Niners notebook

Most of the people with whom Terrell Owens had major issues are no longer with the 49ers organization. Former coach Steve Mariucci and quarterback Jeff Garcia are now with the Detroit Lions; former GM Terry Donahue is out of an NFL job; former offensive coordinator Greg Knapp is working in the same capacity with the Atlanta Falcons. But you can still expect Owens to play with a lot of emotion in his first encounter against his former team Sunday when the 49ers face the Eagles in Philadelphia.

"He's playing against his old team, so anybody who's playing against his old team will want to go out there and show them up," 49ers running back Kevan Barlow said.

Owens pays attention to what others say about him, Barlow said. So Owens probably took particular notice of what 49ers linebacker Derek Smith had to say earlier this week.

Smith is a player who rarely says anything remotely controversial. But Smith, a nine-year veteran, unleashed an uncharacteristic verbal assault on Owens this week.

"I think when I first started here, he seemed like more of a team guy," Smith said, "but I think toward the end, he really kind of fell off the deep end, if you ask me. He was just kind of in it for himself."

Smith and Owens were teammates for three seasons with 49ers. Owens rarely practiced the last 1 1/2 seasons with the 49ers, citing a groin injury that Smith said he thinks was not bad enough to prevent Owens from practicing.

"I didn't like it," Smith said. "I don't like the fact that someone's in there playing dominoes with their friends while we're out there practicing. I didn't like the fact that he's in there sleeping on the rehab table while we're out there practicing, and then they just come out Friday because they think they're that good and they can come out and play.

"I didn't agree with any of that. I don't care who you are. No one's above the team."

Coach Mike Nolan said he has no personal issues with Owens. Nolan never coached Owens with the 49ers, but he was with the Ravens last year when Owens refused a trade that would have sent him to Baltimore.

Nolan said he would be listening closely to how his 49ers players spoke about Owens, though.

"If they say the wrong thing I'll know it," Nolan said. "I don't really tell them what to say, I just tell them to listen real closely to what I say."

Nolan was listening to Smith's words, and said he viewed it as more of an indictment of the previous regime of coach Dennis Erickson and Donahue that allowed for Owens to get away with a lot of questionable antics. Under Nolan, all 49ers players - injured or not - must be on the practice field to watch the team portion of drills.

"I think the environment led the way for the comment more than anything else," Nolan said. "He (Smith) didn't like the environment because it allowed that to happen. Aside from that, they didn't sound like they were best buddies.

"I did read it, but I didn't think he (Owens) would take it as insulting. He might take it as inspiration a little bit. But good players get inspired for a lot of things."

Smith said there is little question in his mind that Owens would not help the 49ers - but actually serve as a detriment. Many 49ers privately believe that Owens quit on his teammates during the 2003 season - his final season with the club - when for the first time in his career he did not play hard in games.

"I don't think he'd fit in the scheme," Smith said. "I don't think he'd fit in with this staff, personally. I think we're better off without him, absolutely better off without him."

He added that the Eagles would be better off in the long term if they get rid of Owens before he sours the entire organization.

"I think they can get by, (but) it's only a matter of time," Smith said. "You put a bad apple in with a bunch of good apples, and it's just a matter of time before the other apples spoil. That's my opinion."

Nolan said he believes that Owens would not be a good fit for what he is trying to build with the 49ers.

"T.O. is a very good player and if you feel you can fit him into your team concept - which is exactly what Philly has tried to do and is effectively doing - you want good players on your football team," Nolan said. "You have to have the structure in place to do that. As we get better and better, our structure will allow certain players we feel are good to fit in.

"They got T.O. after three NFC titles and felt they could fit him in. They did fit him in pretty well, but after the season things went awry. But now it looks like they're getting him back in because I haven't heard anything more."

THE 49ERS REPLACED RECEIVER Fred Amey on the roster last week with a player named Otis Amey. Like Fred Amey, Otis Amey is a 5-10, 197-pound rookie from Sacramento State. Yep, it's the same person. But Fred Amey confirms he is Fred no more.

"Otis is my middle name and it's all anybody in my family calls me," Amey said. "The only people who call me Fred are people at Sac State. I went there and they called me Fred because that's my first name. My last year there everyone just called me 'FOA' - my initials."

KICKER JOE NEDNEY AND and special-teamer Terry Jackson caught the Rams by surprise in the opener with a perfectly executed onside kick. Nedney has been successful on three of his last four onside kick attempts, and is four of 11 in his NFL career.

NOLAN WAS ASKED IF he might be inclined to use the tight end more this week.

"You mean, like throw him the ball?" Nolan said "It might happen."

Tight end Eric Johnson was the team's top receiver last year with 82 receptions, but with him out of the lineup for the opener, the 49ers did not complete one pass to a tight end. Steve Bush and Billy Bajema shared the duties at tight end, and quarterback Tim Rattay threw just one pass intended for Bush.

Johnson is doubtful for Sunday's game against the Eagles with a plantar fascia injury.

CORNERBACK SHAWNTAE SPENCER SAID defensive end Bryant Young, 33, is playing like he's 23 years old. "Heck," Spencer said, "I'll bet he can play another seven years."

