I hop a flight to Vegas and the craziness continues. I flew down to Las Vegas yesterday afternoon for my birthday (today - cheap plug!) and will be down here through next Tuesday. By the time you read this there's a good chance I'll be attempting to power my way through a day at the Monte Carlo poker room playing some $2/$4 Limit Hold 'Em. Not the craziest game, but one that when going well can get me through most of the day. More importantly, it will be following my free Grand Slam breakfast at the Denny's on the Strip. Not the most glamorous way to celebrate a birthday, but still gonna be fun!
Anyways, back to yesterday's craziness. First Kentwan Balmer was AWOL, then suddenly Dan Brown of the San Jose Mercury News had shown up on his door and had a chance to speak with him, if briefly. Balmer went over to 49ers camp for a tete a tete with Coach Singletary. Right now this is interesting only because of how bizarre and random it has been. I realize it could be something as simple as playing time and where he's at on the depth chart.
And yet, given all we know about Coach Singletary and the way he handles his business, could it really be that basic? Is Kentwan Balmer really that stupid? I suppose given his reported actions that are under investigation by the NCAA it's possible he's that dumb. And yet, after two seasons with Singletary in some capacity, I guess it just seems too far-fetched to think Balmer would try to play games with Singletary on playing time. Until I hear otherwise, in the coming days, I'll accept "family issue" as the legit reason behind all this. I suppose we'll have to wait and see. Or we could end up waiting like we still are for real answers to the Scot McLoughan nonsense.
Injuries once again the issue of the day. The 49ers waived ILB Scott McKillop using the waived/injured option. For those still wondering, the general idea with this transaction is that the team waives a player making it known to the rest of the league he is injured. If he clears waivers without being claimed by another team, the team that waived him has to continue paying him, which is different from other waivers. Generally a player allotted as waived/injured is going to end up on the Injured Reserve List. So, the 49ers are rolling the dice that nobody claims McKillop (cross your fingers) and they can IR him for the rest of the season. I'm a big fan of any hard working player, and McKillop busted his butt on special teams last year, and was off to a strong camp this year. Let's hope for the best.
More on injuries and signings after the jump and what this means for Sunday, as well as the complete Coach Singletary transcript from yesterday.
Given all the injuries and the bumps and bruises we're seeing, Sunday is likely to be quite the 2nd/3rd string affair, as some of you mentioned in other threads. As we've seen in the twitter feeds (@maioccocsn, @mattbarrows, @skinny_post), the bumps and bruises and tired bodies are piling up in the training room. We've had Alex Smith's "weary" arm. Michael Crabtree strained his neck yesterday, but apparently did not require further observation (thumbs up I guess?). Somebody had a good line in a previous thread about Singletary having to sign 3 guys when the 49ers get off the plan in Indianapolis.
All in all, the mounting injury list has reached an almost absurd level. Given how little Frank Gore plays in the preseason, I'd imagine the 49ers will give him very little time so as to avoid tempting whatever power that be it is they've pissed off. It almost feels like Sunday is changing from evaluation to survival. The team has a good number of camp bodies, but the coaches do still have to get some level of evaluation in this Sunday. Some of those lower level battles for things like 3-5 WR, backup running back, punt returner, etc.. are ok for now (KNOCK ON WOOD) so we'll get to see something from that.
My question at this point is this: Have past training camps felt this brutal in terms of injuries and personnel issues? I suppose the Balmer mess takes the place of Michael Crabtree last year (although obviously the talent is not comparable). However, with the injuries, are they really mounting, or is it because it's a big name like Eric Heitmann that we're all so concerned? Basically, are we potentially over-reacting to all this because of the players involved, or are things getting ugly on the injury front? It's a physical game and players get hurt, but sometimes it can get out of hand. Thoughts?
As to the recent roster moves, here is a quick catch-up on them.
The 49ers made a similar waived/injured move to McKillop with LB Martail Burnett. He actually cleared waivers yesterday and was then placed on injured reserve, so he remains a member of the 49ers through this year. Once he gets healthy he'll have a chance to compete again for a roster spot next August.
