Inside look

One drafted receiver coming along faster than the other, strategy and personnel, battle fronts, rookie report, injury report and other Niners news and notes from The Insiders.

Through the first three weeks of training camp, the 49ers have liked what they've seen from one rookie receiver while hoping the future is bright for another.

Rashaun Woods, the team's top draft pick, was the player whom the 49ers expected to maneuver his way into the competition for immediate playing time. Derrick Hamilton, the team's third-round pick after forgoing his senior season, did not figure to be ready to contribute in the NFL for a year or two.

But Woods has participated fully in only four days of training camp because of strains to both hamstrings and a one-day absence when the final details were being worked out on his contract. After initially being sidelined by a right hamstring pull, Woods went back on the shelf Aug. 11 with a left hamstring strain after just two full days back on the field.

Woods did not play in either of the 49ers' first two exhibition games, and his status for Friday's game against the Vikings is in doubt, though he was expected to return to full practice drills at Monday's late afternoon practice.

Once figured to be in contention for a starting job in the season opener, Woods now sees his progress being slowed immeasurably. He said his knowledge of the system is progressing from the time he's spent with receivers in meetings and watching practice film, but there is no replacing the time he has missed on the field.

"When you're on the field, you get a better feel for what's going on," Woods said. "You get an understanding of the dynamics of a route. You can see it drawn on paper and see the basic diagram, but seeing it on paper and running it are two different things."

Hamilton, meanwhile, has not appeared on the injury report this summer, so he's getting a chance to show his worth every day on the practice field.

"The guy that is really improving is Derrick Hamilton," 49ers coach Dennis Erickson said. "He's just getting better and better and better. He's just getting coached. You can just see the improvement. Physically, you can just see the talent. You just see him jumping out at you."

Hamilton will certainly earn a spot on the 53-man roster, but he will be in a battle to establish himself as one of the 45 players who suits up for games during the regular season. But with every day, Hamilton seems to be putting himself more into the mix.

"I felt that way when I first got signed," Hamilton said of the possibility he could contribute as a rookie. "I could've gone to any team and nothing would've changed. I just want to help out as much as possible."

After getting shut out in the 49ers' first exhibition game, Hamilton led the team with four catches for 51 yards in a 20-13 loss to the Bears. Quarterback Ken Dorsey said he is not hesitant to put the ball in his hands.

"He's gotten a lot better," Dorsey said. "You could see it from the minicamps to the start of training camp, and you can see the improvement he's made since the start of training camp. He's got great speed and great instincts. It just takes a little time to learn this offense.

"I think he's gotten a lot more confidence in himself because he's been out here taking all the reps in practice."

CAMP CALENDAR: Camp closes Aug. 26. The remaining practices through the end of the season are closed to the general public. The 49ers have no scrimmages with other teams.

NOTEBOOK

--- The 49ers, figured by many to be one of the worst teams in the NFL this season, did nothing to change minds during their 20-13 loss to the Bears, falling to 0-2 on the exhibition season.

The 49ers committed five turnovers, and did not force any; their receivers dropped a handful of passes; and their rookie punter, Andy Lee, averaged just 32.0 yards an effort.

"I don't care if it's the preseason or regular season, you're not going to win many games with that," Erickson said of the turnovers.

--- Erickson said he wasn't complaining about the 49ers' preseason schedule, but he certainly is wondering why his team got stuck playing two times zones away in back-to-back weeks.

"The league must not like us very much," Erickson said.

That's because the 49ers traveled over the weekend to Chicago, and will be back in the Central time zone this week against the Minnesota Vikings. It's the first time since 1974 the 49ers have played at least two time zones away in consecutive weeks during the exhibition season. In 1973, the 49ers played in Cleveland and Tampa, Fla., (against the New York Jets) just five days apart.

"I guess we'll get a lot of sleep on the plane," Erickson said.

--- The only starting position battle on the 49ers' defense is at free safety, where veteran Ronnie Heard is currently running unopposed. Dwaine Carpenter, considered the more athletic of the two, is going to be out of action another couple weeks with a partially torn medial collateral tear in his left knee.

