The 49ers' draft class has arrived in Santa Clara. Their itinerary includes a physical, a tour of the facilities, a chat with coach Mike Singletary, a rookie dinner and, most importantly, their first media grilling. We spoke to a lot of the players over the phone after they were drafted, but I'll be posting any interesting comments/observations, etc. as the afternoon proceeds. One of the players we haven't spoken with is Ricky Jean-Francois, heretofore RJF. I hear he's a good quote. We shall see ...
First up was Nate Davis, who reiterated that he didn't think he would have an issue picking up the 49ers playbook. Davis said he had a problem reading and writing. The playbook is mostly Xs and Os. "I'm a very visual learner. Reading the playbook -- there's a lot of pictures, so ..." Davis said it took a half a year to pick up the playbook at Ball State but probably a year and a half to really learn it. He said he ran a digit-system offense in high school but not college. Asked to compare himself to an NFL player, Davis aimed high. He likened himself to Donovan McNabb, who, if memory serves, didn't have the highest Wonderlic score in the world, either.
Next was running back Glen Coffee, who said he preferred to play in the NFL at around 218-220 pounds. "They seem to be ok with it," the 209-pound Coffee said of the 49ers coaches. "I feel it will complement my running style." What style is that? "Hard-nosed, one-step, one-cut runner. ... I don't like negative plays." Perfect. Neither do your coaches.
Michael Crabtree also stepped behind the microphone. Like the other rookies, Crabtree had just returned from a physical, and he joked that it felt like he had had 35 physicals in the last couple of weeks. The 49ers also gave him a physical when he visited prior to the draft. The most recent physical, Crabtree said, will help trainers set a timetable for when he can return to the field. The receiver will be limited to mental reps at this weekend's rookie minicamp. The fashion-minded Crabtree was decked out in Air Jordan shoes, Air Jordan shorts and Air Jordan warm-up jacket. I'm sure Reebok is drafting a strongly worded letter in response. ... There's no debating that Crabtree had excellent hands at Texas Tech. But they're not particularly big mitts. According to NFL.com, Crabtree's hands measure 9 1/4 inches, which means they're smaller than Alex Smith's.
After Crabtree was linebacker Scott McKillop. What a diva! Just kidding -- McKillop is about as down to earth as they come. He's definitely not physically imposing. The 49ers are wondering if he has the toughness to play the "Ted" linebacker position. The coaches will be happy to know that McKillop already took a sneak peek at what the Ted and "Mike" linebackers do in the San Francisco system, and he plans on starting a cramming session when he gets to the hotel tonight. McCkillop also seemed smitten with Patrick Willis, whom he remembers watching when WIllis was playing with that club on his hand at Ole Miss. In a perfect world, McKillop will be playing alongside Willis for the next decade or so. (Once Takeo Spikes moves on). "I'd be lying if I said I didn't want to meet Patrick WIllis," McKillop said. "I'm pretty excited about that."
To give you some insight into tight end Bear Pascoe, I'll describe how he began his interview. First he shook hands (mine still hurts) with each of the beatwriters. Then he set aside the hat and sunglasses he was wearning and the toothpick he was gnawing on before proceding. In other words, Pascoe is truly old school. You also could describe Pascoe as a rule changer. During his college career, he blocked six kicks, three of them when the player behind him gave him a boost. Pascoe estimated the assistance gave him an extra 10 inches or so on his vertical jump. The NCAA has since prohibited that practice. Pascoe said he has already spoken with Mike Singletary and the coach has said he'll make his mark this year as a blocking tight end.
Now RJF ... Wow. Someone else already has written this but I will triple underscore it: I can't wait for the first time Vernon Davis has to block Ricky Jean-Francois.RJF today described himself as someone who speaks his mind -- in the interview room, in the locker room, on the field. "If there's something that needs to be heard, I'm not going to bite my tongue. I'm a straight-forward person," RJF said. Having said that, RJF admits that that trait has rubbed people the wrong way in the past. It was also topic No. 1 when he was conducting pre-draft interviews with teams, and he said that his reputation is what sunk his draft status
I asked him if he likes to get under his opponent's skin on the field. "I got to. I love doing that on the field. I like to get under the skin, even if it's the opponent's team's coaches. If I can get close to the sideline, you're going to hear my mouth close to the sideline. It happened on and off the field. But now, coming to another level, I have to learn how to control that. I've got to learn how to change certain things about myself."
Asked if he feels he has something to prove to the teams that passed over him on draft day, RJF said, "I've got a lot to prove ... teams passing me by, I've got a lot to prove. One thing I want to prove is all the rumors that were out on blog sites that some people told some NFL coaches ... about my personality. The first thing I want to prove is my personality. Plus, when I need to talk and when I don't need to talk. When I need to sit down and when I need to listen straight forward and learn how to take advice from veterans, learn how to take advice from coaches, position coaches, trainers, anything."
Rounding out the interviews was RJF's LSU teammate Curtis Taylor, who said he didn't hear much from Jean-Francois on the field. "I'm in back of him, so I really don't know what he said ... He's a good guy, though," Taylor said. Taylor is a big safety with long arms, and I wonder if the 49ers see him as a strong safety. Taylor played free safety for the Tigers, but he said the safety spots were interchangeable as they are with the 49ers. Taylor seemed like a nice, personable guy. Like all the other picks, he's also maddeningly young (or maybe I'm getting maddeningly old). Asked about the greatest safety of all, Ronnie Lott, Taylor admitted he didn't know much: "I've seen him on ESPN Classic," Taylor said. "... I've heard a lot of stories about him." Kids these days ...
-- Matt Barrows