When it comes to the three-man quarterback race, the message seems to be: Don't pay attention to what we do. Just listen to what we say. Despite the fact that J.T. O'Sullivan has been in charge of the first-team offense for nearly a week now, Mike Nolan insisted that no one has taken the lead in the competition. "It's all the same. Three guys all even," Nolan said. So why has O'Sullivan gotten so many first-team repetitions in recent days, including this morning's practice? "He has better command of the offense. That's why he's taken the reps."
Mike Martz, however, has a slightly different take on the matter. "We're just trying to get him caught up, rep-wise, with the rest of the guys, really," Martz said. "With the same amount of reps as the other guys, what can he do? And see where he goes with it." But doesn't O'Sullivan know the offense better than Smith and Hill? What does Martz mean by 'caught up?' "It's pretty easy when you think about it," he said. "'Caught up' in terms of practice. Right now he can know the entire offense, but if he doesn't practice, you can hardly expect him to play well in games."
The quarterbacks, meanwhile, appear to be entirely in the dark. They say they usually learn who will be taking the first-team reps when they arrive in the morning. Asked about how the repetitions will be handled from this point on, Hill, who has had no first-team repetition this week, said, "I really have no idea. I kind of wish I had a little more light on things." But he and Smith said they try not to let doubt affect them on the field. "The more you dwell on something like that, the more you think about it, the worse you're going to be," Smith said.
The 49ers are starting to get very low on receivers. Arnaz Battle strained his hamstring and Jason Hill has a groin injury. Bryant Johnson (hamstring) is jogging with trainers, but he said he doesn't expect to return to practice until next week. Ashley Lelie has been out since the beginning of camp with a calf strain. Isaac Bruce practiced this morning, but he hasn't been practicing every day. Meanwhile, the only healthy receiver - who figures to make the final roster - is rookie Josh Morgan. Morgan caught a touchdown from O'Sullivan at the end of a two-minute drill when he outwrestled Nate Clements for the ball. The 49ers do not plan to add anyone at receiver.
Still, Johnson isn't worried about losing his starting job or getting in sync with O'Sullivan. Johnson said he had gotten plenty of repetitions before he got hurt. He also said the receivers are too intent on their own assignments to have an opinion in the quarterback competition. "Sometimes as a receiver, you really don't know who's in the huddle and throwing to you," Johnson said.
During practice, O'Sullivan was 4 of 10 in team drills while Smith, working with the second-string offense, was 8 of 9. O'Sullivan was the only quarterback to run the two-minute offense. He started at his own 31. Going against a mix of first- and second-string defenders, he completed 6 of 8 passes, including the touchdown to Morgan.
-- Matt Barrows