Center Eric Heitmann and wide receiver Arnaz Battle will have pride on the line this weekend when their Alma Maters clash in Palo Alto. With a 5 p.m. kickoff, both players won’t get the opportunity to go to the game as they have meetings at the team hotel to prepare for the Jaguars on Sunday.
Nonetheless, both Heitmann and Battle will be sure to check their phones after the meetings wrap up.
“When you think about Stanford football you have to think about their ground game and the power rushing attack they have with Toby Gerhart,” Heitmann said. “I think in the more recent games, what’s given another dimension though is the precision passing game from Andrew Luck at quarterback.”
Battle acknowledged that Stanford has a solid running game, saying, “Gerhart is going to have to beat us.”
But The Fighting Irish have some talent of their own.
“Early on the offense was struggling and people were wondering if [quarterback] Jimmy Clausen was going to be what he was hyped up to be,” said the former Irish signal caller. “He’s turned it around and he’s shown his talent and his capabilities. They have a good wide receiver in Golden Tate and a good running back. It’s a good group of guys. The defense is getting a little better, too.”
Battle’s Irish will also have another opponent beside the players in Cardinal and white jerseys. They’ll also be battling the distractions that have surrounded the program in recent weeks as the heat has turned up on head coach Charlie Weis.
“The coaching situation is getting national attention and they’re being hounded by the media so it’s going to be tough for them,” Battle said. “I feel bad for those guys because I can kind of sympathize with what they’re going through.”
Heitmann hopes that those distractions, combined with the home field advantage, can help his team improve to 7-3 on the season.
“I definitely think Notre Dame has some distractions they have to deal with this week with all the talk about the job future of their head coach,” Heitmann said. “It’s something that Stanford thankfully won’t have to deal with this week. It’s the last game of the season, Stanford has a lot of seniors and they’ll be playing hard for Coach Harbaugh. I’m looking forward to a big victory for the Cardinal.”
A Stanford win would be hard for Battle to swallow as he’s grown accustomed to the Irish dominating the rivalry throughout the years.
“My mentality when I was a player was that we should never lose to Stanford,” Battle said. “I hate to knock them, but that was our mentality because we were so confident. The teams we felt like were tough games were the USC’s. We went down to LSU as well and those were solid teams. Expectations are set so high that this is a game we’re supposed to win.”
Battle’s prediction: “28-24 Notre Dame with a touchdown in the last two or three minutes and our defense finally stops them.”
Heitmann’s Prediction: “I’m going to say Stanford 27, Notre Dame 24.”
Tags: Arnaz Battle, Eric Heitmann
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A day after his team dropped its fifth game of the season by less than seven points and sixth overall, 49ers head coach Mike Singletary hinted personnel changes were on the horizon.
“I am confident that there may be one or two [changes], but I am still looking at the film,” Singletary said.
Although he would not show his cards on the potential changes, Singletary vowed his players would perform better in the remaining games.
“I am confident that this season will be a good season,” Singletary said. “We’ve got six games left. I am convinced that we will play better.”
Despite dropping another game behind the division leading Arizona Cardinals and the rest of the NFC teams muddled in the Wild Card race, Singletary believes the 49ers can still reach their goals.
“At the very start of this season, our goal was to win enough games to go to the playoffs. That is still our goal. That has not changed, will not change. In my mind, we’re good enough to do that,” he said. “We just have to get it done.”
Singletary’s press conference included several questions pertaining to the shotgun formation that the team predominantly used in the second half against Green Bay to score three touchdowns.
“I think, as we go forward, we have to really look at what’s working for him and what works for the offense and continue to do more of those things,” Singletary said of tailoring the offense to quarterback Alex Smith.
Smith too was asked a high volume of questions regarding the shotgun attack, but insisted that the second half rally had more to do with desire than the shotgun formation. (You can watch video from his interview right here.)
“When you’re down that much, there wasn’t much left to do but to go after those guys and try to mount a comeback,” Smith said. “We finally made a few plays and got ourselves going.”
