Erickson making offense easier

Dennis Erickson's offense promises to be something special to watch this season. After just one day of mini-camp practice Friday, it already is turning into something special to learn. Erickson and his coaches have gently tweaked San Francisco's vaunted West Coast offensive system and given it a working terminology that is easier for players to understand and apply. "Really, the changes are for the better," Niners quarterback Jeff Garcia said after the team's first full-squad practice of 2003.

Garcia worked amid those changes effortlessly Friday as the Niners looked crisp during team drills. While Erickson definitely is instilling his own dynamics to the attack, he doesn't plan to change the offensive structure and system, per se, and any changes that are made will come over time. But what he has done already is make the system leaner and tighter in its application.

"Everything that we've installed over the last day and a half are things that we've had in our game plan for many years," Garcia said. "That's really what they've tried to focus on. Lessening the verbiage, trying to shorten things down a little bit. Trying to make things a little bit easier to call in the huddle, and kind of just have it make a little bit more sense. In that way, it's been a very positive thing."

Erickson and his staff felt it was the right thing to do after learning themselves the terminology that already was in place.

"We've learned the terminology as coaches, so the terminology hasn't changed," Erickson said. "There are some ideas and schemes that are going to be different with our thoughts that we'll put into our old terminology. So the terminology hasn't changed that much. The learning process is good for the coaches, which we've been doing for a long time. The players were able to come out and execute - the veterans I'm talking about - and not lose a step at all."

The changes, Garcia said, have been very subtle.

"It's a matter of changing your mind back from being used to saying certain plays a certain way to just basically changing one word. It may be as subtle as one word in the play call. Those are things that with repetition will become more natural. I still get myself caught up in the same things, how we said them last season. There were certain plays that were called a certain way that really didn't make a whole lot of sense, but they just were (called that way) because that's how it's been for so many years here. And now they've been changed up a little bit to make a little bit more sense. Now, it's just a matter of adjustment."

There is plenty of time for that. The Niners will have five practice sessions during this three-day minicamp, which will be followed by two more full-squad minicamps and a passing camp in the next month.

But Erickson already is impressed by how his hard-working, three-time Pro Bowl quarterback is picking up those subtle changes and applying them on the field.

"Jeff is impressive to me, the things that he does," Erickson said. "This is a long process, but he's already got a handle on it."

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