Dawning of a new week

From tough guys and line guys to hurt guys and tryout guys, SFI goes here, there and everywhere Monday at 49ers training camp.

TOUGH GUY: The talk going around this spring that offensive tackle Kwame Harris might be a little soft is unfounded. Now that he is going at it daily in pads against NFL-quality linemen, it can be said that the Niners' first-round draft pick is plenty tough enough. When push comes to shove, Harris can provide both, and his size at left tackle truly is imposing and will become a formidable asset when he is ready to play.

That time might not be too far off as Harris continues to get plenty of work - and invaluable experience - with incumbent left tackle Derrick Deese limited in practice. Deese will start on the left side to begin the season, but Harris should be ready to step in at any time.

"He really is playing physical," coach Dennis Erickson said. "He plays hard. With that group he's with, he's got those veterans and that makes a big difference. They're helping him and he sees those guys play with great intensity. But we always thought that about him. I don't know where he got that (soft) knock."

TOUGHER GUY: Pro Bowl center Jeremy Newberry made an unexpected return to practice Monday, dressing out in full pads and taking part in his first drills of the season, though he was held out of team drills. Newberry had surgery on his left ankle in June, and he wore a brace on the ankle and bandages on his leg for protection.

"That was a pleasant surprise to see, because he really wasn't supposed to be back yet," Erickson said. "He's an amazing guy. There are not very many guys tougher than him that I've ever seen."

O-LINE LOOKING TIP-TOP: Now that Deese and Newberry are on the way back, the offensive line is rounding into top form. Tackle Scott Gragg and guard Ron Stone are looking extremely strong on the right side, and left guard Eric Heitmann is building on the solid performance of his rookie season. With Harris and Kyle Kosier as the top backups, the line promises to be even better than last year.

SAME STORY FOR SALEEM? Second-year linebacker Saleem Rasheed has been having a fine camp and - just as significantly - a healthy camp. Until Monday morning. Rasheed pulled a hamstring muscle during morning drills and, though it's not considered serious, it's still a pull and reminiscent of the leg problems that plagued Rasheed last year. Maybe there's no connection, but Rasheed needs to take care of his body and stay on the field to develop and realize his vast potential.

INTRIGUING OFFENSE: The variations in Erickson's playbook are starting to come out. Among the formations seen Monday was three wide receivers split to the right with a lone deep back lined up also to that side. With the far receiver slanting underneath the pass pattern, that's one set that could be difficult to defend.

The Niners also had their tight end split wide out to the right in a tight slot in one formation, and then split out wide to the right by himself in another.

STICKY FINGERS: Terrell Owens is catching everything. He's a quiet figure in camp so far - he is continuing to shun the media - but the guy is making almost every tough grab that comes his way. And there have been more than a few of them so far in camp.

Tight end Jed Weaver made a nice juggling grab of a ball thrown behind him, reaching back to pull a pass his way as he ran in the opposite direction. He's making a nice impression and looks to be a good fit for the offense with his versatility.

Rookie receiver Troy Mason, though small, is making his mark. He had two consecutive passes come his way during two-minute drills and made the easy grab each time. Two plays later, the ball came his way again, though this time he had no chance at an overthrown pass by Tim Rattay, who was erratic most of the day. Mason got another chance on a deep sideline out on the final play of morning practice, but he couldn't make what would have been a spectacular diving catch.

FULL PLATES: Offensive line coach Pat Morris is running his linemen through a drill in which they grasp 45-pound plates in their hands as they shuffle in an imaginary pass-protection drill. That ought to help hand strength and coordination.

DT SPIN: Starting tackles Bryant Young and Jim Flanigan didn't practice Monday. Getting a lot of valuable time in their place - and starting to show some development - were youngsters Josh Shaw and Anthony Adams. The Niners are in no rush to push Young (ankle) and Flanigan (calf strain) back onto the field at this point, giving more time to players who need it. Young and Flanigan are day-to-day and each could be back in practice as soon as Tuesday.

TRYOUTS: The Niners conducted tryouts for receivers Jermaine Lewis (Western Michigan) and Justin Skaggs (Evangel). Neither made much of an impression.

Niners Digest Top Stories