Delanie Walker may not be as fast as Vernon Davis. He might not be as strong as Vernon Davis. The one thing he does have, however, is Davis' world class self confidence. Walker, a wide receiver turned tight end, assured the media today that he will be a more-than-adequate replacement for Davis in the passing game this week. Davis is recovering from a knee injury and will miss the next two games.
"I'm always open when I run my routes," Walker stated with Davis-esque bravado.
Walker said he is the best receiver out of the 49ers' tight-end trio. Would Davis take exception to that?
"He'll probably agree," Walker said. "He knows I run better routes."
Walker may be onto something. No one will argue that Walker is a better player than Davis, who is probably the fastest man on the roster and one of the most powerful. But if Davis has a shortcoming, it's as a pass catcher. I'm not saying he's a bad pass catcher. He's just not refined yet. He's not great at catching the ball in traffic - something a tight end must be able to do - and as Walker alluded, Davis' pass routes still need work.
Walker, meanwhile, is an excellent pass catcher (although he did have a rather high and hard pass ricochet off his hands on Sunday). He played 20 games at receiver - about a season and a half -- at Central Missouri State and finished with 113 receptions and 1,347 receiving yards.
"He was a college wide receiver, and therefore the strength of his game is (pass catching)," Mike Nolan said of Walker. "But as you notice, we use him as fullback, we use him as tight end. He wears a lot of hats. He's done an outstanding job to be honest with you. From a second-year player standpoint, a guy that's from a small school, and had been a wide receiver - to come in and all of a sudden be a tight end and a fullback at the NFL level .... That's quite an accomplishment. He has not reached his potential, but I'm glad he's with us."
There was a nice moment in the Dallas area on Wednesday. Four of Dick Nolan's former players -- Len Rohde, Dave Wilcox, Jimmy Johnson and Ed Beard - paid a visit to their one-time coach. Nolan, who suffers from Alzheimer's disease, lives in an assisted living center near his wife, Ann, in Trophy Club, Texas. Mike Nolan said he spoke to his younger brother, Jimmy, about the visit and said that Jimmy choked up when describing Dick Nolan's reaction.
"He just lit up when he saw them," Mike Nolan said. "I thought that was kind of neat."
The quartet of former 49ers, three of whom live on the West coast, flew to Texas on Tuesday and spent three or four hours with Nolan. The coach is in the advanced stages of his disease, but Ann has said that many of the memories he has retained are football memories.
"That was a big part of his life," Mike Nolan said. "I'm sure he got a lot of his identity from that."
In fact, when the four arrived in his room, they asked Nolan if they remembered them. His reaction: "Heck yeah, I remember you."
Jonas Jennings (leg), Tarell Brown (hamstring) and Jason Hill (hamstring) did not practice. Jennings should be back tomorrow. Mark Roman (elbow) returned to practice after missing Monday's session.
Have a copy of "Goodnight Moon" collecting dust on the bookshelf? No one reading "James and the Giant Peach" anymore? Then bring them to Sunday's game, where volunteers from the Children's Book Project will be on hand at every gate to collect donations. Fans can donate new and "gently used" children's books three hours before the game until kickoff.
-- Matt Barrows