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September 29, 2010
Johnson's 'list' reassured Singletary he made right decision

Mike Singletary insists he didn't decide whether to fire Jimmy Raye until the wee hours Monday morning after he had reviewed the film from the team's flop in Kansas City. But he revealed today that he was leaning in that direction the night before.

He said that on Sunday night, he met with quarterbacks coach Mike Johnson and asked him to write a list of things he would do differently if he took over play-calling duties for the 49ers. "I told him after the conversation we had, 'Do me a favor. Let's talk again tomorrow. But what I would like is for you to take your time, sit down and write down all the things that you would do differently for our offense,'" Singletary said.

Singletary reviewed the list the following morning. He wouldn't divulge the length of the list - "Just long enough to have a feel," he said - or what it detailed, but Singletary said he liked what he saw, especially "some of the ideas, some of the creativity"

Creativity has been a buzzword at team headquarters the last few days. No one has criticized Raye directly, but the words used to describe Johnson - creative, energetic, young - have been telling.

Alex Smith, who has been in around-the-clock meetings with Johnson since the change was made, today said the team needed to be more flexible on offense and it needed to exploit mismatches with the defense instead of sticking with the same approach - and the same personnel groups -- from week to week.

"I do think there will be more variation," Smith said. "I think personnel and formations and things like that, there will be some different things. I think we'll find out how they're going to play certain personnel, find out how they're going to play certain formations and then go from there."

Smith said he thought parts of the spread offense, something that Johnson studied in 2008 and helped implement in the 49ers system last season, would be used, but that the 49ers wouldn't fully commit to any one style. "You have to be able to present a lot of different things to the defense," he said. "You have to be able to make the defense defend a lot of different things."

Odds & Ends

* One receiver, Josh Morgan, said he'd be fine by Sunday after spraining his knee on the final play of the game in Kansas City. Another receiver is more iffy. Ted Ginn said he wouldn't take part in today's afternoon session. Ginn sprained his knee in the season opener and hasn't taken in part in practice since. Takeo Spikes (knee) also did not take part in today's session. Spikes missed all of last week's practices but still started Sunday's game.

* Eric Heitmann went through team drills for the first time since breaking his fibula Aug. 9. It's probably too early for Heitmann to be cleared to play in a game, but it will be interesting to see how -- or if -- the 49ers shuffle the offensive line when he is 100 percent. Singletary said there would be no changes to the starting lineup on either offense or defense.

* Johnson has not determined whether he will call plays from the booth or the sideline. Smith seemed to suggest that the booth might be a better spot because it would take Johnson away from the emotion and turmoil of an NFL sideline. Johnson will make that determination later in the week. "You can think about planning out the next series. That's hard to do on the sideline," Smith said. Johnson will speak to the media tomorrow.

* Running back Frank Gore had been the focal point, the so-called "bell cow," of Raye's offense. But he said he was more interested in winning than getting a lot of carries and didn't care how the offense changed. "I've been playing football since I was 5 years old," he said. "So as long as I get a lane, I'm ready to play. I'm a ball player."

-- 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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