Coupled with the fact Carpenter misplayed a deep pass that resulted in a touchdown in the 49ers' exhibition opener, it would appear Heard is well on his way to tying down the starting job. But Erickson said the competition is not over.

"We'll see when Dwaine comes back," Erickson said. "They look pretty even and that's a point of discussion that we'll be discussing. Obviously with Dwaine missing, that hurts. But right now with Ronnie's experience, of course, it's an advantage to be the starter."

--- Rookie guard Justin Smiley has found an unlikely tutor in his quest to nail down a starting job with the 49ers. He is in competition with Kyle Kosier for the right guard position. And, personally, he is amazed at how gracious Kosier has been with the guy trying to take his job.

"If I have questions I can go to him and he'll answer the questions for me," Smiley said. "It's kind of weird because he's trying to put bread on the table for his family, too. He's married; I'm single. I'm trying to build a foundation and he's trying to provide for his family. It's really weird because sometimes I'm wondering, 'Is he telling me the right (stuff)?'

"But he is."

--- Safety Keith Lewis, linebacker Richard Seigler and quarterback Cody Pickett are unlikely allies. After taking part in a verbal sparring triangle while playing in the Pac-10, they were each drafted by the 49ers.

Lewis, who attended Oregon, called Washington's Pickett "overrated" and poked fun at Oregon State's Seigler after a Ducks victory. Seigler had encouraged Oregon fans to join the Beavers. Seigler mockingly called Pickett "rodeo boy," and Pickett carved up Oregon's defense and told reporters he tried to ask Lewis some questions during the game but pry a response from the often-mouthy Lewis.

"They've all had some good battles," said Erickson, who coached Seigler at Oregon State. "I wasn't around Lewis and Pickett, but they got after it pretty good. I know about Richard and Lewis, and Richard and Pickett. It has a little bit to do with why we drafted those guys. They're all tough and physical, and play with a passion."

Seigler and Lewis are roommates during training camp, and Lewis was paired with Pickett during the rookie symposium last month in Southern California.

"Talking to some of my teammates who are still at Washington, they can't understand how we could be all right with each other," Pickett said of Lewis. "Washington and Oregon, that's some serious stuff right there."

Seigler and Lewis can't figure out how they became roommates. Generally, players at the same position are paired together, but not in this case. Bill Hall, director of team services, said he put them together because they played college ball in the same state and figured they had a lot in common.

"It's comical that we're stuck together," Seigler said. "We like to think they stuck two guys together who they want to learn and grow to become great players in the 49ers organization. We talked about it. It's kind of strange. We're excited about being roommates. We're both on the second team, so I tell him what the linebackers are doing, and he tells me what the safeties are doing."

So does Lewis still think Pickett is overrated?

"Not at all," Lewis said, tilting his head back with laughter. "Hey, he got drafted just like I got drafted. He's been coming along and developing a lot. We're teammates now and we're all on the same level."

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Cody came back to earth a little bit" - 49ers coach Dennis Erickson on rookie quarterback Cody Pickett, who compiled a 153.3 passer rating in the opener against the Raiders then threw two interceptions in the fourth quarter against the Bears.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

BATTLE OF THE WEEK: Kyle Kosier vs. Justin Smiley for the starting job at right guard - Kosier started 12 games last season at three different positions and he entered camp as the starter. But Smiley, a second-round draft pick, has a chance to unseat Kosier for the starting job. Ideally, the 49ers would like to see Smiley establish himself at right guard, with Kosier being used as the top reserve at every position except center. But Smiley has to prove himself worthy of a starting spot. Smiley has generally played well, but he was called for two holding penalties against the Bears.

