San Francisco 49ers

Notes, observations from 49ers’ first minicamp practice

Though restricted, Colin Kaepernick still participates in 49ers practice

Quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who has not yet been cleared for practice, does what he can at during the San Francisco 49ers practice session on Tuesday, May 17, 2016, in Santa Clara.
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Quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who has not yet been cleared for practice, does what he can at during the San Francisco 49ers practice session on Tuesday, May 17, 2016, in Santa Clara.

First the big news: Colin Kaepernick practiced. Mostly. The only thing Kaepernick, who is coming back from three surgeries, including to his non-throwing shoulder, did not take part in was 11-on-11 drills where there is at least some semblance of a pass rush. (Tackling and hitting are not permitted, but there still are bodies flying about in the backfield.) Kaepernick looked a bit rusty early but seemed to fall into a rhythm as the practice went on. In sum, it would have been hard for someone unfamiliar with his offseason story line to tell that it was his first extensive practice of the year.

Before practice began Chip Kelly said Kaepernick would not take part in 7-on-7 drills. But he did, completing a few passes but also throwing a pass to receiver Jerome Simpson that was intercepted by Kenneth Acker. Kaepernick’s longest pass of the day was about 40 yards. His nicest? It might have been a touch pass along the sideline to tight end Blake Bell that floated in just beyond the reach of linebacker Marcus Rush. During the seven-on-seven drills, he took the repetitions after Blaine Gabbert. That seems to signal what the quarterback pecking order will be when training camp begins next month: Gabbert, Kaepernick, Thad Lewis and Jeff Driskel. Kaepernick said he would speak with reporters -- for the first time since the 2015 season ended -- on Thursday.

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This week’s practices are the only mandatory sessions of the spring. But the attendance was not that different from OTAs. One notable attendee was first-round guard Joshua Garnett, who turned in a final assignment at Stanford at midnight, which made him eligible to be on hand for Day 1 of the minicamp.

Garnett lined up at both left and right guard at various times with the third-team offense. He played left guard last year at Stanford but noted he’d also been on the right side two years and that he will learn both with the 49ers. Garnett did not seem out of place despite missing a month of work. He said he’s been mimicking Kelly’s practices as best he can at Stanford with special attention paid to conditioning.

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Cornerback Dontae Johnson, who suffered a leg/knee injury in last week’s OTAs, did not practice today, although his injury does not appear to be serious. He had been playing right cornerback with the second-string defense. That role has been filled since by fourth-round draft pick Rashard Robinson. He’s been working with both the second- and third-team units and has looked good early on. Jimmie Ward continued to play at right cornerback opposite Tramaine Brock with the first stringers. Chris Davis continued to be the primary nickel back ahead of Keith Reaser.

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Ahmad Brooks was back at practice but was held out of team drills. Second-year player Eli Harold continues to get the repetitions at right outside linebacker. The inside linebackers? Today NaVorro Bowman and Michael Wilhoite worked with the first-team group.

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The offensive line compositions began like they were during OTAs but were switched up a bit by the end of practice. The first group did not change. LT Joe Staley, LG Zane Beadles, C Daniel Kilgore, RG Brandon Thomas and RT Erik Pears were together throughout the day.

The second group, however, had some substitutions. When team drills began, it was LT Colin Colin Kelly, LG Ian Silberman, C Marcus Martin, RG Andrew Tiller and RT Trent Brown. By the end of practice rookie John Theus was working at right tackle in place of Brown.

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Defensive end Glenn Dorsey was on hand for the session. He is wearing a brace on his right knee, which suffered an ACL tear in November. Dorsey, however, was sprinting at full speed on Tuesday, a good sign that his recovery is on track or even ahead of schedule. Nose tackle Ian Williams (ankle), who had been rehabilitating in South Florida, also has been on hand for the last week.

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Tight end Bruce Miller continues to get a lot of work with the first-team offense. Gabbert hit him twice in a row during team periods, including one pass that was tipped up in the air and nearly intercepted by safety Eric Reid but was eventually grabbed by Miller.

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Chip Kelly said the 49ers will scrimmage with two teams prior to the preseason game with those squads. They’ll host the Houston Texans on Aug. 12th, which is two days before their preseason opener at Levi’s Stadium. They’ll practice with the Broncos on the 17th and 18th of August, two days before their game in Denver.

Matt Barrows: @mattbarrows, read more about the team at sacbee.com/sf49ers.

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