With one month of summer left and with the MLB trade deadline today that can only mean one thing, the start of the 2009 training camp. NFL football fans across the country are gearing up for the official start of a new season hoping the off-season acquisitions their respective teams made will help them get into the playoffs and hopefully a Super Bowl trophy. With rookies already reporting to camp on Tuesday, along with some veterans, the rest of the players report today with the first practice of training camp set for tomorrow morning. From the reactions of some 49er players Mike Singletary plans to work his players hard right from the get go.
Defensive end Justin Smith: “I’ve looked at Saturday’s schedule and it looks pretty brutal. We’re going to have tackling drills. I’ve never done tackling drills in the NFL. He wants to get back to the basics, and that’s blocking and tackling.”
Offensive lineman Joe Staley: “I expect it to be physical and intense, everything training camp should be. If you know Singletary, he’s known for his intensity. I expect it to be a physical, intense training camp with a lot of competition.”
Singletary has installed what players have dubbed “Hamstring Hill” pictured above. The hill is 15 feet high, 45 feet long. One side has 30-degree incline and the other side has a 40-degree incline. Players got their first look at it in OTA’s and Singletary is expected to use it often and when players run up the sides you might see them pulling weights behind them. Right from the beginning in Singletary’s first full season as a head coach we are seeing stark differences between Singletary and fired coach Mike Nolan. Singletary is trying to install intensity into his players from the moment they step on the field, the kind he played and practiced with in his days with the Bears. This is going to be a great thing for the players as they have all bought into Singletary’s coaching style and philosophy, even the troublesome Vernon Davis: “I expect coach Singletary to be tough on us, no nonsense. I got my mind right for it. You shouldn’t think of it as rough or brutal. I’ll just play ball and do what I’m told.”
If Davis has been sold on Singletary then you know the rest of the Niner squad has as well. As much as I love Singletary wanting to pound his players physically as soon as training camp begins the thought of over doing it and an injury to an important player happening is greater. Singletary knows what he is doing but he needs to be careful as he will have players practice in full pads for the first two weeks of camp in both morning and afternoon practices. Normally coaches don’t have players in pads in the afternoon workout and contact is minimal but Singletary does nothing normal and by the books. If he did I doubt he would have been the successful player he was and be a head coach in the NFL.
Top three stories in training camp
Michael Crabtree: Whether you like it or not MCT is the top story until he signs with the Niners. One man should never overshadow a team but he was our biggest acquisition in the off-season and he upgraded our receiving corps to respectability. However it does not help that he is demanding top-three draft pick money. Even after he signs the question becomes how healthy is he and, depending on when he signs, can he learn the offense in time and develop a rapport with Shaun Hill and become a feared receiver-quarterback combo.
Shaun Hill vs. Alex Smith: Why Singletary has decided to have a QB competition is beyond me. Hill is 7-3 as a starter and has finished the last two seasons as the man under center and won games for the Red and Gold. With exception of a decent year in 2006 in which he started all 16 games, Alex Smith has showed nothing as a quarterback only that he knows how to get injured. Even though Singletary said he will make a decision after the second game of the preseason the quicker Singletary picks the superior QB the better for the team. I have ask the question numerous times, but what is it that Smith has shown for him to still be considered?
The D and Cornerback Position: Led by Justin Smith and Patrick Willis the D-line and linebackers should be solid this year. Second year DE Kentwan Balmer needs to develop into a sacking machine which the Niners did not do a lot of last year. Everyone on the D-line needs to step-up and put more pressure on the QB to allow the corners not to get beat deep which was a problem for the secondary last year. Manny Lawson will play an important role in the 3-4 defensive scheme coming off the end to pressure the QB. Cornerback Walt Harris went down with an ACL injury in off-season workouts and has been placed on IR. This was a blow to the secondary but the 49ers quickly signed veteran Dre’ Bly who is 32 years old. Bly should get the starting job but Tarell Brown will give him a run for his money. We know Nate Clements is holding down the other side but the question is can Bly or Brown be a reliable cover man?
49ers training camp location: 4949 Centennial Boulevard in Santa Clara, CA.
Practices open to the public: Saturday, August 1 (4:30pm); Saturday, August 8 (8:30am & 4:00pm)
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Topics: 49ers 2009 Training Camp, Alex Smith, Dre’ Bly, Hamstring Hill, Joe Staley, Justin Smith, Kentwan Balmer, Manny Lawson, MCT, Michael Crabtree, Mike Nolan, Mike Singletary, Patrick Willis, Shaun Hill, Tarell Brown, The Opening Of Camp Singletary, Vernon Davis, Walt Harris