While the 49ers offensive players have been pouring over their new playbook since April 29, it's been a different story for their defensive teammates. There have been no defensive minicamps and no one has been practicing specific plays because there is no playbook. The defensive players who meet regularly at San Jose State have focused solely on strength and conditioning.
Concerned? Not at all, Justin Smith, one of the team's defensive captains, said today. Smith said it might be a different story if the 49ers were switching base defenses. The fact that they're sticking with a 3-4, he said, likely means that they'll use a familiar base defense initially and that more intricate schemes - coverages, blitz packages, etc. - will be sprinkled in as time goes on.
"Usually during the course of the week (during the season), you change up half the things you're doing anyway," said Smith, who led the 49ers with 8 1/2 sacks in 2010. (That total tied his career high in sacks, which came during his rookie season in 2001).
In February, defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said he tried not to watch too much tape of his new players because he wanted to form his own opinions of them. That is, he didn't want to let the schemes they ran last year color his perceptions. He said he would build the defense around the players' strengths.
Smith also noted that several prominent defensive players are free agents. That list includes four 2010 starters - Aubrayo Franklin, Takeo Spikes, Manny Lawson and Dashon Goldson. In addition, the status of another starter, Nate Clements, is fuzzy given his unwieldy contract for 2011. Smith said it didn't make sense to draw up a playbook before knowing who your personnel would be.
"I imagine (Fangio) will figure out what he's going to do once he sees us in practice a week or two," Smith said.
The rancor directed toward the owners from the player representatives last night and today has not trickled down to the rank and file. The 49ers players on hand Friday said they were taking a wait-and-see approach. Said quarterback Alex Smith: "We're not there. We're reading about it like everyone else. No (anger). We're out of the loop like everyone else."
-- Matt Barrows