Camp openings

A few glimpses from Friday's opening day of 2004 49ers training camp:

The 49ers were playing it cautious with Tim Rattay on the first day of camp, but it was a pleasant sight for everybody to see the fifth-year quarterback zinging accurate spirals during individual and seven-on-seven drills less than 12 weeks after undergoing surgery to re-attach a groin muscle that had torn completely off the bone.

Rattay's throws looked just as crisp and precise as they did before he was injured May 7.

"He's stepping, doing the same thing, things that you might think would cause problems," coach Dennis Erickson said. "What his role is going to be right now is seven-on-seven and individuals for as long as he feels that's necessary, then he'll start working with the team."

It was nice to see Rattay looking smooth and comfortable as he begins his on-field comeback, especially since the two QBs behind him on the depth chart – Ken Dorsey and Brandon Doman – did not exactly come out firing impressively.

Dorsey and Doman – who handled the offense during team drills while Rattay watched – misfired on several occasions, sending wobbly, off-target offerings into the atmosphere more times than anybody would have liked.

Still, Dorsey looks solid as the No. 2 man and the starter in place of Rattay, which Dorsey will be for the preseason opener against the Raiders in two weeks. Dorsey wobbled a long bomb to Cedrick Wilson during team drills, but despite the pass catching a lot of air, it still had the strength and power to reach Wilson, who got behind cornerback Mike Rumph to get a hand on the ball and make a juggling catch before safety Ronnie Heard arrived late.

NOW THE FUN BEGINS: After a tumultuous offseason, this is the moment the Niners have waited for – to see what this team is really going to look like amid padded, competitive situations. "We're excited about it," general manager Terry Donahue said. "I know the coaches are very enthused. The players are pumped up. Everybody in the building is ready to go. We've waited. This is the fun, the season. You do all this stuff in the offseason. But really, the fun now is. This is the beginning of the cycle, or the end of the cycle, depending on how you want to look at it. But this is what you're in football for, is to play."

LLOYD ON THE LOOSE: There was a collection of spectacular Brandon Lloyd catches on the first day of camp, and coaches lauded his ability to make the grabs. We'll have to start keeping count of them, because it looks like this will be a daily sighting. The best might have been when Lloyd – running stride-for-stride with rookie cornerback Shawntae Spencer down the right sideline – adjusted to a poor pass by Doman and came back to the ball. As Spencer slipped in front of him, Lloyd got his hands on the sailing, errant throw, then hauled it in and took it the distance as Spencer could only shake his head in disgust.

SHORT-CHANGED? The Niners broke out with new shorts for camp, changing from the red shorts they have worn in the past to pewter-gray shorts that gave the team a different practice look. The Niners practiced in just shorts and helmets in the opening morning practice session, then added shoulder pads to their repertoire in the afternoon.

WHITING MAKING STRIDES: Defensive end Brandon Whiting, the only 49er on the physically unable to perform list, worked on the side with physical development coordinator Jerry Attaway, doing running drills and hitting a blocking sled under Attaway's supervision.

ROSTER OPPORTUNITIES: Many of the front-line starters are set, but this training camp will be different from recent summer camps in that opportunities abound throughout the roster for jobs. "Oh, yeah, that's a big message, and there is opportunity for anybody out here and when we are trying to establish the (final) 53 for our football team," Erickson said. "There's room for guys who can do different things. And we are looking for guys who can do different things. We are looking for guys who can cover kicks, that can return, that can pass rush. All those different things we look at as coaches when we evaluate. And there's opportunity and they know it. There's opportunity for players that are on this team already to emerge as big-play guys, and we gotta find out who that is, too."


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