Recently retired tackle Marvel Smith just concluded a conference call with the Bay Area media. He didn’t have to. The 9-year pro from Oakland certainly didn’t have to field questions on his personal health and the reasons for his retirement, but he did.
“It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life,” Smith said of his decision.
The two-time Super Bowl Champion and one-time Pro Bowler with the Pittsburgh Steelers signed with the 49ers in late March hoping to win the starting right tackle position, but ultimately decided to end his career to preserve his personal health.
Smith has undergone a pair of back surgeries and he thought he could continue playing in San Francisco. However, it soon became apparent to Smith that it was too difficult to consistently compete on the practice field and in games.
“I thought it would feel better,” Smith said of his back. “There wasn’t anything helping me get better.”
Smith said his primary focus is making sure he keeps himself healthy for the rest of his life so he doesn’t have health issues down the road.
When asked about his fellow competitor for the starting right tackle position Adam Snyder, Smith had nothing but positive things to say.
“He’s in the NFL for a reason,” Smith said. “From what I saw he’s definitely a quality lineman. I see him having a great season this year.”
Smith also said he would follow the 49ers closely this season. Watching the team’s last preseason game was actually therapeutic for him.
Looking back over his entire 9-year career Smith accomplished a lot. As a young boy growing up in Oakland, Smith could never have imagine what would happen in his future.
“I would have never believed that,” he said.
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Head coach Mike Singletary made two important announcements on Friday, right before his team boarded a plane for Dallas.
One, Shaun Hill will start against the Cowboys this Saturday night. And two, tackle Marvel Smith will not travel with the team due to personal reasons.
Singletary added that Hill’s playing time has not been determined. “He’ll start the game and we’ll go from there,” Singletary said.
Veteran tackle Barry Sims will get the start in place of Smith and Adam Snyder, as the team’s two top right tackles on the depth chart are both unavailable. Snyder will be resting a knee injury he sustained against the Oakland Raiders.
Singletary said he doesn’t know how long his starters on both sides of the ball will play. He said the coaches will see how the game is going then they’ll make playing time decisions from there.
With this being the 49ers third preseason game, Singletary wants to see his players “continue to make steps.”
Making this game even more crucial is how backups will be making their final push for roster spots. But the same thing can be said for the entire team.
“For the guys that are on the edge every game is very important, every snap is,” Hill said. “That doesn’t just go for them, that goes for everybody. It’s a very important game for everyone on this team. For the guys that are going to be starting, we need to establish a tempo, do some good things, and get some confidence. As far as the backups are concerned, this is a huge opportunity for them.”
Patrick Willis said the chance for backups to compete against a talented team like the Cowboys would only be beneficial to everyone in the long run.
“I think it’s very big,” Willis said. “To go out there and have a good game against a good-caliber team like the Cowboys, it means a lot across the board from the ones to the twos. Coach [Mike Singletary] will say all the time, ‘We don’t have backups. We have guys who come in and when they’re in there, they’re starters at that point in time.’ So, it’s going to be really big across the board.”
Alex Boone found himself in that situation after Friday’s “mock game” practice. As soon as the players trotted off the practice fields, Boone began fielding lunch orders from all the offensive linemen.
After ordering six pizzas and 12 sandwiches, Boone was relieved to get his order in.
“My pizza order was ridiculous,” Boone said. “I’m excited though, I got a medium pizza.”
Boone said he wasn’t irritated that he had to order pizza. “I guess that’s what rookies have to do,” he said.
Rather, he was annoyed with the pizza parlor’s manager.
“The guy seemed so flustered he kept telling me to, ‘Slow down, slow down!’” Boone said. “I kept telling him he had to hurry with my order because if the delivery was late, my teammates would be so mad at me.”
But Boone got his order in and now it’s time for him to get a lot of playing time against the Cowboys, which is an opportunity he’s relishing.
“I’m not at all nervous or excited about this game; I’m just going to do what I do best and have some fun with it.”
Tags: Alex Boone, Barry Sims, Marvel Smith, Patrick Wilis, Shaun Hill
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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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