The Week 1 that was
--- The 49ers need a rest, and they'll get it after today's late afternoon practice in game uniforms before thousands of fans at Kezar Stadium in San Francisco. After doing their part as headliners at 49ers Fan Day, the team won't practice Sunday - the first off day since training camp began July 30. --- The repetitious grind of two-a-day practices and a virtual 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. workday during camp was beginning to get to everybody, Niners coaches included. On Thursday, coach Dennis Erickson greeted the same media contingent he has gone face-to-face with every day since camp began by saying, "Groundhog Day! I feel like Bill Murray. Same frickin' thing in the morning, same frickin' deal on the clock, same thing out here, same thing at night." --- When asked the next morning if it again was Groundhog Day, the good-natured and dry-humored Erickson said, "Pretty much. For another five weeks, six weeks, whatever the hell it is. I quit counting days. I don't even know what frickin' day it is." --- But Erickson knows what day it is today, with his team getting a break from the monotony of the standard camp grind with its only practice of the summer that is open to the general public. The Kezar practice exhibition marks the end of the first stage of training camp. --- And the timing is right for the Kezar event. "Without question," Erickson said. "There will be fans there to energize our team. It's big for us to kind of dress rehearsal where we're at (in camp)." --- No matter what they might say, the Niners can't exactly be comfortable with where they are at quarterback entering the second week of August, primarily because Tim Rattay's steady comeback from his groin injury was unexpectedly derailed this week by swelling underneath the forearm on his throwing wing. Rattay will be back next week, but that's an important week of practice time he just missed. --- In the overall scheme and scene of the NFL, second-year veteran Ken Dorsey probably would rank as a nominal starter right about now, though it's possible he'll look better once the preseason begins because his poise and commanding presence have remained unwavering in training camp despite some, ahem, difficulties with his release. --- And by "difficulties with his release," by now you certainly know we're talking about his delivery of the football on a consistent basis. Once again, for the 27th time, it would be nice to see Dorsey's long balls wobble to their destination a little less often. --- Like any other possible hazards that have popped up during his development as the team's No. 1 QB the past three months, Dorsey takes the occasional ducks in stride. "You still get the ball there," he told SFI. "It's not short-hopping guys. They still have an opportunity to make the play. That's the biggest key, is making sure they have a chance to make a play." --- Other than that, the promising youngster - remember, this guy just turned 23 a few months ago - looks ready, willing and able for his first professional start in the Aug. 14 exhibition opener against the Raiders, which, by the way, now is just one week away. --- He sounds that way, too. "It's going to be a lot of fun and a great developmental process for me to go out and try to do the best I can," Dorsey said. "It's going to be tough because (Oakland)'s got a great defense, but you've got to go out and do your best and what happens, happens. It's going to be tough, but I'm looking forward to it." --- At least Dorsey isn't having any injury problems. Here's where the Niners will be with Rattay, their starting quarterback, when the full load of training camp begins another week on Monday: Still wondering about his groin, and now also concerned about his throwing arm, with the exhibition opener less than a week away. --- And then, there's also some concerns with injuries keeping receivers out of practice, too. Rashaun Woods missed most of the week with his hamstring injury, and by the end of the week, Arnaz Battle, Arland Bruce and Kahlil Hill were on the shelf, too. --- One more thing about Dorsey: He's typically the last one off the practice field, remaining past the point when some of his teammates already have ingested their lunch to work on some extra throwing and timing with his receivers. --- It wouldn't hurt some of the team's other young quarterbacks to follow that example more regularly. --- Cedrick Wilson's usually out there with Dorsey, too. And why would you expect anything less? The guy refuses to let go of his grip on the starting flanker position, and now it's beginning to look more realistic that he will still be there for the Sept. 12 season opener. --- Wilson's deficiencies as a legitimate receiving threat - his size - never will change, but he's beginning to look more and more like he belongs as a starter with his steady, sometimes eye-catching, performance in camp. --- A good example: Wilson caught a quick hitch pattern near the line of scrimmage the other day and, as cornerback Mike Rumph closed in on him, Wilson cut back on a dime toward some open space in