Question: Matt, your training camp reports are top notch. I can't get this kind of coverage anywhere else. I had one question though. You mention in almost every blog that Vernon Davis gets into shouting matches with players. Is his attitude more of a motivated confidence or just cockiness? What does the team think of this? Do they like his lively antics or is he just a TO in training? Please let me know because I really like him as a player.
Corey, El Dorado Hills
Answer: Well, at least one player - Larry Allen - doesn't care for Davis' lively antics. However, I asked half dozen players on the defense last week what they thought of all his jawing, and to a man they said it merely made practices more competitive, more interesting. There doesn't seem to be any animosity toward Davis in the locker room, but I have to believe that his dust-up with Allen didn't win him any friends. Allen is a very quiet guy who never says more than three or four words at a time. But the players love and respect him. That he took Davis to task should be a signal to Davis that he needs to tone it down a bit. You asked if Davis is a TO in training. They both are very impressed with themselves and they both have no peer on the practice field. One difference, however, is that no one ever stood up to Owens, put him in his place. Maybe Allen did Davis a favor during Saturday's scrimmage.
Question: Matt, you rock. I just discovered your blog and will now read it religiously. This is the best coverage anywhere on the web. I should have known, I lived SAC during the 80's and 90's and the Bee always had excellent Niners coverage. I'm really stoked, been a fan since 1970, and this year I have season tickets for the first time. I'm worried Gore could be vulnerable to injury or "camp bruises" he'd already have been over once coming back. What do you think?
Russell, San Diego
Answer: I have those fears, too. I've always said the 49ers should freeze Bryant Young in carbonite a la Han Solo in "Empire Strikes Back" and then thaw him out a week before the season opener. You always hear that football is a rough and violent game, but you really can't appreciate it until you see a gaggle of huge, fast men coming at you on the sideline. (Which is almost a daily occurrence for me). As for Gore, maybe you can look at his recent hand injury as a blessing in disguise. The 49ers weren't going to run him hard in the preseason anyway. Now he is assured to be fresh on Sept. 10.
-- Matt Barrows
Question: Matt, I didn't do a good job of asking my question a day or two ago. When I suggested naming the field "Bill Walsh Field", I actually meant the field in the stadium. The stadium can still have a corporate name. Do you feel that is a possibility? Maybe you can mention it to the Yorks when you see them?
Answer: Ah, that might be a good compromise. I'll bounce it off Jed York the next time I see him.
Question: Hey Matt, I was wondering how Marcus Maxwell looks now that he's playing against NFL DB's and not "Europa" DB's? Is the fact that I'm reading more about Jacobs, Hill and Gilmore making plays a telltale sign?
Answer: That fact that you're hearing about Jacobs and Gilmore is a function of them getting a lot of reps with the first-team offense. Maxwell has been going against the twos and threes (mostly the threes). It's not that he's doing poorly. It's that he's still stuck at the bottom of the depth chart. Maybe the 49ers' coaches weren't as impressed with Maxwell's Europa numbers as the rest of us were.
-- Matt Barrows
Question: Hi Matt, thanks for covering the 49ers training camp so thoroughly! I'm really intrigued by the Thomas Clayton vs. Michael Robinson battle of the backups. The key with Clayton seems to be whether he's coachable with all his raw talent. Does he seem to be improving and carrying a good attitude with him as camp progresses? If you had to guess now, who would you pick as Gore's primary backup, or do you think Nolan will bring in another guy as a serious contender for the position?
Elie, Pittsburgh, Pa.
Answer: Hi, Elie - how can you be a 49ers fan and live in Pittsburgh? Do you have to hide in the basement on Sundays? As far as Clayton, he definitely has been the whipping boy early in camp. Part of that is because of his position on the team - late-round draft pick who, as a back-up rb, must shoulder a lot of the practice load. Part of it has to do with his reputation. Coaches are well aware that he had a rather high opinion of himself in college and they might be testing him to see how he reacts to adversity. They yell at him all the time and don't seem to scold defenders when they knock him to the grass. I can report, however, that Clayton has reacted to this in a very mature way. He simply gets up and finishes his run - no complaining. He also is hitting the hole harder than he did earlier in the week. As for Gore's primary backup, my guess is that it will be Michael Robinson.
Question: Matt, Why didn't the 49ers make a bigger deal about the signing of their first round draft choice Pat Willis? I saw the announcement on ESPN but very little in the Bee or the Bay Area papers? Also, I thought the Len Eshmont Award went to the most inspirational and courageous player each year? This award has been very traditional with the NINERS AS LONG AS I CAN REMEMBER. I believe BY has been awarded this honor 4 or 5 time by his teammates in recent years.
Answer: Well, Willis was signed close to midnight the night before the first training-camp practice. That was too late for the paper. We did have a story on-line, however. As for the Len Eshmont award, I believe you're asking because I wrote about the Matt Hazeltine award last week. They are both given for "inspiration and courage" but the Hazeltine award is given to a defensive player. You're right in that the Eshmont Award is considered the 49ers' most prestigious award. Bryant Young has won it seven times.
-- Matt Barrows
Question: How is Darnell Bing looking in training camp? Any word yet? I watched him since high school and hopefully he'll get a shot to prove his skills as a safety.
Greg, Long Beach
Answer: Mmmm, he hasn't gotten a lot of playing time and is working with the third-team unit alongside Vickiel Vaughn, a seventh-round pick in 2006. With Mark Roman, Keith Lewis, Michael Lewis and Dashon Goldson ahead of him on the depth chart, I'd have to consider Bing a very long shot to make the team.
Question: Matt - it appears the Niners have a chance to make a good trade with their buddy Norv down in San Diego. With Eric Parker being sidelined for half the year, it seems a team like the Chargers, who are Super Bowl caliber, would want to get another quality WR in camp. We have a good surplus (and Norv is familiar with them all) of WR's who know his offense - Gilmore, Williams, Maxwell, Jacobs. It seems we could get a 5th or 6th round. pick, or a player, for someone we will cut before the season anyway, right?
Answer: Wow - you and I are on the same wavelength, Lebowski. I was having similar thoughts the other day, especially after Mike Nolan said he thought the team would keep just five receivers. The 49ers, however, want to make sure they don't trade one of their top five. I think they'll want to evaluate a little longer - maybe through at least one preseason game - before making a trade.
Question: Hey Matt, who's the frontrunner for kick returner and punt returner right now? And I know Lelie is fast. You think he'll mix it up?
Answer: This is going to sound boring, but Brandon Williams at punt returner and Mo Hicks at kick returner. That is, the same as last year. Taylor Jacobs also is getting a look at punt returner, but it's hard to believe Nolan will award such a difficult job to someone who's never done it in the NFL before. I don't remember Lelie returning any kickoffs - Williams has been doing a little - but it's not out of the question.
-- Matt Barrows