49ers training camp: The week in review

An eventful week for the 49ers was marked by what the team did off the field as much as it did on it as San Francisco dealt away two more holdover veterans who were previous first-day draft picks by the team.

Cornerback Mike Rumph, the team's first-round pick in 2002, and running back Kevan Barlow, a third-round selection in 2001, become the eighth and ninth veterans to be traded away since head coach Mike Nolan took control of the team in January of 2005.

After days of denying they were engaged in serious trade talks, Nolan pulled the trigger Sunday on a trade that sent Barlow to the New York Jets for a pick in next year's draft.

Barlow, whom had been the team's featured back since the end of the 2003 season, was losing the competition to remain the starter. Second-year back Frank Gore had outperformed Barlow through most of last season, as well as through the first three weeks of training camp.

Barlow was dealt five days after the 49ers sent Rumph to the Washington Redskins in a trade for receiver Taylor Jacobs.

The 49ers have won just 13 games the past three seasons, tying the Raiders for worst record in the NFL during that span. To find the main reason the 49ers have faltered, look no further than the production the club has received from the top of its draft classes.

Only two players chosen in the first round prior to the 2005 draft remain on the 49ers' roster, with three previous No. 1 picks being either traded or released since the end of last season.

"Those players should be on your squad for a long time," 49ers coach Mike Nolan said.

Instead, the 49ers have gotten little in return for those high selections. In all, five past top selections have left the team in the past five months. The club let linebackers Julian Peterson (2000) and Andre Carter (2001) leave via free agency without offering them contracts. The 49ers released cornerback Ahmed Plummer (2001), and trades were made to ship out receiver Rashaun Woods (2004) and Rumph, neither of whom fit into the team's plans.

"No job is guaranteed around here," said 49ers defensive end Bryant Young, chosen No. 1 in 1994. "Because you're a No. 1 pick doesn't mean you're going to be here for the rest of your career.

"I think when you bring in a whole different staff, they have their own way of judging talent and they're going to bring people in they feel will help the team win. If the people currently here are going to help us win, they'll stay here."

Tackle Kwame Harris (2003) joins Young as the only first-round draft choices remaining on the roster from the pre-Nolan days. With Nolan and vice president of player personnel Scot McCloughan, the 49ers have undergone a dramatic roster makeover. Only 21 of the 78 players under contract to the 49ers when Nolan was hired in January 2005 remain with the organization.

"It's not like when we came in we said, 'We're going to change the whole thing,'" Nolan said. "I don't have a personal deal with anybody. When it comes time to making our team better, if I think someone else is better-suited for our squad, I'll do it."

The 49ers did not enjoy much success on draft day during the six drafts that former general manager Terry Donahue engineered. The 49ers had 54 picks during those six years, and only 14 of those players remain with the team.

McCloughan contends the reason the 49ers have moved on without some Donahue players is because they're just trying to bulk up the roster.

"It's no indication of what's happened in the past," McCloughan said. "It's just a matter of trying to get the best roster we can."

The 49ers' struggles haven't been confined to just the first round. The third round has been a particular problem for the team, as the club got no production from quarterback Giovanni Carmazzi (2000), linebacker Saleem Rasheed (2002), defensive end Andrew Williams (2003) and receiver Derrick Hamilton (2004).

But the lack of production from the first-rounders hurts even more. After Rumph missed four tackles in the 49ers' first exhibition game, the club wasted little time making a decision about his future.

--- In getting Jacobs in return, the 49ers hope the fourth-year receiver takes advantage of his fresh start in much the same way as cornerback Sammy Davis, who has played well since coming to the team in a trade with the Chargers.

Davis took over at left cornerback after starter Shawntae Spencer sustained a strained right hamstring in practice last week. Spencer is expected to miss the remainder of the exhibition season. The club hopes he returns for the start of the regular season.

Davis has found the change of scenery to his liking. He is no longer referred to as a former first-round pick. He managed to remain virtually anonymous through the first three weeks of 49ers training camp while admirably performing his chores on the field.

