SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Daunte Culpepper threw passes to tight end Nate Lawrie once again, on a little bigger stage this time than during their stint together last year with the United Football League's Sacramento Mountain Lions.
Culpepper worked out for some 30 minutes Monday in front of the San Francisco 49ers brass -- and Lawrie called it a crisp, impressive session. Offensive coordinator Greg Roman liked what he saw and heard from the veteran quarterback, but was noncommittal about whether San Francisco would sign him.
It will come down to whether the Niners want to carry two or three quarterbacks, Roman said.
"I was catching balls for him during the workout, and he was throwing it around pretty good. He's spinning it well," said Lawrie, who signed a one-year deal with San Francisco on Sunday. "Daunte's got a ton of experience. He's got a lot of success in this league. And the guy can play, he can throw the ball. That's what it all boils down to."
The Niners apparently believe Culpepper can still bring it despite a year in the minors, so they gave him a hard look.
They were at least considering adding Culpepper to their QB mix after coach Jim Harbaugh said Saturday there could be a need for a veteran backup behind projected starter Alex Smith and rookie Colin Kaepernick. Harbaugh's offense was ineffective in a 24-3 exhibition loss at New Orleans on Friday night -- and he is determined to be better come Saturday's home preseason game with the Oakland Raiders at Candlestick Park.
Harbaugh wasn't available after Monday's practice, a scheduled day off from his media duties.
Tight end Delanie Walker made it sound as if Culpepper had already joined the team. The 49ers had not made any kind of announcement other than Harbaugh acknowledging Sunday that Culpepper would get the tryout.
"I'm just happy that we got him. He can help the team out with his expertise and give the quarterbacks some pointers on what he's seen, and help Alex and Colin out," Walker said before Monday afternoon's practice. "I think it's going to be a good look for us and I'm glad to have him out here."
The 34-year-old Culpepper, who was still at team headquarters for lunch, last played in the NFL for the Detroit Lions in 2009. He started five games and played in eight total.
Several emails to Culpepper went unreturned. He acts as his own agent.
In 11 NFL seasons, he has passed for 24,153 yards and 149 touchdowns. A three-time Pro Bowler, he spent his first seven seasons with the Vikings, then one year each with Miami and Oakland before two years in Motown.
"Just experience, knowing the game and having been in it," receiver Ted Ginn Jr. said of Culpepper's potential positive influence. "It's something that we can't worry about. Whoever steps in there, you should be right for him."
Smith, the 2005 No. 1 overall draft pick out of Utah, is still the front-runner to win the starting job -- though Harbaugh hasn't made him the top guy yet. In recent days, Harbaugh has called it a competition between Smith and second-round draft pick Kaepernick.
Both quarterbacks had their shining moments Monday -- and some bumps. Roman acknowledged that bringing in another quarterback could present challenges in getting each player adequate chances in practice. The season opener is Sept. 11 at home against NFC West rival Seattle.
"You have a decision to make: Do you carry two quarterbacks or three?" Roman said. "He's a successful player. Any successful player is worth talking to. If he can play at a high level and compete, he could bring that aspect to the competition."
The 49ers moved forward Monday with the quarterbacks they do have on the roster.
While Smith still took the majority of reps with the first-team offense, Kaepernick did get a handful of plays with the No. 1 unit.
Smith received a congratulatory pat on the rear end from Harbaugh during one particularly good sequence of deep throws late in Monday's workout. Smith hit Josh Morgan up the middle on a 40-yard strike, then Braylon Edwards on a 20-yard slant, followed by a 45-yard completion to Ginn -- arguably Smith's best stretch yet in training camp.
Earlier, Harbaugh slapped hands with Smith and offered a "nice job" after a crisp, 10-yard connection with tight end Vernon Davis. A couple of plays later, it was, "Way to stick to 'em, Kaeper," after Kaepernick came through with a pretty completion.
The rookie later threw an interception that All-Pro linebacker Patrick Willis returned for a touchdown.
"Hey, touchdown!" Willis cheered.
Culpepper could provide guidance to both QBs -- and some insurance to a franchise eager to finally turn around its fortunes. San Francisco hasn't had a winning season or reached the playoffs in eight years.
"If X, Y and Z happens, that might free up a third quarterback spot," Roman said. "If X, Y and Z doesn't happen and R, S and T happens, then we would keep two."
Lawrie appreciated Culpepper's veteran presence and humility in the UFL last season. They ran what Lawrie referred to as a "hybrid" version of the West Coast offense, so he sees Culpepper having no problems picking up Harbaugh's playbook in a hurry if he does come on board.
"He'll fit right in," Lawrie said. "He's friendly, outgoing and connects well with players, which is a great asset for a quarterback. He has played for years and done a lot of great things. He knows football and that's pretty clear. It comes from taking a lot of snaps."
WR Michael Crabtree, missing his third straight training camp, was all smiles and said he is "encouraged" by the progress of his injured left foot. Crabtree -- on the physically unable to perform list -- was moving around without his walking boot Monday. It remains unclear whether Crabtree will be ready by Week 1. ... The 49ers waived OLB Thaddeus Gibson.