The San Francisco 49ers allowed the media to observe practice during today’s edition of Organized Team Activities, better known as OTAs. The last time I saw the team run around and take part in football related “activities” was the Super Bowl, and even though today’s practice didn’t count for anything it was more enjoyable in some ways than what I sat through at the Superdome. The Super Bowl ended in painful fashion, but life goes on and nobody seemed even slightly melancholy on a partly cloudy Tuesday afternoon in Santa Clara.
The players were spread all across the facility, with most of the players in groups on each of the four quadrants made up by two different fields. The special teams guys mostly talked amongst themselves in their special field next to the weight room, and several 49ers pumped iron and warmed up with cardio machines in that last area, which is really more of a weight warehouse or a giant weight shed than a weight “room.”
There isn’t much to speak of in terms of strategy from today — and even if there was I wouldn’t be allowed to report on it — but the “A” portion of OTA was what I paid attention to. Who was active? Who wasn’t? And does Jim Harbaugh wish he could play every position on the field? We’ll dive into that and a lot more with some photos (cameras were allowed for the first 40 minutes of practice) and notes based on what I gleaned from watching some padless practice.
— Kendall Hunter and Kyle Williams were both in uniform and took part in drills with their respective position groups. It’s been six months since Hunter tore his Achilles and Williams tore his ACL on the same play against the New Orleans Saints.
I didn’t get any good shots of Williams, because he was on the field further away from where we were stationed. However, I did a great job of getting in his way as he ran off the field toward the training area. I stopped walking along the sideline to avoid the team employee running alongside him, which caused Williams to have to stop and cut slightly to his left to avoid me. Luckily, he escaped our brief encounter with his knee still intact. Otherwise, today might have been the last 49ers practice I’d ever attend.
— I was watching Lawrence Okoye run at the start of team drills and thought, “Meh. He isn’t THAT big.” Then I realized that he was wearing a red No. 78 jersey, which meant the man I was watching was actually offensive lineman Joe Looney. Okoye was over with the defensive linemen wearing white, and he is definitely on the larger side.
— Justin Smith and Aldon Smith, both recovering from offseason surgeries, worked out together in standard workout gear near the training area. No team drills for those two, at least not today. Also not taking part in drills were Mike Iupati (who I saw stretching with Aldon as I walked off the practice field) and Joe Staley (who I didn’t see at all). Both offensive linemen are recovering from arthroscopic knee procedures. I didn’t see Frank Gore either — Harbaugh said he’s “working through a little something,” nothing serious.
— Obligatory photo of Colin Kaepernick:
— Anquan Boldin was also in attendance.
Boldin caught several passes throughout practice from every single quarterback who took reps. Afterward, Harbaugh said he was “very impressed” by Boldin’s performance. “Really picked up the system fast and making plays. Big catches in tight areas. You saw what we’ve been seeing for a couple of weeks now, very good.”
Boldin also talked to the media afterward while wearing a San Francisco Giants cap — a post with video of that interview will come soon.
— LaMichael James told us he hit the weights pretty hard over the last few months, in the process increasing his weight to 205 lbs from 195 last season. A post featuring his interview will also be coming soon. There were lots of post-practice interviews today — the guys previously mentioned plus Harbaugh, Nnamdi Asomugha, Kyle Williams and Vernon Davis. But since this is a post about practice and photos, we’ll space it out so this particular post doesn’t get too long.
— One guy who looks a little lighter than usual: Anthony Dixon.
— This late-May practice doesn’t mean much — if anything — when it comes to how this season will play out. But there were two things I’ll probably always remember. We don’t get to watch the coaches work up close all that often, but today I got to stand about 30 feet away from Tom Rathman as he instructed the players on certain calls and blocks.
— Okay, now we get to the REALLY fun part — at least for me, anyway. Watching Harbaugh go from station to station and give tips to players was fascinating. Harbaugh mostly sticks with the offense, and specifically focuses on the quarterbacks, but he works with other position groups, too.
Remember how Harbaugh said he wanted to give Quinton Patton a “big hug”? No word on whether that embrace ever took place, but I witnessed Harbaugh making a different type of contact with Patton as he ran this route.
Whenever I’ve been able to watch practice, or stood on the Candlestick Park field during pregame warmups, I’ve seen Harbaugh’s hands-on approach to coaching. He’s constantly throwing or catching passes, always showing instead of just telling. He clearly misses playing the game, and while he doesn’t have the hip fluidity or speed to keep up with young NFL receivers, he’s one of the rare ex-players who lasted over a decade and can still stay active on the field.