Alex Smith had an Alex Smith practice today. Which is to say, there was some good and some bad. The good: During team drills, Smith hit Dominique Zeigler down the left sideline - really, it was a fantastic, leaping catch by Zeigler - and then on the following play hit Kyle Williams in stride on a long pass down the right sideline over cornerback Will James. After some misfires early in camp, Smith's deep passes have been on the money, especially the ones to Vernon Davis.
But Smith also threw a red-zone pass that was picked off by Nate Clements. Dashon Goldson jumped another pass and nearly came up with the interception. And what is sure to frustrate long-time Smith watchers -- Smith pulled back on several pass attempts, deciding instead to tuck it in and run. Like I said, it was an Alex Smith practice.
Jimmy Raye is not worried. Asked about Smith today, the 49ers offensive coordinator said his "progress has been very good." Raye said Smith has looked as competent and as confident as he's ever seen him. But Raye also warned that that has to translate to games. "Like I told him upstairs the other day, the perception that people have of you - how you look, and how you play and how you throw - really the only criteria you're going to be judged by is if we win. How you look has no bearing on the outcome. If we win, he'll be the best-looking guy we've ever seen."
Raye also said there were extenuating circumstances to Smith's day. He noted that Smith usually makes 94 throws in the morning and another 86-90 in the afternoon. He said this is the point in camp that quarterbacks get what Raye called "arm weary." And he also noted that both of Smith's top targets, Davis and Michael Crabtree, were given the morning off. (That's two straight practices for Davis). One more obstacle: Smith is getting used to a new center, David Baas, who had a few errant snaps. Raye said he hoped to settle the center competition between Baas and Tony Wragge by the third preseason game.
Kentwan Balmer also was given the morning off, although he was dealing with personal issues off the field and was not at practice. The others who missed practice were rookie NaVorro Bowman (shoulder), Ahmad Brooks (kidney), Eric Heitmann (leg), Scott McKillop (knee), Travis LaBoy (concussion) and Brandon Jones (hamstring). Phillip Adams strained his hamstring yesterday, but practiced today.
The team also waived/injured outside linebacker Martail Burnett, who sprained a knee yesterday. That gave the 49ers two extra roster spots, which they used to sign two outside linebackers, Brandon Long, who spent part of spring drills in Santa Clara, and former UCLA defensive end Bruce Davis.
Davis was cut by the Denver Broncos two weeks ago, and he said he's been sitting on his couch hoping the phone would ring since then. Davis, who weighs 250 pounds, sounded motivated. "I'm a football player," he said. "I'm not going back to sitting on my couch. I'm not doing that again."
This will be the fourth 3-4 system that Davis has been exposed to. He's had short stints on the Steelers, Patriots and Broncos since Pittsburgh drafted him in the third round of the 2008 draft. He said the coverages are all the same. What he has to learn in the language. "I've learned a defense in a week before," he said. "It shouldn't be that hard." Davis has practice-squad eligibility.
Finally, WWE vixen Tiffany was on hand to watch the morning practice. (I'm told there were two male wrestlers here as well, but I didn't notice). The visit was the brainchild of 49ers PR guy Mike Chasanoff, a huge WWE fan whose wrestling alter ego would be something like The Chasmanian Devil. Chasanoff's next task: persuade Stacy Keibler to stop by ...
-- Matt Barrows