Training-camp fights are commonplace in the NFL, but they've been rare in Santa Clara since Jim Harbaugh took over. The 49ers had their first of the 2013 session today, which is noteworthy in itself, and it's even more so because it was between players who belong to the same position group, safeties Michael Thomas and C.J. Spillman.
The two tangled at the end of a running play. Thomas was lined up at safety at the time; it was not clear whether Spillman had been on the field for that play. They were wrestling with each other on the ground when others, including Harbaugh and receiver Ricardo Lockette, dove in to break it up. Spillman was sent to the locker room. Thomas, who played for Harbaugh at Stanford, continued to practice.
Spillman is one of the four safeties in the running to be the starter at free safety. (Although everyone believes that first-round draft pick Eric Reid eventually will win that job). Thomas is a backup safety who also is the third-string nickel cornerback. Ironically, he had to fill in at safety for Spillman's absence. When that occurred, the 49ers were short a nickel cornerback. So receiver Chad Hall quickly changed his jersey from white to red and jumped in and played defense.
Last year, Harbaugh yanked receiver Kyle Williams out of practice after a scuffle with rookie cornerback Deante' Purvis. Harbaugh also banished receiver Brian Tyms last year after he took down Trenton Robinson on a special teams play. Harbaugh's mantra is that players should be looking out for one another in practice not trying to injury them. He scolded running back Anthony Dixon on Monday for a hard hit on Robinson.
It could be that tempers are a bit frayed given how long they've been in training camp. Tomorrow is the 49ers' final true practice before camp ends.
After Monday's catchless outing, receiver A.J. Jenkins had a solid showing today. He caught three passes during team drills, although he was out of bounds when he hauled in one of them. Jenkins' best catch was a contested throw over the middle against undrafted cornerback Darryl Morris, who was Jenkins' nemesis a day earlier. Contested throws have been Jenkins' bane, so it was a positive step that he outfought the cornerback for the ball today.
Despite that reception, Morris had an overall strong practice. As a member of the look-team defense, he goes against the team's top wideouts and quarterbacks. Of the 49ers veteran cornerbacks, he's most like Tarell Brown in that he's not all that big or physical but does a good job mirroring the receiver. He had Lavelle Hawkins blanked on a particular play. B.J. Daniels threw the ball anyway and Hawkins somehow managed to come up with the catch.
The longest catch of the day - about 45 yards - was turned in by Williams, who caught Daniels' throw along the sideline against rookie Marcus Cooper. It was reminiscent of the 45-yarder Marlon Moore caught against Cooper a day earlier. ... I thought Nnamdi Asomugha had another strong practice.
Reid again was the de facto starter at safety. Vic Fangio said he hadn't decided who will start at free safety against the Chiefs on Friday. Fangio had very Fangio-like things to say about Reid. That is, he's not one to heap praise on a rookie.
"He's been doing well," Fangio said. "I thought he played pretty decent in the game last Thursday. And then, he basically didn't practice on Saturday andSunday, had a little physical issue, and then practiced more yesterday. So, I thought he played well in the game, showed progress, showed promise and then he kind of had a slow week here with a little injury."
Running back Jewel Hampton was back at practice after missing Thursday's game and the practices that followed it. He had a busy session and looked good. ... Starters Joe Staley and Patrick Willis did not take part but every other would-be Week 1 starter was healthy, including Carlos Rogers, who sat out most of Monday. ... Rookie tight end Vance McDonald did not practice and won't play Friday.
- Matt Barrows