Right guard wasn't going to be an intriguing 2008 training camp plot line until one afternoon in late April. That was when David Baas tore his right pectoral tendon while hoisting 335 pounds on the bench press. Baas, the 33rd overall pick in 2005, had had trouble getting on the field early in his career and seemed perennially stuck behind Justin Smiley on the depth chart. But Smiley had his own injury issues in 2007. Baas came in and played well enough last season that, with Smiley now in Miami, his name could safely be written down as the starting right guard to begin the season.
And while it's too early to erase his name, you probably shouldn't write it in pen. A few days after Baas was injured, the team spent a second-round draft pick on USC guard Chilo Rachal. Rachal played right guard (behind Tony Wragge) in minicamp and then was moved to the team's neediest o-line position, right tackle, during OTAs. Since then, the right tackle situation improved significantly with the signing of Barry Sims. Presumably, that means Rachal will move back to what is now the neediest position, right guard, in training camp, but no one has said for sure yet.
The questions, then, are when will Baas be back? And will his absence allow Rachal, assuming he's at right guard, to usurp the position? I'm told that Baas is progressing nicely from his injury. He's out of his sling and he's been able to do some light work in the weight room. He is expected to go on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list when players have their physicals next week. He likely will miss all of the preseason but the team expects him back for the regular season. Baas has the added concern of losing upper body strength while he is kept from fully working out in the weight room.
Obviously one of goals of training camp is to solidify a line that was shaken up in the offseason. On the opening day of training camp, every starter save Eric Heitmann will be in a new spot. Wragge, whom the team likes as a backup at both guard positions, probably will be the team's starting right guard when camp opens July 25. I think the key will be whether Rachal replaces him before the third preseason game. That seems to be the bewitching hour for Mike Nolan. Last year, he inserted Patrick Willis into the starting lineup before the third preseason game. This year, he said he'd like to pick a starting quarterback by the third preseason game. If Rachal is the starting right guard for the final two preseason games and develops chemistry with Jonas Jennings (or Sims) at right tackle, it might be hard for Baas to reclaim the starting job again.
The Takeo Spikes story is like a ship stuck in the doldrums - no movement. A handful of teams, including the 49ers, have made offers that the 31-year-old Spikes feels are too low. It seems that Spikes is going to wait it out, perhaps until the regular season, and hope that a linebacker-needy team grows desperate enough to meet his demands.
The 49ers right now are not desperate. They have one player, Jeff Ulbrich, who has proven he can play the position Spikes would play, and two other players - Dontarrious Thomas and Larry Grant - who have the potential to play it but are still learning. If one or more of those players gets hurt, of course, Spikes' demand might not seem so steep.
Ronnie Lott and some of his friends will be a hosting a Fantasy Football Draft Party at Bimbo's 365 Club in San Francisco on Friday. The event begins at 6:30 p.m. and all proceeds will benefit All Stars Helping Kids, which is Lott's charitable foundation.
Who are Lott's friends? The list includes Marcus Allen, Warren Moon, Michael Irvin, Charles Haley, Tim Brown, Brent Jones, Ted Hendricks, Nnamdi Asomugha and Darren McFadden. They will serve as team captains during the draft and participants will be assigned to one of the teams. The winners will receive a trip for four to the 2009 Pro Football Hall of Fame and a $20,000 donation to the charity of their choice. Irvin's team won last season.
The event is open to the public. VIP tickets are $1,000 and general admission is $250 - with all of the proceeds going to charity. All tickets include dinner and access to the silent auction items, including Emmitt Smith and Barry Sanders autographed jerseys. Tickets are available by calling All Stars Helping Kids at 650-363-1395 or by visiting allstarshelpingkids.org.
-- Matt Barrows