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August 3, 2012
Day 7 recap: Justin Smith torments overmatched 49ers offense


The 49ers defense beat up on the 49ers offense on Thursday, but Justin Smith - who was given a veteran's day off - didn't get to take part in it. Smith today seemed quite eager to make up for the lost time, tossing both starting offensive linemen (Joe Staley) and backups (Anyone else who had the misfortune of lining up at left tackle) aside like rag dolls and otherwise making life miserable for his offensive opponents.

Afterward Jim Harbaugh noted that the 31 other teams would give their proverbial left arms to have Smith on their rosters and yet the defensive end practiced "like a guy that's fighting to make the team."

Even when he was off the field, Smith was the ringleader. During a rare live-tackling scenario, Smith couldn't understand why no one was hitting the quarterbacks, who were forced to scramble all afternoon long. One of the assistants had to inform Smith that the drill was live for everyone but the quarterbacks. (The quarterbacks were lucky he was on the sideline).

Although there weren't the same number of interceptions there were on Friday, the offense couldn't make much headway today, either. The three-hour session ended with a two-minute drill that began at the offense's 15-yard line. The drive only went three plays before Alex Smith's pass left was tipped by cornerback Tarell Brown and intercepted by safety Dashon Goldson.

"Lopsided," Smith said when asked to assess the offense-v.-defense battle from the last two days. "In all aspects - seven on sevens and teams. Obviously, there's room for improvement and we need to get better."

Smith, of course, praised the defense, which promises to be on of the best in the league again this year. He noted that the 49ers' defense can play every type of scheme and play it well. That makes them imposing in practice and also serves as an excellent warm-up for the array of defenses he'll face over the course of a season.

"We were a little better (as far as turnovers) but still didn't get much done," Smith said. "It falls on us as a whole on offense to execute better."

With the domination of the defense came plenty of chatter from the defense. I'm not allowed to report what is said during practices, but I stood behind that unit all afternoon and I can tell you it was pretty hilarious.

The most interesting part of practice was the live drills. The 49ers never risk their starters during these sessions, so it was a mixture of second- and third-string players on the field.

• On the first play, LaMichael James ran left and was strung out by fellow rookie Trenton Robinson and tackled for no gain by outside linebacker Kourtnei Brown

• On play two, Colin Kaepernick scrambled to his right, prompting a few comments from the defenders about how the quarterback is supposed to throw, not run.

• Play 3: A short pass from Scott Tolzien to Konrad Reuland was broken up by cornerback Tramaine Brock, who had a very good practice after a rough opening to camp.

• A short pass up the middle was caught by A.J. Jenkins, who was quickly tackled by safety Cory Nelms. Nelms nearly popped the ball free, but Jenkins recovered the bobble.

• Safety Colin Jones had a very nice hit on Anthony Dixon on a run up the right sideline.

• Josh Johnson tucked the ball in and took off amid heavy defensive pressure.

• Johnson had the offense's best play - a bullet over the middle to tight end Garett Celek over rookie inside linebacker Joe Holland.

The offensive line was shuffled throughout the day. Left guard Mike Iupati is expecting the birth of his first child and was excused. Leonard Davis stepped in for him with the starting group and looked good. Then Alex Boone took a shot to the (sensitive part of a man's anatomy) and sat out the rest of practice. Derek Hall and Mike Person filled in with the first-team unit in place of Boone at right guard.

Meanwhile, Joe Looney saw his first action as a 49er. The fourth-round pick filled in at right guard with the second-team offense. "Some good," Harbaugh said when asked about Looney's day. "It's good to have him back on the field."

Linebacker NaVorro Bowman and Kyle Williams went through full practices after getting nicked Thursday. Tight end Nate Byham, who is coming back from an ACL injury "is working through something" and did not practice. Byham's injury is not serious and he should practice Saturday.

Michael Crabtree, Joe Hastings and Curtis Holcomb remain out with injuries. Harbaugh did not seem particularly concerned about Crabtree's injury, calling it a "minor bump in the road" and noting that Crabtree's had put in a lot of work prior to the injury. Crabtree has been sprinting on an adjacent practice field with the strength and conditioning coach the last three days, an indication he is close to returning to the practice field.

Ted Ginn, Williams, James and Jenkins took turns fielding punts Friday, and all four looked good. The group handled 16 punts total late in the session. There was only one miscue, by Jenkins, who is learning that skill for the first time.

-- Matt 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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