Tossing around at passing camp

Looking here, there and everywhere Thursday as the 49ers reached the midpoint of their three-day passing camp at team headquarters.

A SCARY SIGHT, AND EVEN SCARIER THOUGHT: Stalwart defensive tackle Bryant Young got tangled along the line of scrimmage and went down hard during team drills during Thursday's session of 49ers passing camp, then held his left leg in pain before being wheeled on a cart to the locker room. Alas, he only tweaked his troublesome left ankle – the same ankle of several surgeries – and later told SFI after practice, "It feels all right now. I'm going to have a picture (Magnetic Resonance Imaging exam) taken this afternoon." B.Y. should be fine, but his absence at practice gives you disturbing visions of what the Niners might look like without him. The starting DT opposite Young – second-year player Anthony Adams – is excused from practices this week to finish his college degree at Penn State, leaving the Niners looking awfully thin in the thick of their defensive interior without Young around, unless the image of Josh Shaw and Michael Landry manning the middle is something that excites you.

NICE TO SEE YOU, SOPOAGA: But having rookie Isaac Sopoaga around to fill the void is a pleasant alternative, and the tree-trunk-legged Samoan is as imposing as advertised. He's going to help the soft middle that was San Francisco's biggest defensive weakness last year, though it has been sort of difficult to tell this week. Non-padded passing camps aren't the best place for 321-pound defensive tackles to make an impression.

IDENTIFYING GOALS: The purpose of passing camp, however, isn't necessarily to straighten out things along the defensive line. It's to straighten out things on an offense that lost seven starters from last season and will feature new starters this year at quarterback, tight end, both receiver positions and tailback. That's pretty much the guts of your passing game right there, right? "(Passing camp) goals are the same as they always are," coach Dennis Erickson said. "We have to identify players that are going to play. That's a continuous process for us. It goes now and continues all the way through training camp. And then, retain the things we taught in the first minicamp, which we were able to do that."

MISSING ROOKIES: Because of a rule that prohibits rookies from attending workouts until their college is out of session, the Niners didn't retain the same roster that attended their May minicamp. Quarterback Cody Pickett (University of Washington), running back Jason Wright (Northwestern), linebackers Richard Seigler (Oregon State) and Greg Carothers (Washington), safety Keith Lewis (Oregon) and kicker Kirk Yliniemi (Oregon State) are not practicing with the team this week, and they won't be allowed to participate in the team's four-day final spring minicamp next week, either.

ACTION JACKSON: Wright is a top contender for a backup role at tailback, but a lot of those snaps this week are going to sixth-year veteran Terry Jackson. It appears coaches are intent on getting Jackson – San Francisco's special teams captain who has been switched from fullback – into the backfield gameplan this season, and he looks impressive with the ball in his hands, sort of like 2001 when Jackson rushed for 138 yards (averaging 6.3 per carry), caught 12 passes and scored two touchdowns in a complementary role to front-line tailbacks Garrison Hearst and Kevan Barlow. If there was room for him then, there's definitely room for him now.

PICKING IT UP: It seemed to take a while for the Niners to get going at this rather brisk camp, but there was a better pace at practice Thursday as the three-day session reached its midpoint. "I thought our tempo was better today," Erickson said. "I thought yesterday, and when you practice on a Wednesday and haven't been around for a few weeks, I thought we were a little sluggish yesterday. I thought our tempo was a heck of a lot better today, as far as the speed of practice. That's kind of what we were looking for."

REMEMBER THIS GUY? Anyone looking for All-Pro linebacker Julian Peterson won't find him anywhere near the Niners. It has become so apparent that Peterson won't be participating in any of the team's spring functions that the fact he's a no-show again this week – he also missed the May minicamp due to contract issues – hasn't even been a topic of discussion. Peterson won't be around next week, either, and the question now is if he will be around for the start of training camp, which definitely will be a topic for loud discussion when that time rolls around.

WOODS BREAKING OUT: Brandon Lloyd and Cedrick Wilson still stand out among an exceedingly green crop of young receivers, but first-round draft pick Rashaun Woods appears to be rounding into form and is displaying some improvement over his debut a month ago, particularly with a better grasp of the offense. "Rashaun is a different guy now because he knows what he's doing," Erickson said. "He's been around here ever since our first camp was over with. As far as learning the terminology, what happens a lot of times is those guys come in and they are supposed to run a 14-yard out route and they are thinking about what the name of that route is, so they aren't quite as explosive. What he's showed the last couple of days is that he knows what he's doing and he can really run routes. He's a very polished guy. He's a guy that's really jumped out at me probably more than anybody here in the last couple practices."

QUICK HITS: The young receivers are having difficulty getting open against cornerback Ahmed Plummer, who is having an excellent camp. … Safety Tony Parrish can't wait to hit somebody, and it shows. He's the undisputed leader of this secondary now, if he wasn't already. … It still looks like this will be nothing more than a developmental year at receiver for third-round pick Derrick Hamilton. … Ronnie Heard, San Francisco's starting free safety in 2004? He's still there, and it could happen. … Veteran Todd Peterson didn't distinguish himself from youngster Danny Boyd in kicking drills Thursday, and that's not a good thing. … Offseason pickup Matt Mitrione still is on crutches, and we won't see what the DL has until training camp. … Brandon Doman moves around well and has a good grasp of the offense, but his arm strength and consistency need to be better than they've looked this week.

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