Owens was running across the field on a crossing pattern during team drills when he encountered a pocket of players near the sideline and was rocked in the midsection by linebacker Quincy Stewart's knee.
The All-Pro receiver writhed in pain and was flat on the ground for a couple of minutes while trainers hovered around him. But Owens eventually jumped back to his feet and strolled back into the huddle. No damage done. But at least a few breaths were held.
"I remember T.O. went down in training camp with an ankle," Mariucci said, "and he was carried off in a cart. And then – boom! – he was right back in there for the afternoon practice. He's a tough guy."
--- All three of the defenders the Niners took among their first four draft picks this year have caught Mariucci's eye during the first two days of camp. Cornerback Mike Rumph (first round), linebacker Saleem Rasheed (third round) and safety Kevin Curtis (fourth round) have been getting turns in the defensive rotation during team drills and "they're doing a good job," Mariucci said.
--- Also looking good is seventh-rounder Eric Heitmann, who hasn't looked at all hampered by the back problem that apparently caused him to slip considerably in the draft. Heitmann was projected as a fourth-rounder, and the Stanford product already looks on his way to earning a role as a backup guard who also can play center in a pinch.
--- Receiver J.J. Stokes took a $2 million pay cut to remain with the team – he'll still be making $1.75 million this season, no small change – but he's not going to let it affect his performance or his attitude. Stokes still is looking to become a larger part of the offense after three consecutive subpar seasons. "I wasn't insulted by it," Stokes said. "You're never happy. But that's the business. I'm hoping I get used a lot more in the offense this year. We just have to find ways to get everybody the ball."
--- One player noticeably packing more bulk since the 2001 season ended is running back Paul Smith, who looks huge compared to the slimmed-down 218 pounds he played at last season, when he lost weight for an audition at tailback. Smith now is competing at fullback, and he is carrying considerably more muscle, a good portion of it in his thick thighs. "It's kind of neat how these guys can gain 15 pounds, they can lose 15 pounds, they can just do whatever they want with their bodies," Mariucci said. "I wish I knew their secret."
--- Smith is no lock to make the roster, though his versatility in the backfield and strong special teams play makes him a valuable part of the 49ers' puzzle. The Niners kept six running backs last season, and all six are back in a strong competition for roster berths. Smith now is battling at fullback with Terry Jackson for the backup job behind starter Fred Beasley, and Jackson – the team's special teams captain - is a roster lock. "(Smith and Jackson) are both at fullback, and we know they both can play tailback, and we know they both can be in the single-back sets and in two-tight end (sets) and four-receivers (sets). They've got some position flexibility, which is a good thing for them. And a good thing for us."
--- Also in the mix at running back is free-agent rookie Ken Simonton from Oregon State, the No. 2 career rusher in Pac-10 history who went undrafted after a less than stellar senior season. The Niners are taking a look at Simonton as a kick returner, which probably is what he'll need to do to make the roster. "That's another reason why he's here, because he's got a little added value with the punt return ability," Mariucci said.
--- Linebacker Alex Lincoln, the team's seventh-round draft pick last year, isn't participating in this minicamp and his future with the team is in doubt. Lincoln missed all of last season with a neck injury, but he was expected to be ready to go when the team began offseason training earlier this month. But he experienced soreness during workouts, did not pass his pre-minicamp physical and was sent home. Mariucci said Lincoln remains on the roster, though his name is not on the team's minicamp list of players.