NFC West: Scott McKillop

Aaron Curry's recent signing with the New York Giants invites a look back at the 2009 NFC West draft class, painful as it might be in some cases.

Four of the 29 players NFC West teams selected in that draft remain with their original teams: Michael Crabtree in San Francisco, James Laurinaitis in St. Louis, Max Unger in Seattle and Rashad Johnson in Arizona.

Unger is the only one of the 29 to earn Pro Bowl honors. Unger and Laurinaitis are the only ones to receive long-term contract extensions from their original teams.

NFC West teams have fired the head coaches and general managers associated with those 2009 selections.

Reasons for those firings went far beyond the 2009 draft, of course. Still, the massive turnover since that draft reflects poorly on what was, by most accounts, a weak class across the league. It also shows how frequently personnel turns over in the NFL. The league has 21 new head coaches and 19 new general managers since the 2009 season concluded.

Curry was widely considered the "safest" choice in that 2009 draft as a fearsome linebacker from Wake Forest. Seattle would trade him to Oakland for seventh- and fifth-round picks before Curry had finished his third season.

Jason Smith, chosen second overall by St. Louis in 2009, supposedly had a mean streak and was a natural leader. The Rams would trade him to the New York Jets for Wayne Hunter after three disappointing seasons.

Beanie Wells came to the Cardinals in the first round of that 2009 draft pretty much as advertised: highly talented, but not very durable. The Cardinals released him this offseason, and Wells remains unsigned amid questions about his knee.

2009 was also the year Arizona sought to upgrade its pass-rush by selecting Cody Brown in the second round. The 49ers tried to improve their depth at running back by using a third-round choice for Glen Coffee. Brown would never play in an NFL game. Coffee would retire after one season.

The chart shows how many regular-season NFL starts each 2009 NFC West draft choice has made, regardless of team.

Aaron Curry and that 2009 draft class

October, 12, 2011
Aaron Curry, apparently headed for Oakland, has plenty of company among 2009 NFL draft choices failing to meet expectations with their original teams.

The player Seattle's previous leadership drafted fourth overall was part of a draft featuring quite a few underwhelming players near the top.

Thirteen NFC West choices from the 2009 draft remain with their teams: Max Unger, Deon Butler and Cameron Morrah in Seattle; Beanie Wells, Rashad Johnson, Greg Toler and LaRod Stephens-Howling in Arizona; Jason Smith, James Laurinaitis, Bradley Fletcher and Darell Scott in St. Louis; and two players in San Francisco, Michael Crabtree and Ricky-Jean Francois.

Let's sift through the rubble ...





Quick look at 49ers' 80-man roster

August, 30, 2011
The San Francisco 49ers avoided surprises in releasing seven players to comply with the 80-man NFL roster limit in effect Tuesday.

Punter Sam Paulescu, receiver Tyler Beiler, receiver Kevin Jurovich, running back Seth Smith, linebacker Scott McKillop, tackle Nick Howell and center Donovan Edwards received waivers, according to Matt Maiocco.

The team now must reduce to 53 players by Saturday at 6 p.m. ET.

The chart compares current 49ers roster counts by position to those from Week 1 last season.

Braylon Edwards' status for Week 1 is one variable to watch as teams reduce to 53 players. If Edwards' guilty plea in a 2010 DUI case invites an NFL suspension, he would not count against the 53-man limit for as long as the suspension was in effect.

Around the NFC West: McKillop on track

June, 23, 2011
Arizona Cardinals

Quarterbacks, free agency and a look back at the draft are topics that are discussed by Paul Calvisi, Darren Urban, and Ron Wolfley in the latest podcast on the team's website.

Cardinals safety Kerry Rhodes, in an in-depth Q&A with, on the Cardinals in 2011: "We’re a couple players away from being right back in the mix and contending for a title. We have a nice mix of veterans and young guys, so if we can come out and attack it the way we can, barring any major injuries, we’ll be right back in it.”