Given all the injuries and waiver moves, the 49ers have had some spots to fill while awaiting the return of Aubrayo Franklin. Two days ago they signed linebackers Bruce Davis and Brandon Long. Given Ahmad Brooks injury and potential absence, there are certainly some linebacker snaps up for grabs. Personally I'd just like to see Manny Lawson step up so that he and Parys Haralson handle their business until Brooks returns to reunite the 3-headed monster.
The 49ers also signed WR Bobby Guillory to a two year contract. Guillory is a rookie free agent out of the University of Central Missouri. He played both running back and wide receiver for the Mules, while also serving as the primary kickoff returner as a junior and senior. Guillory is from Vallejo, CA, Guillory and transferred to Central Missouri from Solano Community College.
Head Coach Mike Singletary
Post-Morning Practice - August 11, 2010
San Francisco 49ers
"Good morning. The thing that I want to start with is this, as it relates to [DT Kentwan Balmer] because I know there will be questions about that. That is a personal issue. As far as I'm concerned we're going to move forward. I've told Kentwan to be here this morning, he was not. For us, we're just going to move forward and I'm not going to get into any details about what it is that he's doing or dealing with whatever. I think you guys know where he lives or can find out, and you can ask him, I'll let him talk about it. The things I want to talk about are the guys that are on the field. I want to talk about what's happening out here. Kentwan Balmer, the situation with him will not be distraction for us. We're continuing to move forward and we had a pretty decent practice this morning. So on that note, I would appreciate if there is no manipulation of questions on Kentwan. I'm done with that."
On whether DT Kentwan Balmer's absence is a team issue:
"It is not. It is not a distraction; it is not a team issue. We're moving forward."
On whether moving forward means moving on without Balmer:
"What I'm saying is, at this point right now, I told Kentwan to be here this morning ... he is not here. As far as I'm concerned, I don't know what he's doing, but there are not going to be any phone calls, ‘Kentwan what are you doing?' I'm done with that. All I'm concerned with are the guys out here."
On whether his acceptance of Kentwan Balmer's absence is different because Balmer is under contract:
"Let me say this. I talked to Kentwan and as simple I can put it, I asked him to be here. He's not here. Yes, he is under contract. The fact that he is not here, that speaks to me. What it says, I really don't know to him, but to us, all I know is he's not here, fine. In group practices we're doing what we have to do. We're going to move forward."
On whether Balmer's absence changes the nature of the team:
"You know what, here we go now. I don't want to go there. I'm done with that. I'm done. I don't want to say anything further than that. Kentwan, if you guys want any other information about Kentwan, go to Kentwan."
On how Balmer was doing in practice and OTAs:
"He was doing okay, he was doing okay. Now, I'm done with Kentwan, next question."
On Balmer's status on the field and how he can help the team:
"Guys, here is the deal. I don't want to answer any more questions on Kentwan, I'm done with Kentwan. If Kentwan comes back, I'll let him talk to you about whatever the issue is, but I really don't want to talk about Kentwan. I want to talk about the guys that are out here. We're trying to win football games out here. We're trying to become a better football team. I don't want to talk about something that's not here."
On NaVorro Bowman not practicing:
"No, it's just what you said at the beginning. Giving guys who may have a tweaked hamstring or a tweaked groin, a little sore back, or a little sore ... ‘Okay guys go ahead and take this morning off.' We have to adjust it from yesterday. We had the Pasta Bowl over there and so we really didn't have ... we had a special teams practice yesterday afternoon, and in order for us to get back and watch the film and all of those things we had to kind of tweak this morning anyway. So you may as well give guys who are a little sore here and there, give them that time off and come out here this afternoon and let's go."
On NaVorro Bowman's condition:
"I don't know. I have to talk to [head athletic trainer Jeff] Ferguson."
On whether WR Michael Crabtree is on that list of people who need time off:
On Crabtree's condition:
On who might become DT Justin Smith's backup:
"You know what, we just have to look at it right now. We probably have to bring in another player, but as far as Justin Smith's backup right now, we're all competing. We're all competing for either starting jobs or No. 2 spots, so I don't know that. Right now we just have to continue to watch the film and continue to evaluate and see who best fits that spot."
