San Francisco 49ers

Vernon’s absence? It was a boon for Vance McDonald

Vernon Davis made his offseason debut on Thursday, but the most prominent tight end on the field was his understudy. Vance McDonald had perhaps the catch of the day -- a leaping sideline grab over Antoine Bethea -- and looked solid throughout the session.

Which raises perhaps a dirty little secret about Davis’ springtime absence: It likely didn’t hurt Davis all that much if at all, and it probably helped McDonald’s development quite a bit.

“Yes. I would say, personally for me, absolutely,” McDonald said when asked if he benifitted from Davis’ absence. “It’s like the pressure of: You’ve got to step up. Right now, this is what we have, and you’re the No.1 tight end. I think it was a very good start for me for next season.”

It’s clear that McDonald is more comfortable and more confident than he was at any point last season. A second-round pick in 2013, the then rookie only had eight receptions and had a couple of critical drops.

McDonald said he knows what to expect now, including what he termed an “180 mph ball” from quarterback Colin Kaepernick, something he certainly didn’t see from his quarterback at Rice.

“It’s about 180 miles an hour,” he insisted. “... Coming into Year 1, not only do you have to think about how you’re going to use your stem to trigger a safety one way to get open. You do that and you think about that and you turn your head and the ball is flying at you to take your head off. Now that I’m comfortable in the offense, it’s one more thing you get to focus on a lot more. I’ve got Kap as my quarterback. I know the ball I’m going to get, and you just go from there.”