SANTA CLARA, Calif. – One of the toughest things about being a rookie linebacker for the San Francisco 49ers is that your coach is Mike Singletary, a Hall of Fame linebacker who played with unmatched intensity.
On Thursday, Singletary – who is typically quiet during practices – was particularly animated with several young linebackers during a man-to-man coverage drill against the team's running backs. On several occasions, he gave an earful to rookies NaVorro Bowman, Keaton Kristick and Mike Balogun, chastising them for looking back at the quarterback rather than concentrate on their man.
"Normally, when they come in from college, they haven't worked a lot of man coverage," Singletary said later. "We've talked about man coverage and gone through some of the technique, but it's getting (them) out of the habit of trying to cover the guy and at the same time look back at the quarterback, which is basically what they did in college. The only way to break them of that habit is repetition and constantly reminding them that you can't do that at this level."
One reason Singletary seemed to press the issue with the rookies is that he wants them to be prepared quickly in case they're needed when the season begins.
"Some of these young guys, we may have to depend on them this year, so they don't have a lot of time. We have to make sure they're ready to go and focus on getting good reps in."
MISSING FROM ACTION: Wide receiver Michael Crabtree and tight end Vernon Davis were absent again from practice although both did individual work on the side. Crabtree, who has a neck strain, hasn't taken part in 11-on-11 drills since Aug. 11. "We're going to take it one day at a time and not rush them back," Singletary said. He would not rule out their availability on Sunday.
Others who sat out: offensive lineman Adam Snyder (concussion), defensive lineman Ray McDonald (general soreness), tight end Nate Byham (ill) and linebacker Brandon Long (knee). Running back Brian Westbrook and defensive lineman Demetric Evans had the morning off as a "veteran courtesy."
PATRICK ON IR: Offensive lineman Chris Patrick, who was waived/injured by the team on Wednesday, cleared waivers. The team put him on its injured reserve list, meaning he's out for the season.
EASY DOES IT: Brian Westbrook was held out of the morning practice and spent most of his time listening to running backs coach Tom Rathman explain what he was seeing during the workout. Singletary said he hopes to work in Westbrook gradually but said he's aware that the team's new running back did not often take part in practices with his former team, the Philadelphia Eagles.
"I've always believed that in order to be effective you have to practice some," Singletary said. "I know that he didn't practice a lot with his old team. We understood that coming in. I just want to make sure he practices enough in the new system where he's able to pick it up and get the timing down and knows exactly what he's doing."