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

May 20, 2010
OTA Observations: Keep an eye on Bowman

The 49ers wrapped up their final May practice Thursday, and you could tell that Mike Singletary was pleased with what he saw over the past four days. First, there were no major injuries - rookie running back Anthony Dixon tweaked his hammy - like there were a year ago when starting cornerback Walt Harris tore an ACL. Second, Singletary really likes his incoming class of rookies (see: Baalke, Trent, the promotion of) and by extension, the competition he sees up and down the roster. "The group that we brought in this offseason has got to be one of the best I've seen," Singletary said. "I'm very excited about the group and I'm excited about our team. There's a lot of competition across the board. Wherever you look, there's competition." The 49ers' next OTA practices will be June 7-8.

Singletary said he was particularly pleased by the rookies' work ethic. I interviewed linebacker Navorro Bowman on Wednesday and his intensity is apparent even off the field. Bowman said he and the other rookies have been spending six to seven hours a day at the team facility. He said he'll typically go back to his hotel room, take a nap and then spend another three hours with his nose in the playbook. "They aren't just leaving here and going back and running around and watching TV," Singletary said. "These guys are studying their playbooks."

Bowman is someone to watch in training camp. As you'll recall, the Cowboys had him rated as a first-round pick and -- who knows -- the 49ers could have rated him just as highly. Defensive coordinator Greg Manusky noted this week that it's hard to get a good read on linebackers and linemen in non-padded practices. "We don't know his striking ability or his leverage that he plays with," Manusky said. "You can gauge a little bit of it, but for the most part, it's kind of hard." What's clear, however, is that Bowman has plenty of speed, both from sideline to sideline and on blitzes up the middle. Bowman played both "mike" and "ted" linebacker this week.

Singletary has an interesting relationship with O.J. Atogwe. His daughter, Jill, is dating the Rams safety, who may or may not become an unrestricted on July 1 depending on whether St. Louis can sign him to a long-term deal. Asked if he's ever broached the topic - you know, while grilling some burgers on the ol' family barbecue -- of Atogwe perhaps joining him in San Francisco, Singletary said he hasn't. Yet. "It's not one of those things where we talk about it, no," Singletary said. "We're developing our team and he has his team. If that changes then we'll look at that at the appropriate time. Right now it's just not something that we're thinking about."

With Dixon watching practice Thursday, second-year player Glen Coffee got the bulk of the carries. Coffee is up around 220 pounds from about 207 at this time last year. The added weight hasn't seemed to have affected the way he moves. Coffee always has been a violent runner. Now he may be a little more powerful through the pile. ... Outside linebacker Diyral Briggs was excused for the last two practices due to a personal issue. Brandon Long filled in on Wednesday and Thursday. ... It turns out there's a reason newly signed cornerback Will James has been watching practice. He has a still-healing injury. Singletary called it a hairline fracture, but declined to say where exactly that fracture is located. It likely was detected when James had his physical earlier this month.

Finally, Singletary is not Cup Crazy, but his youngest son, John, is. In fact, Sharks coach Todd McLellan got the Singletarys tickets as a birthday gift for John last year. "I got to talk with him and since that time we've been to several games," Singletary said. "He and I have exchanged conversations and just had some positive conversations."

Singletary was one of the 17,000 or so at the Shark Tank the other day against the Blackhawks. And, no, just because he played in Chicago, Singletary says he has no allegiance to Chicago area sports teams. "Do I follow the Bears? Do I follow the Bulls? No, I do not," Singletary said. Game 3 of the series - San Jose's down 2-0 - is Friday at 4:30 p.m.

-- 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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