Spencer said Young's production is something that nobody associated with the organization has to worry about.

"Everybody knows what we're going to get out of BY," Spencer said. "I'm not concerned about that. When I lay my head down at night, I'm concerned about, 'Does BY know what he's going to get out of Shawntae Spencer?'"

THE 49ERS SHOWED A lot of different looks on offense, most of which focused on the athleticism of receiver Arnaz Battle. The third-year player from Notre Dame, recruited there as a quarterback, twice lined up behind center in the shotgun formation. Battle ran the option twice. He also caught a lateral pass from quarterback Tim Rattay and fired a 24-yard pass to Brandon Lloyd.

Rattay said it's good to show some of those wrinkles to make future teams use a lot of time in practice to prepare for a lot of different things.

"You hope they'd have to coach that," Rattay said, "just like a team that gives you a funky look on defense. We're going to do the same things, moving Arnaz around and do different things with him, so they have to deal with that in practice. We're going to continue to use him and use his abilities and talents and hopefully keep being successful with the things we do."

FIRST-YEAR DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR Billy Davis opened to rave reviews Sunday against the Rams. His defense allowed 405 yards of total offense, but the Rams averaged just 4.6 yards a play on their 89 offense snaps.

Nolan, a defensive coordinator for 11 years in the NFL, said he gave Davis all the room he needed to work after making a couple comments on the headsets early in the game.

"(I) quickly realized he's doing a darn good job," Nolan said. "I wanted to let him be. When a guy gets in a zone, you get the headsets off and let him go to work.

"I thought the way he called a game - it was his first time - I think he had a good pulse on his players and continued to mix up the pressures with the non-pressures. He did a very good."

NICKEL BACK MIKE ADAMS figures he probably saw more action in the season opener against the Rams than he did all of last season. Adams was an undrafted player a year ago from Delaware. The 49ers signed him with a bonus of only $2,500.

Adams began last season on the practice squad and was elevated to the active roster after eight games.

Adams played about two-thirds of the team's 89 defensive plays against the Rams. He had his struggles but made amends in the final minute with a game-clinching interception. Adams was used primarily to cover the slotreceiver in nickel and dime situations. Rookie Derrick Johnson, a sixth-round pick from Washington, was used as the dime back. Johnson tied for the NFL lead with three interceptions during the exhibition season.

Second-year wide receiver Rashaun Woods, a first-round draft pick last year, was inactive for the game. He and rookie Rasheed Marshall are listed behind the team's top four receivers: starters Arnaz Battle and Brandon Lloyd, and top backups Johnnie Morton and Amey.

The 49ers made no changes to their 53-man roster, but added CB Bruce Thornton to the practice squad. The club released CB Michael Harden to make room for Thornton. On Thursday, the 49ers waived CB Ahmad Treaudo from their practice squad and replaced him with cornerback B.J. Tucker, a sixth-round draft pick by Dallas in 2003.

BATTLE GAVE A VIVID display of his versatility in the opener. He caught a team-leading five passes for 59 yards and a touchdown. He also lined up as a quarterback to run the option, and threw a 24-yard pass to Brandon Lloyd on a trick play. He was 2 of 2 passing in the game and finished with a quarterback rating of 118.8

FULLBACK FRED BEASLEY STARTED and played most of the season opener against the Rams but did not touch the ball. Beasley's sole responsibility is as a lead blocker. Last season he carried just nine times for 17 yards and caught 10 passes for 44 yards.

RUNNING BACK FRANK GORE, who was expected to challenge incumbent tailback Kevan Barlow for the starting job, had 17 yards rushing on four carries and also caught two passes for 21 yards against the Rams. He could challenge Barlow for more playing time if Barlow continues to struggle. Barlow - whose 3.4 in 2004 was the lowest among all NFL starting running backs last season - rushed for just 22 yards on 14 carries against the Rams.

MORTON, THE TEAM'S NO.3 receiver came through with one of the better catches of the season opener but he paid the price. On a 30-yard reception, Morton was upended and sustained a concussion. He did not return to the game. After undergoing a battery of tests, he was cleared to return to action for Sunday's game against the Eagles. He practiced with the team without any recurring problems this week and was taken off the injury report Thursday.

CENTER JEREMY NEWBERRY PLAYED all 41 offensive snaps against the Rams and appears ready to go Sunday against the Eagles. Newberry has a light workload during the season, as he is scheduled to practice just one day a week because of knee problems. That day is Thursday, and Newberry again made it through the team's weekly padded practice without incident and is scheduled to start in Philadelphia.

BY THE NUMBERS: The 49ers own the No. 29th-ranked offense and the 29th-ranked defense yet are 1-0 and lead the NFC West by a game over the Rams, Cardinals and Seahawks. Despite those low rankings, the Niners are second in the NFL in passing yards per play, fifth points scored, and seventh in fewest yards allowed per play on defense.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We're coming together all the time as a football team and everything we've faced up to this point has been adversity. All of a sudden we've faced success, so we have a new challenge this week. I'm looking forward to that. This is a mature group, but this will be a test of maturity, because usually immature people don't respond well to success" - Nolan on his team taking a 1-0 record to face the Eagles.

Niners Digest Top Stories