Braylon Edwards' most impressive season came in 2007 when, as a Cleveland Brown, he caught 80 passes for 1,289 yards and scored 16 touchdowns. The 49ers haven't had a 1,000-yard receiver since Terrell Owens had 1,102 yards in 2003.
In that way it was fitting that Edwards, the biggest and most prolific receiver the team has signed since Owens, was wearing Owens' old No. 81 during his first practice. Edwards, however, said that won't last long. "Listen here, that number's temporary," he said. "I'm not trying to be known as the next him."
Edwards said that he would likely work a deal with fellow receiver Dominique Zeigler, who wears No. 17, or possible choose another number altogther and get a fresh start. Edwards noted that at age 28 he was the elder statesmen among his new team's wideouts and that he was happy to help them develop. But after signing a one-year deal, he made it clear that teaching wasn't his primary mission.
"Make no bones about it, I'm here to be the guy," he said. "I'm here to make plays. I'm here to complement whoever's on the other side. I didn't come to accept a quiet role. I'm here to make some noise."
Edwards signed his contract late in the afternoon Thursday and then hustled to get on the field with his teammates. He lined up with both the first- and second-team offenses. He caught a short crossing route from Colin Kapernick and a short out route from Jeremiah Masoli. He did not catch a pass from Alex Smith, who admitted to being a bit rusty after missing the first week of training camp. Smith took all of the first-team snaps Thursday in team drills. he threw a touchdown pass to Vernon Davis but also was picked off twice, including a deep wobbler that was intercepted by safety Curtis Taylor.
Edwards, a six-year veteran who starred at the University of Michigan, said he's known Harbaugh all of his life. His father, Stan, also played at Michigan and was close to Harbaugh, and Harbaugh said it was that Michigan background that convinced him that Edwards' well-documented run-ins with the law were "pot holes" that Edwards could move beyond. "You don't want that to spiral any further down," Harbaugh said. "So it's time to start doing all the little things right that he knows he's capable of. He's a good guy."
The receiver has had a legal missteps both in Ohio and New York, including an assault charge in Cleveland and a DUI incident in New York to which he recently pled guilty. Edwards could be suspended at the start of the 2011 season as a result of that incident.
"I have not spoken to Commissioner (Roger) Goodell yet, and I don't know what his ruling will be on the situation," Edwards said. "Obviously, myself and the team hope there will be no (suspension), but if there is one, I respect it and I will gladly take it. And once it's over, move forward and help this team be good this year."
Edwards also has been linked to a recent fight in a Michigan bar that left two bouncers with stab wounds. Two of Edwards' cousins were charged with felonious assault in the incident. The receiver said he was confident he'd be exonerated. "After the end of the day, the situation will take care of itself," he said. "I'm sure of that 100 percent."
The signings of safeties Madieu Williams and Donte Winter likely mean the end in San Francisco for free agent Dashon Goldson and 2010 second-round draft pick Taylor Mays. An ESPN report today said the 49ers were actively shopping Mays, and Harbaugh did not deny it. "Taylor's a 49er," Harbaugh said. "But full disclosure: There's been inquiries over the last eight days, enough to the point you say let's check it out. And that's where we are right now."
All of the 49ers' recent free-agent signings were on the field save for Whitner, who is traveling west. Most, like cornerback Carlos Rogers, are starting out with the second-team units while they learn their respective schemes.
Both Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman returned to practice after missing Wednesday's session ... Cornerback Shawntae Spencer and outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks remain out with injuries. Spencer has a hamstring issue.
Kaepernick threw a pick-six interception to end the team portion of practice. He and Kevin Jurovich weren't on the same page on a quick out route that Tramaine Brock jumped and then ran into the end zone untouched.
-- Matt Barrows