49ers Blog and Q&A

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

August 11, 2008
Yuck. Offense flounders during morning session

I've been covering this team for a long time. I was here when the quarterbacks were Rattay, Dorsey and Pickett. I was here when the 49ers won only two games. In other words, I've seen some pretty putrid practices. But I gotta tell you - I'm having a hard time remembering an offensive performance as lousy as the one I saw this morning.

And I'm not sure I'd get much argument from Mike Nolan. False starts. Busted routes. Bad throws. Dropped catches. After one of the early "team" sessions in which first-team quarterback J.T. O'Sullivan threw two interceptions and second-team quarterback Alex Smith threw one (more on that dynamic in a moment), Nolan huddled the team at midfield and let the offense have it. I took notes, but I can't print most of the words he said. "How many times did we leave yards on the field? We left touchdowns on the field," he yelled.

Asked afterward about the ragged session, Nolan explained it as a combination of two things. One, the defense is always ahead of the offense. And two, that the team's top receivers - Isaac Bruce and Bryant Johnson - were not practicing. That the offense just plain stunk things up this morning was not one of his reasons.

O'Sullivan was 3 of 8 in the second "team" session and 5 of 8 in the final one. Smith was 5 of 8 and 3 of 5. His final pass of the morning - a shovel pass to Thomas Clayton - was picked off by Louis Holmes. With that, the horn sounded ending practice. A mercy kill.

Ever since Friday's game, O'Sullivan has gotten all of the first-team reps, Smith has gotten all of the second-team reps and Shaun Hill has gotten zero team reps. And yet Nolan insists that there is a rotation occurring. Told that there doesn't seem to be any rotating going on, Nolan replied, "There's going to be a practice this afternoon. They'll be one tomorrow. We'll see how they go, alright?" Smith will not run the first team in the afternoon, Nolan said. He said no decisions have been made as far as the starting quarterback. Nolan was asked if he and his coaches assess the quarterback situation every night. "Yeah, we do. We talk about it quite a bit. So probably if I seem tired when you guys are asking questions, it's not just you. We meet on it a lot. We talk about it a lot. We look at the film, study it. So if I get a little short, I'm short inside, too."

Just-signed linebacker Takeo Spikes practiced with the second-team defense alongside Dontarrious Thomas. Nolan said Spikes would play with the second team during Saturday's game against the Packers but that the defense would be simplified for the second team. All offseason, there was a sense that Spikes might wait to join a team until an injury situation really made him a valuable commodity. But Spikes said he had yesterday circled on his calendar. "To me, it's important to come in and understand what I'm doing," Spikes said. He said the fact that he knew a number of players on the team - Mark Roman, Nate Clements, Jonas Jennings and Thomas - helped the 49ers' cause, he said. What also helped is that Spikes played in a similar system when Dick LeBeau was coaching the Bengals defense. Spikes, of course, played the "Mike" position back then. That's Patrick Willis' spot in the 49ers' defense, and Spikes admitted that it was the more high-profile of the two inside linebacker positions. But he said he didn't mind. "If there's a play out there to be made," he said, "I'm going to go out there and make it."

Dominique Zeigler hadn't been feeling well and left practice early. Newcomer Chris Patrick got some work at left tackle.

-- Matt Barrows

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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.

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