be a high school coach maybe later in life. I'd like to do camps. I'm sure at some time in my life I'll do some coaching or teaching or helping.
Instant 49ers: Is there anything from Nashville that you wish you could bring with you to California?
Wallace: It would have to be the Southern hospitality. I get in trouble all the time out here for saying, "Yes, ma'am,' and "No, ma'am," and "Yes, sir," and "No, sir." I have people all the time telling me I say that too much. That's just how I was raised. It's not that the people here are rude. It's a different culture. I'm just trying to get used to it.
07-11-2008, 03:23 PM
49ers Minicamp: Grant didn't mind when big brother was watching him
By Matthew Barrows - email@example.com
Last Updated 12:27 am PDT Sunday, May 4, 2008
Story appeared in SPORTS section, Page C3
SANTA CLARA – When Larry Grant left Sacramento as a high school sophomore to live with his older brother in Georgia, he thought he would have it easy.
There would be no more parents and grandparents nagging him about grades and schoolwork. He would have all the television he could watch.
Grant, however, quickly discovered that LeSean Woods, 12 years Grant's senior and with two sons of his own, had other plans for his little brother.
"I thought I was going to paradise. I thought I had it easy," Grant said. "But as soon as school started, he straightened me out real fast. He almost stopped me from playing in a football game one week. He scared me straight. He took my phone, took away the TV, took all the privileges I had. All I did was study."
Grant spent three years in Georgia before moving back to Sacramento for the end of his senior year and graduating from Foothill High School. Today he credits Woods with giving him the fatherly guidance he needed.
Said Grant: "If it wasn't for him, I wouldn't be in this position today."
So it was only natural that Grant wanted Woods next to him last Sunday during the NFL draft. A group of family and friends watched from Grant's grandmother's home in Rancho Cordova, and Grant admits that the group had grown numb by the time the seventh round began.
At 2 p.m. the phone rang, and Grant learned that the 49ers – Grant's favorite team – had selected him. The pin-quiet home in Rancho Cordova erupted.
"My brother's head almost hit the ceiling," Grant said. "And he isn't but 5-10."
Like a lot of the 49ers' rookie class, Grant is spending a lot of time watching the veterans during the team's current minicamp. When he does see action, he plays the so-called "ted" inside linebacker position, which calls for him to take on fullbacks and pulling offensive linemen.
Grant is competing with veterans Jeff Ulbrich and Dontarrious Thomas for the starting role. At 235 pounds, Grant is the smallest of the trio, but 49ers coaches insist that he showed enough of a rough-and-tumble style at Ohio State that convinced them he can win the job.
"It doesn't matter what stature you have as long as you have that six-inch punch," said defensive coordinator Greg Manusky of Grant's ability to shed blockers. Manusky noted that Randall Godfrey, who is similar in size to Grant, played the same position when Manusky coached the San Diego Chargers.
And so far, Grant says he has felt comfortable with the 49ers. Although he was listed as an outside linebacker at Ohio State, he has experience at all three of the Buckeyes' linebacker spots and has no reservations about playing in the middle.
"That's all right with me," he said. "I like getting dirty."
07-13-2008, 03:52 PM
Take 5 with 49ers LB Larry Grant
Linebacker Larry Grant, who signed a four-year deal with the 49ers on Friday, will continue competing for a starting job at the strong inside linebacker position (ted) when he reports to training camp later this month.
Veterans Jeff Ulbrich and Dontarrious Thomas are currently ahead of Grant on the depth chart. Although Grant is a long shot to win a starting job, the club believes he has a chance to earn his ticket on special teams. He blocked 12 punts in two seasons at City College of San Francisco, and three more during his two seasons at Ohio State.
I asked Grant what he wishes he could bring with him from Columbus, Ohio, to California. His answer: Raising Cane's, a restaurant with two locations in Columbus that specializes in chicken fingers. "It's quite addictive," he said.
Instant 49ers: You couldn't join the 49ers full-time until after the first week of OTAs. Was that rough?
Grant: Yeah, I couldn't be there. I had to finish up some classes that I was taking at Ohio State. I'll graduate next year in African-American studies. I have to take a couple more classes in the winter. I'm going back to Ohio in January. My mom is looking forward to me getting my degree. Nobody wants to upset mom.
