Picking up the pace

The first day of training camp wasn't bad, but the second started even better during Saturday's morning session as the 49ers were a crisper and more lively football team. "We were a whole lot better today than we were yesterday," coach Dennis Erickson said. "We will get better and better with each practice."

In contrast to recent training camps under former coach Steve Mariucci, the 49ers were in pads and hitting during Friday's opening session. They were doing the same Saturday morning, with the team seemingly better adjusted to the contact.

"We're getting used to each other and also getting a feel of how coach Erickson wants to practice," tackle Scott Gragg said. "That is the big thing."

Said Erickson, "The No. 1 thing is learning how to practice hard, stay up so you don't get anybody hurt, and we're starting to learn that. So we're able to run a little bit better to the football on defense, able to come off and do the things that we need to do. To improve in practice, you have to not worry about injuries. To me, that's just worrying about practicing."

THE DROPSIES: The football spent a measurable amount of time on the ground Saturday, and that wasn't a good thing for the 49ers.

There were numerous balls dropped by receivers – and balls dropped in the exchange between center and quarterbacks.

"We dropped some balls today. We just have to be more consistent," Erickson said. "We can't let things like that happen. When you're tired, you have to make plays. Those are things you just have to focus on all the time and concentrate on."

There were notable drops by halfback Kevan Barlow and rookie receiver Brandon Lloyd, who has otherwise been impressive with his sure hands. On the flip side, receiver Aaron Lockett and tight end Mark Anelli both went to the ground to make tough grabs.

With Pro Bowl center Jeremy Newberry held out of practice due to his injured left ankle, there were some exchange problems with centers Craig Osika and Dwayne Ledford, who played tackle in NFL Europe this spring but now is being tested at center.

"We're dealing with some guys that our quarterbacks aren't used to and who haven't played there all the time," Erickson said. "If it was a veteran and those things happened, perhaps it would bother me. If they continue to happen for a long period of time, then you've got some problems."

POSITION FOCUS: With Jim Flanigan limited, Anthony Adams, Josh Shaw and Travis Kirschke each got time opposite Pro Bowl tackle Bryant Young in base defense. All showed some flashes, with Kirschke looking the best with his direct push into the offensive backfield. His technique is better than the two youngsters who both are more compact and appear to be throwing their weight around rather than delivering blows.

CLOSER LOOK: Cornerback Antuan Simmons is struggling on the edge. He was burned by Arland Bruce on a sideline pattern and grabbed onto Bruce's jersey to prevent the receiver from going past him. … First-round draft pick Kwame Harris appeared comfortable in his first padded practice, getting extra duty at left tackle with both the first and second units. "He's out there all the time. That's what happens when you miss camp," Erickson joked. Harris missed Friday's morning practice while the details of his contract still were being finalized. … Harris went head-to-head with speed rusher Andre Carter a few times and did a good job of pushing Carter high and keeping him away from the quarterback. … Ball-hawking safety Tony Parrish hasn't lost his nose for the football. He made a nice juggling interception of a tipped pass late in team drills, drawing praise from coaches and teammates alike.

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