For the first five days of practices, a training camp that San Francisco 49ers Head Coach Mike Singletary promised would be “Physical with a ‘F’” has been largely been Boring with a “Zzzz.”
There have been no controversies, no outlandish predictions, and most disappointing for us beat guys, no skirmishes.
Thursday morning, however, it all changed.
The day started ominously enough, with rain clouds overhead, and since the team doesn’t have an indoor practice facility, we all had to brave the torturous elements and find somewhere with a tent to use our BlackBerries.
Soon enough the concern was moot and the sun broke through and calm was restored.
Also, the 49ers were having referees on hand to enforce the rules, and the immediate thought at the time was that if the linebackers decided to flagrantly hold on every pass play like they did during the Wednesday practice, the zebras were going to be exhausted before lunch.
The defense, roasted to a fine crisp for the better part of this past week, started off on the right foot however, with linebacker Takeo Spikes intercepting an Alex Smith pass on his first drop back.
The guys in the white unis forcing a few incomplete passes was another sign that today would be different, but we were just entering the realm of the weird.
First, Josh Morgan scared everyone with what looked like a freakish injury (see below).
Then, Vernon Davis, the star of camp and, naturally, the hero of yesterday's post, reverted to his old ways and was involved in our first donnybrook of training camp.
His opponent was reserve linebacker Marques Harris. Apparently Davis wasn't thrilled with Harris' coverage techniques during a passing drill and claimed he was being held rather severely by Harris, the ex- Charger.
Personally, I didn't notice any flags on the field.
The two combatants exchanged words and soon after, a livid Singletary dragged Davis off the field and gave him a long, private lecture.
"Everybody thinks I hate the guy," Singletary said of Davis afterward. "I love the guy. I’m so thankful that he’s on our team. The guy has so much passion; no one works harder than he does. But it’s just one of those things where he’s continuing to understand that I look at him as one of the leaders of our team; and [his actions today were] unacceptable."
While Mike Nolan, Singletary's predecessor in San Francisco, was fond of training camp fights; subscribing to the philosophy that guys who care enough to fight will care enough to play hard, Singletary doesn't believe that such displays are a positive in team building but rather a deterrant.
"I respect his ideas but mine are just a little bit different," Singletary said of Nolan. T"his team, we have a lot of young guys and I’m trying to develop men first, and then warriors, and then winners. That’s where I want to go and in order to that we need everyone coming together."
To further drive the point home, he made the whole team run the width of the field a dozen times as punishment for Davis' loss of composure.
A few minutes after that a news chopper was hovering overhead and its noisy rotors made the rest of the practice (and the interview sessions for Smith and fellow would be starting quarterback Shaun Hill) aggravating, to put it mildly.
For most of the day the word was that the 'copter was shooting footage of two dolphins who wandered into a channel and were stranded. It turned out to be one porpoise stuck in San Tomas Aquinas Creek.
The misunderstanding was either a classic episode of "phone tag" or another sad example of the state of media today.
Not as sad as how the episode turned out for the porpoise, however.
The afternoon session was far less dramatic but both quarterbacks were far sharper than they were in the morning and neither had much difficulty marching their teammates down the field in a two minute drill situation for touchdowns.
Smith was 6-of-8 with the first team with the score going to (who else) Davis, while Hill was a perfect 8-of-8 with the second unit, with the touchdown going to Dominique Zeigler.
Maybe they could sign "Flipper" Anderson
Speaking of receivers, it's getting ugly between the 49ers and unsigned first round pick Michael Crabtree.
The All-America receiver out of Texas Tech was in the news today as several published reports had David Wells, Crabtree's cousin and adviser, making threats on Crabtree's behalf saying that the former Red Raider was prepared to sit out the entire season and re-enter the draft next spring.
No doubt realizing the incendiary nature of those comments, Eugene Parker, Crabtree's agent quickly distanced himself from them, saying that he neither makes threats nor negotiates in public and that Wells' opinion neither represents his or his client's view.
The 49ers meanwhile quickly reiterated their stance, saying for the record that they too would not be negotiating through the media and that they have had open and positive communication with Crabtree.
It has been reported that Tyson Jackson, Parker's other high profile client who was picked third overall by the Kansas City Chiefs, has agreed to terms so perhaps now Parker can devote his whole focus to breeching this impasse between the 49ers and their (potential) new wideout.
For a second it looked real scary there for Josh Morgan (and offered a possibility of leverage for Crabtree and his agent).
The talented sophomore receiver went up high over corner Nate Clements to snare a deep pass around the right hashmarks, but landed on the back of his head for his trouble.
Morgan lay crumpled on the turf and immediately grabbed for the back of his neck and was quickly surrounded by trainers.
Thankfully, everything appears to be fine. Morgan left the field under his own power and was further examined on the sideline. He returned to practice shortly after with no apparent ill affects and was diagnosed with a neck sprain later in the afternoon.
It could stiffen up on him tomorrow, but for his part Morgan didn't appear to be bothered by it in a post-practice interview session with reporters.
Brandon Jones, Morgan's challenger for the starting job opposite Isaac Bruce, suffered a sprained shoulder early in the afternoon session and will be re-evaluated tomorrow morning.
Otherwise it was mostly a positive day on the team's medical front.
Right guard Chilo Rachal who had his own alarming episode on Tuesday afternoon when he had to be carted off the field with a migraine, returned today and seemed no worse for wear.
Fullback Moran Norris (sore hamstring) defensive end Kentwan Balmer (sprained left knee) returned to practice and both participated in individual drills and some team stuff, but were limited.
Outside linebacker Parys Haralson and his balky right hip flexor are being brought along slowly and was again just doing individual drills at practice.
Rookie defensive tackle Ricky Jean-Francois, who had been on the PUP list with a staph infection passed his physical late last afternoon and was a full participant today.
The team's serious injuries appear to be to left guard David Baas (strained foot) and running back Michael Robinson (strained groin). Both will be out until at least the middle of next week, when they're scheduled to be re-evaluated.
Linebackers Patrick Willis (ankle strain) and Jay Moore (lacerated left finger) and cornerback Tarell Brown (sprained left toe) continue to be day-to-day, while defensive end Ray McDonald remains on the PUP list while he recovers from his offseason knee surgery.