No one can every accuse Vernon Davis of being timid. The 49ers' tight end not only complained to the media Sunday about being underutilized, he also took the issue up with his head coach. Nolan said Davis both phoned him earlier this week and paid him a visit in his office.
"I admire the courage that it took to do it," Nolan said.
The conversation, of course, revolved around Davis' lack of production. After being the go-to guy for all of spring drills and training camp, the 49ers have thrown to Davis a grand total of four times over the last two games. Three of those passes have gone for four yards or less. Nolan's message to Davis: Keep working; don't lose focus; the offense - and your production - will increase in time.
"That will happen," Nolan said to Davis. "You certainly won't have to block every down."
Center Eric Heitmann, who didn't have the greatest game of his life Sunday, will sit out today's practice with an ankle injury. David Baas will work with the first-team offense instead. Asked if Baas could substitute for Heitmann in games, Nolan didn't rule it out: "As we go forward, we'll see how it goes."
Nolan acknowledged that all the questions about creativity - or lack thereof - probably would have gone away had the 49ers made one simple block on an end around against the Rams. The third-quarter play would have been a huge gain, perhaps a touchdown, if one of two linemen, Heitmann and Justin Smiley, had blocked cornerback Ron Bartell. They didn't and Bartell made the tackle for an eight-yard loss. "There were other plays in that game, not just that play," Nolan said.
Frank Gore won't be back from the Miami area until tonight. Jonas Jennings, Moran Norris and running backs coach Bishop Harris, all of whom attended the funeral for Gore's mother, flew back Tuesday night. Gore has several DVDs of the Steelers' defense and presumably will watch them on the plane ride home. Jennings said it seemed like the entire Coconut Grove community arrived for Liz Gore's service. "The church wasn't even really big enough," he said. He also said Gore, who was not one of the scheduled speakers, stood up and said a few impromtu words about his mother. "He just got up. It took strength. It just hit him."
Heitmann, Arnaz Battle (groin), Darrell Jackson (back) and Michael Lewis (ribs) won't practice today but are expected to be back in action tomorrow. Thirty-somethings Larry Allen, Walt Harris and Bryant Young also got the day off. Billy Bajema, who missed Sunday's ame with a bad ankle, went through a limited practice Wednesday. Linebacker Manny Lawson suffered a knee spain in practice. The severity will be known tomorrow.
-- Matt Barrows