Camp homestretch

The 49ers returned to their team complex after a players' off day for a late afternoon practice Saturday, then will resume two-a-day practices on Sunday until they break training camp on Friday.

GARCIA ON WAY BACK: Quarterback Jeff Garcia has been cleared by doctors to practice on Sunday, with the expectation he'll be able to practice all week and then play in Saturday's exhibition game against the New Orleans Saints.

"We'll put him in and see how it goes," coach Dennis Erickson said. "We'll monitor it."

During the 11 days he was out of practice, Garcia received a second opinion on his ailing back, and it was the same as originally given by team doctors, that he has a bulging disk in his back and there is no need for surgery.

SUCCESSFUL SURGERY FOR YOUNG: Erickson said defensive tackle Bryant Young's surgery on Thursday "went real well." Doctors scraped some bone fragments out of the ankle and Young will be ready to return to practice the week of the Sept. 7 season opener against Chicago "and possibly even earlier than that," Erickson said.

Erickson said Young's surgery wasn't due to any recent injury. "He's had some ankle problems for a long time," Erickson said. "If you play in the league as long as he has. ... He has had a lot of sprained ankles and there was some scar tissue in there from previous injuries and then he sprained it again. So, they just went in there and cleaned it out, basically."

FLANIGAN COULD PRACTICE THIS WEEK: Defensive tackle Jim Flanigan, a projected starter who has missed all but two days of camp, is expected to return to drills by Monday or Tuesday.

OTHER INJURIES: Cornerback Ahmed Plummer has a bruised left fibula but is expected to practice this week. ... Offensive tackle Scott Gragg, who went down in a heap after being hit from behind his leg in Thursday's exhibition against the Raiders, has a sprained left ankle and probably will be held out of the Saints game as the Niners evaluate the injury in practice this week. ... Offensive lineman Craig Osika has a high left ankle sprain and won't play this week. ... Receiver Arnaz Battle has a quad pull and will be held out of practice for a couple of days.

WILLIAMS FINALLY BACK?: Jimmy Williams is expected to return to full practice this week. That would make him the final player to come off the physically-unable-to-perform list. Both Williams and cornerback Jason Webster, who came off the list late last week, will be evaluated during the week to see how close they are to returning to action. Both could play against New Orleans, Erickson said, but it is unlikely either will.

MORE BLITZES COMING: Erickson said the Niners, in light of their weak pass rush in the first two exhibition games, probably will depend on blitzes more often to get heat on the opposing quarterback. Three of the Niners' four sacks against Oakland came from blitzing linebackers.

BACKING CHANDLER: Erickson said the team is standing behind kicker Jeff Chandler, who continued his preseason struggles by missing a 31-yard field goal attempt against the Raiders.

"He just needs to get better and become more consistent," Erickson said. "He's been hitting them pretty darn good in practie. So, we just have to be patient with him. He's our kicker and we just need to continue to work with him. But he has the leg and he just needs to get more consistent."

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