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On the Phone with Reid and Jackson

Posted by Sam Good on October 6, 2010 – 4:33 PM

When the 49ers traveled to Philadelphia to face the Eagles last December, coach Andy Reid knew he was matched up against a good team.

And as his squad prepares to come to San Francisco this weekend, Reid believes the 49ers team they will play Sunday is even better than the one they saw nearly 10 months ago.

“They play aggressive football, very similar to the personality of their head coach” Reid said during his Wednesday conference call with the Bay Area media. “They’re tough. They fly around on defense and make plays.”

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Vote Mays for Rookie of the Week

Posted by Sam Good on October 5, 2010 – 12:35 PM

The praise just keeps coming in for Taylor Mays.

The 49ers rookie safety made his first career start Sunday at Atlanta, and a day after his coach and teammates lauded over his performance, the NFL did the same thing.

On Tuesday, Mays was named one of five candidates for Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Week honors.

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Monday’s Locker Room Talk: Oct. 4

Posted by Taylor Price on October 4, 2010 – 1:58 PM

Taylor Mays will be the 49ers starting safety opposite of Dashon Goldson, head coach Mike Singletary announced Monday.

The team’s second-round pick in the 2010 NFL Draft performed quite well in his first career start at Atlanta. He totaled a team-high 11 tackles and made a heads-up play recovering a blocked punt for a touchdown in the first quarter.

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Youth Camp: Rookies, Rathman and More

Posted by Taylor Price on July 13, 2010 – 3:22 PM

For the second day of the 49ers annual Youth Football Camp, campers were treated to several guest speakers including members of the 2010 rookie class, running backs coach Tom Rathman and starting left tackle Joe Staley.

The campers received additional instruction in the morning portion of camp, as 49ers rookies joined in on teaching the campers in various drills. Rookies Jarrett Brown and LeRoy Vann aided the wide receiver drills by playing the role of quarterbacks.

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Singletary Offers Reward, Shortens Camp

Posted by Taylor Price on June 18, 2010 – 3:27 PM

Once the 49ers hit the practice fields Friday afternoon, it will be the last time the full squad practices together for the next six weeks.

Following the first of two Friday sessions, Mike Singletary announced his decision to reward his players and cancel Saturday’s two minicamp practices. He informed the media shortly after he broke the news to the team.

And while it might be looked at as a reward for the player’s hard work over the last couple of months, quarterback Alex Smith said it wasn’t merely a gesture by Singletary to thank the players for working hard.

It had more to do with how the players went about their business.

“I think it’s a pat on the back for a couple of reasons,” Smith said. “One, we’ve worked really hard this offseason. The effort has been there. But more importantly, the discipline has been there, guys have been coming in ready to work. I really think that’s the reason we’re getting this.”

Left tackle Joe Staley said he wouldn’t have been bothered if Singletary kept the schedule intact, but was pleased to know how much his head coach appreciated their hard work.

“I felt like we deserved it. We’ve definitely been working hard,” Staley said. “As an offensive line, we got a lot of great work and we look forward to closing this camp with a great afternoon practice.”

Morning Notes and Quotes

Singletary proclaimed the return of his famous “Nutcracker” drill to the team’s 2010 training camp schedule. That got us thinking on which players are already salivating for the notorious drill, and which matchups would they desire most. Check TV49 later in the day for some of the answers from various players in the locker room.

Not so much a surprise, but Smith articulated how much this offseason has been a positive for him and how it’s the most comfortable he’s felt in his pro career. “I feel good with where I’m at right now. I feel like we got a lot done this offseason with our offseason program, including all the OTAs and now minicamp. I think we’ve really taken a step and I feel like I’ve done that as well.”

The defense picked off three passes in the morning session, all against second-year quarterback Nate Davis. Outside linebacker Manny Lawson dropped into coverage and intercepted Davis’ quick pass over the middle in the first team period. In the final play of the first 7-on-7 period, safety Taylor Mays came up with his first interception with the 49ers. And later in the final team period, undrafted linebacker Keaton Kristick intercepted a Davis pass that was initially deflected by safety Curtis Taylor.