"It's easier to fly under the radar here because in San Diego I was a first-round guy, so a lot was expected," Davis said. "Here, I'm just another guy, playing and trying to make the team."

Jacobs also expects to benefit from a change of scenery. He did not fulfill his promise with the Redskins after being chosen as the No. 44 overall selection in the 2003 draft.

"It started off, you kind of see people lose confidence in you when things don't go right," Jacobs said. "And then you start second-guessing yourself. And then all the other stuff comes. You get hurt and it's like, 'OK, could it get any worse?' It's just how it has been."

Both Davis and Jacobs were not likely to earn roster spots with their former teams, prompting their trades. Although Jacobs has not logged much time on the practice field with his new team, it did not take him long to make an impression. The 49ers are in desperate need of help at receiver.

"He's caught my eye," 49ers coach Mike Nolan said. "He shows that he's played the position. He comes off the ball well, he runs routes well. He has explosion coming off the ball."

--- The last session of two-a-day summer practices is Tuesday when the 49ers return from a Monday off day. The 49ers break training camp on Wednesday.

--- Receiver Jerry Rice, who announced his retirement from the NFL last summer, will make the same statement twice more in the coming months with the 49ers.

Rice is scheduled to sign a ceremonial contract with the 49ers on Thursday so he can retire with the organization. Former 49ers running back Roger Craig is believed to be the first NFL player to sign a ceremonial deal such as this when he did it with the 49ers in 1994.

Rice, 43, played 16 seasons with the 49ers before finishing his career with the Raiders and Seahawks. His bid for one final season failed last year when he did not fit into the Broncos' plans in training camp. He is the holder of every significant NFL receiving record.

"Jerry was a 49er great, we all know that," 49ers coach Mike Nolan said. "Personally, I would expect him to retire as a 49er. I would find it strange or unusual if he didn't. I think he's done playing. I don't think he has any play left in him. I don't think he's going to do a Junior Seau."

The 49ers announced plans to hold a ceremony for Rice at halftime of the 49ers-Seahawks game on Nov. 19.

--- With the loss of center Jeremy Newberry to season-ending knee surgery, the 49ers will turn to Eric Heitmann, who has a more laid-back personality than Newberry.

"(Newberry) would finish guys off," Nolan said. "You know how guys stand over them, they scream mercy and some guys give them mercy? (Newberry), I think, he wouldn't hear anybody. He would just stick it in him. Eric, I think, would hear the guy and say, 'OK.'"

When asked what left guard Larry Allen would do, Nolan answered, "Larry doesn't hear very well, either."

--- Last week, Nolan raised some eyebrows when he said Barlow was "clearly the team's best running back last year." Barlow started 12 games last season, but many believed Frank Gore was a more impressive player. Barlow rushed for 581 yards on 176 carries, while Gore gained accounted for 608 yards on 127 rushes.

"I don't remember saying that," Nolan said when asked a day before he pulled off the trade that sent Barlow to the Jets. "He was clearly the starter, because he did start most of the games last season. I could have said that."

--- The 49ers have enclosed lineman Thomas Herrion's locker at the team's Santa Clara, Calif., practice facility in glass. His locker will be preserved as it was at the time of his death a year ago from a heart attack after an exhibition game.

Although he spent just the final month of the 2004 season on the 49ers' practice squad and played in NFL Europe in the spring, Herrion's personality made him one of the team's most popular players in a short period of time.

"I know it's one year after, and that time of the year comes back up, but he's with us every day," 49ers lineman Jonas Jennings said. "We see him every day. His locker is right here by mine. It's reality. We can't change it. All we can do is be honorable to him. He's definitely being remembered."

Said 49ers defensive lineman Anthony Adams, "Every time I walk past his locker, I put my fist out. He'll always be there."

--- A regular scene on the 49ers practice field has unfolded as tight end Vernon Davis sees more action.

