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Notes from the 49ers' morning practice

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Having a few thousand fans watching practice seemed to push the San Francisco 49ers to perform more consistently Saturday, particularly when it came to catching the ball. Other observations:

  • Rookie third-round choice NaVorro Bowman repeatedly made running backs look bad in blitz-pickup drills. Anthony Dixon was a repeat victim. Bowman also beat Michael Robinson and Glen Coffee. Bowman's path to playing time might be less congested now that Scott McKillop has suffered a season-ending knee injury.

  • Rookie Kyle Williams impressed with his quickness and catching ability. He beat defenders to the edge.

  • Ted Ginn Jr. caught the ball well, including when he slipped behind linebacker Patrick Willis for a touchdown catch up the middle. Ginn dropped a couple passes Friday, but the 49ers are impressed overall.

  • Josh Morgan's double move against rookie cornerback Tramaine Brock produced a touchdown and instant reaction from the crowd. It might have been the best move of the day.

  • Linebacker Mike Balogun, a rookie free agent from Oklahoma, caught my attention with a big hit. I've noticed coaches spending time with him over the past couple days. Sometimes that can indicate a staff thinks a player has potential. Balogun would probably be a candidate for the practice squad, not the 53-man roster.

  • Vernon Davis continues to make acrobatic catches. He made one leaping grab off the shoulder pad of strong safety Michael Lewis, who was preoccupied with tracking Davis and did not appear to see the ball in time.

  • Fans dogged Chilo Rachal after the right guard incurred a false-start penalty. Later, Ray McDonald shoved Rachal into the quarterback.

The 49ers have another practice at 4 p.m. PT. I'll also be chatting during Jerry Rice's Hall of Fame induction.

Note: I initially estimated 1,000 fans in attendance, but the number was close to 3,000, according to the 49ers. Stands were packed and the atmosphere was alive. One fan joked that Rachal jumped early because of crowd noise. It wasn't that loud, of course, but the fans were engaged.