San Francisco 49ers

Linebacker Scott McKillop appears to be on track to be cleared to practice if training camp opens at the end of July.

Niners Nation profiles the kickers who might be available once free agency starts.

Seattle Seahawks looks back on the 1994 season, which culminated with Tom Flores being fired.

Art Thiel weighs in on the nickname that is inevitably going to stick with the renaming of the Seahawks' stadium: the Clink.

St. Louis Rams

Nick Wagoner breaks down Rams rookie safety Jonathan Nelson, who says he grew up a Tennessee Titans fan and recalls being upset following the Rams' victory in Super Bowl XXXIV.

Rodger Saffold calls himself a "new breed of left tackle. We're almost like bigger tight ends. With defensive ends getting lighter and faster, we have to do the same, but still keep our power."
Drafting Texas A&M linebacker Von Miller fifth overall would help the Arizona Cardinals catch up with their division rivals in at least one category.

Since 2005, linebackers drafted by Arizona have combined to start only 16 games for the team, with 2010 second-round choice Daryl Washington starting 11 of them.

Cody Brown (2009), Buster Davis (2007) and Darryl Blackstock (2005) combined to start two games for the team, both by Blackstock, despite entering the NFL as second- or third-round selections. Only Brown remains in the NFL.

The Seattle Seahawks have gotten 145 starts from second- and third-round linebackers during the same span. Overall, linebackers drafted by NFC West teams since 2005 have combined to start 423 games for their original teams: 180 for Seattle, 173 for San Francisco, 54 for St. Louis and 16 for Arizona.

Washington showed last season he's likely to help Arizona close the gap. The 49ers could lose 57-game starter Manny Lawson in free agency. Seattle could move on without 61-game starter Leroy Hill while teammate Lofa Tatupu, a three-time Pro Bowl choice with 84 starts, is coming off surgeries on both knees.

With that in mind, I'll continue our position-by-position series on relatively recent NFC West draft choices with a look at linebackers.

Italics identify what teams might have been thinking as they entered various stages of the draft.

In the charts, I've used the term "not active" to describe, in most cases, players who weren't on regular-season rosters recently, including Jon Alston, recently cut by Tampa Bay.

Some players described as "starters" or "backups" could see their roles change pending free agency, roster changes and other dynamics.

We'd better find perennial Pro Bowlers in this range ...

Feeling safe drafting linebackers in this range ...

Not really sure what we're getting here ...

More questions than answers, but worth a shot ...

Not too late to find special-teams contributors, and possibly more ...

2009 NFL draft revisited: 49ers

December, 4, 2010
A quick look at the San Francisco 49ers' 2009 draft class ...

Best pick so far: Receiver Michael Crabtree has three touchdown receptions in his last four games. He played and produced like a veteran immediately upon reporting to the team last season. The production hasn't been as consistent this season. Crabtree occasionally has lapses, as when a slightly off-target pass bounced off his hands for an interception Monday night. I sense Crabtree mostly needs improved quarterback play to take the next step and become a top receiver.

Second-guessing: Coach Mike Singletary has placed high value on adding players with a passion for the game. That makes Glen Coffee's retirement after one season all the more puzzling. What did the 49ers see in him? Coffee showed little during his time with the 49ers. The blocking wasn't always great, of course, but the team could certainly use a third-round talent at the position now that Frank Gore is out for the season.

Key variable: Quarterback Nate Davis has shown a strong arm and some play-making ability during the exhibition season. Singletary questioned the quarterback's preparation, however. Davis went from the 53-man roster to the practice squad and nearly out of the picture at quarterback altogether. The 49ers aren't really counting on him, but if Davis gets serious about his craft and emerges as a viable candidate in the future, he could salvage a draft class that isn't looking very promising overall. On a side note, Ricky Jean-Francois filled in nicely for Aubrayo Franklin during camp. Might he develop?

