Vernon Davis’ training camp holdout ended before it began.
The 49ers’ tight end, who skipped all the spring practice sessions while seeking a more lucrative contract, strolled into the locker room Wednesday morning with the other veterans and was embraced by teammates.
“Vernon is not the type of person that is going to walk out on his team like that,” quarterback Colin Kaepernick said later in the afternoon.
Kaepernick had to be thrilled to have Davis in camp. He caught 15 of Kaepernick’s 24 touchdown passes last season and was the 49ers’ only deep threat. Despite new weapons at wide receiver, the 49ers’ passing attack was decidedly lackluster without Davis this spring.
“He looks good, excited to have him back out here,” Kaepernick said. “Vernon’s a Pro Bowl tight end, one of the best in the league. There’s not going to be too much of a fall-off for him. I don’t think anyone’s concerned about that. We’re just happy he’s here.”
Davis, the fourth-highest-paid tight end in the league, has said he wants to be paid commensurate with his value to the offense, but he has sent mixed messages. He told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution this month it wasn’t “the end of the world” if he didn’t get a new contract. Davis did not speak with reporters Wednesday.
The 49ers’ long-held stance is they only negotiate with players who report to camp, as was the case when Frank Gore had a brief holdout in 2011. The team recently extended the contract of left tackle Joe Staley, who was underpaid but who participated without complaint in all team practices.
Davis forfeited a $200,000 workout bonus by skipping the spring sessions, and he faces nearly $70,000 in fines from missing the mandatory minicamp. Players who sit out training camp can be fined $30,000 a day.
Guard Alex Boone, another spring no-show, did not report to camp. Joe Looney likely will line up at right guard in his place.
The defensive end said Wednesday he suffered a shoulder injury during last year’s training camp and played with the injury all season. Smith had surgery during the offseason, which is why he didn’t participate in spring drills.
“You use your arms in football quite a bit, especially (when playing) inside,” Smith said when asked if he was hampered in 2013. “It was what it was.”
Last year at this time, Smith was coming back from a torn triceps. It was the first major injury of his career and it cost him 21/2 games at the end of the 2012 season. He returned for the playoffs that season but was not nearly as effective as he had been during the team’s 2011 playoff march when he took over games against New Orleans and the New York Giants.
Pro Football Focus, which analyzes every snap of every NFL starter, gave Smith a dazzling +50.5 grade following his standout 2011 season. Last year the grade dropped to +8.1, including a -9.3 on running plays.
Before the 2012 season, Smith said he figured he had “three or four” good years left. This will be the third year after that statement, but the 14-year veteran said he wasn’t thinking about anything other than the season ahead.
“I’m playing this year, and that’s all I’m focused on,” he said. “I feel healthy compared to last year. I feel a lot better compared to last year. This is it. This is the (season) I’m thinking about; this is the one the team is thinking about. I’m not really concerned about next year.”