For the second time in training camp, Jim Harbaugh had to send an overly feisty wide receiver off the practice field. This time it was Kyle Williams, who got into a scuffle with rookie cornerback Deante Purvis late in the session and then spent the last 15 minutes of practice on his knee away from the action. A furious Harbaugh sent Williams off the field; Purvis stayed in practice.
On the third day of training camp, Harbaugh sent rookie Brian Tyms into the locker room after he threw down an opponent on punt coverage during a non-contact drill. Today Harbaugh and Williams huddled for a minute after practice before shaking hands. Neither spoke to the media.
Williams, of course, became a household name on Jan. 22 when he muffed two punts in the NFC Championship game against the Giants. Both miscues led to New York scores, including the game-winning field goal in overtime. Message boards filled with hateful comments about Williams, including death threats.
But he also received an outpouring of support from public figures like Deion Sanders, Kurt Warner and Earnest Byner, who had his own famous fumble in a championship game. Harbaugh also has been an ardent supporter.
He told Sports Illustrated's Peter King recently that the 49ers wouldn't "allow the media to hang an albatross (around) his neck. He's on the inside of our team looking out." The media actually has been supportive of Williams, who earned respect from local reporters for taking questions immediately after the championship game.
Williams has used that experience as motivation this offseason, and he's been one of the 49ers' sharpest receivers in training camp. Perhaps more interesting is the fact that Williams is listed as the team's No. 2 punt returner, a role he likely will have in Friday's preseason opener at Candlestick Park.
That game, of course, will mark the first time Williams and the 49ers have set foot on the field since their overtime loss to the Giants. The crowd reaction promises to be interesting.
The good news for the 49ers - they will be a remarkably healthy bunch for Friday's game. Rookie LaMichael James was back at practice today after missing Tuesday's session with an illness. Also back were rookie center Jason Slowey and second-year cornerback Curtis Holcomb, both of whom have missed recent practices.
The only players who didn't practice were receiver Joe Hastings (leg) and linebacker Darius Fleming, who is recovering from an ACL tear.
Don't expect more than a cameo appearance from some of the 49ers starters. Judging from today's practice, it looks as if Justin Smith, Ray McDonald and Frank Gore could have blink-and-miss-them appearances against the Vikings. The 49ers did a lot of game preparation for Minnesota, including quite a bit of red-zone work.
Speaking of Tyms, he made several nice catches in practice. His best came on 3rd and 10 during a two-minute drill. With the third-team offense driving into the red zone, Scott Tolzien fired a pass that appeared to be heading well out of the back of the end zone.
Tyms, who stands about 6-3, made a great leaping catch at the end line and came down with the ball. Alas, the official on the end line ruled that he came down out of bounds. It might have been worth a replay review.
Other highlights of practice included a nicely thrown touch pass in the back corner of the end zone from Colin Kaepernick to Randy Moss. ... Delanie Walker caught two touchdowns on crossing routes/slant patterns during red-zone work ... Patrick Willis may have had the catch of the day. After a Josh Johnson fireball glanced off of James and into the air, Willis made a sprawling dive for the interception in the end zone.
The 49ers linebackers work on their hands and ball-catching skills every day during individual drills. Today it showed.
-- Matt Barrows