Kristick was a late addition to the 49ers offseason program as he waited for his alma mater (Oregon State University) to finish graduation before he could join the team. Kristick hasn’t played significant football since the East-West Shrine Game, but said he’s been embracing every opportunity this offseason with the 49ers. His interception on Friday was a result of being at ease with his new surroundings. “It comes with being comfortable. I’m starting to know how to drop, and I haven’t really done that since Pop Warner,” Krisitck admitted. “I’ve been getting the feel for it and I’ve been learning a lot from the veterans so far. I’m anxious for everything that’s coming up, every rep on defense and special teams. I’m trying to make the most of it and not make too many mental errors.”

The best offensive play of the morning session took place on a 40-yard deep ball from Smith to wide receiver Michael Crabtree, who got behind cornerback Shawntae Spencer and safety Dashon Goldson. Crabtree has really emerged this offseason as one of Smith’s comfort blankets. He appears to be back to his old Texas Tech days, in terms of play-making ability and explosiveness after the catch.

Backup quarterback David Carr ended practice leading the offense in a two-minute drill scenario. But Carr’s quest to move the team into field goal range was thwarted when Mays picked off his second pass of the practice. As Carr hit tight end Delanie Walker on a quick out in the right flat, the ball was bobbled initially, allowing Mays to swoop in and get his hands on it. You can check our 49ers Twitter account to see Mays’ celebration following the takeaway.

Afternoon Notes

The 49ers wrapped up their 2010 minicamp with a practice that featured more red zone and two-minute drill work.

With season-ticket holders attending the practice, the players put on a show with several big plays by the offense and defense. Here are some photos from the session.

Fans looked on as quarterback Nate Davis looked for an open receiver.

Quarterback Alex Smith throws a pass in the right flat.

Fans soak in the sights of a 49ers minicamp practice.

In the first team period, the offense relied on taking what the defense gave them, making check-downs a premium. That all changed though, as Smith hit Vernon Davis on a 20-yard touchdown hookup which got the attention of the fans in attendance.

Linebacker Scott McKillop must have taken offense to seeing Davis and other receivers catch so many passes over the middle of the field this offseason. The second-year inside linebacker intercepted Smith later in the team period, when Smith tried to find Crabtree in the back of the end zone. On the very next play, McKillop was in position to make another interception, but could only get his fingertips on the highly thrown pass from Carr.

Fellow inside linebacker Navorro Bowman came up with his first turnover with the 49ers, when he stepped in front of Smith’s quick pass intended for Walker. Had it been a game situation, Bowman would have easily returned it for a touchdown.

The offense worked on two-minute situations to close out practice. But the offense failed to pick up points when cornerback Karl Paymah broke up Smith’s pass intended for Ted Ginn Jr.

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Willis Returns to Defensive Huddle

Posted by Taylor Price on June 14, 2010 – 5:36 PM

You will never hear Patrick Willis question the importance of practice. Not in mid-June, or in any month for that matter.

The 49ers three-time Pro Bowl linebacker and unquestioned defensive leader has been eager to return to the practice fields ever since he underwent a minor knee surgery this offseason.

In recent weeks, Willis has been slowly working over 49ers head athletic trainer Jeff Ferguson for permission to practice, asking him what he’s allowed to do each and every day he’s been around 49ers headquarters. And while Ferguson has limited Willis to individual work in last week’s organized team activities, this week was a different story.

Willis’ self-described gnat-like behavior must have paid off as Ferguson gave him the clearance to join 11-on-11 periods during Monday’s OTA session.

The wait was difficult for Willis, but he understood Ferguson’s reasoning and respected it.

