"I thought today's practice was the best practice of the training camp so far," Jim Harbaugh said this afternoon. He's right. It was a strong day for quarterbacks Alex Smith and Colin Kaepernick, who both looked sharp throwing intermediate and deep intermediate routes. The 49ers were working on more situational drills Monday as they get ready to face New Orleans Friday in the preseason opener.
Kaepernick may have had the highlight of the day, one he made with his feet not his right arm. He pulled off one of those fool-the-cameraman type bootlegs from the 50 yard line. By the time the defense knew who had the ball, he was at the 30 yard line and then outraced Taylor Mays - no slouch when it comes to straight-line foot speed - to the corner pylon.
Smith was particularly good at hitting targets between the linebackers and secondary in a two-minute drill. He connected with Vernon Davis and Joshua Morgan on pass plays of 20-plus yards that set up David Akers field goals.
He also hit receiver Braylon Edwards with a couple of back-shoulder passes, one of which was in the end zone over cornerback Tramaine Brock. Back-shoulder passes are something 49ers fans probably have a hard time recalling in recent seasons. Smith said it's one of the things the offense is working on in this training camp.
Kaepernick, meanwhile, also looked sharp moving the team down the field in end-of-half situations. He hooked up twice with tight end Delanie Walker, once in the back of the end zone and again on a quick pass to the left, front pylon, a play which beat cornerback Phillip Adams.
Harbaugh said he thought his starters would play 20 or so snaps Friday in New Orleans, which is about the same as a non-lockout-impaired preseason. He said he wanted to see Frank Gore, whom previous coaches have kept on ice in the exhibition season, play a few snaps. He said he wasn't sure about recent signee Dashon Goldson.
Outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks returned to practice today and got a lot of snaps with the first-team defense. Brooks and Haralson were the "starters" in practice, but Brooks ended up playing a lot of snaps opposite rookie Aldon Smith when the offense was in hurry-up mode.
With Reggie Smith (knee) not practicing and with Goldson still not officially signed, newcomers Donte Whitner and Madieu Williams played with the first-team defense. The 49ers, in their weekly release, have Whitner and Smith as the starters.
Linebacker Keaton Kristick (leg) also returned to practice, playing with the second-team unit behind Patrick Willis. Isaac Sopoaga (hamstring) appears close to returning. He ran on a side field during practice. Others who did not practice included CBs Shawntae Spencer (hamstring) and Tarell Brown, LT Joe Staley (he said on KHTK that he'll be back tomorrow), TE Colin Cloherty and receiver Chris Hogan (ankle).
Odds & Ends
â€¢ Willis today took part in one-on-one pass-rushing drills, something he rarely (ever?) had done in previous training camps.
â€¢ Rookie cornerbacks Chris Culliver and Cory Nelms had strong showings in one-on-one pass-coverage
â€¢ Left guard Mike Iupati appeared to hurt his arm during 11-on-11 drills but didn't miss many snaps. Rookie Adam Kilgore filled in when Iupati was out.
â€¢ Alex Smith on Harbaugh's close involvement in practices: "It's great to have a visual explanation ... even if it's from an old guy."
-- Matt Barrows