SANTA CLARA Jim Harbaugh and the 49ers not only gave veteran Daunte Culpepper an opportunity to show he's still an NFL-caliber quarterback Monday, they let him throw to a familiar target.
One of Culpepper's pass catchers during a half-hour morning workout was 6-foot-6 tight end Nate Lawrie, who caught 13 passes last year all of them from Culpepper for the Sacramento Mountain Lions and who was signed last week by the 49ers.
Lawrie said that Culpepper's workout, witnessed by Harbaugh, offensive coordinator Greg Roman and general manager Trent Baalke among others, went smoothly and that the 34-year-old quarterback was "spinning it well."
Still, by the end of Monday, the team had not struck a deal with Culpepper.
"Daunte could add a lot of stuff," Lawrie said. "He's a good quarterback, he's got a lot of experience, and he knows football. Daunte would be a great leader in the locker room. He's a great team guy. Everyone likes him, so it would be great to have him aboard."
Dennis Green, who coached Lawrie and Culpepper last year, agreed. He said that Culpepper improved as the season went on and that his forte during his NFL career the long ball was still impressive. What's more, Green ran a version of the West Coast offense in Sacramento, which should make for an easy transition into Harbaugh's system.
"Nate's only been in it for a few days, and he already sees the correlations between (the offenses)," said Green, who also coached Culpepper with the Minnesota Vikings. "Daunte will be able to step in pretty quick and help them out in practices."
The 49ers, meanwhile, were contemplating not just whether to sign Culpepper but whether to add any veteran quarterback at this time.
Because of the lockout, the 49ers are cramming a new offensive playbook, which in a normal year would have been installed over four months, into one month. That means it's all the team can do to give Alex Smith and rookie Colin Kaepernick the Nos. 1 and 2 quarterbacks on the depth chart enough repetitions in practice.
Roman also said the team had not yet decided whether it will have two or three quarterbacks when the season begins. Asked if the 49ers could afford to go into the season with two quarterbacks if one of them is a rookie, Roman praised Kaepernick's progress and said the answer would play out over time.
"One of the things you look for in a quarterback is the ability to manage those little situations that you can't really coach, teach and define," Roman said. "And he's done a great job. Some guys have those instincts, and he's shown to have those instincts.
"He's getting better every day. He makes a mistake, and he puts it behind him. And that's key. So it's hard to tell how that will unfold. We just have to wait and see."
Still, Roman and a number of players said there were advantages to having someone like Culpepper on the roster, even if he were No. 3 on the depth chart. Culpepper is a three-time Pro Bowl selection who has started 100 NFL games.
That experience could be valuable, said wide receiver Ted Ginn, who spent time with Culpepper before the quarterback was signed by the Raiders in 2007.
"Anybody that comes in who's got the type of experience he has should be able to help us out a lot, on and off the field," Ginn said.