the middle, leaving Rumph falling backward on his heels before receiving the ire of safety Tony Parrish after getting literally juked off his feet. --- And Wilson is there every day, every practice, every play - just like his starting counterpart at receiver, the ever-exceptional Brandon Lloyd. "The thing that jumps out at me about Brandon and Cedrick since I came here, last year and this year, (is) they don't miss practice," Erickson said. "You don't ever see them miss. And they bust their rear ends, and that's why they're getting better." --- As has been well-chronicled on this web site, Lloyd isn't just getting better. He's vaulting into the potential stratosphere of star quality. Now he just has to start doing the same thing he's been doing in practice against players wearing enemy uniforms. He doesn't have much left to prove to anybody at 4949 Centennial Boulevard. --- When asked if Lloyd is a superstar in waiting, Erickson initially attempted to sidestep the question before - as Lloyd's many camp exploits no doubt went racing past his mind - saying, "We'll see. He's got the talent to be. He can jump, he can run, you watch him out there, he's pretty smooth. Yeah, he could be. It depends on what level he wants to take it to. It's up to him. But I think he's unlimited." --- And Lloyd's making it clear he wants to take it to unlimited levels, even though he continues to keep his feet in the ground, figuratively speaking. He also plays it straight with his feelings and doesn't shy away from tough questions, coming across with straightforward answers that are thoughtful yet non-inflammatory. When Lloyd was asked about the effect Terrell Owens' controversial actions had on the team last year, he responded, "Last year, we had a lot of problems with a player demanding the ball, putting a lot of pressure on the quarterback. It was damaging to our team. As a rookie, it's not my place to speak. (But) once you start demanding the ball, that's when things start getting confusing out there. I feel we're a better team (now)." --- The Niners are one of just three NFL teams - along with the Raiders and Detroit Lions - who have training camps that are closed to the public, though general manager Terry Donahue said that could change "some day." That will be a discussion point in the future, Donahue said, "but we've only been here (at the team's Santa Clara headquarters) two camps and we're still feeling our way, trying to accommodate our partners and sponsors. All that is a priority and all this is a learning experience." --- The Niners, however, certainly don't miss their previous summer home at the University of the Pacific in Stockton. And their home before that - Sierra College in Rocklin, where they trained each summer from 1981 to 1997 - is a distant memory in their rearview mirror. "The shift of the camp has been very positive and it has been extremely well received by our coaches, players, sponsors and partners," Donahue said. "It's been real good and that is no knock on UOP, Stockton or anything else. It's simply this is just easy for us. We don't have to pack up. We have access to our computers. The weather is more mild. The beds at night are bigger for better athletes. The field is so much safer. There's just 100 reasons." --- Jeff Ulbrich continues to improve in coverage situations on his way to becoming a complete, all-around linebacker. It seems the 49ers have a few of those on their roster now. --- The Niners fortified their ailing defensive line by adding free agents Bryan Save and Riddick Parker at the end of the week. Parker could become a factor once he gets into the camp mix. He's a seven-year NFL veteran who broke into the league in 1997 with the Seattle Seahawks when Erickson was their coach. --- The Niners' defensive backs had a fair amount of flags thrown against them the past few days with NFL officials in camp, but it's difficult to believe they'll be making some of those same ticky-tack calls once the real games begin in September - or even when the warm-up games begin next week. --- The great thing about Dwaine Carpenter is his athleticism. But that's also part of the problem he's having in trying to win the starting free safety position from Ronnie Heard. Carpenter simply relies on his athleticism too much to make plays. Sometimes, smarts and technique are just as important. --- With Woods out, Derrick Hamilton is starting to pick it up. His game, the offense and passes coming his way, we mean. --- But the graybeard of the receiving corps - 33-year-old, 12th-year veteran Curtis Conway - clearly is the team's No. 3 receiver at this point. --- Encouraging signs on special teams? "Punter and kicker," Erickson said. "Actually, both punters, really. I mean, they're punting. Andy Lee has really got a great leg and booms them. And Andy Groom's not far away. And then, Todd (Peterson), field-goal wise, I don't think he's missed one." --- Which sounds like the perfect way to end the first stage of training camp, particularly when you think back to last September and October.
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