NFC West injury picture favors Arizona

November, 3, 2010
Injury trends are following a familiar pattern in the NFC West.

Whether by luck or superior training or whatever the reason might be, the Arizona Cardinals continue to suffer fewer season-ending injuries than other NFC West teams.

Arizona finished the 2008 season with three players on IR. The number was four last season. The team has a division-low two players on IR heading into Week 9 this season. That's nine players in two-plus seasons.

The Seattle Seahawks have eight already this season, including three offensive linemen. The number is seven for the St. Louis Rams, including three wide receivers.

Seattle placed defensive end Red Bryant and left guard Ben Hamilton, both starters, on IR this week.

The first chart shows NFC West IR counts after the 2008 and 2009 seasons, and heading into Week 9 this season. The 2008 totals reflect numbers heading into the divisional playoffs following that season. The 2009 totals reflect numbers when the regular season ended. Teams sometimes remove players from IR through injury settlements and other means.

The second chart breaks down 2010 IR counts by position heading into Week 9.

The third chart takes a team-by-team, player-by-player look at NFC West IR lists heading into Week 9. Asterisks identify projected, potential or actual starters.

Definitive look at NFC West turnover

September, 8, 2010
Roster turnover is a leading topic for discussion in Seattle following the release of T.J. Houshmandzadeh in particular.

I've addressed the subject in depth across the division -- first May 26 and again July 30 -- and it's worth another look now that teams have reduced to 53 players for the regular season.

This time, I'm going to break down the changes by position, listing players no longer on the active roster at each main position group (with new players in parenthesis). Departures outnumber replacements because some players finished last season on injured reserve, meaning they were not part of the 53-man roster.

Some players no longer on the active roster remain with the team (they could be suspended, deemed physically unable to perform or part of the practice squad).

St. Louis Rams (34 off roster)

Defensive back: Eric Bassey, Quincy Butler, Danny Gorrer, Clinton Hart, Cordelius Parks, David Roach, Jonathan Wade (added Kevin Dockery, Jerome Murphy, Darian Stewart)

Defensive line: Victor Adeyanju, Adam Carriker, Leger Douzable, Leonard Little, LaJuan Ramsey, James Wyche (added Jermelle Cudjo, Fred Robbins, George Selvie, Eugene Sims)

Linebacker: K.C. Asiodu, Paris Lenon (added Na'il Diggs, Josh Hull)

Offensive line: Roger Allen, Alex Barron, Ryan McKee, Mark Setterstrom, Phillip Trautwein, Eric Young (added Renardo Foster, Hank Fraley, Rodger Saffold)

Quarterback: Kyle Boller, Marc Bulger, Keith Null, Mike Reilly (added Sam Bradford, A.J. Feeley, Thaddeus Lewis)

Running back: Samkon Gado, Chris Ogbonnaya (added Keith Toston)

Special teams: Ryan Neill

Tight end: Randy McMichael (added Mike Hoomanawanui, Fendi Onobun)

Wide receiver: Donnie Avery, Keenan Burton, Brooks Foster, Jordan Kent, Ruvell Martin (added Mark Clayton, Dominique Curry, Mardy Gilyard)

Seattle Seahawks (33 off roster)

Defensive back: Jamar Adams, Deon Grant, Ken Lucas, Josh Wilson (added Kam Chancellor, Kennard Cox, Nate Ness, Earl Thomas, Walter Thurmond)

Defensive line: Lawrence Jackson, Patrick Kerney, Cory Redding, Nick Reed, Darryl Tapp, Craig Terrill (added Kentwan Balmer, Raheem Brock, Chris Clemons, Dexter Davis, Junior Siavii, E.J. Wilson)

Linebacker: Leroy Hill, Lance Laury, D.D. Lewis (added Matt McCoy; note that Hill is suspended for the first regular-season game)