“I think it did a lot,” Smith said of Crabtree’s first NFL touchdown. “That whole drive, we made a couple of plays and then we were in third-and-long and Crabtree made a big play for the score – I think that got us going. That’s a little bit of what we needed.”
The 49ers added two more touchdown passes in the second half, but never could get the run game going because they were trailing heavily for most of the game.
Looking back at the film, one could infer that the team is best suited to throw the ball from the shotgun formation on every play – but not so says Smith.
That would require the 49ers entering another ‘world.’
“It’s easy to say let’s go live in that world [spread offense] – but I don’t think it’s realistic. I don’t,” Smith said. “That’s something you evolve to down the road maybe. Right now, it’s about finding that balance. Maybe it’s something you go in and out of, but you still have to have balance.
“We have one of the top running backs in the NFL and we need to find a way to continue getting him the ball and put him in situations to succeed.”
Gore rushed for 59 yards on just seven carries, with his best run coming on a 46-yard gain on a delayed draw with Smith not in the shotgun formation, but rather under center.
More Monday Notes:
-The 49ers had their longest injury report of the season following Sunday’s defeat. (Note that names with a * next to them will undergo an MRI Singletary said). *Michael Robinson (stinger), Michael Lewis (quad), Arnaz battle (leg strain), Jason Hill (left ankle sprain), Delanie Walker (forearm contusion), David Baas (right ankle sprain), Patrick Willis (trap spasm), *Marcus Hudson (back strain), Tarell Brown (left knee contusion) and Reggie Smith (abdominal strain) were all named by the head coach to start his press conference.
-According to Singletary, Smith’s injury was not related to the groin injury that has hampered him all season.
-Josh Morgan’s 76-yard kickoff return late in the game impressed Singletary but wouldn’t commit to naming Morgan as the team’s starting kick returner. “Obviously we liked what we saw yesterday. If Josh Morgan is the kickoff returner, then hopefully he’s not returning too many of them in a game so we don’t have to worry about it too often. I just think that yesterday, he did a nice job when called upon. We’ll have to look at that a little bit more.”
Tags: Alex Smith, Arnaz Battle, David Baas, Delanie Walker, Frank Gore, Jason Hill, Josh Morgan, Michael Crabtree, Michael Lewis, Michael Robinson, Patrick Willis, Reggie Smith, Tarell Brown
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A day after beating the Chicago Bears 10-6 at Candlestick Park, Mike Singletary said nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin has been his most consistent player this season.
That’s certainly high praise, considering the player who lines up behind Franklin is two-time Pro Bowl middle linebacker Patrick Willis. But Singletary meant what he said in complementing the play of his nose tackle, who took points off the score board by intercepting Jay Cutler at the Bears 1-yard line.
Known in the locker room for being one of the best dressed players on the team, Franklin became a new kind of trendsetter by becoming the first of five different players to intercept Cutler last night.
“It was fun,” Franklin said of his first-career interception. “But I’m just glad they didn’t get in the end zone.”
Franklin was asked if defensive lineman such as himself imagined scenarios where they intercept a pass and the 6-foot-1, 317-pound nose tackle admitted such things were in fact true.
“I think anybody does on the defensive line,” Franklin revealed. “We’re the guys who rarely get our hands on the ball; we’re trying to knock the ball down. Fortunately, God blessed me to get a pick and I held on to it.”
It was Franklin’s first interception since his high school days at Science Hill High in Johnson City, Tennessee. Back then Franklin was an all-state linebacker who recorded 180 tackles as a senior. Franklin said he would send the ball back home to his mother, Chantini Carter who lives back in Tennessee.
Franklin received even more praise from teammate Jeff Ulrbich who was recently placed on injured reserve. Ulbrich, who remains around the team in a daily basis, interrupted Franklin’s media session to openly share his thoughts on one of the 49ers most underrated players.
“I’m putting this out there right now, anybody that doesn’t recognize that he is one of the top-3 nose tackles in the game right now, doesn’t know anything about football. You know nothing and you shouldn’t be writing,” said Ulbrich as he put his right hand on Franklin’s shoulder.
Ulbrich was asked if Franklin should be in the Pro Bowl this year, to which the 10-year veteran said, “He should, without a doubt.”
