Brian Westbrook was strictly an observer during his first 49ers practice. And the running back liked what he saw. "I was just talking to Frank (Gore) -- I like their power game," Westbrook said. "I like it a lot - down, down kickout with the offensive lineman. I saw a lot of good in their game with the offensive linemen ... I've screamed at coach (Andy) Reid to run the ball, run the ball, run the ball. This team seems like that's what they're gonna do."
Mike Singletary won't like this, but "run the ball, run the ball, run the ball" seemed to be the 49ers' only objective at times last year, and everyone in the stadium - especially the defense - knew it. Adding Westbrook to the mix gives offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye another weapon with which to work along with Vernon Davis and Michael Crabtree. Singletary said there was a possibility Westbrook and Gore could share the backfield at times as well.
Safety Michael Lewis, a teammate of Westbrook's in Philadelphia, isn't sure it's an arsenal he'd like to face. "He's got receiver skills," Lewis said of Westbrook. "He's a mismatch on dbs as well as linebackers. I'm sure Jimmy Raye is putting together a scheme right now to utilize him on the field with Frank as well."
Gore, meanwhile, seemed to have no issue with adding another big-name running back to the offense. "I watched him a whole lot, especially when he was Philly, because he was a guy I had to compete against for yards and receiving yards," said Gore, who pays very close attention to other running backs' statistics. "He's a special back. He's very quick, very smart player. He watched me in practice and I asked him to help me with the things he sees that I can carry over on the field."
Gore is no slouch in the receiving game. He's had 40 or more receptions in the past four seasons, and he led the 49ers in catches in 2007. Still, Gore didn't waste an opportunity to improve his skills. "Very smart. Very smart reading defenses, can find the small spots," he said of Westbrook. "I asked him about that..."
Westbrook said he didn't know when his sideline tutorial would turn into some practice snaps. And he admitted that learning a new offense was something he hasn't done since coming out of Villanova in 2002. "Really I haven't had an opportunity to learn in eight years, so hopefully it's quick," he said. "And I'm going to do everything I can to make it as painless and as quick as possible." Westbrook said he didn't know whether he'd play Sunday against the Vikings.
Odds & Ends
Alex Smith had a solid practice. He finished the afternoon 15-18 in team drills, and was 7-7 in the final session. That drive culminated with an over-the-middle strike to Jason Hill in the back of the end zone.
Three players practiced punt returns. They were: Ted Ginn, Brandon Jones and Bobby Guillory. Jones is back from a hamstring injury. Kyle Williams (toe) is out for at least two weeks.
Outside linebacker Travis LaBoy (concussion/foot) returned to practice. ... Michael Crabtree (neck) went through individual drills only. Vernon Davis (knee) didn't practice but was jogging and seemed to be ok. ... Tight end JJ Finley has an ankle contusion but practiced. Rookie Nate Byham played with the first-team unit with Delanie Walker ... OLB Brandon Long was out with a knee injury.
-- Matt Barrows