Offensive line: Trevor Canfield, Brandon Frye, Walter Jones, Damion McIntosh, Rob Sims, Steve Vallos, Ray Willis, Mansfield Wrotto (added Stacy Andrews, Evan Dietrich-Smith, Ben Hamilton, Russell Okung, Chester Pitts, Tyler Polumbus)

Quarterback: Mike Teel, Seneca Wallace (added Charlie Whitehurst)

Running back: Justin Griffith, Louis Rankin, Tyler Roehl, Owen Schmitt (added Quinton Ganther, Michael Robinson, Leon Washington)

Special teams: Kevin Houser, Jeff Robinson (added Clint Gresham)

Tight end: John Owens (added Chris Baker, Anthony McCoy)

Wide receiver: Nate Burleson, T.J. Houshmandzadeh (added Golden Tate, Mike Williams)

Arizona Cardinals (24 off roster)

Defensive backs: Ralph Brown, Bryant McFadden, Antrel Rolle (added A.J. Jefferson, Trumaine McBride, Brandon McDonald, Kerry Rhodes)

Defensive line: Jason Banks (added Dan Williams)

Linebacker: Monty Beisel, Bertrand Berry, Cody Brown, Karlos Dansby, Gerald Hayes, Chike Okeafor, Pago Togafau (added Paris Lenon, Cyril Obiozor, Joey Porter, Daryl Washington; Hayes can return from the physically unable to perform list after six games)

Offensive line: Mike Gandy, Herman Johnson, Reggie Wells (added Alan Faneca, Rex Hadnot)

Quarterback: Matt Leinart, Brian St. Pierre, Kurt Warner (added Derek Anderson, Max Hall, John Skelton)

Running back: Justin Green, Dan Kreider (added Jerome Johnson)

Special teams: Neil Rackers (added Jay Feely)

Tight end: Anthony Becht (added Jim Dray)

Wide receiver: Anquan Boldin, Sean Morey, Jerheme Urban (added Andre Roberts, Stephen Williams)

San Francisco 49ers (24 off roster)

Defensive backs: Dre' Bly, Walt Harris, Marcus Hudson, Mark Roman (added Phillip Adams, Tramaine Brock, William James, Taylor Mays)

Defensive line: Kentwan Balmer, Derek Walker

Linebacker: Scott McKillop, Jeff Ulbrich, Matt Wilhelm (added NaVorro Bowman, Travis LaBoy)

Offensive line: Tony Pashos, Chris Patrick, Cody Wallace (added Alex Boone, Anthony Davis, Mike Iupati)

Quarterback: Nate Davis, Shaun Hill (added David Carr, Troy Smith)

Running back: Thomas Clayton, Glen Coffee, Brit Miller, Michael Robinson (added Anthony Dixon, Brian Westbrook)

Special teams: Shane Andrus, Ricky Schmitt

Wide receiver: Arnaz Battle, Isaac Bruce, Jason Hill, Brandon Jones (added Ted Ginn Jr., Kyle Williams, Dominique Zeigler)

The first chart shows how many players are back -- at least for now -- from Week 17 rosters and injured reserve lists. Seattle has the fewest number back with 26.

The second chart shows how many players each team has shed since Week 17 last season. This counts players who were on injured reserve. Teams with lots of players on injured reserve had more players to lose.

