49ers Blog and Q&A

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

August 8, 2009
Jimmy Raye digs the long ball

Shaun Hill and Alex Smith did a Freaky Friday thing on Saturday. Working with the first-team offense, Smith seemed content to throw mostly short passes and was an efficient 11 of 13 on the day. Hill, meanwhile, connected on his longest pass in team drills this training camp, a 40 yarder to a diving Arnaz Battle. Hill also was sharp, completing 6 of nine passes.

Offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye was asked after practice how important the ability to hit the long passes was to his power-running-based offense. "Extremely important - that is part of the design." Having said that, one might conclude that Smith, who has thrown far more long completions than Hill thus far, would be the better fit. But Raye insisted there was nothing wrong with Hill's downfield game. "No, I think Shaun's doing fine. Shaun and Alex both have done very well in that part of the game," he said. "... I think (Hill's) development has been really good, as has Alex's as far as throwing the ball down the field. I don't think that's been a problem at all."

There were another 1,000 or so fans in the stands for today's practice, but this time no one booed Smith. There was still a sense, however, that Hill is the people's choice. Even when he missed on a deep throw, a voice in the bleachers yelled, "Way to throw downfield, Shaun!"

Don't forget about receiver Micheal Spurlock. At the risk of getting all Taylor-Jacobs on you, Spurlock again was prolific in practice today, catching a lot of passes. Spurlock would give the team a lot of bang for its buck. He plays slot receiver, can return punts and kicks and, as Raye noted today, he has a role in the Wildcat offense. Raye said the Wildcat installation has been put on hold with Michael Robinson's groin injury. He said that Spurlock, who played some quarterback at Ole Miss, was next in line to run the Wildcat. He said that Arnaz Battle, who played a little QB at Notre Dame, also was a possibility.

I know one fan who will forever hold Allen Rossum in the highest esteem. Rossum fielded a punt during the morning practice, trotted over the first row of the bleachers and then handed the ball to a five-year-old boy. The ball was as big as the kid was, but his smile may have been even bigger. Fan. For. Life.

During passing drills, Nate Clements knocked the ball out of Vernon Davis' hands for the second straight practice. This time, Davis recovered. ... Speaking of Davis, Frank Gore said he spoke with Davis after the tight end's practice scuffle Thursday forced the team to run gassers. "I told him it was his fourth year now and it shouldn't be him (fighting) now." Gore said he might expect a rookie to lose his cool. "It's his fourth year now. It's time ... it's time for him to be a man."

Gore, meanwhile, reported to camp at 214 pounds. He said his July routine didn't involve the hill running that he's done in Miami's Tropical Park in previous summers. Instead, he went back to the University of Miami where he concentrated on power cleans and stair work. As a result, he looks as strong and as crisp as he ever has in training camp.

Dashon Goldson and Aubrayo Franklin were given the morning off. Mark Roman filled in for Goldson at free safety. Patrick Willis (ankle) and Tarell Brown (toe) continue to nurse injuries ...

-- 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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