Yesterday I checked out a 49ers practice for the first time, which was good timing because Jim Harbaugh doesn’t want anybody to ever see a Niners practice ever again (or at least the rest of the season). I figured I was prepared (FlipCam, recorder, cell phone, notepad, pen), but right before practice in the media trailer I noticed everyone was putting on sunscreen and had hats on. I didn’t have a hat or sunscreen, and while my wife thinks I’m completely ridiculous for thinking this, guys just don’t ask for sunscreen from a guy they don’t know. It’s not the same breach of code that asking another guy to put sunscreen on your back would be, but I figured I’d rather just risk it in the Santa Clara sun.
Lesson learned, as my head is a nice shade of Niners red today. Oh well, it was still fun to be out there, and not just because as a resident of San Francisco it was the first time I’d seen the sun in about a week. Here’s what I’ll remember:
— The Niners’ defense is way ahead of the offense at this point, but Alex Smith is a pretty darn good practice player. The last six years started making more sense after I saw his check-down skills in person. Colin Kaepernick looked better in warmups than during his 7-on-7 drills, where accuracy was lacking.
— Josh McCown started out kind of shaky, but threw some decent passes, especially sideline routes that demanded more touch than velocity. But his second pass in 7-on-7 drills was intercepted by safety Donte Whitner (who looks like a great add for the 49ers). As Whitner took the ball to the right sideline and headed up field, Harbaugh ran over and threw a mock-shoulder at him.
— This has been discussed elsewhere I’m sure, but Harbaugh’s energy level is pretty impressive. He’s constantly running or walking quickly from the huddle to behind the play, then back over to whatever quarterback just threw a pass to give some advice, blowing his whistle constantly the entire time. After it was said that Mike Singletary’s practice style was mostly about delegating tasks to his assistants, Harbaugh’s style has to be a jolt for the 49ers who’ve been there a while.
— Harbaugh also seems to love Delanie Walker, who collected a fist-bump from Harbaugh after one of his many catches.
— Aldon Smith is an absolute monster in person. Braylon Edwards looks huge, too (and made a nice grab on a very high, kind-of-behind-him pass from Alex on the right sideline yesterday afternoon). Jeremiah Masoli, with his short stature and lazy footwork, looks like some kid playing flag football during high school P.E.
— Only the quarterbacks have names on the backs of their jerseys. Didn’t know that.
— McLeod Bethel-Thompson probably has zero chance of making the team, but he throws a nice deep ball.
— You’re not supposed to tweet on the field (Harbaugh rule), so after seeing Matt Maiocco (who, smartly, wears a hat that not only has a sizable brim but also covers the back of his neck) leave the field for a minute, I did the same. On my way to the media trailer I walked behind the goalpost where David Akers was practicing field goals, and he booted one over the net that almost landed on the roof of a BMW in the players’ parking lot. The ball bounced back toward where I was, and while I saw Andy Lee going underneath the net to come retrieve the ball, I figured I’d help out and grab it for him. I tossed the ball to Lee, and it was one of those “K” balls. It was the hardest football I’ve ever felt, as if someone spent 24 hours straight pumping air into the thing. It felt like a hollow rock.
— After practice they trotted out Patrick Willis to talk to the media, and he didn’t say much that was all that interesting. Then Harbaugh did his press conference in a tent next to the field. After that, Ian Williams and Ricky Jean-Francois (with much encouragement from the autograph-hungry crowd) had the music turned up (why there was a tent with music and speakers at a football practice, I have no idea — it’s not like they were preparing for crowd noise during tomorrow’s home preseason game against the Raiders). The video below shows Williams (No. 64) dancing after the crowd shouted for the two players to do the “Peanut Butter and Jelly” dance. Not sure if this constitutes a PB&J, but here’s the video I shot.
I would have also filmed Jean-Francois’ (wearing the gray t-shirt) spirited dance moves which followed, but I saw Harbaugh talking to a group of reporters in a somewhat animated fashion about media availability for future practices so I figured I should catch that instead.