The 49ers will hold the first of 10 Organized Team Activity (OTA) practices today. The sessions are voluntary, and they are glorified versions of the “football school” practices the team has been holding all month. It would not be surprising if some veterans are not on hand. For instance, if I were Michael Crabtree, who tore his Achilles' at an OTA session one year ago and who is heading into his contract year, I'd stay as far away from OTAs as I could.
Other veterans won't participate because they are recovering from injuries. However, compared to last year, when the 49ers' season went into February and it seemed like half the starters had offseason surgery, the injury list is small. A number of players who had offseason injuries or procedures already have recovered.
That includes Mike Iupati (broken fibula/lower leg bone), Joe Staley (thumb), Ray McDonald (bicep) and Tank Carradine (knee). They may not go through all the drills this week, but they have been taking part in practices in recent weeks. Even cornerback Chris Culliver, who suffered an ACL tear at the start of last year's training camp, may take part in at least some drills.
The players who will not participate:
ILB NaVorro Bowman. Bowman, of course, is recovering from his January ACL and MCL tears. The smart money is on him returning after the team's Week 9 bye.
Result: Perhaps the best offseason competition will be at inside linebacker. Veteran Michael Wilhoite likely will get first-team repetitions. But he'll have a trio of youngsters – Nick Moody, Chris Borland and Shayne Skov – nipping at his heels throughout.
OT Anthony Davis – The fifth-year player – one of the more underrated offensive tackles in the league – had surgery on his left shoulder last month. Davis wrote that he originally injured the joint in a Week 3 loss to Indianapolis and that it involved both his labrum and biceps.
Result: Jonathan Martin promises to get more snaps this offseason, including when the first-team unit is on the field. With Luke Marquardt (foot) out as well, Carter Bykowski and other newcomers (Michigan State's Fou Fonoti?) also will see more work.
S C.J. Spillman – The 49ers' safety and special teams ace had two surgeries on his right hand/finger this offseason. He should be fine for training camp but likely will miss OTAs.
Result: It makes sense that free-agent acquisition Antoine Bethea will get plenty of snaps to A.) learn the defense and b.) get used to new partner in crime Eric Reid. Behind them are Craig Dahl, D.J. Campbell and undrafted free agent James McCray. First-round draft pick Jimmie Ward (foot) also is recovering from an injury and likely will be limited to walk-throughs until training camp.
NT Ian Williams – Whereas Iupati suffered a clean break to the small bone in his lower leg that did not include any ligament damage, Williams' fracture of Sept. 15 – when he was cut block by a Seattle offensive lineman – was lower and more complicated. Williams is on the mend, but he is likely to be held out of the upcoming OTA sessions.
Result: The 49ers are deep at this position. Glenn Dorsey took over from Williams in September and had a strong season. Dial can play nose tackle and so can 2013 practice squadder Mike Purcell.
Along with Ward, draft picks G/T Brandon Thomas (ACL), CB Keith Reaser (ACL) and FB Trey Millard (ACL) also are recovering from injuries and will not take part. There also are the usual array of strains and sprains that may sideline a few players. For instance, running back Marcus Lattimore (unknown) and tight end Asante Cleveland (hamstring) were limited in the recent rookie minicamp.