For Taylor Mays, the evolution from hard-hitting intimidator to savvy playmaker began in January at the Senior Bowl. The NFL coaches there - Mays was tutored by the Dolphins' staff - wanted to see him playing the ball more than the receiver. And Mays obliged, coming down with an interception in the Senior Bowl game. "I think that's the part of the game I need to add, obviously," Mays said after a morning practice today. "That's what safeties in the NFL do - they make interceptions. I didn't do that too much in college, but I don't think that means that I can't do it. I think it means that I've got to do it now."
Mays showed that old habits can be corrected. He knocked away two passes in practice, one of them on deep pass from Jarrett Brown that hung in the air. It was precisely the type of situation in which the old Taylor Mays would have lowered his shoulder and tried to remove the receiver's helmet. This time, he outleaped the receiver for the ball.
But it's not as if Mays has suddenly gone soft. Asked about NFL safeties he's looked up to, Mays immediately cited Sean Taylor, the aggressive and intimidating former Redskins star who was murdered in 2007. And, of course, Mays has received plenty of tutelage from Ronnie Lott, perhaps the most intimidating safety to play the game.
Other minicamp notes:
* First-round pick Anthony Davis walked off the field gingerly at the end of practice. Davis said his back tightened up, but he felt and looked fine afterward in the locker room. Davis seemed more relaxed than he was last week when he took the podium in front of flashbulbs and tv cameras. He has a nice sense of humor, and it's clear that he and Mike Iupati - their lockers are next to each other - have begun to bond. "I'm trying to convince him to put his hair in dreads," Davis joked. "He doesn't listen to me when I talk."
* Brown seemed to be more comfortable under center this morning, but there were still some dropped snaps and his deep passes still fluttered. And before you ask, it's not the size of his hands. Offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye called Brown's mitts "basketball-size" hands. Rather Raye said the wobbling likely was indicative of Brown being loaded with information and falling out of his normal rhythm. Tavita Pritchard also took some snaps today.
* I don't want to jinx him, but tight end Nate Byham seems to have underrated hands. He caught everything thrown his way for the second straight practice, including a poorly thrown dart by Brown that was at Byham's ankles. Of course, I wrote similar things about Bear Pascoe at this point last year, and look where that got him.
* The 49ers didn't draft a chance-of-pace jitterbug in the draft. But they seem to have one in the minicamp. Nevada's Brandon Fragger has been spelling Anthony Dixon in practice, and he certainly has some wiggle that the team's other backs don't have.
* Seventh-round cornerback Phillip Adams looks like he has some size. Maybe his number - 35 - gives him the appearance of being bigger, but I wonder if he isn't heftier than the 192 pounds at which he's listed.
* Rough start for sixth-round pick Kyle Williams. The WR injured his hamstring and sat out today's practice. Meanwhile, undrafted receiver Scott Long (Louisville) is out with an illness. That allowed CB LeRoy Vann to see some action at receiver. Speaking of Vann - with Williams out, Vann handled all of the punt-return work today.
-- Matt Barrows