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July 25, 2008
Training camp notes, P.M. practice

The 3,000 or so fans who attended today's afternoon session may have gotten back in their cars thinking, "Uh, how is this different from the 2007 season?" At times, the team practice was a little rough. In fact, after one false start by the offensive line, one of the fans yelled, "Aw, Kwame!" Shaun Hill was the "starting" quarterback for the session, and while he had a few nice passes, a number ended up in the hands of defensive players (specifically Dashon Goldson, Reggie Smith and Larry Grant). Alex Smith's passes, meanwhile, seemed to have a wobble and he overthrew several of his receivers.

The fact of the matter is that it's early, the offense is a bit rusty and it will get better. The afternoon session, in fact, was better than the morning one and tomorrow's practices probably will be sharper than today's. A couple of players of note:

* Tight end Delanie Walker was prolific, dropping an early pass, but catching several from that point on.

* The best catch may have been WR's Jason Hill's on a pass that Alex Smith threaded in among three defenders. It wasn't flashy, but it was the type of catch that helps win games in December (and hopefully January).

* Grant had a nice, leaping interception of a Hill pass. The rookie gathered it in and then took off down the left sideline.

* RB Frank Gore looked very fast and explosive. (Decidedly slimmed down since OTAs) On one particular run to the outside, he drew oohs and ahs from the crowd. Afterward, DBs coach Johnnie Lynn looked up to the stands and shouted, "I liked that myself!"

* CB Shawntae Spencer looked good breaking up a deep pass on one play and coming down with an interception on another.

* Cody Wallace continued to be victimized in one-on-one blocking drills, this time by Atiyyah Ellison, who beat him soundly in both their match-ups. Chilo Rachal seemed to get the better of fellow rookie Kentwan Balmer, but Balmer had no problem with international player Ramiro Pruneda, pushing the big guard backward as if he was on ice.

* Jonas Jennings and Arnaz Battle were rested during the afternoon session while Isaac Bruce began the session but soon was observing from the sideline. Barry Sims played with the first-team o-line at right tackle.

* Joe Staley is on the NFI (non-football injury) list because of his infected bite. (No one is sure what bit him. Seriously). Team officials assured us that he won't be out for long.

* One of the biggest dogfights in camp could be for the final defensive backs spot. The two contenders - early on, at least - are Keith Lewis and Marcus Hudson. Both are special teams aces (we'll give the nod to Lewis) but the team might feel that Hudson has more potential as a DB. It's something to keep an eye on this summer ...

-- 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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