So first a little background. Last week I received an email from Jason Jenkins, the 49ers Director of PR Operations. He mentioned seeing the site and wanted to see if I could make it down to training camp on Saturday. Naturally, I was very much down for that. So, I took Cal Train down and spent Saturday afternoon at 4949 Centennial Boulevard.
I made it down to practice a couple times last year, but they were pretty limited and I was just sort of on my own. This time, I had a PR person with me who was very open to discussing the team and where things stood. While PR folks can certainly throw some spin, Jason seemed to be genuinely psyched for the season. Also, it was a closed practice so there were only a few of us there. As the interview below indicates I was with a couple fellows from 49erswebzone.com. So it was the two of them, myself and Jason with practice all to ourselves.
Before hitting the practice field we got a tour of the facilities. The locker room is rather large and with the 81 (and now 75) men on the roster, a bunch of temporary lockers are set up for all the rookies and training camp bodies not likely to make the roster. This picture shows the temporary lockers for the youngsters. This was shortly after the five cuts were announced and I kinda wish I had gotten a chance to take a picture of Kyle Wright's locker. Just to show the transition and whatnot.
The first locker I saw coming in was the memorial locker to Thomas Herrion. Herrion was the offensive lineman who collapsed and died after an exhibition game wiht the Broncos. The 49ers have kept Herrion's locker as it was when he passed away. I definitely wanted a shot of this.
After the tour we went out to practice. Unfortunately I could not take pictures at practice because the team was implementing their offensive and defensive game plans for Friday's game against the Chargers. Apparently in the recent past, some clown video-taped one of these types of practices and had it up on the 49ers Message Board. It was not up for very long.
Josh Morgan was out (I think the illness that has kept him out this week as well). I was disappointed as I wanted a chance to see him on the practice field. However, I saw plenty of other things that excited me.
Frank Gore was involved in some running and passing plays and he is looking unbelievable. There was mention of him shedding some weight, which I noticed on tv and on the practice field. He was flying around the field and squeezing through some really tiny holes. A lot of publications are down on Gore this year, in part because I think they're down on the 49ers o-line. However, I think the line will surprise folks and Gore is due for a monster season.
Additionally, and I know this is stating the obvious, but Vernon Davis is just a physical beast. The team was running a red zone drill and Davis ran a corner pattern. I think it was O'Sullivan (not 100% sure) who threw up a pass and Davis went up over the corner covering him to make the catch. He looked like he was a solid head length plus above whomever was trying to cover him. I realize some people have labeled him a workout or practice warrior, but I honestly think there's just too much talent and ability for him not to pan out as a great pass-catching tight end.
One thing I did really enjoy watching was some passing drills with Mike Martz looking over things. O'Sullivan, Hill and Smith all took reps with the receivers with no defense. Martz was taking the entire time, whether it be to the receiver or the quarterbacks. He'd emphasize a specific location on the field or a harder cut a receiver needed to make. After a QB would overthrow or underthrow a receiver, Martz would take the QB aside to discuss the mistake. At the same time he threw out encouragement on solid performances. It's hard to get a read on a guy standing across the field and yelling, but I liked what I saw. I got the proverbial "good vibe." I'm sure this will be discussed in the future depending on the outcome of the offense's season.
The same could be said of Mike Nolan during team drills. You can see how much he loves the defensive side of the ball. After a play would be run he was out giving some hands-on coaching to a defensive player. Usually it was with the defensive backs, particularly the younger ones. He must have called out DJ Parker's name five or six times in the space of five or ten minutes.
After practice and the interview with Scot McCloughan, I definitely had to get pictures with the Super Bowl trophies. The first is just me and the second is me with Jason Jenkins.
I really want to thank Jason for reaching out to me and providing this opportunity. A lot of my fellow SB Nation Football writers have had a difficult time getting in touch with their respective teams. A lot of professional sports franchises are not what you'd call "blogger-friendly." In reaching out to me and to some of the other 49ers blogs, they're clearly much more accepting of the proverbial "alternative media." Thanks again to the 49ers.