Niners notebook

Training camp officially ends for the 49ers today, when the team will conduct a two-hour practice at 49ers headquarters in Santa Clara. The team will then have a pre-game walk-through practice Thursday in preparation for Friday's third preseason game against the Tennessee Titans at Monster Park in San Francisco.

After a weekend off – during which several coaches and players will attend the Saturday funeral of Thomas Herrion at Travis Avenue Baptist Church in Herrion's hometown of Fort Worth, Texas – the 49ers will return to the team facility to resume one-a-day practice sessions as part of their typical regular-season weekly schedule.

The team must cut down its training-camp roster to a NFL-mandated 65-player limit by next Tuesday. The 49ers will conclude the exhibition season Sept. 1 against the Chargers in San Diego. They must cut down to their final 53-man roster for the regular season by Sept. 5.

CENTER JEREMY NEWBERRY, WHOSE availability for the season appears to be no better than a 50-50 proposition, was on schedule to attempt a return to the practice field this week, coach Mike Nolan said, but he was not able to do so and will try again next week before a determination is made about his status for the 2005 season.

Newberry underwent surgery on his right knee more than 11 weeks ago, but the condition is still giving him problems. Newberry opted for a less-invasive procedure rather than a micro-fracture surgery that would have sidelined him for the season.

"There's some pain in his knee, which he was told way back when," coach Mike Nolan said. "We'll see if he can endure it. It's bone-on-bone, which we all knew, and he's going to give it a shot to see how much he can endure."

Nolan said Newberry put a lot of stress on the leg two consecutive days last week and the knee did not respond well. Newberry has said he can handle the pain but the swelling causes his leg to shut down, making it impossible for him to play.

ERIC HEITMANN, A FOURTH-YEAR pro who played every snap for the 49ers at left guard last season, has taken over for Newberry at center. Heitmann got off to a rocky start during last week's preseason game against the Denver Broncos when he rolled a shot-gun snap on the first possession of the game that running back Terry Jackson recovered.

THE 49ERS' FIRST-TEAM DEFENSE looked overmatched against the Broncos' starters. Denver rolled up 146 yards against the 49ers' starting defense in the first 13 minutes of the game. The Oakland Raiders had similar success against San Francisco's first unit in the team's Aug. 13 exhibition opener.

"We have to start faster," 49ers linebacker Jeff Ulbrich said. "I know personally I have to start faster, play better technique. I think once we settle down, we show some great potential. The key to winning in this league is starting fast and sending a statement."

HALL OF FAME QUARTERBACL Steve Young gave a 45-minute motivational talk to the 49ers last week during a meeting at the team hotel.

"It was great," receiver P.J. Fleck said. "He talked about the tradition of the 49ers and some of the things those teams went through to get to the top. It got everybody fired up."

Young collected three Super Bowl rings with the 49ers, one as the team's starting quarterback. On Aug. 7, he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.

"I've heard Steve, many times, talk about team and how important this team was to him. It followed-up when he was giving his speech at his induction to the Hall of Fame, how important the team was and what it meant," Nolan said.

Thomas "Hollywood" Henderson, whose career was derailed because of a drug addiction, was the first person to speak to the club early in training camp. He talked about making good choices in life. Fox TV's James Brown spoke to the club about media issues, and Nolan also had game officials speak about rules changes.

THE 49ERS WILL PROBABLY have no other choice than to keep current No. 4 quarterback Cody Pickett on their 53-man roster. The 49ers were high on Pickett's long-term potential, and they were reticent about playing him the exhibition season because they did not want to attract the attention of other teams.

Now it might be too late.

Pickett looked fantastic while directing the 49ers' two-minute offense in the closing minutes of the team's 26-21 loss to the Broncos. He completed 7 of 11 passes for 70 yards, and rushed three times for 32 yards, including a 23-yard touchdown with :02 remaining.

Pickett is the only quarterback on the 49ers' roster eligible for the practice squad. However, in order for Pickett to end up on the 49ers' practice squad, he would have to get waived. That means any team in the league would have a chance to claim Pickett and place him on their 53-man roster.

TIGHT END ERIC JOHNSON missed his second consecutive game with a slight tear of his plantar fascia, under his right foot. Johnson won't play Friday night against the Titans.

"It looks it will be another week," before Johnson returns to practice, Nolan said on Tuesday. "He did some stuff on it today and it was sore, so it will probably be another week."

QUOTE TO NOTE: "This is a colossal tragedy for the 49ers and the entire NFL community." – 49ers team spokesman Aaron Salkin on the death of offensive lineman Thomas Herrion.

ROOKIE REPORT: QB Alex Smith struggled again in his second start against the Broncos and had No. 1 status taken away from him Wednesday by Nolan. Smith was under a lot of pressure from the Broncos' pass rush, but he also was guilty of holding the ball too long at times. … G David Baas is out another week or so with a hamstring tear. … G/T Adam Snyder is taking snaps at RG and could be in line for a starting job for the regular season. … LT Patrick Estes returned to a backup role behind Jonas Jennings. Estes has impressed the coaching staff after making the transition from TE, where he played at Virginia. … WR Rasheed Marshall, a converted quarterback, caught a 21-yard pass and also returned his only punt 17 yards against the Broncos. … RB Frank Gore returned to action after missing a game with a shoulder injury. He carried three times for 27 yards and looks ready to challenge starter Kevan Barlow for playing time. … WR Marcus Maxwell, perhaps the most physically gifted of the wideouts, returned to action after missing a week with a heel injury. He did not catch a pass against the Broncos. … CB Derrick Johnson recorded his third interception of the exhibition season against the Broncos. … Undrafted rookie Fred Amey caught two passes for 21 yards and also has reliable hands as a punt returner. … CB Daven Holly sustained a left shoulder stinger but returned to action against the Broncos. He recorded three tackles. … NT Ronnie Fields did not see any action in the first half and did not finish the Denver game with any tackles.

INJURY REPORT: Tight ends Eric Johnson (right foot) and Steve Bush (left shoulder), receivers P.J. Fleck (left shoulder) and Derrick Hamilton (left knee), offensive linemen Jeremy Newberry (right knee), David Baas (right hamstring) and Paul Zukauskas (back), and cornerback Shawntae Spencer (left hamstring) did not play in the 49ers' game Saturday night due to injuries. Newberry, Baas and Hamilton are on active/physically unable to perform. Newberry might come off that list next week to practice. Baas is still a week or so away from being able to practice, and Hamilton is likely out for the season after tearing his ACL in May. TE Billy Bajema left Saturday's game with a concussion. Reserve FS Dwaine Carpenter left the game in the third quarter with a deep thigh bruise. Rookie CB Daven Holly sustained a left shoulder stinger but returned to action.

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