Yo, Adrian! Ricky Jean-Francois got in shape for what promises to be a demanding training camp by taking a page from Rocky Balboa's and Apollo Creed's workout regimen - running in sand. Jean-Francois, a Miami native, said he'd begin his runs at 5:30 a.m. in that city's Haulover Beach Park and start running south along the beach. No word on whether his trainer had him chase a chicken in an alley.
"Everything I did was on sand," Jean-Francois said. "I never did anything on grass. I felt if I did everything on sand, I'd be a little quicker." He admits that when he first began that regimen "I almost died ..," but that by the end, he almost made it to South Beach (believe me, there's real motivation to get there), a distance of nearly 10 miles.
Jean-Francois may need that extra stamina. The 49ers' starter at nose tackle, Aubrayo Franklin, has yet to check into training camp with the rest of the veterans. The 49ers made Franklin their franchise player in the offseason, a designation that came with a $7.003 million tender. Franklin has yet to sign that tender.
In fact, Franklin has yet to take part in a practice this offseason, leaving Jean-Francois to take the lion's share of snaps at nose tackle. Up to this point, the majority of those sessions have been one-a-day practices without pads. The 49ers begin full-contact, two-a-day sessions on Monday, and there's little depth at the position. Jean-Francois says he won't shy away from the extra action. "I love being in pads. I love getting hit," he said. "I'm the one hitting you, so it doesn't really bother me."
For the record, neither Jean-Francois nor any of the other veterans felt Franklin, an eight-year veteran who's been in the same system for three years, needed a lot of time to get up to speed. Jean-Francois, however, has never played nose tackle in the NFL. There's a certain paradox to the position he plays. The linebacker play hinges on what he does, but he can't see those linebackers. So much of the position depends on familiarity and trust, and that only occurs when players have played and practiced together.
In my opinion, the 49ers have two potential hall-of-fame players in the locker room: Patrick Willis and Vernon Davis. Willis today was asked what he thought of Jerry Rice, who will be inducted next month. His answer showed that he's at least thought about his own induction: "Hopefully someday I can walk in those shoes at the hall of fame. But that's a long time from now."
Elk Grove and Stanford product Matt Kopa was a late addition this spring and was held out of practice because he had foot surgery in February. Kopa, however, said he's been fully cleared to participate in training camp. An offensive tackle, Kopa is likely playing for a spot on the practice squad this summer.
Frank Gore says he's down to his playing weight - about 215 pounds - after his annual grueling working at Miami's Tropical Park. The workout involves Gore tying a truck tire around his waist and running - forwards, backward, sideways - the park's hill. To make things tougher, Gore loads the tire with weights as he goes.
-- Matt Barrows