49ers Blog and Q&A

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

August 17, 2009
Willis was knocked out of action by nutcracker

It turns out the David Baas isn't the only 49ers starter felled by the nutcracker drill. Patrick Willis today said that his right ankle injury, which has forced him to miss all but the opening day of training camp, occurred when he faced off against running back Michael Robinson on the final nutcracker drill of the opening day's morning practice. Willis said he suffered a sprained ankle and some Achilles soreness on the play. He said he knew he had a serious problem when he woke up the next morning. The nutcracker has been the iconic drill of Mike Singletary's first training camp, one designed to instill toughness in his players. Singletary said he and trainer Jeff Ferguson felt it would limit injuries because the two players facing off don't take running starts. At the beginning of training camp, he called it "pretty foolproof."

The good news? Willis was back in uniform today, although he was limited to individual drills. He said the trainers are continuing to be cautious with him and that he wasn't sure whether he would take part in the two-day session in Napa with the Raiders, which begins tomorrow at 8:30. He did say he was optimistic that he'd be able to play in Saturday's game against the Raiders and that if he had suffered his ankle injury during the regular season, he might not have missed a game. Remember, Willis broke his hand as a rookie, and only seemed to play better from that point on. "I would have to say, no," he said about missing a real game with his current injury. "At the same time, I wouldn't want my pride to hurt the team."

Greg Manusky spoke to reporters after practice. Manusky didn't seem as down on his unit's pass rush as Mike Singletary did. Singletary called the pass rush "non-existent" after the game against Denver. Manusky, however, noted that Ahmad Brooks had good pressure on Dre Bly's interception. "Sometimes pressure on the quarterback is just as good as a sack," Manusky said. Asked about which second- and third- teamers stood out in the game, he cited safety Reggie Smith, who had an interception and who snuffed out a two-point attempt at the end of the game, as well as rookie defensive lineman Ricky Jean-Francois. Manusky said Jean-Francois held up well at the point of attack.

The 49ers had their first full practice since Wednesday and it was, as expected, a tad ragged. Alex Smith led the first-team offense and finished three of five. Shaun Hill finished four of five and Nate Davis went three of five with the third-team offense. It's too early to give a good assessment of Davis, but it's clear that he throws an accurate ball. His last pass hit fellow rookie Bear Pascoe square in the hands, but - yikes - the ball clunked incomplete like Pascoe's hands were made of concrete. To be fair, Pascoe had been holding onto most everything thrown his way in recent practices.

Every 49er was in uniform today save Baas (foot), Zak Keasey (forearm) and Ray McDonald (knee). Tarell Brown (toe) took part individual and special teams drills. Michael Robinson (groin) took part in individual drills and Delanie Walker (concussion) was cleared for a full practice.

Meanwhile, Jay Moore had the stitches from his finger gash removed yesterday. He said the digit has been healing nicely and is now out of the woods as far as the risk of losing the tip. So, how many Ronnie Lott jokes did he get? "Most of them were from the coaches telling me to bite it off," he said.

- Matt Barrows

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MATTHEW BARROWS

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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