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August 1, 2012
Day 5 recap: Which linebackers passed the 'hands' test?

willisbowman.jpg

One of the more amusing training-camp drills each day tests the agility and the hands of the linebackers. One by one the group must shuffle over a half dozen bags and then catch a pass fired at them from a short distance by defensive quality control coach Peter Hansen.

I don't know Hansen's exact dimensions, but I'm guessing he's about 6-6. He has the long, lanky profile of, say, Randy Johnson, and the balls come out of his hand nearly as fast. What makes the drill fun is that if a linebacker drops the would-be interception, he has to drop to the ground a pump out a dozen or so pushups.

The first time the crew ran the drills, there were no drops - NaVorro Bowman had a bobble but not a drop - which drew raves from linebackers coach Jim Leavitt. "Good job, everybody. Wow!"

The second time through, Patrick Willis, Aldon Smith and Parys Haralson were on the ground doing pushups. The third time through, Bowman, rookie Joe Holland and Tavares Gooden had drops. On the fourth, only Gooden dropped the ball.

The linebackers with the best hands - today, at least - were Erik Bakhtiari, Kourtnei Brown, Cam Johnson, Larry Grant, Ahmad Brooks and Michael Wilhoite. None of those guys had a drop vs. Hansen's fastball.

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The best catch of the day? It was turned in by Kyle Williams, who made a diving effort to snag a Colin Kaepernick pass over the middle during 7-7 drills. ... Kaepernick also was involved in one of the longer pass plays of training camp as he hit Chris Owusu deep down field over rookie cornerback Deante Purvis. He later hit Williams deep during team drills.

Alex Smith had a lovely over-the-shoulder throw to Brian Tyms during one-on-one drills. Smith also hit Mario Manningham deep over Chris Culliver (déjà vu?) and then connected with Randy Moss on a crossing route over the middle despite excellent coverage by Tarell Brown. "Sugar!" Brown yelled. (Except it wasn't "sugar").

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Good defensive plays were turned in by Culliver, who picked off an ill-advised pass from Scott Tolzien deep over the middle. Tolzien was under pressure and was trying to hit Ben Hannula. ... Nathan Palmer seemed to make a catch over the middle, but a big hit from Bowman dislodged the ball ... Dashon Goldson intercepted a pass from Smith that Frank Gore muffed. Gore promptly tackled Goldson, a no-no during the drill. ... Mr. Aggressive Perrish Cox jumped on a route and broke up a short pass to Owusu. ... Bakhtiari had a sack of Tolzien.

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Rookie A.J. Jenkins drew the ire of receivers coach John Morton, who wanted Jenkins to run a different route during one-on-one drills vs. Perrish Cox.

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Guard Joe Looney has been cleared for practice but is being worked in slowly. He did not take part in any team drills today ... The injured 49ers remain Michael Crabtree (calf), Joe Hastings and cornerback Curtis Holcomb.

-- 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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