The offense will run a play and within a nanosecond of its completion, offensive coordinator Norv Turner is yelling at Davis about carrying out his assignment or running his route with more urgency. Davis said he understands the tough love and has no problem with being yelled at.

"Norv is a great offensive coordinator," Davis said. "He's a genius when it comes to that stuff. He sees I have a lot of talent, so he's going to push me. When he sees me make a mistake -- I might make a mistake here and there -- he wants to get it corrected as soon as possible."

--- Barlow, subject of recent trade rumors of him going to the Jets for days before the actual trade happened, was interestingly enough listening to his iPod and singing a version of "New York, New York" in the team locker room. Word even trickled back to the head coach of Barlow's song choice.

"There's some new rap song ... so who knows?" Nolan said. "But that's what it was. I got a kick out of it, too, when they told me."

--- For the first time, right tackle Kwame Harris did not undergo offseason surgery. He is stronger than he's been at any point in his career, he said. He started all 16 games last season, where he yielded 9.5 sacks, according to STATS, Inc., tying him for fourth-most sacks allowed in the league. He was also called for 15 penalties.

But offensive line coach George Warhop said he believes Harris has been unfairly maligned.

"It's like he has a bull's-eye on him. He can't do anything right," Warhop said. "Kwame was probably our most physical offensive lineman. You watch him when we played Tampa Bay and the Chicago Bears ... by the end of the game, they didn't want any part of him.

"I want the guy to be efficient; I want him to be a physical player; and I want him to be smart player. And he's getting to be those things for me."

--- Reserve quarterback Shaun Hill spent four seasons with the Vikings as a backup. Although he suited up for every game of his career, his NFL resume consists of one game and two kneel-downs. He has yet to attempt an NFL pass. He is currently competing against Jesse Palmer for the 49ers' No. 3 job. Hill's only regret is that he has yet to attempt a pass in a regular-season game.

"It's a little disappointing," Hill said. "A lot of third-stringers around the league played throughout those four years, but I never got a chance. Obviously, you don't want people to get hurt, but it would've been nice to get some game exposure at some point in four years. But I had a lot of reps in preseason and felt like I improved."

QUOTE TO NOTE: "If we drafted a weak person, but we didn't. He is very strong inside. He is very resilient, which is important to be a good quarterback. I don't have too many concerns about that. With 11 interceptions and one touchdown, you think he would be shaken, but he is not. He knows he is good." -- 49ers coach Mike Nolan on whether he was worried that QB Alex Smith's rookie struggles might have shattered his confidence.

--- The 49ers were working from a position of strength with their running backs. Barlow and Gore spent the first three weeks of training camp competing for the starting job, with all signs pointing to Gore holding a sizable edge to win the staring job. The club also felt good about its stable of backups: Maurice Hicks, Michael Robinson and Terry Jackson. That is why Nolan and McCloughan made the decision to trade Barlow to the Jets. The Jets were in the market for a running back. They acquired Lee Suggs in a deal with the Browns for cornerback Derrick Strait, but the transaction was voided when Suggs failed his physical.
--- CB Gabe Franklin, who spent last season the practice squads of the Chargers and Giants, was added to the 49ers' roster.
--- OLB Bobby Iwuchukwu was moved into the backup role after rookie Parys Haralson was lost for an extended period of time with a foot strain. Iwuchukwu joined the 49ers two weeks ago. He is an undrafted rookie from Purdue whom the Saints released Aug. 2.
--- K Luis Berlanga, who had missed the first 14 practice days of camp, finally arrived from Mexico. He was unable to get across the border because of paperwork delays. The 49ers plan for Berlanga to see some action this exhibition season.

BATTLE OF THE WEEK: Andy Lee vs. Tom Rouen for punter -- Lee is 15 years younger than Rouen, so he would appear to be the heavy favorite for this job, considering both players had almost identical statistics last season and Lee kicked in difficult conditions at Candlestick. "Right now, it's real close," 49ers coach Mike Nolan said. "Both of those guys are competing not only for the punting job, but the also for the holding job." Rouen was released by the Seahawks after struggling in the Super Bowl with five touchbacks.

