49ers Blog and Q&A

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

June 7, 2009
There's been a Crabtree sighting ....

The 49ers just wrapped up their mandatory three-day minicamp. Usually, this would be a bit of an event. However, the team now has four days of OTAs that begin tomorrow. The big news of the day -- and this is all relative -- is that rookie receiver Michael Crabtree was seen sprinting with trainers. Now I'm not here 24 hours a day, so I don't know Crabtree's exact rehab regimen after foot surgery in March. But as far as I can tell, this is the first time Crabtree's actually run -- and run fairly hard -- on the foot since the procedure. Under the supervision of strength coach Duane Carlisle, Crabtree ran perhaps a dozen sprints of about 40 yards on the team's artificial field. He seemed to be going about three-quarters speed. ... For those over achievers who want to be the first to post news on their favorite chat sites, I've begun to use twitter during practices.

Strips, picks and pass rush. You might say that's the theme of the 49ers' defense as it prepares for the 2009 season. The unit has been together under defensive coordinator for three offseasons now, and it's begun to jell. The next step is creating the big plays and game-changing turnovers that have been few and far between in recent seasons.

Under Mike Nolan, the defensive philosophy was to play it safe. Nolan hated giving up big plays - he called them "explosives" - and opted for players, such as Mark Roman, who were trustworthy more than they were playmakers. There seems to be more risk taking under Mike Singletary and Greg Manusky. Dashon Goldson has replaced Roman at free safety and Dre Bly, a gambler by nature, was brought in to replace Walt Harris at cornerback.

"I think our focus this offseason has been putting pressure on the quarterback and creating turnovers so we get the ball back," Manusky said. "I think both situations, the last two years, I think we can improve on, as well as run defense."

Other Manusky tidbits:

  • He said that the three rookie draft picks, Scott McKillop, Curtis Taylor and Ricky Jean-Francois, have progressed nicely. Taylor has seen plenty of action with injuries and illnesses to Michael Lewis, Reggie Smith and Roman. He said it usually takes longer for defensive linemen to adjust to the NFL because the position relies so heavily on technique.
  • He said Lewis should return to the field over the last two OTA sessions in June. Lewis had an abdominal strain dating back to last season. He was easing himself back into practice by taking part in individual drills during the minicamp.
  • Manusky said that Aubrayo Franklin is the unquestioned starter at nose tackle but that he wanted both Isaac Sopoaga and Kentwan Balmer to practice at that position. "You always want to have a back-up player, and you don't want to have any let down coming if said player gets hurt or dinged up," Manusky said. "So we always have rotations across the board."

As far as today's practice, Alex Smith led the first-team offense. He continues to look sharp and confident as his throwing arm returns to full strength. ... Right guard Chilo Rachal took part in Friday's practices but was then excused for personal reasons. Second-year player Cody Wallace spent a lot of time filling in at the position .... Rookie nose tackle Khalif Mitchell was back in practice after missing Saturday with an illness ... Lewis Baker filled in at strong safety with the first-string defense ... When the first-string offense lined up, the top three receivers were "Z" Josh Morgan, "X" Dominique Zeigler and "slot" Michael Spurlock.

-- 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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