Here's something newsworthy: Notoriously hard-to-please Mike Singletary was actually happy with today's practice. "I thought today was one of our better performances," he said immediately after the team's three-hour-plus marathon session. (most practices are two hours). "I think this is a practice we can build on." Singletary singled out the energy and the execution as reasons for his content. And he's right. All of the 49ers thus far have been marked by crispness, intensity and the relative lack of mental errors, such as off-sides penalties and blown assignments. This morning's was one of the best.
This practice, to me at least, also crystallized the quarterback competition. Shaun Hill, working mostly with the first-team offense, was an ultra-efficient 11-14 on pass attempts. Alex Smith, meanwhile, didn't have the high completion rating. He was 5-9. But he had a couple of the prettiest passes of training camp.
Smith started out team drills with a nice 25-yard toss to Vernon Davis over Manny Lawson. Three plays later came his masterpiece. He saw Isaac Bruce streaking down the middle of the field and put the ball precisely on Bruce's outstretched fingertips for a touchdown. Marcus Hudson had good coverage on the play, and it's the only place the ball could have been placed. Smith also threw a nice deep pass to Brandon Jones on the next play but Jones got tripped up by Mark Roman and fell. Singletary called for a pass-interference penalty on the play, but I would have ruled incidental contact.
It turns out that right guard Chilo Rachal suffered a migraine at the end of yesterday's practice. He did not practice today. Nor did left guard David Baas, who will be out until at least next week when his strained foot will be re-evaluated. Cody Wallace replaced Rachal at right guard; Tony Wragge replaced Baas on the left.
Parys Haralson (hip) and Kentwan Balmer (knee) went through individual drills, but not team drills. Michael Robinson's groin injury looks like it will keep him out another week or so. The others who did not practice: Patrick Willis (ankle), Moran Norris (hamstring), Jay Moore (finger), Tarell Brown (toe), Ray McDonald (knee) and Ricky Jean-Francois (staph infection).
Singletary took particular interest in a drill in which the linebackers must cover running backs or tight ends one on one. It wasn't a good day for Singletary's guys. Jeff Ulbrich did a nice job swatting down a pass to Delanie Walker, but otherwise the offense ruled the day. Rookie Scott McKillop seemed to have a particularly hard time, which fits into the time-honored training camp theme: August is brutal on rookies. ... One of the reasons the tight ends and running backs shined was because the passes to them were notably on target. Back-ups Damon Huard and Nate Davis were doing the honors, and both were very accurate.
Lots of running plays early in practice. The RBs getting repetitions with the first-team offense were Frank Gore, Glen Coffee and Kory Sheets. The second-teamers were Sheets and Thomas Clayton ... Zak Keasey is getting a lot of looks at fullback with Norris and Robinson ailing. I'm betting he's heavier - just looks thicker - than he was a year ago. I'll try to research my theory later this week.
There's a one-hour special teams practice later today. Peering into my crystal ball, I really don't see me attending it ...
-- Matt Barrows