Matt Barrows had a post yesterday about how the 49ers continue their small group practices while other teams in the league are conducting practices with upwards of three-quarters of the team present. The 49ers have had smaller workouts that involve some throwing, but otherwise conditioning and strength-training. Whatever a team is doing won't be as much as what OTAs and minicamp would bring, but each team is trying to do its best in these trying circumstances.
In discussing the topic, Barrows pointed to two of the obstacles in front of the team:
One of the obstacles is that the Bay Area is an expensive place to live and that many of the players choose to live elsewhere in the offseason.
Another is that the two players in the most prominent leadership positions -- the starting quarterback and the players' representative -- technically aren't part of the team. Alex Smith and Takeo Spikes are both likely to re-sign with the 49ers when the lockout is lifted, but both are currently unrestricted free agents. Furthermore, Spikes lives in the Atlanta area.
I think Takeo Spikes' absence is a very pertinent reason for the lack of team-wide workouts. Although the players may feel otherwise, from the outside Spikes strikes me as the biggest leader on the team. We've heard in the past about how Patrick Willis has started to speak up a bit more. However, I find myself wondering how much this has been Spikes' team in recent years. The team's QB issues in recent years means you don't have a Tom Brady or Drew Brees type of core QB leadership you see elsewhere in the league. Hopefully somebody can step up and start getting these guys together. I'm curious who spoke with Crabtree to convince him to come out to the Bay Area.
As to the issue of Bay Area expenses, that's an intriguing one. I'm not quite so sure about the cost issue because DC/Northern Virginia can be just as expensive and the Redskins figured out a way to get 40 players out to workouts. I could be wrong on this one, but I have to wonder whether it's more of a leadership void than anything else. I'm looking for any reasons I can think of for why the team doesn't have more players in town.