Boy, oh boy, Mike Singletary sure didn't want to talk about Kentwan Balmer today. Over the past two seasons, Singletary has been surprisingly understanding and calm about player absences, including during the mid-boggling long estrangement with Michael Crabtree and the more recent one with Aubrayo Franklin. The Balmer situation, however, appears to have rankled him. Singletary reiterated what we learned earlier about Balmer.
"I told Kentwan to be here this morning. He's not here. As far as I'm concerned - I don't know what he's doing, but there is not going to be any phone calls, 'Kentwan, what are you doing?' I'm done with that. All I'm concerned with is the guys out here."
At this point I asked Singletary if he was more upset about this absence than previous ones because Balmer is under contract.
"I talked to Kentwan. And as simple as I can put it, I asked him to be here. He's not here. Yes, he is under contract and the fact that he's not here, that speaks to me. What it says, I really don't know to him, but to us, all I know is that he's not here. Fine. We're practicing, we're doing what we have to do. And we're going to move forward."
Asked if Balmer had a future with the 49ers, a prickly Singletary said: "Here we go now. I don't want to go there. I'm done with that. I'm done. I don't want to say anything further than that. If you guys want any other information about Kentwan, go to Kentwan."
Singletary did say that the 49ers "probably would have to bring in another player" at the defensive end position, an indication that Balmer might never come back to the 49ers. Balmer is being fined for his absence.
Balmer's agent, Gary Wichard, told The Bee that the absence isn't related to an ongoing NCAA investigation involving Balmer and the University of North Carolina. Wichard said it's personal and that Balmer wants to keep it that way.
To explain the competition at center between David Baas and Tony Wragge, I have to revert to scout speak. Wragge, who has practiced extensively at center and who started two games at the position in 2006, has the higher floor. That is, the 49ers know what they're getting from him; there's little risk. Baas, meanwhile, has the higher ceiling. He's mostly an unknown at the position, he might make some mistakes early but he also has the potential to be better at the position than Wragge. Which is why the 49ers have been giving Baas all of the first-team snaps since starter Eric Heitmann broke his leg on Monday.
Wragge, meanwhile, got a lot of snaps at center this spring and during the first week of training camp. "I feel really confident," he said. "But I'm very, very confident that I can step in and play multiple positions." Offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye said he's like to decide on a starting center soon because that position is the foundation of the 49ers suddenly young offensive line. It appears that Baas will start on Sunday, although that hasn't been announced.
Singletary did say that running back Frank Gore will "play a limited amount, if any" against the Colts. The priority is to get Glen Coffee comfortable with pass protections and to get rookie Anthony Dixon some snaps. "He's kind of like a bull in a china shop as Jimmy Raye would say right now," Singletary said.
Today's was a decidedly light practice. It began at 10:15 a.m. instead of 8:50 and ended at 11:30. When drills began, the third-stringers got the bulk of the work. Singletary said the team would return to a more normal practice this afternoon. Rookie NaVorro Bowman (shoulder) continues to sit out. Singletary said he wasn't sure whether Bowman would be back this afternoon.
-- Matt Barrows