San Francisco 49ers, Arizona Cardinals, Seattle Seahawks, St. Louis Rams, Leonard Little, Jerheme Urban, Isaac bruce, Owen Schmitt, Josh Wilson, Justin Green, Derek Anderson, Walt Harris, Tony Pashos, Brian St.Pierre, Darryl Tapp, Sam Bradford, Mark Roman, Dan Kreider, Steve Vallos, David Carr, Randy McMIchael, Ralph Brown, Lawrence Jackson, Charlie Whitehurst, Shaun HIll, Leroy HIll, Chris Patrick, Matt Leinart, Chike Okeafor, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Brian Westbrook, Bertrand Berry, Dominique Zeigler, Ricky Schmitt, Eric Bassey, Eric Young, D.D. Lewis, Nate Burleson, Alex Barron, Samkon Gado, Kyle Boller, Brit Miller, Patrick Kerney, Quincy Butler, Michael Robinson, Arnaz Battle, Ray Willis, Jerome Johnson, Derek Walker, Glen Coffee, Brooks Foster, Monty Beisel, Renardo Foster, Mansfield Wrotto, Seneca Wallace, Donnie Avery, Karlos Dansby, Alex Boone, Marcus Hudson, Adam Carriker, Cody Brown, Kurt Warner, Cordelius Parks, Jeff Ulbrich, Chris Ogbonnaya, Neil Rackers, Pago Togafau, Scott McKillop, Kentwan Balmer, Lance Laury, Sean Morey, Mike Gandy, Mike Reilly, Anquan Boldin, Trevor Canfield, Marc Bulger, Nate Davis, Cory Redding, Antrel Rolle, Matt McCoy, Brandon Jones, Alan Faneca, Anthony Davis, Keenan Burton, Jason HIll, Joey Porter, David Roach, Phillip Trautwein, Tyler Roehl, Taylor Mays, Mark Setterstrom, Travis LaBoy, A.J. Feeley, Craig Terrill, Keith Null, Cody Wallace, K.C. Asiodu, Jordan Kent, Kyle Williams, Stacy Andrews, James Wyche, Reggie Wells, Victor Adeyanju, Jonathan Wade, Thomas Clayton, Deon Grant, LaJuan Ramsey, John Owens, Bryant McFadden, Matt Wilhelm, Gerald Hayes, Jeff Robinson, Herman Johnson, Walter Jones, Mike Williams, Justin Griffith, Jason Banks, Jamar Adams, Kevin Houser, Anthony Becht, Damion McIntosh, Louis Rankin, Brandon Frye, Ruvell Martin, Paris Lenon, Leger Douzable, Ryan Neill, Danny Gorrer, Russell Okung, Anthony McCoy, Clinton Hart, Earl Thomas, Leon Washington, Andre Roberts, Chester Pitts, Dan Williams, Mike Iupati, Ben Hamilton, Ryan McKee, Kennard Cox, Kerry Rhodes, Fred Robbins, Chris Baker, William James, Rex Hadnot, Hank Fraley, Mark Clayton, Quinton Ganther, Na'il Diggs, Chris Clemons, John Skelton, Mardy Gilyard, Rodger Saffold, Daryl Washington, Golden Tate, Jerome Murphy, Navorro Bowman, Walter Thurmond, E.J. Wilson, Mike Hoomanawanui, Nate Byham, Fendi Onobun, George Selvie, Thaddeus Lewis, Stephen Williams, A.J. Jefferson, Anthony Dixon, Eugene Sims, Kam Chancellor, Dexter Davis, Jermelle Cudjo, Darian Stewart, Keith Toston, Tramaine Brock, Dominique Curry, Phillip Adams, Trumaine McBride, Kevin Dockery, Shane Andrus, Tyler Polumbus, Clint Gresham, Roger III Allen, Cyril Obiozor, Brandon McDonald, Evan Dietrich-Smith, Junior Siavii, Troy Smith, Ted Jr. Ginn, Raheem Brock

A week ago, the San Francisco 49ers weighed whether to release Scott McKillop after the linebacker had knee surgery that will likely end his 2010 season.

I spoke with the 49ers' personnel chief, Trent Baalke, and tried to explain the team's options.

