Turns out the rehab running Michael Crabtree did on Monday wasn't exactly the first time he's hoofed it since his March foot surgery. "I remember the first day we came out here for a minicamp (in May), and he was over there running routes," Mike Singletary said today of his rookie wideout. "I said, 'What the heck are you doing? You're not supposed to be out here. Who told you to come out here?' And we got that straight, but he was almost in tears. I said I've got nothing against you. I'm not angry at you or anything. I just want you to know that you have to do everything the doctors want you to do so that you can get better."
The point Singletary was making is that Crabtree badly wants to return to the practice field. He is expected to do that when training camp opens - tentatively on July 30 - but the key to keeping Crabtree healthy, Singletary said, is closely monitoring his workload over the next six weeks. The 49ers want Crabtree running in that interim so that the rigors of training camp are not a shock to his system. But they also want to make sure he's not pushing too hard, which is a concern with someone as competitive as Crabtree.
"I'm looking at him, I'm watching him very closely as he's running and he's competing with everybody he's running against," Singletary noted. "That's a good thing, but at the same time, I want to make sure - 'Ok, you don't have to win every race. I just want to make sure you're going at the level you need to go out, so when we go out here in training camp, you're ready to go.'"
Speaking of training camp, I Twittered earlier that Singletary said there are plans to re-visit Napa and have another scrimmage with the Raiders. Mike Nolan and Lane Kiffin arranged a scrimmage last summer that was well-received by both teams. "I'm very excited about the opportunity because they have a tremendous amount of talent on that team," Singletary said.
The 49ers have put together three efficient practices since Singletary's vituperative on Monday, and that seemed to please the head coach very much. Today was the final day of a four-day OTA session. The team will reassemble on Monday and Tuesday and then have a month-and-half break until training camp.
"When we are working together, the defense and the offense is getting something out of it," Singletary said. "So, I'm very excited about that. We're getting in a rhythm and that's where we won't to go with that."
That rhythm begins with the quarterback, and both Alex Smith and Shaun Hill looked good today. Receiver Michael Spurlock (he also has looked good this week) was the recipient of a nice touch pass from Smith on the right sideline. Spurlock also hauled an even nicer throw from Hill on the opposite sideline.
Singletary agreed with Scot McCloughan's comments from earlier this week that Smith looks sharper and more confident than he has in years. But he's not ready to lavish praise on the former No. 1 overall draft pick until he sees Smith shine in a game situation.
"Nothing means anything until he's out there facing some live bullets," Singletary said. "All of a sudden, all form and technique goes when you've got guys coming at you. So I think it's important to look at him and compliment him where a compliment's needed -- both of them -- but until those bullets start flying, it's not a whole lot of information that we know."
In other words, the quarterback battle won't be decided until Singletary, Jimmy Raye and Mike Johnson see their pupils play in a couple of preseason games.
The catch of the day may have come from rookie Bear Pascoe. Smith fired a 20-yarder over the middle to Pascoe, who was well-covered by Jeff Ulbrich. Both Pascoe and Ulbrich turned for the ball at the same moment, but Pascoe somehow snatched it away. Ulbrich looked at his hands as if to say, 'Why isn't the ball there?' and then dramatically dropped face-down onto the 40-yard line until Pascoe trotted back and helped him to his feet. The play drew perhaps the biggest cheer of the offseason from the assembled players.
Speaking of tight ends ... It's a safe bet that Vernon Davis' catch total will rise, perhaps sharply, from last year. Davis was the target on at least a dozen throws today and he hauled all but two in. One of his drops was a throw from Smith that was behind him. On another out pattern, Davis seemed to bolt upfield before he had the ball tucked away. The point, however, is that those drops are now few and far between. His hands seem to be a lot better than they've been in recent seasons.
-- Matt Barrows