The San Francisco 49ers got their first chance to introduce American football to Levi's Stadium Monday in front of roughly 10,000 fans.
Defense highlighted the practice, making five interceptions - including two from free-agent corner Chris Cook - as the team used the scout team heavily to prepare for Thursday's preseason opener against the Ravens.
Cook's two interceptions both came on deep balls down the left sideline. The first was thrown by Josh Johnson looking for Devon Wylie, while the second came from Blaine Gabbert looking Chuck Jacobs. Both came during the same 11-on-11 session.
One of the knocks on Cook coming into the season has been his knack for giving up the big play down the field, and struggling to locate the ball in order to break the up the pass during his time with the Vikings.
But Cook said his ball skills have been his focus since coming to San Francisco - and it looks like it could be paying off. Cook's next interception in a game will be the first of his five-year career.
"Especially this year," said Cook after practice. "I spent a lot of time catching balls and having balls thrown at me. You know, turning my back then turning to look and find the ball."
Cook was working primarily with the starting unit again as Chris Culliver sat out the team portion of practice a day after being asked to leave practice by Jim Harbaugh following his unnecessary hit on reserve wideout David Reed Sunday.
Cox intercepted Colin Kaepernick for the third time this training camp - he did so twice in one practice last week - on a fade route to Reed in the back right corner of the end zone. Cox had position and made a diving play in the area of the field that's ended the 49ers' last two seasons. Surely the play resonated with fans in attendance.
The other two interceptions came from Darryl Morris on a deep ball from McLeod Bethel-Thompson looking for Kassim Osgood on the left side and Chris Borland on a ball that was deflected twice over the middle from Gabbert during a two-minute drill. Craig Dahl broke up the pass initially before it was kept in the air by C.J. Spillman. Borland made a nice play to dive for the ball before it hit the ground.
The starters received the least amount of reps of any camp practice thus far. Jim Harbaugh said both starting units worked primarily against the scout team in preparation for Thursday's game preseason opener in Baltimore.
Harbaugh also wanted players to adjust to the new surroundings before going full bore in Monday's practice.
"We tried to slow it down a little bit at the beginning of practice," said Harbaugh. "Be in control on a new grass surface. We wanted guys to get their feet under them, get used to it. So, me overly cautious - I think that was the right thing to do."
Harbaugh also said it was important to practice in the new $1.3 billion venue in order to adjust to the sight lines. With a huge scoreboard and seats far closer to the field than those at Candlestick, the change in depth perception is stark at Levi's.
"That's what we have to get used to. The way we're used to Candlestick, the grass there, the sight lines there, the wind...all those things," Harbaugh said. "That's the main reason for practicing here."
A few quick notes:
-Tackle Jonathan Martin got time at left tackle Monday for the first time this camp. Joe Staley did not appear injured. It was likely just an opportunity for Martin to get some reps there given the likelihood Staley will play just a series or two.
-Harbaugh said he expects Kaepernick to play "a couple of drives at the most" in Thursday's opener.
-Patrick Willis dropped a would-be interception early on in team drills on a pass over the middle from Johnson.
-Rookie running back Carlos Hyde appeared to suffer a minor injury to a finger on his right hand when he muffed a kickoff return. Hyde ended up practicing the rest of the day with one glove on his left hand.
The 49ers will sign former Michigan State running back Glenn Winston, according to multiple reports. Winston played for Michigan State in 2008 and 2009 before being dismissed from the Spartans in November of 2009 and playing at Lansing Community College. Smith received two six-month jail terms, both stemming from campus fights, that ultimately cost him his career at Michigan State.
San Francisco will open a spot for Winston by giving Kendall Hunter the waived/injured designation after he sustained a torn ACL in the second practice of camp. It's likely Hunter will clear waivers and be put on injured reserve.
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