49ers Blog and Q&A

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

May 3, 2008
Roman has the radio

When the NFL decided to allow one defensive player per team to wear a radio receiver in his helmet a couple of months ago, the assumption was that linebacker Patrick Willis would wear it for the 49ers. It turns out, however, that the job – at least for now – will go to safety Mark Roman, who has been testing the system the past two days. “Yesterday it was a lot worse because they didn’t have the frequency right and there was a lot of static,” Roman said. Michael Lewis, Keith Lewis and Dashon Goldson also have tested out the system.

In the 49ers’ defense, the safeties call the personnel packages based on who is coming on the field for the offense. The real advantage of having the radio, Roman said, is making last-second adjustments. In the past, the defense would have to interpret hand signals from the sideline and then relay those changes to the players on the field. “Now we’re not going to have to be scrambling to know what the personnel (package) is,” Roman said.

Perhaps the only person in the NFL who didn’t think that Patrick Willis had a good rookie season is, well, Patrick Willis. “I go back and watch from the first game to the last game of the season and pick out play after play I could have done better,” Willis said after the morning practice. Willis said his objective was to improve with every practice and every game. If he improves on his 2007 performance, that ought to land him the league MVP award in 2008…

Mike Nolan said that the team’s rookies and undrafted free agents aren’t getting a lot of work in this minicamp because the first- and second- team offense and defense need the lion’s share of the work. The 49ers’ offense in particular is more complex than previous incarnations and the players need all the repetitions they can get to understand it. Nolan said the rookies would start seeing more action next month during OTAs. “Otherwise it’s a real sloppy practice and no one gets anything,” Nolan said. Exceptions to that rule have been DE Kentwan Balmer and G Chilo Rachal, who, as top picks, have been thrown into the mix. WR Josh Morgan also has seen plenty of action.

On Friday, Alex Smith said he has yet to uncork very many deep passes with his surgically reconstructed shoulder. On Saturday, however, he tossed a half dozen, 45- to 50-yard fly patterns, all of which seemed to be on the mark.

There were no fights this morning, although Vernon Davis and Tully Banta-Cain exchanged a few heated words. Also, Ronald Fields took exception to some hard blocking from rookie Cody Wallace and gave him a shot in the facemask. Afterward, Nolan joked that he was disappointed there weren’t any scrapes. (At least we think he was joking).

One of the nicest catches of the day was turned in by Isaac Bruce, who reached high for a sideline pass by Drew Olson and somehow tapped two toes in bounds. Judging from the personnel groups today, the top three receivers are Bruce, Bryant Johnson and Arnaz Battle. Ashley Lelie was part of the mix in four-receiver sets.

Former receiver P.J. Fleck was a guest at practice. Fleck is currently the wide receivers coach at his alma mater, Northern Illinois.

Battle (ankle) practiced during the morning session. LB Shaun Richardson was held out of practice.

Some of you may have noticed that I've been moonlighting as a puckhead. Read this to find out how the Sharks stayed alive last night and now are bidding to become the first team since 1975 to win a playoff series after being down 3-0.

-- 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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