49ers Blog and Q&A

News, notes and reader questions about the San Francisco 49ers

First things first ... the quarterback battle. As I wrote earlier, J.T. O'Sullivan was attending a funeral today so it was a two-man race between Alex Smith and Shaun Hill. Smith got the work with the first-team unit while Hill worked with the second-team. They'll switch tomorrow. As he did in minicamp, Smith looked sharp, hitting Vernon Davis on a long pass down the field early in practice.

* Both players talked about the daunting amount of information Mike Martz has them digesting. When I asked Smith what percentage of the offense he's learned so far, he said he hoped they had most of it down but that he had no clue. He said he's gotten the impression that it's a never-ending process. O'Sullivan told Smith that last year he was still coming into the Lions facility to learn the offense on Tuesday - the players' day off - in Week 17. Smith also has gotten a lot of feedback from Rams quarterback Marc Bulger. The two have the same agent and they met at the Super Bowl in February. "He didn't get into specifics on offense," Smith said. "But he definitely stressed (Martz's insistence) on accountability."

* As for Hill, he said Martz has been working him hard as far as fundamentals. Hill admitted it was difficult throwing with an essentially new motion during the minicamp (which is why he may have looked a bit off) but that he felt far more comfortable today. Part of the problem is that Hill had to throw with a broken index finger last year and essentially shoved the ball forward in order to reduce strain on the digit. Martz wants Hill throwing his body - legs and hip - into his throws. He also wants Hill snapping his wrist more, something that will give his throws a tighter spiral.

* In addition to O'Sullivan, Jonas Jennings and Arnaz Battle were not at OTAs, which are voluntary. Jennings had a private matter and is expected back Wednesday. Nolan, however, was surprised that Battle was not at practice. Although Battle has not taken part in the offseason conditioning program, he attended the mandatory minicamp, and last week Nolan said he was under the impression Battle would attend OTAs. Nolan said he didn't know why Battle was absent. "I have not spoken with him." Battle has been working behind Isaac Bruce at "Z" receiver. He also has been part of the team's three-receiver sets. Today, Jason Hill was in that role.

* Justin Smith got more work at linebacker, rushing from both the right and left sides. "He could be a number of things," Nolan said when asked where Smith primarily will line up. "You'll see him moving around." Nolan did say, however, that he wanted Smith to be a playmaker on the defense and wouldn't have him in many roles where he is asked to take on two blockers.

* With Jennings absent, rookie Chilo Rachal was the starter at right tackle. Rachal said after practice that he played two years of tackle in high school and that he practiced at tackle at USC before being moved to guard. He's never played in a college game at tackle.

* Both Manny Lawson and Joe Cohen took part in individual drills but not team drills. Nolan said he hoped they would be full go by next week. David Baas and Mark Roman sat out practice. Tony Wragge filled in for Baas; Dashon Goldson for Roman.

* Jeff Ulbrich continued to get the first-team reps at "Ted" linebacker. Nolan said the team is in the same holding pattern regarding Takeo Spikes that it was in last month.

* The NFL Films music is still being piped in during practice. Nolan, however, has assigned the team's resident music aficionado, Marcus Hudson, to come up with a new mix. Hudson's parameters: No cursing and nothing that puts you to sleep.

* By the way, Delanie Walker is still a tight end. The team web site had been listing him as a wide receiver but evidently that was a typo. Walker had a busy practice, at one point catching a short pass, bursting upfield and losing his shoe in the process. The catch of the day, however, went to Walker's position mate Billy Bajema (yes, Billy Bajema!) who made a leaping, sideline grab over Hudson.

* The 49ers signed a tackle -- Alan Reuber, a journeyman who has played for the Vikings, Cardinals, Bengals and Buccaneers. The 6-6, 310-pound Reuber played collegiately at Texas A&M.

-- Matt Barrows


Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.

June 2009

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