Instant 49ers: Is the 'ted' position similar to what you've done in the past or is it a big learning experience?
Grant: The position is similar to what I've done in the past, but learning a new defense is a lot different. It seems all the linebackers work together. I've learned from basically everybody. I've learned from Pat (Willis), I've learned a lot from Jeff (Ulbrich). I've learned some things from Dontarrious (Thomas) and B-Moore (Brandon Moore). The whole linebacker corps helps everybody out with everything.
Instant 49ers: Did it take you long to mesh with that group?
Grant: It didn't take long at all. It's like a family here with the 49ers organization. We became brothers quickly.
Instant 49ers: What part of your college experience prepared you most for what you'll be facing with the 49ers?
Grant: Just being at Ohio State, they run their program a lot like the NFL programs. Being on the quarter system, camp is a lot different than at other schools. We're actually not in school for the first couple games so we're staying in hotels and doing all the things people do in the NFL to get everybody ready and keep focused as a team. Now that I've been here, I see where they do some of the same things.
Instant 49ers: What have you learned since coming to the 49ers?
Grant: A lot of these guys look young. I look around and think that we're all rookies. Everybody has young-looking faces even when they're 29 years old and been in the league. I'm surprised they've been in the league six, seven, eight years.
Posted July 13, 2008 1:23:21 PM
07-15-2008, 12:01 PM
Take 5 with 49ers WR Robert Jordan
The purpose of these "Take 5" pieces is to familiarize true 49ers fans with some of the players who will be wearing the team's colors for the first time this exhibition season. When the starters have checked out of the lineup, these are the players who will get their chances to show if they have what it takes to play at this level.
Today, we keep it local.
Receiver Robert Jordan set a Cal record with a pass reception in 41 consecutive games, but he did not receive an invitation to the scouting combine. Cal teammates DeSean Jackson and Lavelle Hawkins got most of the attention around the draft. Jackson was drafted in the second round (Eagles), while Hawkins was chosen in the fourth round (Titans).
Jordan never heard his name called. The 49ers signed Jordan as an undrafted free agent. He is lining up at the Z (flanker) and also in the slot in three-receiver sets to be utilize his 5-11, 172 size.
Jordan had a thrill at Cal's pro day in April when he met Jerry Rice, who was mentoring Jackson. "I shook his hand and told him I was honored to meet him," Jordan said of Rice.
Instant 49ers: What's the biggest challenge facing you with the 49ers?
Jordan: The playbook, by far. Getting in the playbook and figuring out what I'm doing and why I'm doing it. Everything else is falling into place, but the biggest challenge isn't the physical, it's the mental, and knowing my assignments.
Instant 49ers: Is learning Mike Martz's offense everything you thought it would be?
Jordan: I've been in a West Coast offense, coming from coach Jeff Tedford. It's real similar. I played the Z for three years at Cal. Being in a system at Cal and learning the West Coast offense and knowing what they're trying to get done, it's helped me here. A lot of the plays are identical to what coach Tedford did. It's just a different name and a different way to run it.
Instant 49ers: When you came to the local combine did you know the 49ers were interested?
Jordan: I had a couple calls before the draft was even over. Cleveland and the 49ers called. I talked to my agent. I'm a local, Bay Area guy. I feel I can make an impact on this team. I feel I can help this team, and keep my fan base in the Bay Area. From high school to college to the pros. That played a big part of me coming to the 49ers. I always liked this organization, and growing up Jerry Rice was my favorite receiver. What other team would I rather play for?
Instant 49ers: Growing up in the East Bay, you were more of a 49ers guy?
Jordan: I was born and raised Oakland. I just went to high school in Hayward. I was a Raiders fan growing up, but you can't go against Jerry, especially me playing receiver my whole life. I kept it hush around my family because they are Raiders.
Instant 49ers: What have you learned about the game in the few weeks you've been around the 49ers?
Jordan: Just study, study and get stronger. This is a grown man's game now. This is a big business. There are no more scholarships getting handed out. Nothing is guaranteed. One of the main things I've learned here is not to get comfortable. Just always take it one day at a time and go hard, and you can never get comfortable.