“He’s one of the best trainers in the league and with my injuries before he’s done a great job of getting me ready, preparing me,” Willis said while standing in front of his locker. “I was just going to listen to him and let him tell me what to do, but at the same time, I had to bug him a little bit to let me get back out there. He gave me the ‘OK’ to participate in some of the drills and it felt good to get my feet wet and get back on the field with the boys.”

The feeling was beyond mutual.

Once Willis stepped into the huddle, outside linebacker Parys Haralson remarked, “The X-Factor is back!” Others chimed in, “Welcome back 52!”

Willis wasted no time validating the opinions of his teammates. He instantly got involved in the action by perfectly timing a delayed blitz for a would-be sack of quarterback Alex Smith.

Several plays later, he read an inside handoff to running back Glen Coffee and was in perfect position to make a play on the second-year back.

Not bad, considering Willis told reporters how he felt slower with his eyes than his feet after Monday’s practice.

With Willis back in the fold for the remainder of the offseason, the leader of the defense only sees a better performance for the entire unit in 2010.

“I think our defense can be exceptionally good. It’s going to take a lot of hard work. It’s going to take guys continuing to grow and be hungry and want to be stronger than we were before. We want to be No. 1, but if we can get in the top-3, I feel like that’s putting us in a great spot as an overall defense.”

Notes and Quotes

With Willis amongst his teammates for team periods, safety Taylor Mays took the opportunity to stand beside head coach Mike Singletary and secondary coach Johnnie Lynn deep in the 49ers defensive backfield. That location, some 40 yards behind the play, was Willis’ destination for most of the offseason. But on Monday, Mays took mental reps and asked questions in between the plays he participated in during the team period.

The first and only turnover of the day took place in the first team period, when safety Michael Lewis intercepted Smith’s pass intended for tight end Joe Jon Finley. The deep crossing route was first deflected high in the air by cornerback Kary Paymah, which allowed Lewis time to catch the ball and run it down the right sideline for a nice return.

The best offensive play took place later in practice as third-string signal caller Nate Davis found rookie wide receiver Kyle Williams 35 yards down the field on a go route over the coverage of undrafted cornerback Tramaine Brock.

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Players Feel Support with Stadium Results

Posted by Taylor Price on June 9, 2010 – 11:51 AM

In speaking for all of his fellow 49ers teammates on Wednesday, cornerback Tarell Brown sounded very pleased to hear the citizens of Santa Clara had approved the plan for a new 49ers stadium.

“I’m excited and I know my teammates are too. It’s been a long time coming,” said Brown on an off day for players between OTA sessions. “A lot of people are really excited about it, and it just shows you how much trust the city has in us as 49ers and the great job they’ve done upstairs in getting the job done.”

With 59.61 percent of the vote in favor of Measure J, the citizens of Santa Clara supported the stadium measure not just with votes but with their time. Some 700 hundred volunteers took part in the campaign process, spreading the word about the benefits of having a world-class stadium in the heart of Santa Clara’s entertainment district.

Because of the outpouring of public support around town, the players truly felt the passion from those around them in the community.

“It makes you realize how much people care about not just the team or the city, but things outside of the football in the community,” rookie safety Taylor Mays added. “The people are extremely passionate and that’s what I’ve realized from seeing this stadium vote go through.”

In respecting that passion of the team’s Faithful fan base, the 49ers will remain as the San Francisco 49ers.

Linebacker Matt Wilhelm put the stadium change into perspective best.

“The tradition of this organization with all the championships and the Hall of Famers is not going to go away over night just because the stadium is moving. We’re going to wear the ‘SF’ on our helmet and we’re representing more than just San Francisco, we’re representing the whole Bay Area.”

Most of the players had been following the campaign results last night, but fell asleep like many of us, not knowing the final outcome.

Thankfully, they were informed of the positive vote when drove to work this morning only to see a giant billboard posted on the corner of Tasman Dr. and Centennial Blvd. which read, “Future home of the San Francisco 49ers.”

