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August 4, 2012
Day 8 recap: Great day for Cox, Looney. Harbaugh? Eh -- not so much


The 49ers went into their day off Sunday with a thump ... and a thud.

First the thump. Saturday's was a twilight practice in pads and Jim Harbaugh called for an extended "live" hitting drill around the goal line at the beginning of the session.

Some of the highlights included Alex Smith hitting tight end Demarcus Dobbs in the right corner of the end zone for a touchdown. Dobbs, who was wearing No. 40 instead of his usual No. 96, got past the first-string linebacking corps for the score.

The biggest hitting was done by the second- and third-team units. During a goal-line stand, nose tackle Ian Williams got an excellent push while linebackers Joe Holland and Michael Wilhoite teamed to stop Kendall Hunter short of the goal line. On the next play, however, Hunter barreled into the end zone over right guard Joe Looney.

Looney hadn't lined up for a single snap this offseason until Friday. But he played extensively with the second-team offensive line today and looked very good. Looney even made a reception - albeit a short one - off a pass that was tipped at the line of scrimmage by outside linebacker Kourtnei Brown.

Other players who stood out Sunday included cornerback/nickel back Perrish Cox. He knocked down fullback - yes, fullback - Anthony Dixon on an outside run, drawing oohs and ahs from his defensive teammates. On another play, he ran stride for stride down the sideline with Ted Ginn, then batted away a nicely thrown, 40-yard pass from Alex Smith.

Rookie Cam Johnson also had perhaps his best practice. During the first week of training camp, Johnson obviously was still slowed by the knee surgery he had in June. He looked more spry today. He's got a very powerful lower body and does a particularly good job holding the point against the run. He had a nice tackle coming off the edge on a running play to stop the tailback at the line of scrimmage.

During 11-on-11 drills, rookie A.J. Jenkins made a nice catch along the sideline on 3rd and 9 for a first down. It was a big catch in light of the fact that the defense had been whipping up on the offense all week, and the offense was badly in need of some momentum.

On the ensuing play, however, Jenkins was flagged for a false start. Harbaugh wasn't happy and fellow rookie Nathan Palmer was sent in from the sideline to take Jenkins' place in the lineup.

There was only one interception that I saw. Outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks came down with a tipped pass from Scott Tolzien and was off to the races.

Feisty, feisty. Cornerback Chris Culliver, who last week got into a shoving match with Mario Manningham, today had a brief joust with tight end Konrad Reuland.

There were several absentees. Michael Crabtree continued his workouts with the team's strength and conditioning coach. There was more change-of-direction work today, another signal that Crabtree is close to returning to practice.

A couple of offensive linemen were not on hand. Guard Mike Iupati is expecting his first child and has been excused. Sixth-round pick Jason Slowey also was absent. Chase Beeler filled in at center with the third-team offense. Leonard Davis continued to substitute for Iupati at left guard.

Nate Byham, Curtis Holcomb and Joe Hastings did not practice. Will Tukuafu appeared to tweak his knee and did not take part in the second half of practice.

Finally, the thud.

The 49ers ended the twilight practice with a two-minute drive for a field goal. The guy who lined up to attempt that field goal was none other than the head coach.

And Jim Harbaugh, 48, didn't just pantomime kicking the game winner. He called for a fake. As he ran past the holder -- assistant special teams coach Tracy Smith -- Smith flipped the ball to Harbaugh, who took it in, cut up field and then fell - face first - onto the grass. He lay there milking the moment for a couple of seconds.

The players thought it was the most hilarious thing they'd ever seen. They have a day off today.

-- 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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