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September 1, 2010
Harsh words between Davis, Crabtree expose 'elephant' in the room

"There are no more elephants in the room," Mike Singletary said today. "The elephant was exposed." That elephant? Singletary declined to say, but it led to a very heated exchange between his two most dangerous offensive weapons, Vernon Davis and Michael Crabtree. Singletary had to separate the two after Davis began berating Crabtree on the sideline at practice. There were no blows struck. But the language can be safely classified as aggressive and Davis, no stranger to practice-field fights, even with offensive players, struck an aggressive pose. The three moved 20 feet away onto an adjacent field and the conversation continued to be heated. Davis was obviously the instigator, and he was the more animated of the two.

While the rest of the 49ers were in their practice walk-through, Singletary, Davis and Crabtree disappeared into the locker room at 11:47 a.m. Ten minutes later, Davis emerged alone, and a few minutes after that Singletary and Crabtree re-joined practice for the final few minutes. Singletary then went back into the lockerroom with the entire team and addressed his players.

When Singletary met with the media, he began his press conference like this: "How many of you guys have families? ... So you have kids, and every now and then your kids have misunderstandings or what have you. And they forget that there is a father at home. Vernon and Crabtree -- just to let you know -- I will not talk about the issue. But I will talk about this. They were both wrong. And we will not have distractions on this team. Vernon just forgot temporarily that this is not allowed. We don't do that. We don't treat family like that. We don't disrespect each other. I just needed to remind him that's not who were are."

Like a father, Singletary walked a fine line between crediting Davis, a team captain a year ago, with exposing a problem and chiding him for handling it poorly. "He's fine. He did a great job. He's one of the captains. He did the right thing, but he did it the wrong way. So that's all I'm going to say about that ..."

Last month, Singletary said the week's worth of distractions that included Kentwan Balmer's absence and Glen Coffee's retirement were a positive for the team because it taught them focus. He struck a similar stance today. "That was a good thing that happened. It really was - for a number of reasons that I won't go into. ... I appreciate Vernon speaking from his heart. But he was just wrong. But he indeed is every bit the reason why I made him captain. He's not going to sugar-coat things. He doesn't know how to sugar-coat things. I wish he did sometimes."

Asked whether the 49ers got better today, Singletary initially said, no. But then he reconsidered. "Well, you know what -- let me say this. We didn't get better on the field in practice, but we got better as a team. Yes."

Family squabbles are nothing new to the 49ers, even when they play on the same side of the ball. Davis, for example, got into a practice-field scrape with veteran guard Larry Allen during the 2007 training camp. In 2002 tailback Kevan Barlow and fullback Fred Beasley tangled inside the 49ers facility.

-- Matt Barrows


Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.


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