The explanation I provided wasn't as good as it should have been, nor did it make sense to me in full. I've done some additional research and learned a couple things I'd like to pass along:
  • The 49ers could have placed McKillop directly onto injured reserve without subjecting him to waivers. McKillop would have continued to count against the team's 80-man roster limit, however. The Chicago Bears made that decision with rookie running back Harvey Unga. He is counting against their 80-man limit even while on injured reserve.
  • By releasing McKillop with a waived/injured designation, the 49ers retained rights to the linebacker after he cleared waivers. McKillop will not count against the 49ers' 80-man limit now or after the NFL's mandatory reduction to 53 players.
  • Yes, there is still an 80-man limit after the reduction to 53. This 80-man limit includes players on the 53-man roster plus players on various reserve, inactive, exempt and non-international practice squad lists. The league grants exemptions in a few cases, including for players who were placed on injured reserve immediately after clearing waivers (as the case was with McKillop).
  • Teams can place vested veterans on injured reserve before the mandatory reduction to 53 without those veterans counting against the 80-man limit during training camp or preseason. The New England Patriots did this with defensive lineman Ty Warren. Warren will count against the 80-man limit only after the reduction to 53 players. McKillop was a draft choice in 2009, so he was not a vested veteran.
  • McKillop cannot play for the 49ers in 2010. Rules state that "players who are placed on reserve/injured at any time during the preseason, regular season or postseason are ineligible to play or practice with that club for the remainder of the season, including postseason. Players placed on reserve/injured for whom a club subsequently requests waivers or who are otherwise terminated shall not be reacquired by that club during the same season, including postseason." But if the 49ers reached an injury settlement with McKillop, he could conceivably play for another team in 2010.
  • "Injured reserve" is the same as "reserve/injured" for the purposes of this conversation.

I've been covering the NFL since 1998 and did not know some of these specifics. Here's hoping you've gained a better understanding, too.
Should Glen Coffee follow through with retirement plans, the San Francisco 49ers' backup running back would become the highest-drafted member of the NFL's 2009 draft class not on an 80-man roster.

Another 49ers player, Kentwan Balmer, is already the highest-drafted member of the 2008 draft not on an 80-man roster. The 49ers placed him on the exempt/left squad list. Balmer does not count against the 80-man limit.

Coffee was the 74th overall choice in 2009. Terrance Taylor, chosen 136th overall by the Indianapolis Colts in 2009, is currently the highest-drafted member of his class not on an active roster. Former 49ers linebacker Scott McKillop, chosen 146th overall, is next on that list after suffering a serious knee injury in camp last week. He was waived/injured.

Limas Sweed, chosen 53rd overall by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2008, is the highest-drafted player from his class other than Balmer not on an active roster. The Steelers placed him on injured reserve.

Note: Thanks to jamiemiller74 for asking about Balmer's status.

49ers' 2009 draft class minus Coffee

August, 13, 2010
Glen Coffee's surprise retirement announcement after only one NFL season sent me back for a look at the San Francisco 49ers' 2009 draft class.

The class has taken a couple hits lately with Coffee saying he'll retire and key special-teamer Scott McKillop suffering a serious knee injury.

The chart breaks 'em down.
The knee injury second-year San Francisco 49ers linebacker Scott McKillop suffered during a recent practice qualifies as a career-threatening setback.

McKillop faces a grueling rehabilitation after team physicians Gary Fanton and Tim McAdams repaired a torn ACL and petalla tendon in the linebacker's left knee. Worse, injured players can quickly lose their value and usefulness to NFL teams. They can feel unwanted and isolated as their teams move on without them.

Any fears McKillop might have had along those lines must have dissipated some Friday when he emerged from surgery at Stanford Medical Center to find Trent Baalke, the team's vice president of player personnel, waiting to drive him home.

Baalke said he wanted to assure McKillop that the team would "do right" by him.

NFL rules prevent teams from placing players directly on injured reserve until the reduction to 53 players in early September. Getting McKillop off the roster and onto IR before then would require first exposing him to waivers. If the team didn't want to risk losing McKillop, a valued player on special teams, it could wait until the 53-man cutdown before placing him directly on IR. Baalke advised McKillop of the team's options.