Posted July 15, 2008 7:43:58
07-16-2008, 03:04 PM
Take 5 with 49ers OG Jeb Terry
Before the 49ers drafted two offensive linemen . . . before the 49ers signed veteran free-agent Barry Sims . . . before the 49ers added those three players who are expected to make the final roster, they signed a player with 30 games of NFL experience to provide depth.
Originally a fifth-round draft pick of the Buccaneers in 2004, Jeb Terry (6-5, 320) has played 30 NFL games with one start at right guard. He was expected to be a valuable backup for the Bucs last season but reached an injury settlement after sustaining an injured ankle in the team's second exhibition game.
After signing with the 49ers on March 25, Terry played left guard during the club's first minicamp and then shifted to right guard during organized team activities.
Terry moved to right guard after Chilo Rachal switched to right tackle. Terry worked with the second team while Tony Wragge played with the first unit. Now that it appears Rachal will move back to right guard after the signing of Sims, Terry might return to seeing action at left guard behind Adam Snyder.
Instant 49ers: What has stood out about the 49ers in your brief time here?
Terry: Shoot, the weather. The weather out here is unbeatable. That's the first thing I noticed. I was fortunate enough to play with a good team for the early part of my career and I feel the guys in this locker room are great, also. There's good camaraderie out here and it's been great getting to know these guys and learning to play with them.
Instant 49ers: What's the biggest challenge you face in coming to a new team?
Terry: My biggest challenge right now is trying to knock the rust off from last year. After getting hurt and not playing for a while, that's my biggest thing - getting my reaction time and getting my eyes back into offensive line play. It's not gone, but it's taking a little longer than I'd like to get up to speed. That's my challenge. The next one is learning the offense, through and through, and all the different nuances and how they want us to read coverages and things of that nature. I'll just take it one step at a time.
Instant 49ers: Are there a lot of similarities between what you tried to do in Tampa as opposed to what the 49ers ask of their offensive linemen?
Terry: Oh, yeah. I had a great coach in Tampa (Bill Muir) who taught me a lot of great techniques, and coach (George) Warhop has some of his own, too. I'm trying to learn them and erase any bad habits I have. You know, offensive line play can be similar and it also can be different. Fortunately, it's not too different here. They have similar reads and techniques, and I'm just trying to learn any new ones that coach Warhop puts my way. I'll try to execute them as best as possible.
Instant 49ers: What's it been like meshing with the offensive linemen who are already here?
Terry: These guys have been great from Day 1 when I got here. They've been real accommodating and opened their doors to me. I've met their wives and families, and they've all been super.
Instant 49ers: (Terry grew up in Dallas and attended North Carolina, where he was a first-team All-ACC selection.) Anything from Texas or Chapel Hill that you wish you could bring with you to the Bay Area?
Terry: I wish I could bring the whole state of Texas with me, that's for sure. I'm getting used to the left coast. I've actually enjoyed it a lot. The weather, of course, you can't beat it. The traffic, I can do without. But I'm learning to like it a lot out here.
Posted July 16, 2008 7:07
07-16-2008, 06:12 PM
Goldson Running Towards Goals
July 15, 2008
Dashon Goldson is entering his second year in the National Football League, and after a productive off-season, the outlook is promising for the young 49ers safety. Goldson turned heads throughout mini camp and the OTA’s as the safety commonly came up with interceptions, broken up passes, strips or fumble recoveries.
“It’s fun to make plays out there, but I think I still need to get a lot better,” said Goldson. “I’m a hard person to be satisfied. I’m never satisfied by how many tackles or interceptions I get, or by how many people say I am doing a good job. I’m just not satisfied with my play.”
Downplaying his football accomplishments is standard procedure for the former Washington defender. Even when the 49ers used their second of three fourth-round draft picks in 2007 to grant him his long held dream of playing in the NFL, Goldson curbed his enthusiasm.
“When I got drafted, my mom and my siblings kept talking about how I didn’t show any emotion,” said Goldson. “Don’t get me wrong, I was real happy. But, the work wasn’t done. That’s an opportunity right there, that doesn’t mean anything. That was a foot in the door. I have to do the rest, and I don’t feel like I’ve accomplished anything yet.”
