The 49ers were in a two-minute drill at the end of practice today, and Alex Smith and the first-team offense were facing fourth down with about 10 yards to go for a touchdown. Smith dropped back, looked right and then threw hard down the middle to his favorite target, Vernon Davis. The tight end was about to snatch the ball out of the air when a hand reached in to break it up.
The defensive back responsible: Taylor Mays, a player the 49ers acknowledged they are trying to trade.
His pass break up on Friday was noteworthy. Mays struggled to make plays on the ball at USC and last year when he started six games as a rookie for the 49ers. That, coupled with the fact that the 49ers are suddenly deep at the safety position, has prompted them to seek a trade for the 2010 second-round pick.
Mays said he appreciated that general manager Trent Baalke told him up front that the team was trying to move him. And he said he was trying to concentrate on his classwork and on-field responsibilities and not let the trade talk distract him.
"It's cool," he said after practice. "It is what it is. I have to roll with the adversity and play hard regardless."
Mays, who had been starting at safety next to Reggie Smith early in camp, is now behind Smith and C.J. Spillman. He'll likely fall farther down the depth chart when free-agent signee Donte Whitner arrives and when another free-agent pickup, Madieu Williams, gets comfortable with the defense. Williams had a strong practice Friday.
Asked if that put a chip on his shoulder, Mays said that chip always is there. "I would say it would, but it's nothing personal," he said. "Business is business. It is what it is. I don't have any personal vendettas to anybody. I talked to Trent. Me and Trent are definitely on the same page. There's no animosity. We want what's best for myself and for the team."
Mays said he didn't know if he would remain on the 49ers. "I don't know," he said. "Trent didn't say anything for sure, and didn't not say anything for sure. We just kind of left it as a somewhat open thing. It definitely was mutual respect both ways. So we'll just see what happens. Regardless of what happens in the future, I'm here now. So I'm going to do what I've got to now to help this team, to be with my teammates and coaches and provide what I can provide for this team."
Listed at 230 pounds, Mays is one of the biggest safeties in the league, and his size has been cited as the one of the reasons for his lack of agility. Mays said he tried yoga this offseason, and while doing it gained six pounds. He said he now weighs 234.
Alex Smith passed his first test today: No boos during the public practice. In fact, the biggest sound out of the bleachers when Smith was quarterback was a round of applause when he hit receiver Josh Morgan on a long touchdown pass. Of course, the crowd was egged on by running back - and resident ham - Anthony Dixon, who cupped his hand to his ear a la Hulk Hogan and prompted the fans to pump of the volume.
It wasn't a perfect practice for Smith. Inside linebacker Larry Grant (Foothill High) intercepted him in the red zone and he later badly underthrew receiver Ted Ginn, who had several steps on safety Curtis Taylor. But it was better than Thursday's session, his first of training camp, when he looked decidedly rusty
Still, Smith was 10-12 overall during that 11-on-11 session, including a 16-yard pickup on an out pattern to newly acquired receiver Braylon Edwards. Smith and the first-team defense started out facing the first-team defense, the later were going against the second-team units.
Undrafted Monmouth receiver Chris Hogan also stood out in practice. He made three nice catches Friday, the last of which was a 50-yard snag down the sideline on a perfectly thrown ball by Colin Kaepernick. Hogan beat Spillman on the play but fell hard on his left knee. He was down for a few minutes before being helped up by the medical staff. He walked off with assistance but on his own feet.
-- Matt Barrows