Stockton, here they come

The 49ers finished packing for their summer trip to Stockton on Friday, and by Saturday morning the gear and equipment necessary for the team's 26-day training camp will have left the Niners' Santa Clara headquarters and arrived at the University of the Pacific campus. The first of the team's 29 scheduled practice sessions doesn't begin until Monday, but coach Steve Mariucci said Friday he and his staff are raring to go.</P>

"We are ready," Mariucci said. "We just had an entire staff meeting here (in Santa Clara) and went through the logistics of our camp. Coaches are scattering. We've been here the last couple of days packing up. We're trying to pack up and get there."

Players report to camp by 3 p.m. Sunday, and Mariucci and his staff will meet with the entire team two hours later. Due to a whirlwind training camp agenda - which includes a wacky five-game exhibition schedule that has the team missing six days of camp to play in the American Bowl in Japan, and then returning to play its final three preseason games in a 10-day span - the Niners will have rookies and veterans report on the same day for the first time in Mariucci's six seasons as coach.

Mariucci pointed out several reasons for this.

"We're doing something a little different," he said. "Typically, we've brought in rookies the first two, three days. This time, we're bringing in the entire team together all in one shot. It's a long preseason with five games, so we wanted to bring them all in together and shorten down camp a little bit if possible. But part of the reason is we don't have a lot of rookies now to conduct team work and that sort of thing. We simply don't have that many young players to practice with."

That's a good indication of what a different summer camp it will be for the Niners as compared to the previous two years when youth dominated the roster. The 49ers are still young, but now they have an established roster of veteran players who enter camp with high aspirations after last year's 12-4 turnaround season than ended in the playoffs.

"It really is (different)," Mariucci said. "The previous couple of camps we were counting on rookies. We'd draft them, sign them ... and then we'd start them. It was kind of crazy, but we're not in that position now. We feel like we know who are starters are and they (rookies) will be competing for backup positions. So these young kids are fighting for a position on the team, a spot in the pecking order and the depth chart, fighting for spots on special teams and to contribute there, so that's different than we've had the past couple of years."

The Niners still are completing contract negotiations with several members of their 10-player draft class. Fourth-round pick Jeff Chandler already has signed and seventh-rounders Eric Heitmann and Kyle Kosier have agreed to terms. The team would like to have all its draft picks signed by Monday, but first-round pick Mike Rumph is unlikely to sign until later in the week.

"As you know," Mariucci said, "draft picks are in many ways slotted as far as where you are drafted and what you are going to make. Being we're the first (exhibition) game, the early game, there's not a lot of No. 1 draft picks signed right now. So you play the waiting game a little bit. We have a sense of urgency to get guys in here and signed for our first practice. But agents are a little reluctant to (finalize negotiations), because boundaries are a little not set yet with the guys behind them (first-round picks) and ahead of them."

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