The 49ers officially signed defensive lineman Sam Rayburn today and welcomed the 303-pounder by giving him one of the ugliest numbers available - 61.
"That's just temporary I hope," said Rayburn, who wore No. 91, currently taken by rookie Ray McDonald, while with the Philadelphia Eagles.
But No. 61 seems rather appropriate for a blue-collar player who has built his career on grunt work. His nickname with the Eagles, after all, was "Truck Driver."
An undrafted free agent out of Tulsa, Rayburn played defensive tackle in the Eagles' 4-3 scheme but will mostly be used as a left defensive end in the 49ers' 3-4. Rayburn said he had never played a 3-4, but after mostly watching today's practice, he said his role won't be terribly different than what he did in Philadelphia.
"It didn't seem like it will be too difficult," he said before depositing a wad of chewing tobacco on the ground. "It's just one spot over."
* Running back Frank Gore tweaked his hamstring early in practice and was held out for the rest of the session. The team's leading rusher from a year ago walked off the practice field with a slight limp, but the injury is not believed to be serious. Michael Robinson, Maurice Hicks and rookie Thomas Clayton divided the carries in Gore's absence.
* Mike Nolan didn't mince words about his desire to see Ashley Lelie return to the practice field. Since being signed as a free-agent, the lanky receiver has missed all but a handful of practice plays with a strained quadriceps. "I guess we'll have to wait until training camp, but I'd like to see him get out here and do something," Nolan said.
* Safety Keith Lewis picked off an Alex Smith pass in the back of the end zone while another safety, rookie Dashon Goldson, made a nice break on the ball on an interception of Trent Dilfer.
* Rookie cornerback Tarrel Brown had a rough introduction to punt-return duties, dropping several attempts. Brandon Williams and Arnaz Battle appear to be the top candidates for the job.
- Matthew Barrows