Garcia lauds depth and abilities of 49ers' wide receivers

Updated: July 31, 2003, 8:41 PM ET

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Jeff Garcia says this is the best talent assembled at wide receiver he has seen in his five training camps with the San Francisco 49ers.

Garcia ought to know, since he's the guy doing most of the throwing to the dozen receivers the team currently has competing in camp. And the three-time Pro Bowl quarterback isn't just talking about the top tier of that group.

"Just the depth level, the competitiveness, the athletic ability of some of these guys," Garcia said Thursday. "Even when you look at the guys that probably are considered No. 7, No. 8 and even No. 9 down the list, they're all very talented. They're all guys who can compete to make this team, who can make plays on the field."

One of the Niners' top priorities for 2003 was upgrading their depth at receiver behind starters Terrell Owens and Tai Streets. They released former No. 1 draft pick J.J. Stokes in June and made no major acquisitions in free agency, opting to replenish their receiving corps through the draft and with young prospects.

The Niners also are counting on Cedrick Wilson's emergence this year. The third-year receiver was one of the team's stars of spring mini-camps and he has carried over that progress to the summer, providing a dimension of speed as the No. 3 receiver that the Niners did not have last year with Stokes.

"He has great quickness and speed and a great understanding of the offense," Garcia said. "He's going to step in and be an asset this year, and that receiver position is going to be very important to the team this year."

Fourth-round draft pick Brandon Lloyd is asserting himself as the No. 4 receiver, a position that figures to get more action this year in new coach Dennis Erickson's passing sets. Lloyd leads a logjam of young talent competing for the final roster berths at receiver.

Holdovers James Jordan and Aaron Lockett have had their moments in practice and are being challenged by Canadian Football League product Arland Bruce and sixth-round draft pick Arnaz Battle.

The Niners added to that competition earlier this week when they signed rookie Jermaine Lewis and second-year pro Justin Skaggs, who played with the Washington Redskins last year.

"(Lloyd) has been very impressive to me," Erickson said. "He is very smooth, one of the smoother athletes I've been around. He is a little more polished. But I like where a lot of these guys are at right now."

Erickson particularly likes what he has seen from his front-line receivers. While several of the Niners' young receivers impress daily with their development, they still aren't in a class with Owens and Streets. Both starters are having outstanding camps.

"Tai's a darn good football player who will make a lot of plays for us," Erickson said. "And Terrell is what he is: One of the best players in the league."

^STITCHES FOR BRONSON:@ Starting free safety Zack Bronson left the field during the morning session clutching his right hand. He later was treated for a dislocated finger that required stitches, but it wasn't expected to keep him out of practice. Bronson's injury was the latest in a series of injuries to hit the team. Twelve players did not suit up for practice Thursday -- including four starters -- and 18 others were either limited in practice or practiced to the tolerance level of their ailments.

^DORSEY AIRS IT OUT:@ Rookie Ken Dorsey, the team's seventh-round draft pick, gave a display of his arm strength on the final play of team drills to complete the morning practice. Dorsey uncorked a high spiral that hit Streets in stride more than 50 yards down the field. "Not much of a better way to end (practice) if you're a quarterback and receiver," Erickson said.

^EXTRA POINTS:@ Erickson said he is expecting several of the team's injured players to return to practice Monday. The Niners have a public practice at San Jose State's Spartan Stadium late Saturday afternoon and then won't practice Sunday, their first off day since camp began July 25. The Niners had Rob Murphy, a center from Ohio State, in for a tryout.

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