The San Francisco 49ers started their 2012 training camp on Friday, July 27. Jim Harbaugh and his coaching staff held three days of practices over the weekend and here is a recap of all the news and notes.
Aldon Smith Express Regret
Outside linebacker Aldon Smith spoke with the media on Friday for the first-time since his stabbing incident on June 30. The linebacker said he is now at 100% health wise, had staples to repair the wound and was sorry for letting the fans and team down:
I just felt like after the incidents that happened and the expectations that were set for me I felt like I let the fans and everybody that kind of looked to me like that down.
He also went on to say the incident has him more focused after everything that happened and the 49ers organization, coaches and teammates have all been fully supportive. The most important thing is Smith is fully recovered now and he does not have any life or career threatening injuries. The real test will come as training camp practices continue and whether or not Smith shows any signs of the staples from his stab wound affecting his play on the field.
It was great for Smith to address the media on the first day of training camp by answering questions about his troubles during the offseason. Smith looks ready to put the events behind him and focus on becoming an every-down outside linebacker.
Randy Moss Talks With Media For First-Time As a Niner
Newly acquired wide receiver Randy Moss had the second most anticipated media session for the 49ers on the first day of training camp. If you had any doubt whether or not the receiver had changed from his old, controversial ways, Moss had this to say,
I want to know what I can do to make the NFL better. And if that’s coming out here, teaching the young guys and showing my professionalism and being a leader on and off the field, that’s what I want to do. If we get that type of mindset it would make it a better league. The league has blessed me and my family and I’m very fortunate to be in the position that I’m in. Like I said, I like what I can do for the league, not what the league can do for me.
Moss knows a majority of people other than the 49ers players, coaches and fans thinks he will fail in San Francisco this season. Whether it is because of his antics or the fact that he is 35 years old and spent last in season in retirement, most people expect him to be unsuccessful. Niner fans now know the passion is still there with Moss, but passion can only carry you so far. He will obviously need to show it on the field as well.
In a great start, Moss made a basket catch from Alex Smith in which he slowed down to wait for the pass, but continued running as if the football was not coming. His hands were at his side until the last minute to make the basket catch. This caused confusion for cornerback Tramaine Brock who was covering Moss, as he thought no pass was coming because of the way the receiver was running.
LaMichael James Returning Punts
Former Oregon running back LaMichael James was returning punts at practice. James will fill in on a variety of roles on offense, but on special teams he could be a great backup to Ted Ginn on punt returns. We all know what happens when Ginn goes down and an inexperienced punt returner is forced to takeover. In fact, should James show he is fully capable of handling punt returns, he might become the 49ers new return man on punts.
49ers Tight Ends
Tight end Nate Byham, who has a shot of making the final roster, showed up for the first practice without a knee brace he was wearing at offseason workouts. At the first practice of training camp last year, Byham tore his ACL and missed the season.
Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Greg Roman had defensive tackle DeMarcus Dobbs and linebacker Michael Wilhoite lining up at tight end. Neither would be used as a pass catching tight end but as a blocking tight end. Dobbs made the 49ers last season as a defensive tackle and was active for 12 games recording three tackles. Should Dobbs or Wilhoite show progress through training camp as a blocking tight end, Byham’s chances of making the team will diminish.
Injuries at Training Camp
Michael Crabtree was injured on the first day of training camp and missed the second and third day of practices because of an injury to his right ankle. The receiver walked off the field Friday with a limp but the injury is not considered serious even though he was missing from practice on Saturday and Sunday. Niners GM Trent Baalke said the injury is not connected to Crabtree’s two surgeries on his right foot. Baalke said,
Like any injury, you never know how long it’s going to take these guys to come back. He’s working hard at it.
Remember, Crabtree has never played in a preseason game in his four-year career. He missed all of his first training camp because he was holding out, missed out on most of training camp in 2010 with a neck injury and did not participate in practices last year after having offseason foot surgery.
Rookie guard Joe Looney, who has a foot injury, was doing rehab work running about 40 yards with high knees. The rookie is on the non-football injury list and is expected to join the team at some point during training camp.
Another rookie, linebacker Cam Johnson, who is dealing with an injury showed he is still not 100% at the first three practices. Johnson had a minor knee surgery in June but was seen limping around the practice field.
At Sunday’s practice, linebacker Tavares Gooden did not participate because of an illness. He left Saturday’s practice early because of the same illness. Wide receiver Joe Hastings suffered what was described as a hip injury and was held out of the rest of practice on Sunday.
It should be noted the very first hand off to Frank Gore on Sunday, which saw the 49ers in their first full-pads workout at training camp, was a run up the middle.
Stay tuned to Niner Noise all throughout training camp for updates, news and notes.