When you walk through the doors at 49ers' headquarters here in Santa Clara, the first thing that meets your eyes are the five gleaming Super Bowl trophies in a glass showcase on the back wall. I never covered the 49ers when Bill Walsh worked for the team - as coach, general manager and consultant - but it's clear as soon as you step on the property that this is the team that Walsh built.
The trophy cases, the plaques, the photographs on the wall - the 49ers glory days that have been captured in one way or another - all begin with Walsh taking over the rag-tag 49ers in 1979. None of the players on the current team every played for Walsh and few of them ever met him. But everyone in the building knows that Walsh is what the organization always will be shooting for.
It bears mentioning that Walsh took over a 2-14 team in 1979. Three years later, he was being carried off the field as a Super Bowl Champion. The current regime also inherited a 2-14 squad. Will history repeat itself? It seems absurd to think it can happen so quickly, but Bill Walsh made it seem possible.
There's no easy segue from the passing of an iconic coach but I'm sure readers also are interested in how the current squad faired today ....
Veteran guard Larry Allen not only showed up as promised Monday morning, he showed looking quite svelte (for Allen at least). Allen says he's been working out extensively at his home gym in Danville and is right at his target playing weight of 340 pounds. He seemed much bigger at this point last season. But is he in football shape after missing all the team's spring practices?
"We'll find out today," he said. "And we'll see where I'm at."
As is the case will fellow long-time veterans Bryant Young and Walt Harris, Allen only will practice once a day and will alternate between afternoon and morning practices. Asked if he is contemplating retirement, the future hall of famer said no.
"I'm just taking it year by year," he said. "I'll see how I feel after the season."
The 49ers were in full pads for the first time this year and early in the practice went through a rousing Oklahoma drill. I'm not sure I've ever seen a defensive lineman pancake on offensive lineman several yards behind the line of scrimmage, but that what happened when nose tackle Isaac Sopoaga lined up opposite center Nick Steitz. Steitz flew backward like he had been hit by a bazooka.
One of the other highlights was linebacker Parys Haralson's battle with tight end Delanie Walker. Haralson got the better of Walker in their first showdown, easily getting shedding Walker's block to make a big hit on running back Thomas Clayton. Round 2, however, went to Walker, which led to quite a bit of jawing from the offensive players, Vernon Davis in particular.
The rough and tumble practice also claimed some victims. Running back Frank Gore (hand), defensive end Ray McDonald (finger) and offensive lineman Sean Estrada (knee) all got nicked and left practice. I will write again if Gore's injury turns out to be anything but minor.
The player who bore the brunt of practice was rookie running back Clayton, who got the lion's share of carries during the "live" scrimmage in which tackling was permitted. Clayton also got an earful from animated running back's coach Bishop Harris for not hitting the line of scrimmage hard enough.
-- Matthew Barrows