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August 27, 2008
Martz, O'Sullivan kindred spirits

It's suddenly clear why J.T. O'Sullivan is excelling in Mike Martz's offense. The two men are cut from the same cloth. They're both precise and hyper-demanding - of themselves and of others. Things got a wee bit testy today between Martz and a member of the media (not a newspaper guy) when Alex Smith's progress was raised during a group interview. Here's the exchange:

Q: ... It's supposed to be a fair competition and you almost feel like Alex should have been able to play a half with the starters ...

MM: First of all, let me tell you this ... and let's get this straight: There's nothing fair about this league. Alright? If you establish yourself as an incredible player within a quarter of the game, then that's just the way it is. There's nothing fair about this game. Understand that first of all, OK?

Q: I played the game. I understand it.

MM: Good. Then you know it's not the ...

Q: I also known that in preseason you can do real well, but that might not translate to the regular season ...

MM: There's no question. But we'll find out now won't we?

O'Sullivan certainly hasn't been confrontational with the media. But reporters quickly have found out that their questions have to be precise or else O'Sullivan will ask them to repeat or rephrase them in a way that he can understand them. I thought it was also interesting that at different times today they answered the same question in nearly the exact same way. The question was whether it was important for O'Sullivan to develop chemistry with receivers Bryant Johnson and Ashley Lelie, both of whom have been injured for most of August.

First, O'Sullivan: "It's a trust thing where they trust me to put the ball where I'm supposed to and I trust them to be where they need to be."

Now Martz: "It's not so much chemistry as it is a trust issue."

Obviously, Martz has preached trust all offseason to his offensive players and it's been a buzzword in the meeting room. But I can't shake the fact that in back-to-back group interviews with O'Sullivan and then Martz, we were talking to two remarkably similar men. It's also clear that Martz has become very fond of his new quarterback: "What he's done so far is taken an opportunity and made the most of it," Martz said. "To say that I expected him to be this good -- I'd be lying to you."

Five players won't suit up Friday. They are Josh Morgan and Keith Lewis (illness), Adam Snyder (ankle), Jonas Jennings (hand) and Allen Rossum, who took a hard shot in his back Thursday that affected his breathing (lungs). Rossum has been practicing by himself all week and he seemed fine in an interview today. He said there's no way he'll miss the opener on Sept. 7. Lewis was at practice but did not participate. Morgan was told to stay home.

The big question is who will start at split end. Mike Nolan said the position would be split between Johnson and Lelie, both of whom practiced yesterday and today. Lelie is definitely on the proverbial bubble. He's had little impact since arriving in San Francisco last year. Yet he still offers something -- straight-line speed -- that no other player on the team has. He could save his job with a solid performance Friday. Nolan said both receivers could play the entire first half.

Nolan doesn't use the passive voice very often. But in discussing how much the starters will play, he said, "I've been told the first series to the first quarter." Who told him? Martz. O'Sullivan certainly needs and wants to get as much work as he can given that he's only started four NFL games in his career. But Nolan noted that the bulk of the practices this week have come against the 49ers' first-team defense. Why not the scout team? Because the 49ers and Chargers run very similar defenses.

David Baas was at left guard again. He has been penciled in at the starter at right guard, but because Tony Wragge has played so well on the right side, the thought was that there'd be less suffling if Baas re-entered the lineup on the left.

Funny exchange. Nolan was saying that he'll continue to wear his business suit for home games. For away games, he can wear everything but the suit jacket, which he has to replace with a Reebok product such as a windbreaker.

Maiocco: Like Mr. Rogers?
Nolan: The Mr. Rogers look. ... That's good. You just talked me out of it.

-- 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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