On whether this training camp has been chaotic in terms of injuries:
"I think this has been a great training camp, but that doesn't matter what I think to you guys. You have to write what you see. But I think we've done OK in terms of inquires. Now, the center position we really have to evaluate that. I talked to [offensive line] coach [Mike] Solari and we just have to really look at that and make sure that the guys that we have can possibly step into that spot can really do it. We know eventually they will do it, but can they do it right now; that's the thing we have to evaluate with the center spot. So it's kind of like, you look at [starting center Eric] Heitmann, okay, ‘How much time do we have? Do we have what we need in order for the guy that step in there right now to do that job and do it very well? Will there be a major drop off?' Those are the things that we have to evaluate in the next could of practices and make some decisions. So that's what we're doing there."
On whether the situation at the center position is an emergency:
"Emergency hasn't entered my realm yet. It hasn't entered my realm of thinking. It's unfortunate that Heitmann is out six to eight weeks but at least we're talking six to eight weeks and not the year. So I think we just have to give him time to heal and we'll go from there."
On whether preparing for Sunday's preseason game against Indianapolis changes for the rookies:
"No, not really. I think my approach to preseason is we want to win every game we play in the preseason, but the most important thing for us is we're not looking at Indianapolis and going to do a tremendous game-plan or anything like that. We want to make sure that our core plays, offensively and defensively, we can execute. We really want to look at our guys, the rookies and the second-year guys, and pay close attention to how much of this they're retaining. The rookies, it's OK when you're out here and you're going against your guy; you're familiar with him. Now you go on the road against a very good football team and it's a situation where they have a challenge, and going on the road for the first game, the challenge of playing against a really good football team and seeing the speed of another team live. So for us it is going to be a tremendous task and for our rookies. I'm really excited to see how they take that challenge."
On whether he has any concern for Alex Smith's throw count in practice:
On whether the first unit will play more in the first preseason game than the rookies:
"It's possible. It is possible. We're just going to continue to evaluate between now and Saturday and see just how much we want to play them. But chances are, with our young guys we're going to try and get them as many snaps as we can without overwhelming them and get a feel for where they are. So yes, I think that's possible."
On G David Baas playing center with the first-team unit:
"I think right now, you know, Baas played some center in college. We know he was a big strong guy; he's comfortable at the position. We just want to get a feel for the continuity with [quarterback[ Alex [Smith] being under center, with Alex being the gun. Can he handle that and at the same time make all the calls and the adjustments? How much can he facilitate those calls and yet do the responsibility of snapping the ball."
On G Tony Wragge seeing time at center:
"Wragge has a pretty good handle on it and you're right, we do have a pretty good idea of what we have there. So we want to get Baas up to speed as much as possible."
On CB Nate Clements' speed:
"I think, when I look at Nate Clements, Nate to me is a guy who can be a very good corner. He just has to make sure that he's playing the defense. I think the biggest thing for Nate is just really honing in on the technique, the discipline of every play, just doing it exactly right, but I think Nate could be a very good corner."
On LB Travis LaBoy's progress between his concussion and foot:
"No we just want to ... it's a combination. You know, he had the concussion, but at the same time we're still giving his foot a chance to heel as well. But he's coming along fine; we're just holding him back a little bit."
On RB Frank Gore's training camp and how much time he will see in the first preseason game:
"Right now we know that Frank has been having a nice camp, very consistent. He knows exactly what he needs to do on protection and things like that. So he will play a limited amount, if any, in the game. Our focus then goes to the two other running backs [Anthony Dixon and Michael Robinson] and [running back Glen] Coffee; just trying to make sure that he's more detailed in terms of knowing exactly where that offensive lineman is coming down, particular blocks he's making, how close he needs to be to that hip or which foot he needs to step with. So it's those little things. And of course when I look at [running back Anthony] Dixon, who has a lot of ability but he's young, he's kind of like a bull in a china cabinet as [offensive coordinator] Jimmy Raye would say right now. We just have to continue to give him the reps. He's a guy that can learn, he's picking it up. It's just a matter of it being so fast for him right now. So it has to slow down and we've got to give him for the reps in order to do that."