On the Field
The 49ers' defense took it up a level Monday in one of its most impressive practices of training camp. Colin Kaepernick was sacked five times in the first half of practice.
Kaepernick completed his first five throws before getting "sacked" by Aldon Smith just before the team broke into seven-on-seven red zone drills. Scott Tolzien completed four of five passes and Colt McCoy connected on just one of four.
In a quick two-minute drill session, the defensive front stepped up and sacked Kaepernick twice, once by Justin Smith and another from Ahmad Brooks.
It was another rough day for A.J. Jenkins, who didn't have any receptions in full-team drills on three targets. He was overthrown by Kaepernick once and undrafted free agent Darryl Morris broke up two other long passes thrown his way.
Anquan Boldin, Kyle Williams and Marlon Moore appear to have distanced themselves from the rest of the pack at receiver. Kassim Osgood has also put himself in that group considering his work on special teams.
It's still very early in the process, but the competition is heating up between Ricardo Lockette, Austin Collie, Jenkins and Quinton Patton, who has worn the blue no-contact jersey in each of the 14 training camp practices. With Mario Manningham's return still pending, the margin of error is becoming incredibly thin for the wideouts.
With Carlos Rogers missing the second portion of practice with an apparent injury, Tarell Brown worked on the inside in nickle situations while Nnamdi Asomugha, Perrish Cox and Tramaine Brock rotated on the outside. Rogers injury doesn't appear to be serious. He remained on the field and received very little attention from trainers.
Mike Wilhoite did not work with the first team to start practice. Nick Moody worked with the starting unit alongside NaVorro Bowman for the first portion of practice. Wilhoite would work alongside Nate Stupar later in the day.
Eric Reid was back to working with the first team defense replacing Craig Dahl who received reps there in the previous two practices. Reid is gaining comfort by the day and although he might not start Friday's preseason game in Kansas City, he appears to be on track to start at some point early in the season.
The highlight of the practice came in the second half when the first-team offense was working against the scout team and Kaepernick hit Moore deep down the right sideline for a 40-yard gain. Moore adjusted in mid air and beat rookie Marcus Cooper for the catch after Cooper had inside position.
On the injury front, Joe Staley, Vance McDonald and Bubba Ventrone remained sidelined. All three have missed practice since Thursday's preseason-opening loss to the Broncos. Jewel Hampton also remains out and didn't play in the opener. None are expected to suite up Friday, but only McDonald was officially ruled out by Harbaugh prior to the start of practice.
In the Press Tent
The theme of Monday's press session was the 49ers playing former quarterback Alex Smith for the first time when they go to play the Chiefs on Friday.
Jim Harbaugh's answers were poignant regarding his former quarterback.
“It’s personal with Alex. It probably is different in that way. And, feel like there’s a great friendship there and a lot of history. He’s a unique person. A very good, in all ways, a good friend. No longer on our team. Not a trusted agent anymore," Harbuagh said.
Bowman's sentiments weren't quite on par with Harbaugh's, but he seemed eager to get on the field against his offense's former leader.
"We never got a chance to hit him and this time we can," Bowman said. "We’re looking forward to it and I know Alex knows we’re coming. That’s just football. He’s on the other team so we just have to go out there and play our game.”
With Patrick Willis sidelined with his broken right hand for at least a couple more weeks, Bowman has been working with Wilhoite with the first team, and had some strong things to say about the undrafted linebacker from Washburn.
“He’s not too far from me and Pat. He as the ability to do the things that we can do. He just has to get comfortable doing it and get the snaps and the reps," Bowman said.
Wilhoite is the only backup in the middle of the linebacking corps with any experience, albeit just 10 snaps from late last season. He led the team with 10 tackles against Denver. Nate Stupar, Moody and undrafted free agent Travis Johnson round out the group.
With Willis out, it's been on Wilhoite to gain experience in a hurry just in case he's needed to replace one of the All-Pros at some point during the season. But on the field or not, Bowman has tried to help Wilhoite and the other young players through his leadership.
“Sometimes hearing from it from a coach is repetitive and sometimes it might not stick. But when you hear it from a player, a peer that’s in the fire, you kind of listen to it a little bit more. That’s the ability that me and Pat (Willis) have in our rooms," Bowman said.
Vernon Davis rounded out Monday's media session reflecting on his time with Smith at the helm, noting he never thought he would leave. The two were roommates during the last two training camps he was a 49er.
"Any time you spend time with an individual you develop a friendship outside of football. And that also helps to bring you guys closer, even on the field," Davis said.
"But we have to do what we have to do over here to get back to that moment, and that moment being the Super Bowl."