49ers Blog and Q&A

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

July 28, 2008
49ers conclude first padded practice of training camp

Alex Smith was the "starting" quarterback in the morning practice, the first session the 49ers have had in full pads. There was no live tackling - Mike Nolan only lets the No. 3 teams do that - but there was more contact and a few frayed tempers, although no fisticuffs.

I thought Smith threw perhaps the best pass that anyone has thrown in training camp so far when he hit Bryant Johnson on a deep sideline pattern. The real obstacle was getting the pass over Manny Lawson who had inside coverage on the play. Some of you might remember Lawson's interception of Marc Bulger in St. Louis two years ago. This was precisely the same play, only Smith snuck the ball in perfectly. I asked Smith about it later and he said, "To be honest, you tend to remember the bad ones." Smith said he thought he didn't do very well with seam routes today.

Still no verdict on Michael Robinson's knee injury. The running back went down clutching his right knee yesterday when he ran into the back of Chilo Rachal. He later said he was fine. The team is still awaiting the result of an MRI and Mike Nolan said that Robinson might be scoped, which doesn't sound good. Ashley Lelie also received an MRI this morning on his injured calf. Nolan said Lelie could be out from anywhere from a few days to a week. Walt Harris and Isaac Bruce had an old man practice.

Some linebacker shuffling ... When asked to sum up the "Ted" linebacker competition so far, Nolan said, "I wish I could sum it up," which is to say, it's still up in the air. If the season began today, Jeff Ulbrich would be the starter, Nolan said. But he said Brandon Moore, Dontarrious Thomas and Larry Grant also are competing. Of that group, Thomas was the one who stood out in today's padded practice. There was no tackling, but he did get a few good "chucks" on the running backs

... Some of you have asked about Jay Moore. I have to say he hasn't jumped out thus far, and there's a reason for that. "He's a rookie," Nolan said. "He didn't get to play last year. ... He's farther along than a true rookie but he didn't get to play." ... Nolan said that Parys Haralson has been playing behind Lawson at "Sam" outside backer.

I'm going to start breaking down the one-on-one blocking drills between the o-line and d-line by designating who looked good and who didn't.


1. Kentwan Balmer. He's very active, always moving; He burst into the backfield several times today.
2. Justin Smith. He uses his hands well, slapping away the offensive lineman's mitts and then getting a step.
3. Brian De La Puente. The rookie guard won his battles against Atiyyah Ellison and Walter Curry.

Not so good
1. Ellison. Getting beat by an undrafted free agent guard (De La Puente) is bad. Getting beat by an international player (Ramiro Pruneda) is worse.
2. Cody Wallace. Susceptible to the bull rush.
3. Adam Snyder. He keeps getting beaten by the inside move.

Here's how the 11-on-11 drill went down:

- Leads Frank Gore too far and the RB drops the pass
- With a stiff rush, Smith fires a quick pass to Delanie Walker
- Downfield throw to Walker is too high and is picked off by Patrick Willis (nice one-handed grab).
- Short pass is at Zak Keasey's feet and falls incomplete.

- Quick pass over the middle to DeShaun Foster
- Deep middle too high for Billy Bajema
- Short pass complete to Bajema
- Hill's downfield pass to Josh Morgan is tipped by Atiyyah Ellison, who dropped into coverage, tipped again by Jay Moore and nearly intercepted by - who else - Dashon Goldson

- Quick out to Frank Gore
- Nicely thrown slant to Jason Hill
- Great pass to Bryant Johnson. (see above).
- Trips while dropping back. Center steps on his foot.
- Hot read over the middle to Johnson.

- Short completion to Jerard Rabb
- Quick pass to Arnaz Battle is slightly behind the receiver and incomplete.
- Deep sideline pass to Morgan is just out of reach
- Deep pass to Morgan broken up by rookie CB Reggie Smith. Probably got there too early.

I spoke for a while with No. 4 quarterback Kyle Wright who, as you might expect, has a monumental task in learning Mike Martz's playbook on the fly. Wright said it was "a surprise, a big surprise" when Minnesota cut him earlier this summer. He said the Vikings, Raiders and 49ers all were trying to sign him after the draft.

-- 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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