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Wednesday, June 3, 2009
Mailbag: 49ers camp update and much more

By Mike Sando
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Greg from Arkansas writes: Mike, Does either 49ers quarterback have an edge yet? How has Nate Davis looked? Do you expect Glenn Coffee to get much work during the regular season (8-12 touches per game)? And who do you expect to start at WR now that Bruce is back? Thanks.

Mike Sando: Shaun Hill has the advantage based on his performance last season. Coach Mike Singletary said the players will know which quarterback should be the starter, and that Singletary would only affirm that decision. Hill would be that player unless Alex Smith really comes on strong. That hasn't happened yet and it realistically won't happen until these players learn the offense and get into training camp.

At running back, I expect Frank Gore to be the workhorse back in San Francisco. They'll get some carries for Coffee, but I'd be surprised if they gave him the ball 8 to 12 times per game. Gore's health would be the key variable there. One thing to keep in mind is that Gore and Coffee are somewhat similar in style. This won't be a situation where they play the backup as a change-of-pace guy. Both are physical backs. Coffee will play, but Gore should be the man.


Mike from Seattle writes: Sando, do you know the NFL rules regarding owners? I remember hearing something about Paul Allen being granted an exemption for ownership because he already owned a sports team in another town [the Blazers] and they market to the same audience as the Seahawks. You recently posted from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch an article noting how the Blues' Dave Checketts was a potential buyer for the Rams. Again, I thought this was not allowed due to NFL marketing rules/regulations. Can you clarify the ownership rules by any chance? Thanks again!

Mike Sando: NFL rules against cross-ownership apply to teams outside the market in question. Checketts owns the Blues. He could own the Rams. However, Rams minority owner Stan Kroenke would have to divest in the Avalanche and Nuggets because the NFL has a team in those teams' market [Denver].

Paul Allen did receive an exemption since he owned the Blazers while purchasing an NFL team in the Sonics' market. The league waived the rule in that instance, determining that adding Allen as an owner was in the best interests' of the league.


Tim from Napa, Calif., writes: Mike, first the gratuitous cheek kissing, love the blog and the Facebook stuff is perfect; I'm really enjoying the back and forth that can happen on it.

I don't really have a question for you but a hope for when you report your findings at Niner Camp. I don't know how much this camp will cover Jimmy Raye's scheme, but I personally think that this is the concept that the entire season hinges upon. The Niners look very good in both double-tight sets as well as a very exciting team spread out with their youth at WR and Frank Gore's ability to be a quick hitter especially in a zone blocking scheme. So the hope is you'll be able to report back at least some insight into what sets Raye likes to work out of.

Mike Sando: Thanks, Tim. I'm also enjoying Facebook as another place to discuss these teams, while also mixing in a few personal asides every so often.

I expect Raye to lean on double-tight groupings with two receivers and one back. We should also expect to see three receivers and one back. Vernon Davis has a chance to have a much better season as a receiver in this offense.

The 49ers will need to see how quickly Michael Crabtree -- and to an extent, fellow receivers Josh Morgan and Jason Hill -- develop in this offense. If the 49ers need to get three receivers on the field together, I expect Raye to adjust. The bigger question at that point is whether the offense would open up enough to change the demands Raye is currently placing on the quarterback. That would not necessarily be great for Shaun Hill.


Tanner from California writes: Sando! Long time, no question, I know. But, here I am. You have expressed your lack of confidence for Seattle's depth at running back. What will happen if Julius Jones suffers a serious injury? I think we should add an experienced player who is familiar with the zone blocking system. What do you think about Warrick Dunn? Is he a viable option? Thanks man!

Mike Sando: Terrific player in his day. I think his day as a starter has passed. Dunn is 34 years old. He would be a stopgap at this point. Fred Taylor and Jamal Lewis might be the only projected starting halfbacks in their 30s. The market for 34-year-old running backs doesn't really exist (there are zero halfbacks in the league aged 34 or older). Using Dunn for a few carries here and there sounds better than relying upon him.


Marco from Las Cruces writes: I keep reading how it is not necessary to sign draft picks this early in the offseason, but it also doesn't hurt. Maybe you could explain the paydays the players get once they are under contract. Do they only get game checks or is there other income in the offseason?

Mike Sando: Draft choices and a few undrafted free agents receive bonuses once they sign contracts. These bonuses range in value from millions of dollars for high picks to the lower five figures for later picks to four figures for some undrafted players.

NFL teams cover basic expenses for players attending offseason camps. They cover meals and travel while providing a per diem. Rookies receive per diems of $825 per week. Veterans get $1,225 per week. That is according to the collective bargaining agreement. Teams pay base salaries in weekly installments beginning in the regular season for 17 weeks.


Follansbee from parts unknown writes: Sando, just read on your blog about being at Niners OTAs and I was wondering how Nate Davis was looking or if he is even participating. I live only a few miles miles from where he went to high school would love to see him make the team.

Mike Sando: I didn't evaluate Nate Davis and think it would be unfair to do so at this point, anyway. The 49ers have a veteran defense running the same scheme as last season. The offensive system is new. Davis and the other offensive players -- veterans and rookies -- have a lot to learn. The expectation is that Davis could develop in practice over the next few seasons. He is not a player the team is counting on anytime soon.


Jim from Dana Point, Calif., writes: The Cowboys released Greg Ellis. Any chance the Seahawks take a l
ook at him?

Mike Sando: I don't see the fit in Seattle. The team has lots of defensive ends and Ellis wouldn't fit as a linebacker in the scheme.


Brent from Midland, Texas, writes: Given the state of the economy in California [that is, the whole state is bankrupt], is moving to L.A. really that possible given the taxpayers would have to shoulder some of the responsibility for building a new stadium? Could a new owner really expect that from L.A.'s citizens?

Mike Sando: Los Angeles is terrific in theory, but I agree that it's tough getting a stadium built in California. Jed York is working overtime to figure out something in Santa Clara for the 49ers. He feels good about it, but he knows nothing is a slam dunk. I would say moving to Los Angeles is a possibility but not a given by any means.