That’s not entirely true. Goldson’s penchant for being at the right place at the right time this off-season on those timely turnovers extended well beyond good luck. The second-year safety created his own opportune moments by his knowledge of the game, something he’s progressively learned to value over the years.
Since childhood Goldson had desperately desired to play in the NFL, and he understood that Division I football provided him the best platform to audition. Unfortunately the Carson, California born and raised and Narbonne High School standout didn’t possess the required grades. Instead,, he headed to the Midwest and enrolled at Coffeyville Community College in Kansas.
Away from home for the first time in his young life, Goldson opted to live alone, not wanting any distractions.
“I went there to take care of business, play football and go to school,” said Goldson. “I studied, got tutors, buckled down and didn’t let anything get in my way of getting my grades up. I had success with that, and so I stuck to that routine when I went to Washington.”
With his grades recovered, Goldson hoped for smooth sailing in his Division I career, but rough waters lay ahead with injuries besetting the defender.
He enjoyed 22 consecutive starts over his first two seasons, but missed time in the off-seasons due to surgery on first his left and then right shoulder, followed by a high ankle sprain that kept him out of the season opener in 2006.
The nagging ankle injury would also cause Goldson to forfeit practice almost his entire senior year, and without the luxury of physical reps, Goldson was forced to survive in his game day role of a converted safety to corner solely off his mental reps. Fortunately early on, Goldson's secondary coach at Washington, Phil Snow, had taken the junior college transfer under his wing and taught him how to break down film.
"He taught me how to watch film and study down and distance, where the ball is on the hash, wide receiver splits, personnel – everything,” said Goldson. “It became the most important thing for me my last year there. I was able to pick up on a lot of things from the film that made it so much easier when I did get onto the field.”
Still frustration would build up throughout the practice week, and on game days, he'd unleash his fury.
“My head was already messed up. I was thinking ‘How am I going to make it? How am I going to get this goal that I have to play in the NFL?’ So, I’d just go out there and I’d play my butt off every chance I got.”
So getting drafted was indeed golden, but Goldson didn’t have time to stop and smell the roses. After all, his goal wasn’t merely to make it to the NFL, but to play in it.
The rookie safety looked to be off to a good start, but in the second preseason game against the Raiders, he suffered an elbow injury while bringing down Oakland runner Justin Fargas.
Based on the replay and the pain level, Goldson feared the worst, and so did the 49ers. Thankfully, further tests revealed no tears and only a strained muscle and a sprained ligament, keeping alive his rookie season.
“I had to battle so many injuries getting to this level and I really thought it was going to be bad because of the way it felt,” said Goldson. “It was the best news for me that it wasn’t season ending, but still it was rough because I wanted to show everyone what I could do.
“I came in here and worked my butt off during the OTA’s and training camp, and I thought I was doing a good job of showing everybody what I had. After the injury I kind of took a step back because I wasn’t out there with the team, and I wasn’t able to play or finish out the preseason.”
Sidelined for four weeks, Goldson became secondary coach Johnnie Lynn’s best friend in the backfield during practices.
“I’d stay back deep with him and see everything from that standpoint and kind of shadow guys in my mind,” said Goldson. “I’d also talk to Coach on every play to see what he was seeing and things to watch for, and just doing what I could to get the most out of practice even when I wasn’t out there.”
Once recovered Goldson saw significant action on special teams where he notched ten tackles. Cracking the lineup as a rookie on an experienced secondary proved more difficult, but with injuries to Marcus Hudson and Shawntae Spencer in December, Goldson enjoyed extensive action in the team’s nickel and dime packages late in the season.
“There were a lot of plays I would like back, but I definitely learned from them,” said Goldson. “I’d like to think that if I knew then what I know now that I could have been a first-round pick. I really believe I’ve gained that much in this last year to make a big difference.”
Goldson also expects his full participation in the 49ers off-season program to make a difference. It’s the first off-season he’s had in several years where he’s even been healthy enough to take part in an entire off-season program.
