Jim Harbaugh admits he was worried for his rookie class. The lockout wiped away all of the OTAs and minicamps the newcomers normally would have used to acclimate themselves to the NFL. Harbaugh wondered if they'd flounder during the preseason and whether they would be on the chopping block when cut-down days rolled around.
"Maybe the light wouldn't go on soon enough for them because they didn't know what to do and maybe we would overlook a player that really had the potential to help our football team out," Harbaugh said Wednesday.
Two days before the team's first preseason game, the coach's fears are assuaged. His biggest surprise of training camp is how quickly his rookie class - including the undrafted free agents - have picked up the NFL game and how well they've played.
At the top of that list is quarterback Colin Kaepernick. "Kap really is leading the way in that. Of all the rookies, I think he is the most game-ready of all of them," Harbaugh said.
The 49ers have yet to bring another veteran quarterback into training camp, which not only speaks to how well Kaepernick has performed, it has allowed him to get plenty of repetitions and attention from the coaching staff. Kaepernick likely will enter Friday's game in New Orleans some time in the second quarter. Harbaugh said he intended to allow all four quarterbacks to play.
Harbaugh also had good things to say about third-round draft pick Chris Culliver, who continues to see a lot of action due to injuries at cornerback. The numbers two and three corners, Shawntae Spencer (hamstring) and Tarell Brown, have been out of action for several days. On Wednesday, the No. 4 guy, Tramaine Brock, was held out of the second half of the practice.
That allowed Culliver and Phillip Adams to get practice time opposite Carlos Rogers with the first-team defense. Said Harbaugh of Culliver: "Each week it's been arrow up, arrow up again. I like to see that continue - you know, arrow up in the preseason game. He's definitely got all the tools from a size, speed, athletic - what it takes to play in the National Football League. It means a lot to him to be good. You see him working extremely hard between drills getting extra coaching. He's got the tools but he's not a carpenter yet."
Safety Dashon Goldson was in uniform for the first time since agreeing to a one-year deal with the 49ers. He mostly observed from deep behind the defense but got in on a couple of plays with the first-team unit toward the end of practice.
Goldson said he was frustrated with the free-agency process and cited the glut of free agents for why he didn't get the multi-year deal he was expecting. He said the Patriots, whom he visited over the weekend, also made him an offer.
He said he stayed in touch with 49ers coaches and with general manager Trent Baalke throughout the free-agency process, even when the team was bringing in veteran safeties Madiue Williams and Donte Whitner. (Those two figure to start vs. New Orleans).
"Every year you've got to prove yourself," Goldson said. "They bring in talented guys every year. I was getting feedback from coaches that they were interested. Fortunately they had their players and spent money to get that. But I had a lot of interest in me. Bill Belichick saw a lot in me and wanted me in and there was an opportunity there. But like I said, I had to follow my heart."
It was a rough day for wideout Kevin Jurovich, who had been Alex Smith's constant target during workouts at San Jose State since March. Jurovich had a number of drops Wednesday, became frustrated and had to be encouraged by fellow wideouts Kyle Williams and Josh Morgan. He stayed late after practice to work on catching the ball.
Isaac Sopoaga (hamstring) has not practiced since training camp began, and it's a near lock that Ricky Jean Francois will start at nose tackle against the Saints. Rookie Ian Williams, the backup at nose tackle, went through a full practice after getting nicked Tuesday. ... Left guard Mike Iupati (arm) dressed for practice but did not take part in team drills. Tony Wragge and rookie Daniel Kilgore filled in.
On the radio this morning, Harbaugh implied that new wideout Braylon Edwards might have been injured. Not so, said Edwards. Instead, his legs are a wee bit tight at the start of training camp. "I feel good," he said. "I'm not injured in any way, fashion or form. Just legs tight. I hadn't been going through the necessary football drills that we do day to day. There's no shape like actual training camp, so nothing is physically wrong, just the legs trying to get back to where they were."
-- Matt Barrows