Have I mentioned lately how much fun it is to cover the 49ers? The drive isn’t the greatest, but I never feel like I’ve wasted an afternoon in Santa Clara. There’s always something happening with this team, and today was no different.

The newest 49er: LB Jermaine Cunningham

The newest 49er: LB Jermaine Cunningham

– As expected, Tramaine Brock will be the No. 3 cornerback on Sunday night against Houston. Vic Fangio said they haven’t yet decided on who would fill that role if everyone is 100% healthy (Nnamdi Asomugha’s knee injury is still “part of the equation”), but he did say this about Brock:

“He did a nice job. He probably had the biggest play of the game in breaking up that pass that Donte intercepted in the end zone. That was a 3rd-and-1, deep into the second quarter. They were in field goal range and I think the score was only 7-3 at the time. So, that was a very critical play at that time and he made that. And he made some other good plays.”

Earlier in the week I wrote about how Asomugha may have lost his spot permanently after Brock’s performance in St. Louis. There’s no reason for the 49ers to make an announcement on the matter at this stage, but if Brock plays well against the Texans, Fangio could make some sort of declaration in a week.

– The question I asked about defenseless receivers got a great response from Fangio about how quarterbacks should be fined for making throws that lead to receivers absorbing huge hits.

– Fangio said “chances are better than 50-50″ that Patrick Willis plays on Sunday. Willis stretched on the side field at the start of practice next to Vernon Davis, and will probably be termed a “limited participant” when the practice report comes out later this afternoon.

– Jermaine Cunningham wore Aldon Smith’s number during practice, which was weird. Maybe his job is to mimic J.J. Watt.

Patrick Willis Vernon Davis

– Frank Gore was as cheerful as we’ve seen him since the regular season started, which probably had something to do with the 153 yards he rushed for against the Rams. “We got back to being us. Running the ball, just having fun out there … how we were last year. It feels great,” Gore said.

– Someone who might not be in as great a mood (at least based on his Twitter timeline), LaMichael James, was the subject of a couple questions for Greg Roman.

What are the challenges of trying to fit RB LaMichael James into the offense and finding a role for him in an offense that seems so base, so geared around the power running game?

“Well, I think we can change gears pretty quickly. With a player like LaMichael, it’s really not a challenge to find things for him to do. He’s a very important part of our offense and from week-to-week he’s going to have a different role. I think we’ve seen that in the past where LaMichael steps in and now all of a sudden you’ve got a different style coming at the defense and allows you to do different things that focus more on his skill set. And we’ve seen that.”

I don’t know if we’ve ever seen it while RB Kendall Hunter’s been healthy. Is there a lot of overlap between what those two guys do?

“I think they’re unique, but I think you can do very similar things with them. And the more we stay on the field, the more we can utilize those weapons. So, it’s definitely a function of how many plays you’re running, how many opportunities you have during a game and try to forecast that when you’re putting a plan together.”

Roman didn’t really commit to anything regarding James’ usage, which probably means we won’t see the 49ers follow the advice of this idea James retweeted recently:

– “99, I call him little Justin Smith,” Gore said. That’s probably the first time Watt — who’s listed at 6′ 5″, 289 lbs — has ever been called “little” anything.

– Gore complimented the entire Texans defense, but didn’t seem worried. “Our o-line is probably the best in the league,” Gore said. “They ain’t going to shout out for nobody.” I assume that means the 49ers’ offensive line doesn’t get intimidated, but I’m not 100% sure.

– John Skelton was at practice today, and he’s taller than Colt McCoy. That’s pretty much all I gleaned from the 20 minutes we were out there.

– I might be the only one who finds this amusing:

Happy Birthday Anquan Boldin

That’s a TV in the corner of the 49ers’ locker room. Boldin is one of the toughest guys on the team and probably the most serious. So to see the party store font celebrating his 33rd birthday as if he was turning six made me laugh (quietly to myself, of course). Who else thinks this graphic was Jim Harbaugh’s idea? Because I’d put money on it.