SANTA CLARA Greg Roman said Thursday he learned the pistol formation, which the 49ers unveiled Sunday against the Miami Dolphins, at the foot of the master.
During the 2010 offseason when Roman was with Stanford, he drove to Reno for a tutorial from the dean of the pistol, Nevada coach Chris Ault. Naturally, the two watched film of the school's rising senior quarterback at the time, Colin Kaepernick, who went on to become the only quarterback in NCAA history to rush for more than 1,000 yards in three straight seasons.
"That was very valuable time spent," Roman, the 49ers' offensive coordinator, said. "(Ault) was very accommodating, and it was very interesting as a coach to really learn something totally new."
In the pistol, the quarterback is not as deep as he is in a traditional shotgun formation. There's also a tailback lined up directly behind him, which means the quarterback can more readily run with the ball, hand it off or throw it. Kaepernick's 50-yard touchdown run against the Dolphins came out of the pistol.
In the spring of 2010, Ault and only a handful of other college teams were running the pistol. Nowadays, it's getting more attention.
Robert Griffin III and the Washington Redskins gave it a national showcase when they used it extensively to beat the New York Giants on "Monday Night Football" on Dec. 3, and the Carolina Panthers have used it with Cam Newton. The 49ers used several variations Sunday, including a "diamond" formation in which a tight end or fullback was on either side of Kaepernick.
The 49ers don't call the formation the pistol, however. That's one syllable too many, Roman said. Instead they call it "Q."
"It's just another formation," Roman said. "There's a lot of different ways you can build formations and rebuild formations. We're just starting to tap into it now."
Money sack The 49ers' Aldon Smith, the NFL's sacks leader, says he will donate $5,099 per sack this season to the Boys & Girls clubs of San Francisco and East Palo Alto.
With 19 1/2 sacks, Smith needs 31/2 more to break Michael Strahan's NFL season record set in 2001. If he finishes with, say, 23 sacks, he will donate $117,277 to be split between the two clubs.
Black jerseys Smith again was one of four 49ers wearing black, no-contact jerseys during Thursday's practice.
Smith, wide receiver Mario Manningham and fullback Bruce Miller are dealing with shoulder injuries. Special-teams player Tavares Gooden has a rib injury. All four were listed as "limited" on the practice report