The hits keep coming for the 49ers. Seventh-round draft pick Curtis Holcomb is likely out for the season after rupturing his Achilles tendon during a conditioning test on Thursday. His agent said that Holcomb, who played at Florida A&M, will have surgery to repair the tendon.
Holcomb was the last of the team's draft picks. He had been training in the Tampa area before flying to California early this week and signing his contract Thursday morning. Another seventh-round pick, fullback Bruce Miller, was placed on the physically unable to perform list with a shoulder injury, although he is expected to be activated in a matter of days.
Another injured 49er, top wideout Michael Crabtree, is dealing with a foot injury and also was placed on the PUP list. Players can be taken off the PUP list at any time. If they are still on the PUP at the start of the regular season, they must miss the first six weeks.
Patrick Willis, who last year desperately wanted to deliver friend and teammate Take Spikes to the playoffs for the first time, struck a decidedly business-like tone today in talking about his departed teammate.
"It's just part of the game," Willis before practice. "Each year is going to be change and unfortunately there are some guys that I had the pleasure of playing with that are no longer part of the game. They'll be missed, but it's part of the game. We just have to move on."
Willis is likely heading into the season without two of his most prominent "Willis protectors" from recent seasons. Spikes, who played next to him, struck a deal with San Diego. Meanwhile, the team is planning to move on without nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin, The free-agent market for interior defensive linemen, however, has been softer than expected and Franklin and others have not yet gotten the offers they expected. He is still on the market.
Spikes had a number of roles for the 49ers - Ted linebacker, veteran voice in the locker room and union representative. Did Willis see a vacuum in leadership in the locker room with Spikes' departure, and would he step in to fill it? Willis said he wasn't about to force anything.
"I can only be me," he said. "I can't go out and be somebody I'm not. I'll speak when I feel like it's needed. But as far as trying to pep talk here and tell guys this and tell guys that, it's just got to be one of those things that I have to feel."
The 49ers will hit the field at 2:30 p.m., the first time Jim Harbaugh has assembled his squad since he was hired as head coach. Defensive players, of course, only received their playbooks this week. Early on, they've been learning the base defenses. The assumption is that coordinator Vic Fangio will begin adding in certain schemes after he figures out what his players do best.
"They're going to tailor the defense to the way we are as a defense," said safety Taylor Mays. "They're not going to have us playing calls that aren't appropriate for us. We trust in our defensive coordinator and head coach and in our system."
With Dashon Goldson waiting to find his free-agency home, Mays figures to be one of the starting safeties - Reggie Smith is likely the other - in today's practice.
Some numbers as training camp kicks off. The team currently has 76 players on the roster. That's counting the three PUP players - Michael Crabtree (foot), Miller (shoulder) and Dominique Zeigler (knee). But it's not counting players like Alex Smith, David Akers, Ray McDonald and Tony Wragge who will sign their free-agent contracts today.
Among the prominent undrafted rookies: Running back Jeremia Masoli is wearing No. 29; QB McLeod Bethel-Thompson is No. 1 ands NT Ian Williams is No. 64. First-round draft pick Aldon Smith is No. 48 but says he is eying a number in the 50s.
Mike Singletary's slogans have been replaced with Jim Harbaugh's slogans. One wall that players must pass from the locker room to the practice field is a banner that reads: You are getting better or you are getting worse.
-- Matt Barrows