When reporters surrounded Anthony Davis at his locker, it didn't take long for the Rutgers offensive lineman to remind everyone he was a rookie. Davis accidentally slipped off of his stool, sending all 323 pounds of him crashing to the floor. Davis got up smiling wide.
"That's going to be a blooper for sure," he said.
The 49ers hope that their No. 11 pick handles the rest of his learning curve with such good nature. They need a right tackle, right now, and they drafted Davis in hopes that he could step in immediately as the anchor opposite Joe Staley.
But despite his draft status, it's not an automatic that Davis will be in the starting lineup in Week 1. Getting a rookie offensive lineman up to speed -- in interviews and on the field -- is difficult in any circumstance and Davis brings the additional challenge of extreme youth: The Rutgers tackle doesn't turn 21 until Oct. 11.
Much will hinge on Mike Solari, the 49ers' new offensive line coach, whose first task is getting Davis and No. 17 pick Mike Iupati adjusted to life in the NFL. Solari shrugged off questions about Davis' tender age by arguing it's an actually asset. "He doesn't have any bad habits to break," Solari said.
Davis played in 38 games (32 starts) at Rutgers. The 49ers think his size and first-step explosiveness and strong initial punch will make for a smooth transition to the NFL. The key hurdle for him will be his ability to handle the speed and relentlessness of defensive ends.
"The hardest adjustment, I believe, is pass protection," Solari said. "Rookie linemen just are not used to the skill and speed of NFL pass rushers. In college, you don't have to pass-block players who have counter-moves. You don't have to play that rusher who comes up the football field and has that much athleticism in space."
Aside from his tumble off the stool, things were uneventful for Davis during his first exposure to NFL competition. The 49ers had their first-round pick working with the second-team offense during spring workouts.
Davis fared fine, although he struggled through some of the conditioning. He was sometimes the last player to finish sprints.
"I'm just coming in and listening to the coaches and try to be the best that I can be," Davis said. "I'm not really thinking about anything else. I think my expectations for myself are a little bit higher than anyone else's."
While much of the talk about the Seahawks' backfield competition has centered around newcomer Leon Washington and former newcomer LenDale White, a somewhat forgotten person who could win the starting job this season is Justin Forsett.
"He has a unique competitiveness about him that makes things happen with the ball in his hands," Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said about Forsett. "We are going to keep rolling with the process -- no judgments to be passed for a long time but we need to get the ball in his hands. He is a capable third-down guy as well so there is a lot he can do. Right now, I don't see any ceiling on how much he can play. It is going to depend on the mix of the guys. He is doing a great job."
The third-year pro out of Cal has looked explosive in team drills during offseason workouts. And although he's only 5-8, 195 pounds, Forsett can effectively run both inside and on the perimeter. Forsett believes he can be an every down back in the league.
"Definitely I think I can do it," he said. "In college I've had over 300 carries in a season, and that's nothing for me. I work hard during the summer to make sure my body is right. I'm ready for it, whatever they want to with me.
"I can do it all. I can go inside of the tackles or go outside. I'm not afraid to bring it inside just because of my stature."
Forsett can point to his numbers in college for those concerned about his durability. He carried the ball 305 times his senior season at Cal in 2007, finishing with 1,546 yards and 15 touchdowns, and posting 5.1 yards per carry.
And in 2009 Forsett put up similar numbers, albeit with less time on the field, finishing with 619 yards on 114 carries for 5.4 yards per carry and four touchdowns.
Forsett started two games last season, struggling against one of the best defenses in the league in Minnesota and finishing with just eight yards on nine carries.
But the next week in St. Louis, Forsett broke out with 130 yards on 22 carries and two touchdowns. Forsett also rushed for over 100 yards at Arizona when Julius Jones went down early in the game with a bruised lung, finishing with 123 yards on 17 carries and a score.
Forsett said the experience from last season let him know that he can get it done at this level.
"It meant a lot, just knowing I could start and get the ball," Forsett said. "I'm OK with getting the ball, 22-23 times a game. And I'm excited about the opportunity. It's been going well so far, so I'm ready for the season to start.
"I couldn't have asked for a better situation. I'm getting an opportunity and everybody's fighting for the job. It's open competition, and every time you get competition everybody's level is going to rise a little bit. We're getting better every day and fighting every day, so it's going well."
As for the running back competition, Forsett understands that will sort itself out during training camp, and is simply trying to put his best foot forward.
