SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Bruce Davis was sitting at home in Denver when his agent told him the San Francisco 49ers had called. They wanted him in camp.
”I started getting all my stuff together and was set to catch a flight this morning,” Davis said. “But they were like, ‘No, we need to get you out here tonight.’”
Sometimes, desperation can create opportunity. Because of injuries, the Niners needed to bring linebackers into camp, so they signed Davis, who had been in OTAs with the Denver Broncos but was released before the start of training camp, and Brandon Long, who was signed by the 49ers in April but was released in June.
The injury list is long: Scott McKillop is likely out for the year after knee surgery, Ahmad Brooks is recovering from a lacerated kidney, Travis LaBoy remains sidelined with a mild concussion and rookie NaVorro Bowman sat out Tuesday’s practice with a sprained shoulder. Martail Burnett, who sprained a knee on Monday, was waived/injured, although if he goes unclaimed, the team can put him on injured reserve.
And that’s just the linebackers. The Niners are also dealing with the loss of center Eric Heitmann for 6-8 weeks because of a broken left leg. Also, wide receiver Brandon Jones is nursing a sore hamstring and sat out.
Davis, whose father Bruce Davis Sr. played offensive tackle for the Oakland/L.A. Raiders from 1979-87, was a third-round draft pick by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2008 and played in five games that season. He was released at the end of training camp in 2009 and spent all of last season on the New England Patriots’ practice squad. The Broncos claimed him off waivers in June but released him July 27.
Although he played defensive end at UCLA, Davis said he believes that the transition to outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense won’t be much of a problem.
”The basic coverages are still the basic coverages,” he said. “It’s just about learning the terminology. But I’ve been in three defenses now, and it’s all zone, match, man, rush. It’s fairly easy. The hardest part is putting it into terms you can understand.”
BALMER GONE: Defensive lineman Kentwan Balmer, who missed practice on Monday for undisclosed reasons, was absent again. The 49ers said Balmer was taking care of family matters, and coach Mike Singletary said he gave the player an additional day to sort things out.
On his morning radio show on KNBR in San Francisco, Singletary said, “It’s just like any other young man or any other individual. Sometimes things come up in life and you have to decide which is more important. And that’s where Kentwan is. Until he makes a decision, I’m going to give him time to handle it because there is certainly a lot on his plate right now.”
CENTER OF ATTENTION: David Baas, who is taking snaps with the first unit with Heitmann out, encountered a few problems getting the ball to its intended target, snapping high on a designed trick play and then rolling a ground ball to quarterback Alex Smith.
The two stayed on the field after the morning practice and took about 20 extra snaps.
”I’ve got to work hard to make sure the snaps are precise,” said Baas, who has played guard most of his career. “That’s something that can cost you a game.”
Making things more difficult, Raye said, is that the 49ers are working in two rookies, tackle Anthony Davis and guard Mike Iupati, into the offense line.
”It wouldn’t be so bad if we didn’t have to infuse two youngsters in there because they’re struggling, as all rookies will, with learning the calls and learning the fronts,” Raye said. “Now, all of a sudden, (the calls) are coming from a different source, and they may not be the right calls or they have to be changed. All that is part of the process.”
CAMP VISITORS: Watching from the sidelines were World Wrestling Entertainment stars MVP, Kofi Kingston and Tiffany, who met several players after the first workout. The WWE put on a card in San Jose on Tuesday night.