49ers Blog and Q&A

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

July 27, 2008
First fight .... and you'll never guess who was involved

I've been waiting for it to happen and today it finally did. Vernon Davis got into a training camp fight. Well, sort of. The play in question started when tight end Delanie Walker took in a short pass and headed upfield. Justin Smith was in hot pursuit and gave him a hard - too hard - shove in the back that sent him sprawling to the ground. This was during a non-contact practice where there's supposed to be no tackling. Naturally, the offensive players weren't too happy, particularly Davis who came running from across the field, helmet in hand, to confront Smith. "Don't --- push him down like that," Davis screamed several times. There was some shoving and several players jumped in to break things up, but overall it wasn't one of Davis' bigger donnybrooks.

It seems as if the 49ers dodged another injury bullet today when Michael Robinson went down in a heap after crashing into the back of Chilo Rachal on a running play. Robinson lay on the ground clutching his right knee for several minutes and practice had to be halted. Eventually, he was pulled to his feet, and he told me later in the locker room that he was fine. Yesterday, Damane Duckett went down hard with a knee injury. Today, however, he was walking around the locker room without a limp. He said trainers were waiting for the swelling to subside before clearing him for practice.

Remember what I wrote earlier this month about Jonas Jennings being a player favorite in the locker room? Well, today was a case in point. Jennings was the first player to run over and comfort Robinson as he was being attended to by trainers. In fact, Jennings typically is the first guy to show concern no matter who goes down in practice.

Shaun Hill was the "first string" quarterback this morning, and overall the QBs looked sharper than they had the last two days. I'm not breaking any new ground when I write this, but overall, Hill seems to be more content with quick, short passes while Alex Smith tends to hold the ball longer and throw more downfield. Today's practice repetitions in 11-on-11 drills followed that pattern.

- Quick pass over the middle to Delanie Walker. But Hill probably would have been sacked by a blitzing Shawntae Spencer on the play
- Pocket collapsed and Hill takes off and runs.
- Short crossing pattern to Walker
- Hot read to Zak Keasey, who drops the pass when he runs into a linebacker. The defense is starting to jump these hot reads

- Intermediate pass to Arnaz Battle over the middle. The ball is slightly behind Battle but he hauls it in with little effort.
- Swing pass to DeShaun Foster
- Twenty-yard pass to Bryant Johnson
- Short crossing pattern to Moran Norris falls at Norris' feet.

- Sideline pattern to Battle in front of Spencer. Battle gets feet in bounds.
- Quick pass over the middle to Frank Gore. Gore gets a hand on the ball but it falls incomplete.
- Hill pressured; throws ball 15 yards out of bounds
- Hot read to Robert Jordan.

- Intermediate crossing pattern to Robert Jordan. He may have fumbled after the catch but we'd need instant replay to be sure.
- Incomplete out pattern to Jordan that's nearly intercepted.
- A long sideline pattern to Josh Morgan is incomplete. Morgan has a step on Marcus Hudson but the ball hangs a bit and Hudson is able to bat it away.
- Broken play. Smith's short pass to Battle goes off Battle's hands.

I again paid close attention to the one-on-one blocking drills between the o- and d-lines. Rookie Cody Wallace has been absolutely manhandled in the first two days of training camp, but today he held his own against Walter Curry and later against Ronald Fields. He's learning.

On offense, the most impressive players have been Jennings, Barry Sims, Eric Heitmann, and in my humble opinion, Joe Toledo. Sims has had to move over to left tackle because both Joe Staley (bug bite) and Damane Duckett (knee) are down with injuries. Chilo Rachal looks like a typical rookie. He'll absolutely stonewall a defensive lineman on one play and whiff badly on the next. Still, he is more athletic than Tony Wragge, which makes right guard one of the more intriguing battles this summer.

On defense, I think Tully Banta-Cain has looked good, showing a nice blend of power and finesse. Kentwan Balmer shows flashes but spends too much time on the ground. D-line coach Jim Tomsula wants Balmer to harness his abundant energy. Right now there's a lot of flailing around. The other guy who looks good is Louis Holmes, who has been a handful for some of the offensive tackles.

Walt Harris had what is being a dubbed an "old man practice" this morning. That is, he mostly rested. Spencer filled in as the No. 2 cornerback. Isaac Bruce also went through an old man practice. Battle substituted for him.

Bryant Young has been hanging around the 49ers facility a lot, but that doesn't mean he's considering a comeback. "No Brett Favre," Young said today. "No, I'm done." But perhaps not with football. Young said he's interested in coaching and is trying to pick up as much as he can from the 49ers' staff. "That's why I'm here -- to take mental notes."

Young said he stood on the sideline of a 49ers practice the other day and felt no itch to join the session. That's when he knew he had made the right decision by retiring. And he's enjoying his retirement. "It was great to be able to go on vacation and not worry about what I ate, working out the next day or whether there's a gym around," he said.

Best quote of the day? From Barry Sims: "It's funny. I finally get out of Oakland and I still have to go up to Napa." The 49ers and Raiders are having an inter squad practice in Napa on August 4.

-- 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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