“I saw that this morning coming in and thought to myself, ‘It’s going to be crazy!’ Brown said with a smile. “I think it’s going to surprise a lot of people and surpass a lot of stadiums. This is going to be one of the top stadiums people will love to come play at.”

Brown sees the new stadium as a great venue for all Bay Area football fans, not just the players on the field.

“At the end of the day we’re still the San Francisco 49ers. There are a lot of other teams who have the stadium in different cities, just like the New York Giants playing in New Jersey and the Dallas Cowboys playing in Arlington. Regardless of where you put the stadium, that’s not going to change who we are and where we’ve come from.”

For more information on the 49ers new stadium visit: www.49ersnewstadium.com

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Rookies Weigh in on NBA Finals

Posted by Taylor Price on June 3, 2010 – 2:05 PM

With the NBA Finals tipping off tonight, why not get some predictions out of some of the players in the locker room? There’s always basketball talk going on in the locker room anyway, so I figured I’d get some of our guys on record with their NBA Finals picks.

Last year, Takeo Spikes went around during OTAs for his debut episode of “Spikes TV” and asked teammates about their picks between the Lakers and the Orlando Magic.

The Lakers received most of the votes in 2009, but this time around, the opinions were much more divided.

Rookie safety Taylor Mays is picking the Lakers to win.

“I know the work that Kobe puts in because I’ve seen him put it in. He works with a trainer that’s from my school,” Mays said. “I don’t know how many games it’ll go. Those Celtics are physical. We’ll see.”

Nate Byham, the tight end the 49ers selected in the sixth-round, appreciates Boston’s toughness, but can’t see them dethroning the defending champions.

“I’ll take the Lakers and I’ll say six games. Boston is tough, but I think it’ll go six.”

Other rookies seemed to be swayed by the physical style of defense that the Celtics play, a key to helping them defeat the Lakers two years ago in the Finals. (I think Coach Singletary would approve of the defensive thought process behind this).

“I like the Celtics, because they have the experience and they’ve brought it all together in the playoffs, offensively and especially defensively,” rookie cornerback Phillip Adams said.

Sixth-round pick Kyle Williams is pretty blunt about his reasoning for seeing the Celtics hoist another title.

“Celtics in six. I can’t stand the Lakers. My whole family is Lakers fans. I can’t stand them. Can’t do it. Can’t go with them.”

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DB Coaches, Second-ary to None

Posted by Taylor Price on May 19, 2010 – 3:39 PM

In the short amount of time Karl Paymah has been a part of the 49ers this offseason, several things have impressed the free agent cornerback.

But in particular, the 49ers secondary coaches, Johnnie Lynn and Vance Joseph have really had a positive influence on Paymah already.

“To tell you the truth I think they are the best DB coaches I’ve had since I’ve been in the NFL,” said the five-year veteran, who is with his third team. “I’ve never pounded technique as much as I do here. They’ve instilled confidence in all of us. They believe in you, they trust you and they’re going to let you play the game. It’s a good situation.”

Lynn is entering his 17th NFL season, and sixth season with the 49ers. For his entire tenure in the Bay Area, Lynn has shared the position group with Joseph, who has coached all six of his NFL seasons with the 49ers.

As a former defensive coordinator with the New York Giants, Lynn is one of the team’s most respected coaches, that’s why he’s also the team’s special assistant to the head coach. Although he’s mostly known by outsiders for his raspy voice which tends to give-way the first week of training camp, inside the building Lynn is one of the most respected coaches. The same goes for Joseph, who is not afraid to motivate players if he’s not satisfied with their effort.

Paymah showed early return on the wisdom he’s attained so far from both coaches, intercepting a pass from Alex Smith at Wednesday’s voluntary organized team activity.

“I was just out there playing,” Paymah said downplaying the turnover. “I knew the situation and I just reacted. I tried to get a good jam on (Ted Ginn Jr.) and I noticed him trying to cut back, I was surprised (Smith) threw the ball. I just tried to beat him to the ball and make a play.”

