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

July 31, 2008
Nolan: O'Sullivan is back in the mix

That two-man quarterback race you've been reading about for a week? It's back to a three-man competition. For the second straight day, Shaun Hill gave way to J.T. O'Sullivan while Hill was told to rest his sore throwing arm. As was the case yesterday morning, O'Sullivan took what would have been Hill's first-team repetitions, leaving Alex Smith to run the second team. If you're a bit confused, so are the we. On the opening day of camp, when Mike Nolan explained how the quarterback rotation would work, he was asked whether the competition was a two-man race.

"I think it's fair to say that," he said, "but like I said, J.T. O'Sullivan has to stay ready. I want him to get enough work that he can stay in tune with his skills and compete if he has to. But right now, from a repetition standpoint, there's no way of getting around that two guys are going to take more of the reps. And it's probably going to stay that way for a while."

Today, the message from Nolan was slightly different. "As I've said all along, we've got three quarterbacks battling for the position. Alright? Three guys."

Q: Three guys going for the starting job?

"I think that's what I said last spring. He's been in it all along. We did say that it would be difficult to get repetitions for the third guy. And now that he's getting some repetitions were' doing it in a fashion that keeps it, I guess you could say, in all fairness if he's going to replace somebody's reps, he'll take those reps. But as I said in the spring, and I will continue to say it, it's a battle between three guys."

Nolan also was asked whether Hill's fatigued arm would be considered when coaches finally decide on a starter. "Not really," he said. "It's production. Whoever gives us the best chance to win is the guy."

O'Sullivan looked good in practice. He ran the first-team offense during a goal-line session and then again during team drills. He really stood out during seven-on-seven drills when he hit Arnaz Battle on a perfectly placed bomb down the right sideline. O'Sullivan's arm, of course, is more fresh than Hill's or Smith's, and he's got a nice, quick release. Asked about O'Sullivan, Nolan said he could tell that he's tough, competitive and resilient. "Now, can he play quarterback? That would be great." Nolan also agreed that despite his scant work with the first-team offense, O'Sullivan probably was more familiar with Mike Martz's system than Hill or Smith. O'Sullivan, of course, played for martz last year in Detroit.

Hill, meanwhile, said he thought he'd be back throwing tomorrow. He said he did not voluntarily remove himself from yesterday's team practice. "You get tired from time to time," he said. "I guess it was noticeable and rest was what was prescribed." He said he's thrown more passes in this training camp than he has in any other. Still, he said his arm didn't hurt. "I guess it was just noticeably tired," he said.

O'Sullivan was 8 of 10 during team drills, including a nice 18-yarder to Jason Hill while under pressure. Smith was 4 of 6 passes while working with the second team.

O'Sullivan stood behind what might be the team's opening day offensive line. With Joe Staley back in the lineup at left tackle, the line looked like this from left to right: Staley, Adam Snyder, Eric Heitmann and Jonas Jennings. The biggest question mark is at right guard where Chilo Rachal could push Wragge for playing time. At this point, Wragge is more consistent than the rookie but Rachal is far more athletic. Another factor: When will incumbent right guard David Baas return from his torn pectoral muscle?

Zak Keasey was the first-team fullback during goal-line drills. If Moran Norris has a niche, you would think it would be in short-yardage situations. Still, Norris worked solely with the second-team offense during the session.

Tackle Damane Duckett also returned from a sprain knee. He took part in individual drills but not team drills. But just as two linemen returned, two others went down. Jeb Terry could miss a week with a foot injury. Joe Toledo, meanwhile, was banged up during a one-on-one blocking drill against Tully Banta-Cain.

Winners and losers during today's one-on-one battles:

Looked good:
- Jonas Jennings. He manhandled Parys Haralson during their two matchups.
- Joe Staley. He showed no rust from his six-day absence, getting the better of Tully Banta-Cain andLouis Holmes
- Adam Snyder. He's had his hands full with Justin Smith all week. Today he had an answer for Smith's inside rush.

Not so good:
- Joe Toledo. He was beaten twice by Banta-Cain and suffered an injury during the second match-up. There's been no report about the severity as of yet.

-- 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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