SANTA CLARA -- The 49ers began the post-Aldon Smith era Friday afternoon in a feisty mood. It was their third straight practice in pads, and they did more hitting than in the previous two, although there still was no live tackling and there has yet to be any practice-field fisticuffs (at least in the afternoon sessions that are open to the media).
As was the case Wednesday, Colin Kaepernick started hot, connecting on his first six passes, including a nice gain down the sideline to Carlos Hyde and a throw to Vance McDonald.
But his seventh throw was an interception. The play began with Nick Moody blitzing up the middle -- unblocked -- from his inside linebacker spot. Kaepernick looked right and hoisted a pass to receiver Quinton Patton, who was streaking down the right sideline. The ball hung in the air and cornerback Shareece Wright outmaneuvered Patton for the ball.
Kaepernick and the first-team offense also struggled during a two-minute drill. After a penalty -- referee Bill Vinovich's crew was on hand -- put the 49ers in a 3rd and 13 situation, Kaepernick's pass to McDonald was nearly picked off by Dontae Johnson. His fourth-down heave down the right sideline fell incomplete. He finished 9-17 during 11-11 and team drills.
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It was hard to have a worse day than sixth-round pick Ian Silberman. He mostly has played guard to this point but on Friday got a chance at center. He needs to work on his shotgun snaps, three of which dribbled past the quarterback. Blaine Gabbert couldn't corral one of them, and the ball was scooped up by Mike Purcell and run in for a touchdown -- a nose tackle's dream scenario.
Gabbert did hook up with receiver Jerome Simpson on the first snap of the second-team offense's two-minute drive. Simpson caught the ball in stride down the left sideline and outran the defense for an apparent touchdown.
At outside linebacker, Corey Lemonier mostly filled in at Smith's former spot on the right side, although Ahmad Brooks rotated from his usual spot on the left at times, too.
Aaron Lynch, who had a strong rookie season last year, is the favorite to start opposite Brooks when the season begins. Lynch, however, dealt with a back injury during the spring and is still rounding back into shape.
Another possibility at outside linebacker is third-round draft pick Eli Harold, who has shown flashes of ability throughout the first week of training camp.
Tank Carradine missed the practice with an illness. That gave rookie Arik Armstead a chance to take some repetitions at right defensive end with the second-team offense. Armstead mostly has been playing left defensive end with the third-team defense. Armstead continues to look good in one-on-one pass drills as he handily beat guards Brandon Thomas and Silberman in his matchups.
The one-on-one pass protection drills also had good pop on Friday. Moody and fullback Bruce Miller had a violent collision with Miller shoving Moody into a tackling dummy and both going down. Running back Kendall Gaskins did a nice job of stonewalling new inside linebacker Steve Beauharnais. The latter, however, later tossed Jarryd Hayne to the ground as he easily got past the Aussie tailback. Moody seemed to step on Hyde's foot during their encounter. Hyde briefly had his foot examined before heading back to practice.
Thomas got some repetitions at right guard with the first-team offense. In those situations, Marcus Martin moved from right guard to center.
Reggie Bush returned both punts and kicks, the most action he’s had since camp began. Speedy cornerback Keith Reaser also got a chance to return kicks.
Rookies Armstead and Jaquiski Tartt returned to practice Friday after being held back recently. Armstead, a defensive end, was struck in the thigh in Wednesday's session. Tartt, a safety, suffered a toe injury Tuesday.
Tight end Garrett Celek (illness) and wide receivers Bruce Ellington (leg) and Issac Blakeney (leg) were held out of practice.
Safety Jimmie Ward (foot) and fourth-round pick DeAndre Smelter were seen sprinting on a side field.