If there was a theme at 49ers practice on Thursday, it was the word new coach Jim Tomsula bellowed between nearly every play. The offense huddled quickly, broke the huddle quickly and was typically at the line of scrimmage with 22 or 23 seconds left on the play clock.
“Sometimes we break the huddle at 30 (seconds),” left tackle Joe Staley said. “Honestly, last year it was pretty miserable as far as clock management and what we were doing. That’s definitely a point of emphasis this offseason – operating faster.”
As Staley noted, the 49ers were more tortoise than hare when it came to the game clock in previous years. Timeouts often were burned just before the play clock expired, including one that proved to be fateful at the end of the Super Bowl loss to the Baltimore Ravens. The 49ers led the league in delay-of-game penalties each of the past two seasons. They had nine last year; the NFL average was 4.8.
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“That was something that, the last two or three years, we didn’t do a good job of and tried to address it as much as we could,” Staley said. “But you can only address it so much in Week 6, 7 of the season. This is the time for the standard to be set ... so that when we get to the season and get amped up, it becomes second nature, kind of how you operate.”
Tomsula said the goal is for players – both on offense and defense – to get used to thinking and adjusting quickly.
“You have to think in a fast-paced, stressful environment,” he said. “Then defensively, it helps you in this critical times in games – the two-minute stuff. It’s everything having to operate at a fast pace.”
Defensive end Tony Jerod-Eddie said the practice emphasis mostly involved the offense. But he said the defensive players were getting in better shape simply trying to keep pace.
“When we see a team like Philadelphia or any of those other (fast-tempo) teams, we don’t have to change the way we practice because that’s the norm for us,” Jerod-Eddie said. “It’s (slotted) as a two-hour practice and we’re finishing in an hour and a half. That just goes to show you that there’s no time being wasted and we’re getting the work in.”
No NaVorro – Inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman, who is returning from a January, 2014, ACL injury, was not on hand Thursday. Tomsula, however, said it was a regular maintenance day for Bowman, who practiced on Tuesday and Wednesday this week.
“Bow’s been doing great,” Tomsula said. “It’s been awesome watching Bow, it really has. He’s doing really, really well.”
With Bowman absent, Michael Wilhoite lined up at one of the starting linebacker spots with former Stanford star Shayne Skov at the other.
Other would-be starters who were not on hand for the voluntary session included offensive linemen Alex Boone and Anthony Davis and receiver Anquan Boldin.
Et cetera – Running back Carlos Hyde did not participate because he is dealing with a minor leg injury. Kendall Hunter, who looks quick after suffering an ACL tear in training camp last year, was the de facto starting running back for Thursday’s session.
▪ Tight end Derek Carrier was in a walking boot but Tomsula said tests revealed there was no structural damage to his foot.
▪ Newcomer Jarryd Hayne continues to show nice hands both as a receiver out of the backfield and on punt returns. A chorus of, “Good catch, Jarryd” greeted the former Australian Rugby League star after he snagged a swing pass Thursday.