Antonio Bryant is on Mike Nolan's mind. The coach told me today that he's been thinking about Bryant at least once a week for the last four weeks. And why not? The 49ers need a big, powerful receiver who can stretch the field and Bryant fits that description to a T. He's also familiar with the offense and could step in right away. The problem with Antonio Bryant is that he's Antonio Bryant - headstrong, outspoken, volcanic, a tempest in football cleats. When Nolan cut ties with him this winter, he told Bryant that their paths could cross again and that Bryant could even play for Nolan at some point in the future. But Bryant would have to change to make that happen.
Has Bryant changed? Nolan is not convinced, or else he would have brought him back. Bryant has served his two-game suspension relating to last year's wild ride in San Mateo County, and he has worked out for a couple of teams. But no one, including Nolan, is ready to take a leap of faith with him.
"There's a reason I did what I did," Nolan said. "And that won't change unless he changes. But I'm fond of the guy. I really am. I know he's got some demons like all of us do."
Instead of Bryant, the team signed LeRon McCoy, a receiver who looked good to Nolan when McCoy was with the Cardinals two years ago. Asked today if he could still run a 4.4-second 40-yard dash, McCoy smiled and said "Aw, that was a long time ago." McCoy said he weighed about 195 pounds when he ran at the scouting combine in 2005. Nowadays he's about 215 pounds ... and slightly slower.
Alex Smith spent practice tossing the ball to Vernon Davis and to fellow quarterback Shaun Hill. And maybe "tossing" isn't the right word. Some of the throws had nice zip on them. Nolan estimated that Smith would be questionable for the Giants game on Oct. 21.
-- Matt Barrows