More Monday Notes
-After having their longest injury list after the Tennessee game, the 49ers have a shorter injury list following last night’s game. The injury list is: Michael Lewis (stinger), Arnaz Battle (quad), Mark Roman (knee), Adam Snyder (AC sprain), Takeo Spikes (hamstring) and Isaac Bruce (ankle).
-Out of the names mentioned above, all figure to be active for the 49ers next game against the Green Bay Packers. Singletary added that the team will need to monitor Spikes on a day-to-day basis.
-Singletary made a decision in regards to the starting wide receivers for the duration of the season. Josh Morgan will remain in the starting lineup when Bruce regains full strength in his ankle. But Singletary reiterated that Bruce will remain a factor in the offense and will see plenty of playing time.
-One are of concern to Singletary was the kicking game. Joe Nedney missed a 39-yard field goal which could have been a useful three points given the close circumstances at the end of the game. Singletary also said that wind played a factor in him not letting Nedney attempt a 50-plus-yard field goal on the 49ers final possession. Singletary elected to let punter Andy Lee pin the Bears inside the 10-yard line, but Lee was unable to do so. “We have to make those kicks,” Singletary said.
- Singletary was pleased overall with his defense and how they were able to execute the game plan for the Chicago game. “I thought our defense did what we focused on which was creating turnovers,” he said. But Singletary found areas for improvement after watching the game again last night. “We have to continue to work on our tackling on the perimeter,” he added. “We have to continue to keep working at that.”
-In addition to Franklin and others on his defense, Singletary singled out linebacker Matt Wilhelm who filled in nicely for Spikes. “Matt has experience and that helps tremendously.” Wilhelm finished the game five tackles, one of which went behind the line of scrimmage.
-A day after he completed two impromptu shovel passes for big gains, Alex Smith said he too found himself asking himself why he was doing it too. “Those things seem to come in spurts like that. You don’t get them, then you do two or three of them and you even ask yourself the same question, ‘Why am I doing it?’ It just kind of happens when you’re playing in the game, you’re not thinking, you’re just reacting. And sometimes it’s just a quicker way to get the ball out. You can’ always set up and have a form throw so it’s easier sometimes just to shove it to the guy.
-Smith praised backup running back Michael Robinson, who converted two first downs on the 49ers final offensive drive. “It was huge, especially when you’re trying to run down the clock,” Smith said. “We had the lead and it was important for us to change field position and take as much time off the clock as we could. To get those third down conversions to eat up quite a bit of that clock… in the end, those are things that help you win the game.”
-The maligned 49ers offensive line put together a solid performance, helping Frank Gore surpass the 100-yard mark for the 17th time in his career.
-“I think as the game went on we got better,” left tackle Barry Sims said. “It would have been nice to finish some drives off, we moved the ball well at times, but we needed to finish drives better than we did and give our defense a better chance where they do not have to win it on the last play of the game.”
-Sims, an avid golfer, will not step foot on a golf course this weekend with the 49ers having the weekend off. “I’m just going to relax, keep my body fresh and get ready for Green Bay,” he said.
Tags: Alex Smith, Andy Lee, Arnaz Battle, Aubrayo Franklin, Barry Sims, Frank Gore, Isaac Bruce, Jeff Ulbrich, Joe Nedney, Mark Roman, Matt Wilhelm, Michael Lewis, Michael Robinson, Patrick Willis
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Head coach Mike Singletary just concluded his weekly Monday press conference with the Bay Area media. The 49ers head coach answered a number of questions pertaining to the 49ers 20-16 season opening victory from one day earlier.
“It was indeed an ugly game,” Singletary said. “But it was beautiful to see our guys work through all of the stuff and come out with a win. We fought together and ended up winning together.”
Singletary was pleased that his team was able to go into a hostile environment and come out with a win against a good football team. He also expressed his disbelief in rushing for under 30 yards as a team but still coming out victorious.
“I find it hard to do but that’s we ended up doing,” he said.
Singletary praised several of his player’s performances on both sides of the ball, but called out the play of his offensive line.
“We did not play well up front, but it will get better,” he said.
