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Rookies Lean On Each Other

Posted by Taylor Price on May 18, 2010 – 3:06 PM

What’s the best thing about being a rookie in the National Football League? The fact that there’s never just one on a team.

Fortunately for the 2010 class, each incoming 49ers rookie has a handful of teammates dealing with similar eye-opening experiences this week at the team’s four days of voluntary organized team activities. The rookies will have to adapt to their new surroundings and build bonds with one another quickly as they go through their first experiences in the game of professional football.

But after talking with some of the rookies on Tuesday, it sounds like they’re already leaning on each other just fine.

For 49ers first-round pick Anthony Davis, having a fellow first-round pick in guard Mike Iupati around has been extremely helpful as the two face similar challenges.

“Mike’s my boy,” Davis said when I asked him about spending time with Iupati off the field. “We would go over our plays and just talk about the daily things we go through just being a rookie, like getting the Gatorade for the guys and stuff like that.”

The two offensive linemen have their work cut out for them this week at OTAs as they try to learn an NFL playbook as quickly as possible. Davis said he already feels better with each workout amongst his new teammates.

“It’s going well, every day I’m getting a little better at it,” the No. 11 overall pick said. “Every day you have to give it all you got and then the next day you’ll be able to give it a little more.”

Davis instantly picked up on one of the major differences between the pro game and the college game – the concentration needed to be successful.

“Every play is like… if you’re not giving it everything than it won’t be enough,” he said.

Good thing for Davis is that he’s got a solid group of veteran linemen to learn from. He’s even picked up a training tip or two from right guard Chilo Rachal.

“Chilo has been helping me out a lot, just how to operate at this level basically. He’s always doing extra work (after practice) trying to be the best.”

Likewise, undrafted linebacker Mike Balogun is relishing the opportunity to work with the talented defensive players on the 49ers roster.

“I’m fortunate with this whole situation,” Balogun said. “I’m very grateful to come in and play with guys like Takeo Spikes and Patrick Willis. Those are guys who you can definitely learn from. Takeo’s been in the game for years and Pat’s probably the best one in the league right now. It’s a pleasure and I’m grateful.”

And just like Davis and Iupati’s relationship has blossomed, so has Balogun’s bond with 49ers third-round pick Navorro Bowman. The two inside linebackers were roommates at the team’s first rookie minicamp and have continued to build on their friendship since.

“We’re constantly talking,” Balogun said. “After meetings, on the field, when we’re in the hotel, we’re constantly talking because we’re together. We’re always asking each other ‘What’s this?’ or ‘What did you have on that play?’ We have to communicate if we want to get better.”

Notes and Quotes

Greg Manusky wore a microphone at practice today for TV49. Check out 49ers.com next week to relive the practice through the eyes of the 49ers defensive coordinator. It’s guaranteed to have some quality sound bites as well.

Keith Smith came up with the first turnover of the day, intercepting a deep Alex Smith pass intended for Michael Crabtree 35 yards down the center of the field. The veteran cornerback timed his jump perfectly and beat the second-year wideout to the ball.

Vernon Davis always looks fast after the catch, but it seems like he’s running with even more of a purpose once the balls in his hands this year. After a nice deep drag over the middle for a 10-yard gain, Davis flashed his Pro Bowl-caliber explosiveness, darting past multiple defenders as he took off 50 yards down the field. I remember Gary Plummer once telling me how Jerry Rice would run to the opposite end zone after every catch in practice to replicate doing it in a game. It appears as if Davis is trying a similar approach this year. He’s already taken off down the field a couple of times this week, should be interesting to see if it continues.

Reggie Smith became the second player with his namesake to come up with a turnover on Tuesday. Smith was the was the lucky recipient of an overthrown pass from backup quarterback David Carr to wide receiver Josh Morgan during 7-on-7 work.

Later in skelly (7-on-7) work, Morgan made an impressive catch on a flag route thrown by third-string quarterback Nate Davis. The second-year signal caller showed nice pocket presence, stepping up and to his left to make the deep sideline throw to Morgan, who used his big body to shield safety Curtis Taylor away from the ball.

Offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye spoke with the media after practice on the state of the 49ers offense. Asked what are some of the things the unit can do this year that they couldn’t do 365 days before, Raye responded: “We’ve come almost 180 degrees from a year ago in terms of the basic, fundamental understanding of the words and the nomenclature of the system and trying to get passed that point. We’ve expedited that part of it so we don’t have to spend as much time on the rudiments of what we are doing, that we can review that and get onto the basic things. This is the first time that they would have had an opportunity to see cut-ups going into the next year. The work they did a year ago, we use that as teaching tools to advance and go forward as we install. So, we have some things that we identify that they are doing good and bad, and so it helps us tremendously where we are starting point-wise from when we walked in here February a year ago.” (Watch Raye’s press conference by clicking HERE).

The 49ers received a special visit on Tuesday from 15-year-old Brandon Dale of Santa Clara, who has been diagnosed with liver cancer. Brandon and his family spent the day watching practice, touring the facility and even met with players and coaches after practice. Brandon also spent time with his favorite player, linebacker Patrick Willis. TV49 caught up with the Dale’s after their visit and we’ll have much more on their experience.


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