“This has been big for me,” said Goldson. “I worked significantly on my lower body strength and on keeping my weight up, and once we hit the mini camp, I was just excited. I love playing football and I felt like it was really my chance to show what I could do after all of the hard work that I put in last year in the classroom, on the scout team, in games and then this off-season. I still think I can improve, but I wanted to show that I could play and execute the defense and hopefully I did that.”
His studies haven’t slacked off either, thanks to his favorite television station- the NFL Network.
“I go home every day after workouts and watch that station,” confessed Goldson. “I watch all of it – interviews, analysis, but mostly the games they show. I keep my eyes on the safeties and see what I can learn from them. I’ve really noticed how patient some of the safeties are. I tend to rush things, but I’ve watched some of the vets around the league and they really let things develop before they attack. That’s something I’m working on.”
As he's done since his time in Coffeyville, Goldson makes few allowances for distractions from football. He still lives alone, just a few minutes away from the facility, and although he spends time with his teammates and stops by to visit the staff over at his leasing office, the majority of his time is focused on football and family.
He traveled home to southern California most weekends this off-season, spending time with his parents and his two younger siblings.
“I really value my family above all. I talk to my mom every day. She won’t give me a chance to miss her. We are very close, and I always have to know all of the family news and what’s going on.”
Goldson tends to tell his mother everything going on his life too, although everything basically boils down to football. His updates home this past June probably included his opportunity to work with the first-team during the OTA’s as starter Mark Roman was recovering from shoulder surgery. It’s a role that Goldson looks to eventually secure permanently.
“I want to push for a starting role,” admitted Goldson. “I think any competitor would feel the same. Really though, I just want to go out there and help my team win. Winning is the most important thing, and hopefully I can be part of that.”
And although Goldson is dead serious about football and reaching his goals, every minute that it takes to achieve them is also seriously fun for this 49er.
“This is the place where I have my fun,” said Golson. “All of my friends were made on the football field. I don’t go out and meet people anywhere else. My friends are from football and I just have the best time being out there with the fellas. We clown each other, joke about everything, and have the best time making plays together out there.”
Given his intense dedication to his craft, more big plays like the ones he churned out this off-season appear to be on the horizon. And maybe then, he’ll crack a smile and take a moment to bask in his accomplishments.
07-20-2008, 07:15 PM
Take 5 with 49ers LB Dennis Haley
Linebacker Dennis Haley got his only chance in a late-season 2005 game while with the Ravens. With inside linebackers Ray Lewis and Mike Smith sidelined with injuries, Haley started against the Titans and registered 10 tackles and two passes defensed.
But when those players returned to action, Haley slid back into his role as a special-teams player.
Originally signed by the Jets as an undrafted free agent from Virginia in '05, he spent time on the practice squads of the Jets and Ravens. Haley played in 15 games with the Ravens from 2005 to '07. He does not have any practice-squad eligibility remaining.
Haley (6-1, 248) signed with the 49ers on Jan. 15. During the offseason program, he lined up at the "mike" linebacker spot behind Patrick Willis and Brandon Moore.
During his prep career at Salem (Va.) High, he played running back and linebacker. He rushed for 3,762 yards and scored 62 TDs, and earned all-state honors as a senior.
Instant 49ers: When you were a running back in high school did you think that would be your ticket to the NFL?
Haley: Oh, of course. Of course, in high school I thought I was an All-American running back. I got to college and came in at the University of Virginia under George Welsh, and he came up to me the first or second day I got there and he said, "Dennis, do you want to be in the NFL?" And I said, "Yes." And he said, "I think you should switch your position because you're a natural linebacker." I couldn't disagree with a Hall-of-Fame coach l like him.
Instant 49ers: Looking back on that, was that the correct decision?
Haley: Yes. I enjoyed learning how to play linebacker when I was in college. That is my natural position.
Instant 49ers: Are there many differences between the 49ers' and Ravens' schemes?
Haley: You know, not really. It's a good situation for me to come into because the terminology, the scheme and some of the things I was familiar with doing in Baltimore are the same things I'm doing here. So the learning curve for me is a little better than if I were going to a system where I had no idea what was going on. So I'm pretty happy with the situation of being here. The similarities are there. I was there with Aubrayo Franklin and Atiyyah Ellison and some of those guys. It's been real good having them here.