Despite not being able to move the ball efficiently in the first three quarters, Singletary was pleased that his offense put together a 15-play drive in the fourth quarter that put the 49ers up for good.
“I think the best thing that helped us offensively was that fourth quarter,” Singletary said. “Shaun [Hill] did a good job, everybody settled down and we took it down the field. They really did what they had to do when they had to do it and that’s the sign of something special.”
Other notes from Singletary’s presser:
-According to Singletary, Hill did a good job of managing the game and taking what the defense gave him.
-Vernon Davis, Isaac Bruce, Josh Morgan and Arnaz Battle were highlighted for making “critical plays” during the 49ers fourth quarter go-ahead touchdown drive.
-Arizona’s penetrating defense was a bigger factor than Singletary and the 49ers anticipated. “I think it got to our guys early on but it didn’t on that 15-play drive,” he added.
-Defensively, Singletary thought his guys played relentless. “We did things we needed to do in order to win. Our defense challenged their wideouts,” he said.
-Patrick Willis was everywhere. Singletary said his first quarter interception was a result of tremendous coverage that was very well played.
-Singletary also complimented the play of his secondary as well as the pass rush supplied by the likes of Justin Smith, Manny Lawson and Parys Haralson.
-Recently signed tackle Tony Pashos will begin sharing snaps with Adam Snyder this week, so Singletary and the rest of the 49ers staff can evaluate the 49ers new tackle.
-The 49ers suffered no major injuries against the Cardinals.
-Also, wide receiver Brandon Jones will return to practice this week. But, it has not been determined if he will play against the Seattle Seahawks this Sunday at Candlestick Park.
Tags: Adam Synder, Arnaz Battle, Brandon Jones, Isaac Bruce, Josh Morgan, Justin Smith, Manny Lawson, Parys Haralson, Patrick Willis, Shaun Hill, Tony Pashos, Vernon Davis
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It’s referred to by fans around the NFL as the “Wildcat,” but offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye has a different name for the formation designed to stun opposing defenses – the “Taser.” It was the “Taser” that took center stage at the first of two Wednesday practices as the 49ers prepare to face the Denver Broncos in the first preseason game of the year.
“Since the pads have gone on, it was our first foray into it,” Raye said. “There are some things about it that are different for us. The initial introduction of it was very good and we got a good start on it.”
The 49ers are fortunate to have three former college quarterbacks on the roster in wide receivers Micheal Spurlock and Arnaz Battle and running back Michael Robinson. With Robinson still sidelined with a groin injury, Spurlock and Battle took the snaps from center.
“It’s very fun for me to get back on that horse again and be able to play around a little bit,” said Spurlock, the former Ole Miss signal caller. “I think it’s a copycat league. We’ve seen Miami and other teams do it and you have to have that in your arsenal now to make the defense honest. That’s something we’re doing and we look pretty good doing it.”
Raye also used the Wildcat formation when he was with the New York Jets, utilizing wide receiver and former Missouri quarterback Brad Smith in the backfield. Similar to Smith, Raye sees a lot of potential in players like Spurlock who have enough speed and versatility to threaten defenses when they have the ball in their hands.
“He has great initial quickness,” Raye noted about Spurlock. “He is a pass threat. The combination of those things and the fact that he is a punt returner and can run with the ball, gives you a little bit more flexibility.”
For Spurlock, running the Taser puts him in a very comfortable position.
“At quarterback you’re in charge of things, so when you’re back there you get to put everybody in position and tell them when to go,” Spurlock said. “It’s all on you and you always get to touch the ball at the quarterback position, so I like that part of it.”
However, Spurlock doesn’t necessarily look the part when under center. At just 5-10, he may not have the height to see over the offensive line, but it’s also something Spurlock can use to his advantage.
“From a quarterback standpoint, there are times when the passing lanes are restricted and you would like him a little bit taller,” Raye said. “In that phase of it, his initial quickness is a real big plus for him. Behind those big guys it is kind of hard to find him, then all of a sudden he spurts out of there and he has enough juice to hurt you and go a long way.”
