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July 29, 2012
Day 3 recap: Are you ready for some Thudball?

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I don't know who deserves more sympathy, the 49ers' backup offensive linemen or their backup defensive linemen. Both groups took their share of abuse in the 49ers' first fully padded practice of the new season, which at one point Harbaugh called "thudball."

The prime suspect on defense was - who else? - defensive end Justin Smith, who was last seen tossing aside New Orleans Saints and New York Giants offensive lineman as if he were Godzilla marching through downtown Tokyo. Smith on Sunday twice sent 300-plus pound offensive linemen sprawling onto their backsides. The first victim was second-year player Derek Hall, who is lining up at left guard with the second-team defense. Smith sent Hall flying as if he was made of straw.

Hall had a rough day as he was handled pretty well by rookie Tony Jerod-Eddie (Texas A&M) during blocking drills. Later in the practice, Jerod-Eddie got a vocal attaboy from defensive line coach Jim Tomsula after he blew up a short dump pass to running back Kendall Hunter.

Backup center Daniel Kilgore also felt Smith's wrath. During team drills, he flew backwards as if he had been struck head on by a moving vehicle. Which is all a long ways of saying that Smith is in midseason form. No one's surprised.

On offense, tight end Delanie Walker seemed to take delight in hitting linebackers - including a big one that knocked down Larry Grant - and defensive backs on outside running plays. Mike Iupati also had a huge block on rookie defensive lineman Patrick Butrym.

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One of the results of Jim Harbaugh's harangue today about A.J. Jenkins is that Jenkins is bound to receive even more scrutiny than he was getting before as a first-round pick. Jenkins' big test today was one-on-one drills with cornerbacks, who for the first time this offseason could chuck him at the line of scrimmage.

He faced off against Perrish Cox - one of the more aggressive 49ers DBs - twice and fellow rookie Deante Purvis once. Jenkins did ok at getting off the line of scrimmage but he only hauled in one of the three passes. On his one reception, he absorbed a big shot from Cox early and also jostled with him on the sideline before turning back and catching the ball.

The standout plays during this drill included a perfectly thrown deep ball from Josh Johnson to Chris Owusu, who beat Purvis downfield. Alex Smith, meanwhile, hit Kyle Williams deep against Tramaine Brock, prompting a chorus of "good ball" comments to Smith from coaches and teammates.

Smith also hit Ted Ginn deep after a double move fooled Brock. The drill favors the receiver as there is no help from the safety and no pass rush from the defensive line. And accordingly, the receivers won their battles most of the time.

Seven-on-seven drills

Randy Moss had the catch of the day, hauling in a throw from Colin Kaepernick along the sideline. While falling out of bounds, Moss one-handed the ball into his body against Tarell Brown. Poor Brown was tasked with covering Moss for most of the afternoon.

Rookie Nathan Palmer continues to look good. He beat the 49ers' starting cornerback, Carlos Rogers, and safety, Donte Whitner, on a 50-plus yard pass pattern down the middle of the field on a very nicely thrown ball by Scott Tolzien. Palmer stood out with several catches today.

Eleven-on-eleven drills

This was the so-called "thudball" portion of practice. It was fitting that the first play of the session was a handoff to Frank Gore, who followed Iupati through the hole.

Later in the session, right guard Alex Boone was beaten on a stunt by Aldon Smith. Boone, however, looked good in one-on-one blocking drills when he was matched up with Larry Grant. He also got into a heated exchange with Grant during team drills.

A pass from Tolzien to wideout Ben Hannula was bobbled and picked off by Dashon Goldson.

Harbaugh likes contact but he does not want to see fights. There have been none so far in camp, and I can't recall seeing any last year, either. Rookie receiver Brian Tyms, however, was ejected from practice by Harbaugh after he threw down fellow rookie Trenton Robinson on punt coverage. Tyms approached Harbaugh after practice and the two had a long talk.

Odds & Ends

Michael Crabtree walked onto the practice field late in the session with black tape on his right calf. He did not have a limp. He missed his second-straight practice. ... Linebacker Tavares Gooden also missed practice with an apparent illness. ... Receiver Joe Hasting went down early with an apparent right leg injury. He remained on the field but did not practice.

Three defensive players - Demarcus Dobbs, Michael Wilhoite and Cory Nelms - played offense. Nelms lined up at wide receiver and made a nice catch on the sideline in team drills. Wilhoite, meanwhile, caught two short passes from Kaepernick when lined up as a fullback, and he also made a nice stop when he switched back to inside linebacker later in practice.

Wilhoite said it's been a long time since he's caught passes. He played offense in high school but was a quarterback. His roommate this year is Bruce Miller, so he's learning the ins and outs of the new position all the time.

Randy Moss spent a long time working with Vernon Davis on the JUGGs machine (automatic ball thrower) after practice. The two took turns mimicking a defensive back draped on the other's back while he attempted to catch the ball.

LaMichael James joined Ted Ginn and Kyle Williams in practicing punt returns from Andy Lee. James has looked solid early in training camp in that role but fumbled one today. The most sure-handed member of that group? On Sunday at least? Williams.

-- Matt Barrows



MATTHEW BARROWS

Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.

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