Instant 49ers: You're lining up at the "mike," but are you learning the other inside linebacker spot, too?
Haley: I'm learning all the linebacker positions so I can have familiarity to what everybody's doing. I need to know what they're doing to know when I have help and when I can use them. I'm coming to a new organization. There are some coaches here who know me -- Johnny Lynn was with me in Baltimore, the running backs coach (Tony Nathan) and offensive line coach (Chris Foerster). But I have to just come in here and showing everybody what I can do and let them know what kind of football player I can be.
Instant 49ers: You started the one game against the Titans where you had 10 tackles in 2005. Did that prove to you that you can have success in this league?
Haley: It did. It proved when the opportunity presents itself, whenever it is, you have to take advantage of it, and that was my one opportunity in Baltimore to take advantage of it. And you know what? I think I did I did a good job of doing it. When the next opportunity comes along, I have to go out there and do the exact same thing.
* * *
A postscript on the anecdote about reading R.W. McQuarters' contract information off the white board in Dwight Clark's office . . . the first thing I said to Dwight after seeing him on the practice field that night was, "Dwight, you should really close your blinds at night." I immediately let him know how I got the information, and we laughed about it. (My apologies that my actions 10 years ago were not as sinister as some wanted to believe.)
* * *
07-23-2008, 11:54 AM
Take 5 with 49ers OL Joe Toledo
Sadly, this is the final Take 5 before the start of training camp. The response to these pieces has been phenomenal, and I've received several inquiries about today's subject. Don't fret, people, today we conclude the series with offensive lineman Joe Toledo. (I didn't forget about him.)
The 49ers signed Toledo to a two-year contract on June 10 as a free agent.
He originally entered the NFL as a fourth-round pick of the Dolphins in 2006. A year ago, he was leading the competition to start for a starting job at guard for the Dolphins, but his progress was slowed by a knee injury in mid-August. He was eventually placed on injured reserve. In February, the new Dolphins regime released Toledo, and he signed with the Packers, who kept him on their roster until the first week of June.
With the 49ers, Toledo lined up at left tackle during the OTAs. When he came to the 49ers, he was asked to learn all the guard and tackle positions.
"The more you know the better off you're going to be at any position," Toledo said. "If you know what the guy is doing next to you, it'll help you out immensely."
Toledo (6-5, 330) is a very bright guy who earned a B.A. in law from Washington. His father lives in Los Angeles and is a member of the Secret Service. He helped protect Gerald Ford.
"I think he (Ford) golfed a lot, so it was pretty easy detail to be on," Toledo said. "My dad says he was a good guy to be around."
Toledo is eligible for the practice squad.
Instant 49ers: How did it end up that you came to the 49ers?
Toledo: It was the best-case scenario. It was a good fit. There is a good coaching staff here, a good group of guys and a great franchise. I'm just looking forward to the opportunity.
Instant 49ers: What happened in Miami from being in the starting mix to getting released?
Toledo: I got hurt. My rookie year and last year, I was competing for the left guard spot. Unfortunately, injuries slowed that down. They cleaned house down there. That's part of it. In the NFL, you know there's going to be constant change. So unfortunately, I wasn't in their plans. But luckily I got picked up here and have an opportunity.
Instant 49ers: What's the biggest challenge you face with the 49ers?
Toledo: Just getting comfortable with guys I'm playing next to. And knowing the offense and reacting instead of thinking too much. I just need to get in my playbook and know what's going on with all the different looks. That's the biggest thing with football is reacting -- knowing when it comes what to do.
Instant 49ers: Is there a lot of carryover from Cam Cameron's terminology to Mike Martz's?
Toledo: It's similar. It's similar but there are some different things to it. A lot in the NFL is the same stuff, but you just have to be able to switch that around quickly.
Instant 49ers: What are you long-term plans after football?
Toledo: Well, hopefully, I'll play football for five or six more years and go from there. I could possibly go back to law school. My dad is secret service agent, so it's either business or that. Economics didn't hold my attention too long.
* * *
Click here for Key Issues for 49ers Faithful from the pages of Wednesday's Press Democrat.
* * *
vBulletin® v3.7.0, Copyright ©2000-2013, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.