It’s that breakaway speed that Raye can utilize in a variety of ways, which could ultimately help Spurlock earn a spot on the 53-man roster.
“Whatever they want me to do, I want to do it 120 percent,” Spurlock said. “Whether it’s quarterback, receiver or if they need me to go kick, I’m trying to do whatever it takes to make this team.”
Spurlock and Battle didn’t take all the snaps at quarterback as both Alex Smith and Shaun Hill managed to squeeze in a few touchdown plays of their own.
During 7-on-7 drills, Smith rolled to his right and found Vernon Davis in the back corner of the end zone. Davis leaped up for the ball, tapping down two feet before going out of bounds.
Hill wasted no time when going to team drills, heaving a deep pass to wide receiver Josh Morgan who beat the coverage of Nate Clements and Michael Lewis.
Bear Pascoe also made a nice catch, turning to catch a pass from Damon Huard that was thrown to his back shoulder.
Tags: Arnaz Battle, jimmy Raye, Micheal Spurlock
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The 49ers have officially begun preparation for the first preseason game of the 2009 season against the Denver Broncos on Friday night at Candlestick Park. While the team will focus more on what they need to accomplish rather than matching up against the opposition, there is still a good amount of game planning taking place in the film room.
“Where not going to overdo it, because all of these games are in preparation for the game at the beginning of the season,” head coach Mike Singletary said, following the team’s morning practice. “It’s just making sure you don’t focus on the minor [things] and lose the big picture. We certainly want to go out and do the things that we need to do. All of the fundamentals we’ve worked on here can carry over into the game. And, we’ll get what we want out of that game.”
Singletary said he has not yet made a decision on who will start at quarterback against Denver, but no matter who takes the first snap, the coaching staff will keep a close eye on both Shaun Hill and Alex Smith, with hopes of naming a starter sometime in the coming weeks.
“Hopefully, as we’ve said before, by the third preseason game, we’ll have a pretty decent idea,” Singletary said of who will start the regular season opener. “There is no guarantee that we will name someone then. But, hopefully at that time, we will. I think the preseason games; they play a big role. We’re going against somebody totally different, and we have to see how they respond, how the team responds to them, how they respond to the pass rush, all of those little things.”
One person who will not be receiving much playing time is running back Frank Gore. Singletary hopes to keep him fresh heading into the season and give increased reps to some of the younger running backs.
“I would think that [Glen] Coffee is certainly going to have some time,” Singletary said. “Before game time, we will know; we’ll play it by ear. All I know right now as far as the running backs are concerned is that Frank will not be going a whole lot.”
The matchup with the Broncos will also bring a familiar face to Candlestick as former 49ers head coach Mike Nolan returns as Denver’s defensive coordinator. Singletary still maintains a close relationship with Nolan, who he learned a great deal from during their time with the 49ers as well as with the Baltimore Ravens.
“The most important thing that I learned from Coach Nolan is the work ethic,” Singletary said. “I saw Mike come in and roll up his sleeves and go to work, trying to bring a structure to this organization and trying to bring about a mental toughness and trying to bring about character and all of those things. Mike will always be a great friend.”
Morning Practice Notes:
The 49ers completed the longest pass so far of training camp so far, as Alex Smith found Arnaz Battle deep down the right sideline. The play began from the offense’s own 30-yard line and Smith’s pass hit Battle in stride around the opposite 30-yard line. Battle raced in for the long score.
Fellow receivers Josh Morgan and Dominique Zeigler also made spectacular catches during one-on-one drills. Overall, the receiving corps has continued to impress during camp.
Follow SF_49ers on Twitter and get all the highlights from practice as they happen.
Tags: Alex Smith, Arnaz Battle, Dominique Zeigler, Frank Gore, Josh Morgan, Shaun Hill
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Each day during training camp, it seems like a different receiver has stepped up and stolen the show. This is clearly the most talented receiving corps the 49ers have had in quite some time, but it was a familiar face that stood out during Tuesday morning’s practice – none other than Arnaz Battle.