Paymah’s pretty interception on such a nice day weather-wise was fitting for the defensive back, considering how much he was looking forward to Bay Area weather when signing with the 49ers in March.

“It’s beautiful out there, sometimes I refer to it as Club Med,” Paymah said while cracking a grin. “I don’t really feel like I’m at work, except for when practice starts hurting. But really I’m just trying to have fun, play ball and not think too much. I’m just trying to make it happen.”

Likewise, rookie defensive backs are adjusting to their new surroundings. Fortunately, Lynn and Joseph have made the experience a challenging one.

Second-round pick Taylor Mays is just like Paymah, loving his new position coaches.

“They’re good coaches because they coach you, the individual player. I think that’s important. They’re coaching me up on everything I do,” the rookie safety said.

Mays knows he won’t be perfect this week, but as long as he’s giving maximum effort, the former USC standout can live with that at the end of the day.

“It’s about giving full effort. That’s all I can really do right now. I’m trying to learn as much as I can, retain as much as I can and just go from there. I’m trying to get as much work in as I can. I’m not really worried about messing up or anything. I’m trying to get as many mistakes out the way and go forward,” Mays said.

Mays said he already understands what type of effort is needed just from watching two solid safeties like Michael Lewis and Dashon Goldson.

“I know what to expect and know what the tempo should be,” Mays said. “It’s good to see guys at the highest level prepare and see what it takes to be great and successful. We have two successful safeties to watch and I couldn’t think of a better situation to be in.”

Notes and Quotes

Greg Manuksy wore a microphone for 49ers.com on Tuesday. On Wednesday, head coach Mike Singletary wore the wire and the defensive coordinator stepped up to a podium with a microphone to answer questions from the media. Many wondered about his initial impressions on the three defensive players selected by the 49ers in the 2010 Draft, but Manusky wasn’t quick to judge his new talent. “There are a lot of things thrown at them the first couple of weeks. They just got out of a scenario of a worldwide tour going to teams and stuff like that. It’s good to get them here, start sitting them down, understand the system and understand where their role is. They’ll eventually and hopefully move on and upward.”

Manusky was also questioned about his defensive philosophy of using defenders who mirror each other and Navorro Bowman’s name came up. The third-round pick out of Penn State, who played outside linebacker in a 4-3 college scheme, is now making the change to inside linebacker in a 3-4. But the change is not a problem according to Bowman who is relishing the opportunity. “I’m glad to be back inside, you get to each side faster,” Bowman noted. “Being an outside ‘backer you’re stuck to one side and you can’t really make plays on the other side of the field. I’m glad to be inside, but whatever the coaches need me to learn – I’ll do that.”

Speaking of linebackers, Takeo Spikes is a veteran in the truest sense of the word. Asked if he’s excited about the upcoming season, the 13-year veteran said he’ll curb his enthusiasm until late July. “When training camp comes around and we start playing games, I think that’s when it really gets all the way turned up.”

Mike Iupati has been off to a good start so far this week. During the team period, the rookie left guard did a nice job of pulling and kicking out the blitzing Bowman, to give running back Glen Coffee a huge running lane. “Nice job Mike!” offensive line coach Mike Solari belted out upon seeing the play develop.

Smith rebounded from the early interception and completed several passes in the 10 to 20-yard range, but none more impressive than the touch pass 25 yards or so down the middle of the field to wide receiver Dominique Zeigler, who got past the coverage of cornerback Tarell Brown and ran right under the perfectly thrown pass.

Although Patrick Willis is recovering a minor offseason knee surgery, he’s still very active at practice. Besides leading stretches with the rest of team captains, he’s been 50 yards behind the defense during team periods, mirroring the movements of both inside ‘backers. Willis might not be on the field with his teammates full-go, but he’s getting plenty of mental reps.

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