"Everybody's cool," he said. "Everybody's real humble and hungry and ready to compete. Everything on the field, we're competing. But off the field they're good guys and we're just hanging out.
"We've got these two guys coming in with Leon and LenDale and they're great guys, so we're helping them out and sharing different things. LenDale knows this offense pretty well from his days in college, so he's adding his little bit in and we're just feeding off of each other."
Carroll believes that Losman gives Seattle more depth and experience at the position, and also will make things more competitive for both Matt Hasselbeck and backup Charlie Whitehurst.
"He's got a terrific arm," Carroll said. "In his workout when we saw him, there was just no question that he had really good control of the football. His accuracy was there and he has fantastic strength in his arm.
"Our guys had evaluated him coming out (of college) and really liked him. We know that he's had a lot of play time that gives him some background. And we think he gives us a chance to be more competitive. And I already talked to Charlie about feeling the push from J.P., and that's how this goes."
What's not to like about adding a quarterback like Losman to the mix?
Losman, 29, washed out of the league in 2008 after five seasons in Buffalo. The confident, Southern California kid admitted to making his share of mistakes when Buffalo anointed him the quarterback of the future in his second season after releasing veteran Drew Bledsoe. But after two roller-coaster seasons in which injuries and poor play has Losman in and out of the lineup, Buffalo drafted Trent Edwards in 2007 and handed him the job a year later. That signaled the end of Losman's tenure. Losman demanded a trade at the end of 2007 after Edwards took over as the starter.
He finished his stay in Buffalo with a 10-23 record as a starter, throwing for over 6,200 yards with 33 touchdowns and 34 interceptions.
The Seahawks immediately put Losman to work, giving him some reps in team drills just a few days after signing him. As expected, Losman showed some rust. But he also showed off the arm strength that made him Buffalo's No. 22 overall pick in the 2004 draft.
For his part, Losman said he was just focused on getting comfortable with the offense on the field and getting the playbook down.
"The last thing to come is the sharpness and the pass efficiency," Losman said. "But right now you're just trying to complete some balls. But as the practice goes on very quickly here, you want to look a little bit sharper."
Carroll said the team is open to adding a fourth quarterback, and will wait and see how the evolution of the roster goes.
"We're really trying to rebuild this thing here," Schneider said. "We're waiting for the league and we're waiting for some of his legal things to be taken care of.
"When you're rebuilding things, you really don't want the distraction, so we just asked him to stay away for the time being, until he resolves some of these personal issues that he has going on."
Asked if Hill would be on the roster this season, Schneider said he's keeping an open mind and does not know for sure what the outcome will be.
"We won't know that for several weeks," he said.
With Hill not in attendance for offseason workouts, David Hawthorne has been filling the spot at weak side, outside backer. New linebackers coach Ken Norton Jr. considers Hawthorne a starter.
"He's extremely explosive, a big-play guy and a very good tackler," Norton said. "He's the type of guy that you can't hold back. You need him on the field. I don't even consider him a backup. He's a starter until someone unseats him."
Half of the current roster was not on the team at this time a year ago.
Carroll said the constant roster movement is part of his overall philosophy of creating competition, and he does not think it takes away from the team developing cohesion as the regular season approaches.
"We think we have to remain open minded to the competitive aspect of bringing guys in here -- for one, to keep the message strong, and two, to keep looking to see if we can find somebody," he said.
"I think in a new program it's really important to do this, and so we're going to keep doing it. And there's no deadline when we're going to try and get everybody comfortable and settled. I don't think that's necessary here. Everybody here knows that this is a very competitive environment, and they're going to have to battle day in, day out. And that's the whole idea."
"We're going to knock on every door," Schneider said. "His agent represents a number of our players, so we've had conversations regarding Terrell, but nothing substantial."
Schneider would not close the book on the team pursuing veteran wide receiver Terrell Owens, but he did say that the team probably would not move in that direction unless "something drastic happens."
ST. LOUIS RAMS
Fans want big splashes in free agency and big names added to the roster in the offseason, but Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo is counting on something else that will lead to improvement for the 2010 season.
When a roster is as young as the Rams, significant progress from those younger players is mandatory. And, a large part of that comes from the comfort level of players being in the same system for the second consecutive year.
Consider that for all the players drafted in 2008, most notably defensive end Chris Long and wide receiver Donnie Avery, any advancement they experienced during their rookie season was immediately negated by having to learn a new system last year when Spagnuolo was hired.
