The consensus after the 49ers' first-ever practice at their new stadium: The grass is fantastic.
The playing surface came out of Saturday's soccer game between the Earthquakes and Sounders without any issues, and players said it was decidedly faster and more compact than Candlestick Park's grass, which would tend to be a little soft (and smell like decomposing eels and crabs at high tide).
Cornerback Perrish Cox said he was prepared to change his cleats to find the the right fit but ended up sticking with the molded cleats he was wearing. “It was better than Candlestick that's for sure,” he said of the grass.
The crowd? Those that arrived seemed unsure of how to behave and acted as if they were watching Wimbledon. The fans that came to Candlestick's open practices in recent years were far more raucous.
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Cox had a diving interception in the end zone. But another cornerback, Chris Cook, had the performance of the day. Tramaine Brock still is returning from an ankle injury while Chris Culliver took the afternoon off to rest a minor injury. That gave Cook and Cox another chance to play with the first-team defense and Cook in particular made the most of it.
He used his big body to shield smaller receiver Devon Wylie on a sideline pattern then jumped to intercept Josh Johnson's underthrown pass. The second interception was more impressive – a diving snag on a deep throw in the end zone to receiver Chuck Jacobs from Blaine Gabbert.
As has been widely discussed, Cook has never made an interception despite four years in the league and 30 starts. He's worked after practice all offseason on his ball skills, usually with McLeod Bethel-Thompson throwing him passes he must locate and grab. The drills seem to be working.
Cornerback Darryl Morris had a nice interception on a long sideline throw from Bethel-Thompson to Kassim Osgood.
The inside linebacker battle is one of the best of training camp and should be one of the more intriguing positions to watch in Thursday's preseason opener. Chris Borland nearly came up with a pick-six scenario when he read Bethel-Thompson's eyes on a shallow crossing route. Borland made a nice break on the ball but could not come up with the snag.
Nick Moody also made a nice play in coverage while Shayne Skov has been consistently good, especially in the last week. Michael Wilhoite, however, continues to work with the first-team defense and has been solid.
Carlos Hyde caused a brief scare when he flubbed a kick return, then had top athletic trainer Jeff Ferguson come and look at his right hand. The two walked off the field together which, given the 49ers' other injuries at running back, caused a minor panic on social media. Fans were ready to twit their wrists.
Five minutes later, however, Hyde was back on the field as if nothing had happened. It seems he cut his finger but did not, Jim Harbaugh said, lose a fingernail. “A little bloody around the edges,” he said.
Meanwhile, the 49ers waived/injured Kendall Hunter and signed another running back, Glenn Winston from Michigan State. The 49ers can add Hunter, who tore an ACL last month, to injured reserve once he clears waivers.
With Hunter, LaMichael James (elbow) and Marcus Lattimore (knee) out with injuries, and with Frank Gore unlikely to get any carries in the preseason, the 49ers need more bodies at running back. Hyde, Jewel Hampton, Alfonso Smith and Winston will get the carries in Thursday's preseason opener.
New receiver L'Damian Washington has been issued No. 82, Jonathan Baldwin's former number, but was not on hand for Monday's practice. Baldwin, meanwhile, was claimed by Detroit.
Both guard Adam Snyder and safety C.J. Spillman were back after missing Sunday's practice. … Ryan Seymour has been filling the role of the extra tight end/lineman in the team's heavy jumbo packages. … Joe Looney has been one of the lead blockers on kick returns, a role he is likely to have whether he remains the starting right guard. He continues to look good at that position while Alex Boone's holdout continues.
Read Matt Barrows’ blogs and archives at www.sacbee.com/sf49ers .