The veteran is entering his seventh year with the team, but looks as good this year as he ever has – maybe better. Battle looked strong in 1-on-1 drills against the cornerbacks on Tuesday, beating the coverage of Dre’ Bly on two out patterns. He also showed no love for his fellow Golden Domer, making a terrific over the shoulder grab against Terrail Lambert in the end zone.
“It’s all about coming out and competing,” Battle said. “One-on-one drills gives us a good chance to go against the DB’s and work against press coverages, off-coverages and work on our technique. We take pride in it and we actually keep track of who’s winning, defensive backs or receivers.”
Battle’s play certainly helped the receivers’ score today and throughout most of camp. After battling a foot injury for most of last season, Battle is finally 100-percent and it shows.
“It’s nice to be healthy so I can come out here and compete,” Battle said. “I had time off to take care of my body to prepare myself for this training camp. I feel like I’m benefiting from it right now.”
Head coach Mike Singletary also continued the “Nutcracker” drill where players line up man against man with the instruction to try to “go through” their opponent.
The session only lasted a few minutes, but the best matchup of the day had to be Chilo Rachal and Kentwan Balmer. The two locked horns with neither man gaining much ground.
Balmer was nicked up later in practice however with a left knee sprain. Guard David Baas suffered a foot strain and running back Michael Robinson had a groin strain. They are all being evaluated.
The team hits the field again this afternoon. Defensive coordinator Greg Manusky spoke to the media after practice. We also spoke with Takeo Spikes, Manny Lawson and Aubrayo Franklin and will profile the 2009 49ers defense later today.
Tags: Arnaz Battle, Chilo Rachal, Kentwan Balmer
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Earlier in the week, Mike Singletary promised his team would be in pads come Saturday. And he meant it.
Once the 49ers wrapped up stretches and individual position drills at their first training camp practice of the 2009 season at team headquarters in Santa Clara, it was time to put the pads to use.
Singletary did so, by introducing a drill he dubbed “The nutcracker.”
His pad-thumbing drill featured seven groups of players pitted at different stations. Some of which saw cornerbacks vs. receivers, offensive linemen vs. defensive linemen, running backs vs. linebackers and tight ends vs. linebackers.
Only quarterbacks and specialists were spared from the drill.
“I think we got some good work out of that (drill),” Singletary said after the first of two Saturday practices. “The fundamental part of what we’re trying to achieve, I think we took a step today in that area. And we’re going to do that a few times. I just think it’s important we understand contact, but even more importantly, it’s not just coming out here and hitting people. It’s coming out here and learning how to engage and win in a competitive environment. And that’s really what we did in that drill.”
The players got more out of than just fundamentals. They understand that it’s a mentality that their head coach is trying to instill.
“There is just a mindset Coach Sing wanted us to get out of that (drill),” Pro Bowl linebacker Patrick Willis said. “Not only is it about being tough, but it’s about the mindset he wants our team to have – and that is we are going to go through people. No matter who stands in our way, we are going to go through them. That drill helps with that mentality.”
After the leverage drill, the team went on to work on special teams drills. The rest of the morning practice rounded out with various team work: 11-on-11, 9-on-7 and 7-on-7 scrimmages.
Some quick highlights of the first practice:
-A fan wearing a Tony Romo jersey was escorted out of the bleachers by 49ers mascot Sourdough Sam.
-Wide receiver Arnaz Battle, cornerback Shawntae Spencer and tackle Marvel Smith practiced for the first time this offseason.
-Alex Smith completed a deep pass to wide receiver Dominique Zeigler over the middle on a seam route after Smith faked a reverse handoff to wide receiver Brandon Jones.
-Seventh-round draft pick Curtis Taylor intercepted a pass from fellow rookie Nate Davis to end the morning practice.
MVP of the morning practice honors goes to defensive lineman Isaac Sopoaga, who made several plays behind the line of scrimmage. The best was when he batted down a pass from Smith.
Stay tuned to our Twitter page for more updates and photos from the practice field. The players are just about to head back on the field for the second practice which will begin a little after 4pm.
Tags: Alex Smith, Arnaz Battle, Curtis Taylor, Dominique Zeigler, Marvel Smith, Patrick Willis, Shawntae Spencer
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