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News, notes and reader questions about the San Francisco 49ers

July 28, 2009
Training camp begins ... without Crabtree

Just spoke to a few of the 49ers as they report for training camp. Alex Smith, Shaun Hill, Glen Coffee, Mike Singletary, Curtis Taylor and Scott McKillop have spoken thus far. Here are the highlights ...


The coach started out by expressing his condolences for Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson, who passed away today after a fight with cancer. Singletary said he had only spoken with Johnson on a handful of occasions but knew he was much admired throughout the league as both a coach and a person.

Singletary was asked several questions about Michael Crabtree and his imminent holdout. Surprisingly, Singletary admitted that he held out - twice - when he played for the Bears. Prior to his rookie season, Singletary admitted that he felt he was a first-, not a second-round draft pick (sound like familiar logic?), and he held out for a week as a rookie. Then before his fifth season he held out for three weeks ... all of which doesn't exactly strengthen the 49ers hand as they sit down at the bargaining table. ... Singletary, however, said he was sure Crabtree would be ready to hit the field when he did sign. He and Smith both said that Crabtree had been hanging around the facility quite a bit and that Smith spent some time throwing to Crabtree.

As far as the quarterback battle, Singletary said he was very content with the situation. He characterized Shaun Hill as a former back up who has been successful as a starter and Smith as someone who "really in my mind hasn't had an opportunity, the right opportunity, to excel, to be the guy he can be." Singletary said the decision on a starter likely would be made prior to the third preseason game, but he also left room that it could be made earlier. Both Hill and Smith would prefer the decision to be made as early as possible, giving the regular-season starter the maximum amount of time to work with his receivers.

Several players agreed that it was a little odd that the 49ers would have three days of classroom work before their first practice Saturday morning. In fact, the 49ers are permitted to begin practicing Thursday. What does that mean? Said Smith: "I think there will be a lot of meetings and walk throughs, meetings and walk throughs, meetings and walk throughs." Said Hill: "We're going to get a lot of mental reps, I guess. ...It's hard to get out there if you don't know what you're doing."

The result is that the players will be champing at the bit when Saturday rolls around. The classroom work also likely will mean the 49ers are sharper - a Singletary pet peeve - when they do begin practicing. And finally the schedule fits into Singletary's vision of turning the 49ers into one big family. And he discounted the notion that teams that begin practicing early have a jump on others. "When we hit the field, we'll be ready to go," he said.

As for specific players ... Singletary confirmed that Ray McDonald will be still be rehabbing his knee when camp begins. He said he would keep an eye on right tackle Marvel Smith, who has had back surgeries in each of the last two seasons. ... If you're wondering, Singletary called Michael Vick-to-the-49ers a "dead issue." He seemed to have modest expectations for Nate Davis this year, saying that he sees Davis as player who "is trying to learn the system" this year.

Coffee is a guy who speaks like a he runs - he doesn't hesitate and he talks very directly. He said he's begun the process of adding weight - naturally - and is between 210 and 212 pound, up a bit from the 208 pounds at which he was drafted. Coffee, of course, said he couldn't wait to finally engage in some full-contact practices. "I'm definitely looking forward to it. I feel like that's when I'll really step out and shine is when the pads are on."

Curtis is an impressive-looking player. He's 6-2 and has very long arms. He's an intriguing guy physically, but the book on him coming out of LSU is that he should have made more of an impact with that defense. ... Speaking of LSU, Taylor said he spent the break working out in Louisiana in preparation for what promised to be a demanding camp. Part of that preparation included running up in down levees in what had to be some make-you-puke humid conditions.

The first day of practice is open to the public. (If you were lucky enough to obtain a ticket). The most interesting day, however, promises to be Day Three. Singletary called that "hump day," the day that some players wish they weren't participating in an NFL training camp. Singletary has said that he'll learn very quickly who has the necessary toughness once training camp begins. I have a feeling that Day Three will be telling ...

-- 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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