Scenes from a May minicamp

News and views and notes and quotes from the 49ers' three-day minicamp that concluded Friday at the team's Santa Clara headquarters:

--- The 49ers tell their established veterans to stay away from this minicamp so their young players can get more work and time in the system. But as the team's newest defensive backs were getting extended time in the secondary, there was starting left cornerback Ahmed Plummer on an opposite field, backpedaling determinedly and working solitarily on his technique. Plummer could be considered a youngster himself. He'll be entering just his third season this year, but with his skills and work ethic, don't be surprised if it ends with Plummer in the Pro Bowl.

--- We knew Jeff Garcia wouldn't be able to stay away, either. Garcia made an appearance at minicamp Friday, but he did not participate in practice. There will be plenty of time for that coming up.

--- With Garcia and still-rehabbing Gio Carmazzi out of drills, that left all the snaps at quarterback for Tim Rattay, Aaron Garcia and Brandon Doman. They each had their moments, but SFI came away unimpressed collectively by the group. Doman is a bit rawer than we thought. Rattay is smooth in the system - as he should be entering his third year - but we're starting to wonder if he has that little something extra to develop into something special, like Jeff Garcia certainly did after a few years in the system. Aaron Garcia made some mistakes, but it looks as though he has the arm to send the ball down field. He also moves well and has good football instincts. He's a keeper.

--- With his fund-raising bocce ball tournament coming up in June, Niners coach Steve Mariucci spent a lot of time talking about the event, which usually attracts an interesting array of celebrities. This year, Mariucci says he expects Hall of Fame baseball star Willie Mays to attend. Mays was one of Mariucci's boyhood idols and - despite the fact Mays is a Bay Area icon and remains close to the San Francisco Giants - the two never have met.

--- Every position was represented at this camp except for kicking specialists. "We're going to have them here next week," Mariucci said. "We're doing some kicking drills and some coverage stuff, but not individuals. Next week, they'll be in."

--- Guard Eric Heitmann - one of the team's seventh-round draft picks - and top undrafted free agents RB Ken Simonton and FB Matt Stanley were among the players who missed this minicamp. Each had a good excuse: They still are attending classes in college. "Here's the rule," Mariucci said. "May 16 is the earliest a rookie can report. However, they need to be either graduated or their semester is over, or their class is graduated or school is out. If they're on the quarter system like at UCLA (Stanley), Stanford (Heitmann), Oregon State (Simonton) - some of those schools go to the middle of June - those sort of guys can't come. If they have any class work left and they're not done with it, they have to stay in school."

--- The Niners had nine players in for tryouts during this minicamp - running backs Josh Line and Mike Vilimek, wide receiver Mike Jennings, tight end Giovanni Tocagina, offensive linemen David Sherrod and Bryan Phillips, linebackers Damon Harrington and T.J. Turner and defensive back Kenny Harris.

--- Josh Wright, Turner's agent, said his client has agreed to terms on a two-year contract with the team, with the signing of the deal contingent on Turner passing a physical. Turner was New England's seventh-round draft pick in 2001 and played in two games for the Patriots last season. As of Friday evening, the Niners had not confirmed that Turner has been signed.

--- Donnie O'Neal, a rookie wide receiver from Arizona State who was signed by the Niners as an undrafted free agent before the April minicamp, was the primary casualty of minicamp. O'Neal broke his left foot on the first day of practice making a cut while running a pass route and won't be ready to return until training camp. Cornerback Teddy Gaines, the team's final seventh-round pick in April, aggravated a quadriceps pull on Wednesday and didn't practice the remainder of the minicamp.

--- Rookie Frank Strong probably will be looking for a new number to wear by next week. Strong, an undrafted free agent from USC who has been wearing No. 17 since the April minicamp, was switched from safety to linebacker during this minicamp. Strong is a gifted, versatile athlete who might have got lost in the shuffle during college because he played tailback, safety and linebacker and also returned kicks for the Trojans. Considered one of the best prep prospects on the West Coast as a high school senior All-American at Franklin High in Stockton, Strong had some productive days at tailback for the Trojans as a true freshman before his positional odyssey began. "We felt his best chance to make this team was at linebacker," Mariucci said. "We think his size is conducive to playing linebacker for us in our defensive system."

--- Mariucci had no complaints about what was accomplished during the minicamp. "This was good for a lot of these guys," he said. "They got a lot of snaps, which is good, because most of them won't get that next week when all the vets show up."

--- Just four more days till the next minicamp…

 


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