Niners notebook

It takes a No. 1 to know a No. 1, and 49ers' rookie quarterback Alex Smith definitely falls into that category as he etches his name again into sports history.

Smith, selected No. 1 overall in the 2005 NFL draft by the 49ers, had his name carved into another corner of history on Tuesday after the Milwaukee Bucks selected Andrew Bogut with the No. 1 overall selection in the 2005 NBA draft.

While Smith was leading the University of Utah's football team to unprecedented heights last fall and winter, Bogut was carrying the school's basketball team to another successful season that ended with the Utes making some noise in the NCAA Tournament and Bogut being named college player of the year.

Smith and Bogut now are joined together in sports lore: The duo becomes the first pair of athletes from the same college to be selected first in both the NBA and NFL drafts in the same year.

"It is great recognition for both the state and the University of Utah," Smith said Wednesday. "This will certainly benefit future student athletes and athletic programs at the University. It is a reflection of the University's commitment to academic and athletic programs. I wish Andrew great luck; I know that he will do well. He is a great player and I wish him the best."

THE 49ERS HAVE SIGNED Rasheed Marshall, the second of their two fifth-round picks in the April draft, to a four-year contract.

Marshall is the third player from San Francisco's 11-member draft class to get under contract before July. Typically, the team doesn't sign its draft picks until the weeks leading to the start of training camp in late July. Seventh-round picks Patrick Estes, a tight end who's being converted to offensive tackle, and tight end Billy Bajema signed deals earlier in June.

COACH MIKE NOLAN DID not have any place on his roster for veteran wide receivers Jerry Rice or David Boston. But when Johnnie Morton became available, Nolan became interested in a hurry.

"Johnnie is our kind of guy," Nolan said. "He is a hard-working professional who will be a great example to our young receivers."

One of the reasons Nolan was less-than enthusiastic about signing Rice was because he believes he has the league's best receivers coach, Jerry Sullivan. Nolan felt as if he did not need an older player to serve as a mentor to the younger players, especially if that veteran had never before played under Sullivan.

With the signing of Morton, Nolan knows any message the 11-year veteran will be sending to the young receivers will not be contradictory to anything Sullivan might be preaching.

In fact, Morton said the overriding factor in signing with the 49ers was because of Sullivan.

"He taught me how to be a complete receiver and how to see receiving as an art form," Morton said of Sullivan. "Basically you can take any guy with talent and he can show him everything from before you get to the line of scrimmage to every single bit of the route how to run with the proper technique and how to get open regardless of what the defensive back is doing. He is the one who taught me how to be a receiver. The one thing about coach Sullivan is that he takes great pride in teaching."

Morton said he could be a resource to the rest of the players on the roster who have not been exposed to Sullivan's teachings for very long. Morton played five seasons - his most productive seasons - with Sullivan as his receivers coach while with the Lions.

"The one thing that I know is that everything that he is trying to teach in his drills to the young receivers I have been through, so I can give them a player's perspective," Morton said. "A lot of times I will be showing them how to do it just like coach Sullivan, I will probably be a second coach and also I know what he expects from his players and I like to lead by example I like to work hard as possible."

Morton now takes the spot that Nolan could have given to Rice or Boston, both of whom wanted to join the 49ers this offseason.

"For me, it is an honor that out of those other two receivers that coach Nolan wanted me there and I will do everything to give him all that I have and be the player that he expects me to be and some," Morton said.

BEFORE MORTON JOINED THE team, the 49ers had one of the least impressive and least experienced groups of wide receivers in the NFL. But the addition of Morton could have a considerably positive impact on that status.

Morton was released by the Chiefs in a salary-cap move on June 2. The 11-year veteran caught 55 passes for 795 yards and three touchdowns last season.

Morton has started 146 of his 169 NFL regular-season games. In his career, he has 603 receptions for 8,431 yards and 43 touchdowns. Morton ranks 34th on the NFL career receptions list and 46th in receiving yardage. He enters the 2005 season as the league's 12th-leading active receiver and 11th-leading active player in receiving yards.

The rest of the 49ers' wideouts have played in a combined 102 games with just 26 starts. The group has combined for 108 NFL receptions for 1,568 yards and 10 touchdowns.

"I would guess that I have more playing experience than all the other receivers combined because they are so young and that is something that I can bring to the table," Morton said. "If the younger guys have questions I will be able to answer it. There are going to be situations in games and in practices where I will be able to draw on my experience and pass on to them what I have learned over my career in the league."

Morton did not come to the 49ers with any promises of being a starter. He is most comfortable at the split-end position, the spot at which Lloyd started last season. Lloyd is the only returning 49ers receiver who caught more than eight passes. He had 43 catches for 565 yards and six touchdowns.

"I am going to leave that up to them, but I know what I expect out of myself, and I am going to keep that to myself," Morton said. "But my main thing is that I am going to work as hard as possible and I will be the best player that I can be and if that becomes a starting role then that is my main goal."

Morton said he also has been experienced at the slot position, which might make his ideal role as the team's No. 3 receiver. A lot depends on how Lloyd adapts to the new coaches this season. Lloyd had a reputation with the former coaching staff as being someone who was not totally committed to maximizing his potential.

MORTON WILL BE FORCED to wear a different number with the 49ers. That's because he started his career with the Lions, wearing No. 87. With the Chiefs, he wore No. 80, also his college number, in honor of Jerry Rice.

The 49ers retired Dwight Clark's No. 87 in 1988, and they have not issued No. 80 since Rice left the team after the 2000 season.

"I know that I will be a teen number for the preseason, but it's funny the two numbers that I have worn as an NFL player are both retired," Morton said. "And like Jerry did to Steve Largent, I am not going to ask him to wear 80. I really don't care about a number as much as I do about being a 49er."

ONE DAY AFTER SIGNING Morton, the 49ers added another receiver with professional experience. The club signed Javin Hunter to a two-year contract. Hunter played 12 games for the Baltimore Ravens in 2002, catching five passes for 35 yards. He did not see any regular-season action the last two seasons.

JOE STARKEY, THE RADIO voice of the 49ers since 1989, will remain in that capacity despite the club changing its flagship station to KNBR (680 AM). Starkey has been the sports director at KGO (810 AM), the station that formerly carried 49ers games. Starkey resigned from that post this week to continue in his role as a play-by-play man. Analyst Gary Plummer is also expected to return in the role he's held since ending his playing career.

POSITIONAL UPDATE: KICKER: The 49ers signed free-agent Joe Nedney after veteran Todd Peterson left the organization for the comfortable setting of the Falcons' Georgia Dome. Nedney has been stung by knee injuries the last two seasons. He is the clear front-runner to win the job, but he is also expected to receive some competition from first-year player Kirk Yliniemi.

Yliniemi was impressive as a rookie during training camp and the exhibition season last year. Some insiders believed it would not have been a stretch for the 49ers to keep Yliniemi over Peterson, but coach Dennis Erickson wanted to keep a veteran on the team.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I know that they are all talented, and I think that because they have so many guys it is going to bring about some healthy competition and that is going to make them all better. I am just looking forward to playing with all of them, I have seen them all, I haven't seen a lot of Alex Smith but I have seen the other two and I think that they are going to push each other" - Recently signed 49ers receiver Johnnie Morton on the competition between Tim Rattay, Ken Dorsey and Smith for the starting quarterback job.


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