49ers Blog and Q&A

News, notes and reader questions about the San Francisco 49ers

May 4, 2008
Nolan pumps up O'Sullivan

Asked today to comment on the quarterback race between Alex Smith and Shaun Hill, Mike Nolan said only one thing was clear: “It’s a three-man race, not just a two-man.” That third man is J.T. O’Sullivan, who impressed Nolan during the three-day minicamp.

What also may have prompted the remark was that Nolan had just watched Hill and Smith bungle their way through a goal-line drill at the end of practice. Both quarterbacks had four chances – from the 20-, 15-,10- and 5-yard line – to get first downs or put the ball in the end zone. Working with the first-team offense, Hill threw three interceptions, all of them picked off by safety Michael Lewis. To be fair, two of Hill’s passes were bobbled by receivers. Smith wasn’t much better with the No. 2s. He threw one swing pass to Thomas Clayton, tucked the ball and ran on another play and then threw a pass that was tipped and picked off by Marcus Hudson. “At the end it got a little sloppy,” Nolan said. “That’s the urgency and the detail I was talking about (earlier) … You can’t have that.”

While Smith and Hill got all the work with first- and second-team offenses in team drills over the weekend, Nolan said O’Sullivan would be worked into the mix next month in OTAs. Nolan did warn, however, that the team would have to have a more concrete pecking order by training camp because there will not be enough repetitions for three starting-caliber quarterbacks.

Manny Lawson said it was hard watching the rest of his team practice this weekend, especially when he felt like he was 100 percent. Lawson was held out of the minicamp by team trainers, who wanted to give his surgically repaired knee (ACL) another month to recover. While recovering, Lawson has been experimenting with his weight. He got up to 250-plus pounds earlier in the offseason to see how he could carry the extra weight. He’s now down to 242 and said there was little difference in his speed and fluidity. He said he plans to get into the 250-pound range again by the start of the season.

Speaking of weight, Frank Gore looks noticeably bigger. He said he weighed about 224 pounds, which is 12 pounds heavier than his playing weight. But it’s no concern to him. Between now and OTAs, Gore plans to return to Maimi and begin his hill-running regimen (Gore+rope+truck tire+steep hill) that will knock him down to his playing weight.

And speaking more about weight, while I was interviewing Lawson, I felt a hand on my shoulder and heard a voice say, “Roly poly coming through!” Of course, it was Tully Banta-Cain, who was not happy when I described him as “roly poly” in a story last year. It was appropriate timing considering that moments earlier, Nolan had been saying that Banta-Cain looked slimmer than he did last offseason. “Tully is in much better shape and I think he knew at the end of the season he had to be in much better shape,” Nolan said.

It looks like the 49ers escaped their first minicamp without any serious injuries. Cornerback Donald Strickland missed today’s practice because he was sick.

-- Matt Barrows


Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.


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