There has been a J.T. O'Sullivan sighting! O'Sullivan, who is a distant, distant third in the three-man quarterback battle, got his first-ever repetitions with the first-team offense this morning while Shaun Hill rested his sore throwing arm. Hill took the reps during the first round of 11-on-11 drills. O'Sullivan moved in during the second. Alex Smith ran the second-team offense throughout the practice. "He's been throwing a lot of balls and all and Mike (Martz) thought it would be better to ease off him a little bit," Mike Nolan said of Hill. Nolan said Smith didn't take control of the first-team offense because that would have been unfair to Hill.
O'Sullivan didn't stand out because the team mostly worked on running plays throughout the morning. The few passing plays were generally play-action, short throws designed to keep the defense honest during the session. Nolan said the entire team is beginning to feel the effects of two-a-day practices, and he said the tempo of the afternoon session will be slowed down, perhaps for the remainder of training camp. "We're getting good work in the morning. ... Our conditioning is good," he said.
It's never too early to start thinking about who will win the beatwriters' annual "good guy to interview" award. The early money might be on left tackle Joe Staley who held court for 10 minutes or so after practice. Staley, who until now has been out with an infected right foot, took part in individual drills and said he'll try to go full bore in tomorrow's padded practice.
The reason Staley could turn out be the media favorite is that he's not afraid to speak his mind. When we walked up to him, he and the rest of the offensive line were engaged in an animated "Obama v. McCain" debate. Staley then talked about his foot, which he said grew beet red over two days and swelled "like one of those blow-up gloves, those doctor's gloves." Staley said he didn't know what prompted the infection but said it could have been a cut that occurred when he stepped on a stick while walking on a Lake Michigan beach. (I used to live in Chicago. I can confirm there's nasty stuff in Lake Michigan. Search: Dave Matthews Band + bus + Chicago River).
The conversation ended with a discussion of Staley's Karaoke prowess. Staley says he's certain he's the best singer on the team and isn't shy about showing off his voice. During a recent excursion, he tapped Alex Smith's fiancee, Elizabeth Barry, for a duet of "A Whole New World." "I'm a big fan of Disney movies. So naturally I knew every word," Staley said. He also belted out Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Simple Man" and "Hero" by Inrique Iglesias. The man has range ...
Speaking of Smith ... he seemed to struggle a bit with the short passes in team drills. His long passes, however, looked better. He hit Josh Morgan on a deep pass down the left sideline that just went over safety D.J. Parker's head. Parker made amends on the next play, however, when he batted down Smith's long pass on the opposite sideline.
The defense mostly practiced in their "Big Sub" alignment. In it, the team has four down linemen (Justin Smith, Aubrayo Franklin, Isaac Sopoaga and Ray McDonald), two linebackers (Patrick Willis and Jeff Ulbrich) and five DBs, which today were Nate Clements, Shawntae Spencer, Michael Lewis, Dashon Goldson and Donald Strickland. Walt Harris and Mark Roman did not practice.
With Roman out, Marcus Hudson has been getting some extra work at safety with the No. 3 defense. As I've written before, the 49ers have a glut of defensive backs. At the end of the preseason, the coaches may have to make a decision between Hudson and Keith Lewis.
Nolan said the defense is continuing to experiment with who will wear the radio receiver this season. As of now the defensive backs are working with the device. The linebackers also will get a chance to wear it. "Obviously, you want to say that Patrick Willis is the natural to have it," Nolan said. Still, he said he'd be purposely vague about who will have the receiver because he sees it as a competitive advantage. "I'd like to know what 31 other teams are doing with it," he said.
The one-on-one blocking drill graduated to two-on-two. The defensive players ran stunts in which the defensive tackle initially engages the guard but then loops around to the outside. The two offensive lineman are supposed to thwart this by switching their blocking assignments on the fly ... which they did with mixed results. You might recall the offensive line had a wee bit of trouble with stunts and delayed blitzes last season. (Search: Alex Smith and separated shoulder).
-- Matt Barrows