Thursday was a strong day for quarterback David Carr while some of the 49ers' safeties who were victimized in Tuesday's session bounced back nicely. The 49ers worked on red-zone plays today and all of the snaps were taken from the 30-yard line and in. Carr was perhaps as sharp as he's been since joining the 49ers. He went 6-8 in 11-on-11 situations. His second pass of the day, a medium crossing pattern to Michael Crabtree, was dropped by the receiver. His last pass in the near corner of the end zone was swatted away by second-year safety Curtis Taylor.
At this point in his career, Carr said, he knows all the routes and can make all of the throws. It's the verbiage of the Jimmy Raye system that Carr is trying to learn right now. The 49ers will have a minicamp, their only mandatory session of the spring, late next week. When it ends, the 49ers will have more than a month off before they report for training camp. Carr said he typically has thrown the ball during that month break. This time, the two-a-day sessions will involve calling a play in the huddle, barking out directions at the line of scrimmage and then running the play.
"It's going to take a little bit longer to work out, but that's what happens when you go into a new system," he said. "I did it when I was in New York and it really paid off with the transition. I was really able to jump in in training camp and go."
So who will be Carr's receiving crew? "I have three or four buddies I've known since college that live in (Fresno). My best friend actually played with me in Fresno. He knows every route I've run since coming into the league. They stay in shape, so it works out pretty good for them."
Taylor ended up batting away two passes Thursday, the other being one from Nate Davis to Jason Hill. Rookie Taylor Mays also got in on the action, knocking down an end-zone pass from Alex Smith to Delanie Walker during 7-on-7 drills. Michael Lewis also broke up a short pass from Smith to tight end J.J. Finley.
Mays had been getting only a few repetitions during practice while working with the third-team defense. (He had been teamed up with undrafted safety Chris Maragos). Today, however, the 49ers mostly were in nickel coverage and Mays found himself with the second-team unit.
As of now, Mays is behind starters Lewis and Dashon Goldson as well as second teamers Reggie Smith and Taylor. But that might be more due to the position he plays than Mays' ability. Defensive coordinator Greg Manusky noted today that safety is one of the toughest positions for a rookie to pick up. "With the calls that they have and the adjustments they've got to make on the back end, they're not just controlling themselves, they're controlling other individuals - the inside linebackers and the corners and the other safety," he said. "So communication is a vital part of the process. For them, on our defense, it's critical."
Et cetera ... Manusky had nice things to say about Ricky Jean-Francois, who is taking close to 80 percent of the snaps at nose tackle. Jean-Francois is up around 310-315 pounds and right now is the leading candidate to substitute for starter Aubrayo Franklin when the season begins. ... Rookie inside linebacker Keaton Kristick was back as practice. Kristick hasn't been able to participate in any of the June OTAs because his school, Oregon State, had not had its graduation. ... Davis received about half of the snaps Carr had. Davis finished 2-4 in 11-on-11 drills. ... Cornerback Tarell Brown, who was cleated on the foot in Tuesday's session, was back today. He played against the slot receiver in the team's nickel packages. ... Receiver Brandon Jones sprained an ankle on a running play but returned later in the session. ... The same three players who have been the team's primary punt returners - Ted Ginn, Kyle Williams and LeRoy Vann - practiced kick returns today.
-- Matt Barrows