What was perhaps most notable about today's practice was who was watching it. Marshall Faulk, along with an NFL Network crew, was on hand, and I noticed several players and coaches sidling up to Faulk during practice. The long-time Ram admitted that the visit was like venturing behind enemy lines. (Actually, not many current 49ers ever played against Faulk.). I'll have more on what Faulk had to say later. One thing that struck me was just how reliant the offense will be on Frank Gore. Everyone knows that Gore will be the centerpiece of Martz's system. But Faulk stressed that Gore's role will be even more important considering the inexperience of the 49ers' quarterbacks. He likened it to his early years in St. Louis. "It was all on me," Faulk said. "Frank is going to be the guy, the core. It's all going to be built around him."
The 49ers signed OL Joe Toledo, a fourth rounder of the Dolphins in 2006, to replace recently released Qasim Mitchell. Mike Nolan said he wasn't sure where Toledo, who played at Washington, would play on a still shuffling offensive line. Toledo practiced at both guard and tackle with the Dolphins. Toledo struggled with injuries while in Miami and was released in February. Nolan said that Toledo's signing won't affect the team's interest in Barry Sims, who had a good visit with the team yesterday. Sims also is visiting the Patriots, Ravens and Rams and will decide next week where he wants to end up. Nolan said that if Sims were signed, Chilo Rachal could be moved back to guard.
Cornerback Shawntae Spencer has a hip flexor injury and did not practice. In fact, Spencer may be finished with OTAs altogether. Nolan said he plans on getting married and taking off on his honeymoon. Another injured defensive back, Mark Roman (shoulder), said he was close to returning. It's a good thing. Challenger Dashon Goldson has been looking very good at free safety. Asked about Goldson, Nolan said: "He probably has the most range in our secondary. I think in the long run he's going to be a very good safety." Maybe I'm reading too much into this, but I think the words "in the long run" signal that Goldson will still be on the bench when the season starts. As I've written before, Nolan loves/trusts veterans and I believe Roman will be his guy at free safety.
Nolan also had nice things to say about rookie receiver Josh Morgan. "Josh is very athletic. He's got a lot of ability and a lot of size for a position where size is a real advantage." Nolan said Morgan followed up a strong Monday practice with another solid effort today. Morgan had perhaps the catch of the day, a leaping corner-of-the-end-zone grab on a pass from Alex Smith. Smith threw another pinpoint end-zone pass to Robert Jordan later in the practice.
Practices are non-contact, but that doesn't mean players can't get hurt. The franchise took a collective gasp Tuesday when linebacker Patrick Willis and safety Keith Lewis - two of the biggest hitters on the team - converged on a pass attempt and ended up colliding with each other. Both got up a bit gingerly, but both did get up and continued to practice.
-- Matt Barrows