Fortunately for the 49ers, they do not have an immediate need for a roster spot. Fortunately for McKillop, his boss doubles as a chauffeur.

Note: I have done additional research on this item. More to come.
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- A few thoughts on the San Francisco 49ers after watching them practice in pads Friday morning at team headquarters:
  • Ted Ginn Jr.'s revival, should it happen, is going to be a process, not something that happens overnight. After lighting up the practice field with multiple big plays Thursday, he dropped a couple easy passes Friday. He's playing fast, however, and making the right adjustments as he becomes more comfortable in the 49ers' system. Alex Smith and Vernon Davis told me they think Ginn can make a big difference for them this season. Ginn did make a nice play settling into what appeared to be zone coverage before catching a low pass while almost lying on the ground.
  • Ginn wasn't the only player dropping passes. There were too many of them Thursday. Anthony Dixon and Davis also dropped balls. One player I haven't seen drop passes: Michael Crabtree, one of the smoothest players on the team. I'm told he dropped one a couple days ago.
  • First-round choice Anthony Davis showed good effort in diving to push blitzing free safety Reggie Smith past the quarterback. Smith was lined up too wide and he was too quick for Davis to block him cleanly, but the rookie did everything he could, and he was effective. Ray McDonald gave Davis some trouble with a powerful bull rush.
  • Late in practice, Smith found Davis for a roughly 40-yard touchdown pass during a period when Smith and inside linebacker Patrick Willis get to call the plays. The rapport between Davis and Smith is something I'll be exploring in greater detail. Safety Dashon Goldson was the closest defensive back to Davis at the end of the play, but it wasn't clear whether he had the initial coverage. Davis generally exploits linebackers.
  • Outside linebacker Parys Haralson fared well against improved second-year tackle Alex Boone in pass-rush drills. They went against one another on three consecutive plays. Haralson won to the inside on the first rush (although the guard or center might have helped Boone if this had been a game situation). Haralson jumped offside on the second rush. He then came at Boone strong enough to draw illegal hands to the face.
  • Offensive line coach Mike Solari was paying attention to details during a live session simulating game situations. He kept telling players to keep their feet behind the sideline to avoid a penalty even though this was only practice.
  • California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger met with Smith, 49ers officials and other players during a stop at team headquarters centered around a speech to the Bay Area Council. The governor's security detail fit stereotypes with blue suits, dark glasses and earpieces. They combed the grounds throughout the governor's visit and I was grateful they didn't tackle me when I raised my iPhone to take the photos.
  • Various memebers of Ed Hochuli's officiating crew visited practice and showed a rules-related video to players (and reporters, separately). One new rule prevents players from protesting calls too demonstrably, but the rule is not yet backed by a penalty. Players will merely receive warnings. That could change upon further review.
  • Linebacker Scott McKillop had what the team called successful surgery to repair a torn ACL and ruptured patella tendon in his left knee.

The 49ers have a special-teams practice Friday afternoon. I'll be back for both of their practices Saturday before heading to Seattle for a visit to Seahawks practice Sunday, followed by a couple days at home and a few more days watching the Seahawks. Then it's off to St. Louis for an extended look at the Rams beginning Aug. 14.
SEASIDE, Calif. -- Scott McKillop was already facing an uphill fight to eventually replace Takeo Spikes as the San Francisco 49ers' inside linebacker.

That fight might be impossible after McKillop suffered a torn ACL and patella tendon in practice Wednesday. The diagnosis, reported by Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee, means McKillop will miss the 2010 season.

Niners coaches preferred veteran Matt Wilhelm to McKillop when they needed to replace Spikes last season. The team subsequently used a 2010 third-round choice for linebacker NaVorro Bowman.
Jon Robinson of checks in with 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis, who loves his 99 rating on "Madden NFL 11." Willis: "It's truly an honor just to be in the game because when I was a kid, I used to created myself in 'Madden' and give myself all 99s. I feel like I should be a 99 in everything ... I didn't just want to be an 80 in this or an 80 in that. I was striving for that 99 in real life. So now to be in 'Madden' and see my character improve throughout the years to the point where now I'm a 99, it's really a blessing."

