The 49ers have been advertising themselves as a team that will run the ball into the gut of defenses this season. But that doesn't mean they are one-dimensional. In fact, the team spent a lot of time running sweeps and misdirection plays to the outside. Frank Gore got most of those carries but rookies Glen Coffee and, especially Kory Sheets, saw action, too. Sheets had perhaps his best play of the offseason when he caught a short pass from Shaun Hill and burst up the field. Getting out in space and showing off his speed is Sheets' specialty.
Quarterback Alex Smith ran the first-team offense after Hill did the same yesterday. During skill drills, Smith hooked up with receiver Josh Morgan on a long bomb that Morgan caught one-handed over safety Dashon Goldson. There wasn't a lot of downfield passing by any of the quarterbacks during team drills. Both spent a lot of time throwing quick outs to the tight ends and running backs. At one point, Smith tried to go deep to his favorite target (on Saturday, at least), wideout Brandon Jones. This time, however, Jones was well covered by Nate Clements and Michael Lewis and the pass was broken up.
The prettiest pass was nearly turned in by rookie Nate Davis, who saw that fellow rookie Bear Pascoe had a step on linebacker Jay Moore. Davis' touch pass was a tad too far. Pascoe dove for the ball, had it for a split second, but ultimately couldn't hold on. Davis has received a few snaps in team situations the last two days. Fellow reserve Damon Huard received no snaps today.
As far as injuries and absences ... fullback Moran Norris missed practice again for personal reasons, but he arrived at camp just after the session ended. Expect him to be on the field tomorrow. Neither Parys Haralson (hip) nor Tarell Brown (toe) practiced. Ahmad Brooks and Dre Bly took their places respectively. Ricky Jean-Francois (staph) and Ray McDonald (knee) also did not practice.
Haralson's injury is allowing undrafted rookie Diyral Briggs to work with the second-team defense. With Brown injured, the second-team cornerbacks are Shawntae Spencer and Marcus Hudson.
I spent part of the afternoon watching pass-rush drills, which pit a defensive lineman or linebacker against an offensive lineman. I was especially interested in watching 6-7, 328-pound tackle Alex Boone because my first impression of him was that he wasn't nimble and might struggle with speedy pass rushers. Well, the former Buckeye looked good at that today. He was matched up against Briggs (6-4, 230) on two plays. On the first, Briggs made the mistake of going right at Boone and was engulfed. On the second, he tried to get around the tackle, but Boone slid over and stonewalled him. Later in the drill, Boone gave an off-balance Brooks a shot that sent him to the grass. ... During team drills, however, Kentwan Balmer got such a strong push on Boone on one play that he went hurtling backward and nearly toppled onto Hill, who somehow managed to sidestep the avalanche - collective gasp by the organization - and flushed from the pocket.
I spent some time talking to fullback Brit Miller after practice. A linebacker and tackling machine at Illinois last year, Miller said it's been five years since he's played with the ball in his hands. But the 243 pounder is taking the right attitude into his switch and is wisely eyeing special teams as his ticket to a full-time roster spot. I'll have more on him later this week.
The 49ers practiced kick returns. Allen Rossum and Michael Spurlock mostly split the returns.
-- Matt Barrows