"It's a whole different feeling," Avery said of this offseason, compared to the last two. "Knowing the nuances of the offense, how to get open. You're just more comfortable, and can just play without thinking all the time."
Defensively, Spagnuolo can already see the difference after just four OTA sessions.
"There's a huge comfort level there," Spagnuolo said. "I felt that, and I actually jotted something down on my notes here that we're certainly ahead of where we were last year defensively with the communication and getting things set and people feeling comfortable. Defenses are reactionary, so when you eliminate the learning curve of thinking instead of reacting, you usually play better defense. They play faster, so I think we're getting there."
Noting the difference from last year at this time to now, cornerback Ron Bartell said, "It's like night and day. Me and the guys were talking about how we feel so much different from last year's OTAs to this year's OTAs. We're just playing a lot faster -- a lot more crisp. Hopefully, it translates into the games when the real bullets start to fly. But as of right now it's like night and day."
Ever since Kroenke exercised his right of first refusal to purchase the 60 percent of the team being sold by Chip Rosenbloom and Lucia Rodriguez on April 12, there has only been speculation regarding Kroenke's plan to comply with NFL cross-ownership rules.
Because he currently owns the NBA's Denver Nuggets and NHL's Colorado Avalanche, league rules say he can't own an NFL team in a different market. It is believed Kroenke has asked the league for a grace period to sell his Denver teams, and that the NFL will allow them to be sold to family members, either his son and/or wife.
The league held its spring meeting in Dallas Tuesday, and Kroenke met with the Finance Committee the day before.
"We introduced our information and we're working through it," Kroenke told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "And that's what it is. That's what I've always thought it was. They have the information. We're working through the process. We're respectful of the process."
Asked his plan, Kroenke would only say, "I'll let (the league) do that."
Of course, the league didn't do that, with commissioner Roger Goodell saying, "That's still a little bit of a moving target. That's part of the discussions that we had with Stan. But Stan has made it very clear that he wants to be compliant with NFL rules, and that he is willing to work towards finding a way to do that. And that's what our (finance) committee's willing to do."
The status of the situation was discussed Tuesday, but only briefly. In terms of when everything could be final, Goodell said, "I don't expect another meeting until August. We'll continue to work on (the situation) over the summer, but it will be our hope to be able to address that prior to the start of the regular season."
To that, Kroenke said, "I think that's up to the people in the room. We're on their time frame. It's not my time frame."
New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson, co-chair of the finance committee, told the Post-Dispatch, "Everybody wants him as an owner, I can tell you."
However, he did acknowledge hearing that message consistently from former Rams receiver Torry Holt during the 2008 season.
Said Avery, "Torry would always talk about the importance of eating healthy, that it was a big key to a long career. I just brushed him off when he'd say, 'Don't eat that pizza, have a salad.' But I can now see what he was talking about. I just feel better."
Head coach Spagnuolo was pleased with the offseason work Avery did.
"I like the fact that he did that," Spagnuolo said. "I think it makes you more durable. You get wacked around pretty good when you catch the football, so I think that's going to help him out."
Signed as a free agent in the offseason was Darcy Johnson, formerly of the Giants, and selected in the draft were Michael Hoomanawanui (fifth round) and Fendi Onobun (sixth).
Johnson has excellent size. Hoomanawanui, who wasn't used extensively as a receiver at Illinois, has shown soft hands and the ability to catch in the early OTAs. Onobun, who played only one season of college football, has freakish athletic ability, but has to be consistent catching the ball.
Tuesday, Hoomanawanui made an outstanding one-handed catch the day after Onobun had some issues with drops.
"We saw him make those kinds of catches on Illinois film," Spagnuolo said of Hoomanawanui. "He's got that in him. I do think he's got a good set of hands."
Of Onobun, Spagnuolo said of transferring his basketball ability to the football field, "You see that part of the ability. Now, we're a long ways away from the football part of it, listening to the cadence and not going offside, but he's a great kid, he's a hard worker. (Tight ends coach) Frank Leonard does a great job with him. He'll get better every day. He's only in his, whatever, eighth practice. He'll be good."
As for the drops, Spagnuolo said, "I'm always discouraged when guys drop it. He wasn't the only one though."
The following week will be a busy one with OTAs Monday and Tuesday, June 7-8, and the mandatory minicamp from Thursday through Saturday (June 10-12). The OTAs wrap up the following week with four scheduled practices June 14-17. By agreement between the league and NFL Players Association, teams can have only 14 OTAs, not including the minicamp.