OTHER BATTLE FRONTS: It looks as if Pickett is in position to win the No. 3 quarterback job over Doman. Pickett has shown a lot of progress and potential. If the 49ers waived Pickett, they would be taking an unnecessary risk of losing him before he even made it to their practice squad. ... Heard has taken the lead over Carpenter in the battle for the starting FS spot. It wasn't so much that Heard played well in his limited duty in the opener, but Carpenter did not have a good night. Carpenter missed a tackle that resulted in 15 additional yards, then he took a poor angle while playing two-deep coverage, getting beaten for a touchdown. Carpenter's night ended with a left medial-collateral sprain, which might keep him on the sideline. ... There is good competition between Jimmy Williams and rookie Shawntae Spencer for the team's nickel back. Spencer has shown progress, and Williams has looked steady in training camp. ... There is competition for the top four receiver spots, as the 49ers expect to use a lot of multi-receiver formations. Currently, Brandon Lloyd is starting at split end, with Cedrick Wilson the starter at flanker. Curtis Conway is the No. 3 receiver, and Arnaz Battle is No. 4. Rookies Woods and Hamilton are trying to get into the mix. ... The No. 3 DT position is up for grabs, with rookie Isaac Sopoaga, Michael Landry and Josh Shaw the main guys fighting for a spot in the rotation. Landry has the edge, with Sopoaga falling behind in the competition after missing valuable practice time with a lower back strain.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: QB Ken Dorsey - The second-year player continues to show the 49ers that they got quite a bargain when they selected him in the seventh round of the 2003 draft. Dorsey has benefited greatly from Tim Rattay's absence, and should be ready to do the job if he's forced into action during the regular season. Dorsey opened Saturday's game against the Bears with a poorly thrown interception, but he bounced back to finish on a high note. Dorsey completed eight of nine passes during a two-minute drill before the half that concluded with a 5-yard touchdown pass to Lloyd. Dorsey's only incompletion on the drive was a spike to stop the clock.

ROOKIE REPORT: WR Woods, the team's top draft pick, missed another week of practice with a hamstring pull. He continues to rehab and watch film of practice, but he said he realizes he is falling behind in his quest to be a contributor early in the season. ... P Lee struggled for the second week in a row, with Coach Dennis Erickson saying "he's in the tank right now." Lee, a sixth-round draft pick, averaged just 32.0 yards on three punts. ... LB Seigler has demonstrated a nose for the football. The middle linebacker had four tackles against the Bears. In the opener against the Raiders, he led the 49ers with seven tackles. ... WR Hamilton led the 49ers with four receptions for 51 yards against the Bears. ... Undrafted rookie P.J. Fleck made two leaping catches against the Bears for receptions of 28 and 18 yards. ... DT Christian Ferrara, a seventh-round draft pick, saw action in Saturday's game but did not make a tackle. He appears to be in an uphill battle to earn a spot on the 53-man roster.

INJURY REPORT: QB Tim Rattay should be able to resume practice this week after missing nearly three weeks with a swollen right forearm. ... C Brock Gutierrez is expected to miss two to four weeks with a sprain of the medial collateral ligament in his right knee. ... FB Fred Beasley will miss the rest of the exhibition season because of a high left ankle sprain he sustained in the first preseason game on Aug. 14. The club is hoping he will be back to full strength for the regular season opener. ... Backup FB Jasen Isom might be back at practice this week after missing two weeks with a partial tear of the MCL in his right knee. ... DE Andrew Williams, whose improved play as a reserve was expected to be a key to the defense, will miss approximately another month with a broken left fibula. ... OL Jerome Davis is expected to miss another two weeks with a right knee injury. ... C Jeremy Newberry underwent arthroscopic surgery to remove cartilage under his right kneecap. He has not practiced since Aug. 2. He will probably not play in the preseason, but will be ready to go Sept. 12 for the opener. ... DL Brandon Whiting, acquired from Philadelphia in the Terrell Owens trade, was placed on the physically-unable-to-perform list. He has not fully recovered from offseason surgery on his left shoulder. The 49ers expect Whiting to play this season. They have until Sept. 1 to decide to keep him or send him back to the Eagles for a third-round pick in the 2005 draft.


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