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says 49ers fans did not boo quarterback Alex Smith's first pass of training camp -- unlike last season.

Also from Barrows: The 49ers want to go deep. Barrows: "So far, Smith and (Ted) Ginn haven't connected on anything deep, not in practices anyway. But Smith said that's because the passing game is adjusting to the speed and physicality of practices. Smith's arm has fully returned from the last surgery he had in 2008, and he says he and Ginn worked hard on building chemistry during the offseason."

Taylor Price of singles out one play from the morning practice: "Michael Crabtree turned in the play of the practice session with a tremendous over-the-middle grab in which he reached up and snatched Nate Davis’ pass out of the air in front of multiple converging defenders."

Also from Price: inside linebackers went against guards instead of running backs in Mike Singletary's nutcracker drill. Scott McKillop: "It was a harder challenge for us, but it will make us better. We’re in a situation where we need to work on leverage and using our hands to separate. It’s going to be difficult but it’s something that will make us a better player."

More from a transcript featuring comments from Singletary. On Alex Smith: "I'm hoping he gets more comfortable as we go. I just think that as we’re out here we just have to continue to allow him the snaps that he needs to continue to get better. But he has the control of the offense, it’s just a matter of making sure that he takes the time to really see the whole defense and not just maybe sometimes look at the safety. You’ve got to see the whole thing."

More still from Roger Craig's thoughts on Jerry Rice.

Ann Killion of offers thoughts on Rice's impending Hall of Fame induction.

Matt Maiocco of singles out Brit Miller's big hit on Parys Haralson as a memorable play from 49ers camp.

Also from Maiocco: a look at how many reps key players received in the afternoon practice. Maiocco: "(Mike) Iupati got 19 valuable reps at left guard with (David) Baas out. Safety Reggie Smith, inside linebacker Scott McKillop and defensive end Demetric Evans worked with the first units in place of (Michael) Lewis, (Takeo) Spikes and (Justin) Smith. ... Alex Smith took 19 reps, completing 8 of 15. David Carr had nine reps and completed 2 of 7. (Nate) Davis took six snaps and completed 4 of 6."

Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News says Kentwan Balmer thinks improved health could help the 2008 first-round choice produce.

Also from Brown: Khalif Mitchell impressed in nutcracker drills.

David White of the San Francisco Chronicle says the 49ers are missing nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin.

Phil Barber of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says fullback Brit Miller impressed at 49ers practice Monday. Also: "Taylor Mays, already enjoying the improved status of the second-team defense, made a pair of nice plays late in practice. He blanketed TE Joe Jon Finley on a short route, helping disrupt a pass from Alex Smith, and on the next play read a gadget play perfectly and was there to touch down the ball carrier."

Also from Barber: various 49ers-related notes, including one about Jason Hill making the catch of the morning practice. On Ted Ginn Jr.: "Ted Ginn looked good running one-on-one vs. DBs in a morning drill, beating Tramaine Brock and Karl Paymah twice on various routes -- one against Paymah on a deep touchdown throw from David Carr. But he wrapped up his day's work by dropping an easy ball that LB Keaton Kristick had batted right to him." If Ginn was consistent, the Dolphins probably would have kept him. The 49ers could use the threat of Ginn's speed, but it's an upset if he becomes a polished, consistent receiver.

More from Barber: surprise over the fact that Willis didn't dominate nutcracker drills the way he dominates during games. Willis' ability to avoid blocks and make tackles helps make him a special linebacker. The nutcracker drill is all about taking on blocks and overpowering opponents.

Note: I'm breaking out each team separately today because there's too much stuff for a single Around the NFC West file.