SANTA CLARA, Calif. - After two days of practice back at their training facility, the San Francisco 49ers returned to Levi's Stadium Wednesday for their fifth practice of training camp. It came in front of roughly 15,000 season ticket holders.
It was an important night, because it marked the first time former All-Pro linebacker NaVorro Bowman practiced in pads since suffering his gruesome knee injury in the NFC Championship Game against the Seahawks in January of 2014.
However, practice was cut almost in half, because Bowman was just one of four inside linebackers available, and new head coach Jim Tomsula did not want to risk his players over-exerting themselves. Instead of going full speed in what would have been the second half of full-team drills, the 49ers were going at a jogger's pace before giving way to special teams work.
Michael Wilhoite, who started 16 games last season, remains on the active/non-football injury list and has yet to practice. Reserve inside linebacker Philip Wheeler was held out of practice Wednesday while dealing with a muscle strain and Nick Bellore continues to miss time with an undisclosed illness. That left only Nick Moody, Shayne Skov, Desmond Bishop and Bowman to get reps.
At one point, safety Eric Reid was working at a linebacker position in a nickel formation. It's unclear if that will be a new package for the defense, or if Reid was simply standing in to get replacement reps.
Kaepernick unofficially completed 7 of 9 throws, with one of his incompletions getting intercepted at the goal line by Moody during a red-zone drill. Kaepernick was looking for Torrey Smith up the left side, and Moody undercut the throw. It was Moody's second interception of training camp, continuing his strong showing this offseason.
--Most of Kaepernick's completions came on short throws or check downs. He completed two passes to Smith, Vance McDonald on a roll out, Garrett Celek twice, both up field, Bruce Miller on a check down in the flat, and another check down to Carlos Hyde to the left.
The 49ers were working in base formations, meaning there were no more than two receivers on the field for the majority of the evening session. That meant defensive lineman Darnell Dockett, who has been used almost entirely in nickel, spent the practicing doing conditioning work back at the practice facility.
--Not only was the offensive line better in team drills, allowing just one sack after giving up upwards of eight Tuesday, but players were far better in one-on-one pass rushing drills as well.
The offensive line appeared energized and hungry after getting dominated Tuesday, and easily had its best collective performance since the start of training camp.
--Defensive back Jimmie Ward, who has not participated in any full-team drills this offseason, left the field with a member of the training staff before the start of team drills. Ward has been participating in individual drills with a plastic reinforcement in his cleat to protect his foot that sustained two Jones fractures over the last two seasons.
Ward was not mentioned on the team's injury report given before the end of practice. The team said he may have left the field to do conditioning drills with Dockett back at the practice facility. I'll ask for an update Friday.
--Speaking of the injury report: safety Jaquiski Tartt (foot), receiver Bruce Ellington (muscle strain), receiver Issac Blakeney (muscle strain), Kendall Hunter (vet's day off) were all held out of practice.
Reggie Bush still has not participated in full-team drills in this training camp, but he continues to suit up and complete individual work.
Perhaps the scariest moment Wednesday came when rookie running back Mike Davis slipped on a bad patch of sod close to the south end zone. He appeared to twist his right leg, but later returned to practice.
--The 49ers insisted the practice was cut short because of the lack of inside linebackers, and not the field conditions inside Levi's Stadium, which continue to be a concern. The 49ers will have another open practice Sunday inside the $1.3 billion venue, but could potentially move their Friday and Saturday practices back to their adjacent practice facility.
King, 22, played his college ball at Kansas after transferring from Maryland. Last season, he notched 30 catches for 537 yards and a touchdown. King has good size, standing 6'3" and weighing 210 pounds.
--The team will be given its first day off of training camp Thursday.