--- Shaun Hill vs. Jesse Palmer for the No. 3 QB job. Palmer has the best arm and throws the nicest spiral on the team, but his accuracy has always been the question. Hill has good size and is a tremendous athlete. Both played well in the exhibition opener, but neither got into San Francisco's second preseason game.
--- Offensive lineman Adam Snyder is competing for two starting jobs simultaneously. He is pushing incumbent Kwame Harris for the job at RT, while also seeing time at RG, where Justin Smiley appears to have the inside track for the job. If Snyder is not a starter, he might work into a role as the first player off the sideline at any of the guard or tackle positions. He sustained a setback with a left biceps strain that knocked him out of the second exhibition game.
--- FS Mike Adams vs. Mark Roman vs. Chad Williams. Adams, the incumbent appears to be the front-runner. Both Roman and Williams have struggled in coverage. Adams played some cornerback last season, so he offers more flexibility.
--- Eric Johnson vs. Vernon Davis at TE. The 49ers do not plan to let Davis, the No. 6 overall pick, waste away on the sideline. More than likely, both of these players will see significant action. Because the 49ers are so thin at WR, Johnson and Davis will undoubtedly be used a lot in two-TE formations when a lot of teams would go with three-WR sets.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Rookie TE Delanie Walker has been impressive since making the transition from WR at NCAA Division II Central Missouri State to his new position in the pros. Walker is working hard at his blocking, and he is a force with the ball in his hands. The 49ers have even talked about having him return kickoffs. In the exhibition opener, he returned a kickoff 38 yards, punctuated with a devastating stiff-arm. He also had an impressive return in the team's second exhibition game, breaking away for extra yardage after taking a short kick. Some observers believe Walker has been more impressive in training camp practices than Vernon Davis, the No. 6 overall pick.

--- TE Vernon Davis, the No. 6 overall pick, said the game is slowing down for him as he becomes more accustomed to the team's offense. Offensive coordinator Norv Turner is working Davis hard, as the club expects big results from him this season.
--- OLB Manny Lawson is practicing hard and opening a lot of eyes. He has shown tremendous burst off the ball as a pass-rusher. His coverage skills are a work in progress.
--- OLB Parys Haralson will be out with a foot strain until at least the start of the regular season.
--- WR Brandon Williams figures to be a factor in the return game. Although his workload on offense has increased, he is still fighting to be one of the team's top three or four wideouts
--- DE Melvin Oliver is working as Bryant Young's backup, which has given him a lot of opportunities to play because the club has given Young ample rest time this summer. Oliver is showing good progress and is expected to be in the team's rotation of d-linemen.
--- TE Delanie Walker had done everything asked of him and has a chance to be a real factor for the team this season.
--- CB Marcus Hudson is playing cornerback, where he has been needed due to some injuries. He is competing for a role in the 49ers' nickel coverages.
--- S Vickiel Vaughn has looked like a football player with some big hits on special teams. He will have to earn his keep initially by proving he can be a contributor in that area. He also made some plays on defense in the team's second exhibition game.

--- CB Shawntae Spencer (right hamstring) is expected to be out for the rest of the exhibition season. The club hopes he'll be ready for the Sept. 10 regular-season opener.
--- Rookie LB Parys Haralson (left foot) sustained a moderate to serious strain that is expected to keep him out of action until the regular season. He is wearing an immobilization boot to take pressure off his foot.
--- OL Adam Snyder (biceps) has participated in individual drills but is not scheduled for any live action for a week.
--- DL Jerry DeLoach, who has a partially torn MCL, missed the first two games of the exhibition season. He returned to limited practices last week.
--- LB Renauld Williams (high ankle sprain) will be out another four weeks.
--- G/C Ben Sobieski (neck) will be sidelined another week or so.

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