If you have tickets to the 49ers' afternoon practice today ... well, you're not going to like this: Mike Nolan has decided to cancel the afternoon session. Here's his quote:
"We decided that we would not go through practice this afternoon. We have had great tempo in the first five shell practices. Our players are practicing in a padded tempo mode. We will be in pads tomorrow. Training camp has a lot of objectives to accomplish. Taking care of our players is one of them."
Players will sign autographs for the 3,000 or so fans expected to be on hand later today. They also will hold their regular meeting schedule this evening.
The fans waiting in line in front of the team facility were disappointed that the session was cancelled but seemed to take the news in stride. "I wanted him to watch the big boys," said Michelle Flores of San Jose, pointing to seven-year-old son, Joseph. "He wants to be a pro."
Eight practices this summer are open to the public. Fans have had to obtain the tickets on-line, but they are free. A team spokesman said fans who had tickets for today's afternoon session could use those tickets to attend another open practice.
Nolan obviously is concerned with keeping his players fresh. And although the team has avoided serious injuries in the first three days, there have been a couple of close calls involving tackle Damane Duckett (knee) and running back Michael Robinson (knee). Perhaps Nolan doesn't want to push his luck. Robinson had an MRI on his knee, but the results won't be in until tomorrow.
In lieu of a practice, the team has set up autograph tables for every player. Judging from the lines in front of the tables, it's safe to say that the two most popular 49ers are Patrick Willis and Vernon Davis. (Or maybe they were lining up for David Baas, who was sharing Davis' table). As for the quarterback battle, the fans seem to be slightly fonder of Alex Smith. His table went about 25 autograph seekers deep. Hill's had one.
-- Matt Barrows