Singletary Plays Substitute Again

For the second straight day, the San Francisco 49ers were without their leader during practice. Head coach Mike Nolan has been away from the practice facility on what has been called "a family matter".

The exact nature of Nolan's family business has not been disclosed, but it's common knowledge that Nolan's father Dick, who coached the 49ers from 1968 through 1975, is suffering from Alzheimer's Disease and prostate cancer. The elder Nolan lives in an assisted-care facility in the Dallas area.

Assistant head coach Mike Singletary, who ran practice when Nolan attended Bill Walsh's funeral earlier this year, has been in charge for the last two days. The former Chicago Bears linebacker, who's been on many lists as a future head coach himself, spoke to the media after Friday's practice as the team gets ready to face the Seahawks in Seattle on Monday Night Football.

How does running this practice compare to running it in training camp?

"It's a little longer. The stakes are a bit higher, but Mike (Nolan) gave me specific instructions and I followed those in terms of what needs to happen and what needs to get done. I just followed the instructions I was given and everything worked out well."

Can you summarize what you tried to get done today?

"The bottom line is to practice fast and come out hard. Mike (Nolan) emphasized being physical this week and making sure we executed. That's pretty much what we talked about."

Is this a good practice team?

"I think so. Naturally, some days are better than others, but I think so."

Do you foresee any problems with Patrick Willis playing with the club on his hand?

"The best thing about it is that he had a slight injury to his finger in college and he had a club on it. So he is experienced with playing with it. I saw him today. I thought he did a good job with it. I don't see any problems or issues. I think he'll be just fine."

What was the reasoning for giving Jeff Ulbrich playing time on defense?

"The biggest thing about Jeff is that he works hard and does all the things you want him to do. It was a window in our defense for him to step in and do a good job and he fit it well, so we gave him that opportunity."

Is there anything encouraging about Frank Gore's availability for Monday?

"You would have to talk to (Head Athletic Trainer) Jeff Ferguson. I haven't really seen him today."

It looks like Baylor University might have an opening (for a head coach). Would you be interested in that?

"Mike (Nolan) and I have talked about it with all the rumors. For right now, where we are, the most important thing for me is to finish what I came here to do and that is to help this football team be the best football team it can possibly be. The Baylor situation or any other situation that may come about, we will cross that bridge when we get there."

Have they (Baylor) contacted you about an opening?

"No."

How do you look at what's happened to this team in the first half of the season?

"First and foremost, there were some injuries and some other things early on. As Mike (Nolan) has said in the past few days, we got to put it behind us and move forward. I am very encouraged about the last eight games left and doing the things we have to do and getting back in focus."

How much has last year's game in Seattle been raised this week?

"Not much at all. We are two different teams. For us, it's just a matter of getting out there and playing the best we can and finishing tomorrow preparing for the Monday Night game. As far as last year, that was last year. It's over in our minds."

Do you still talk to this team every Wednesday or Thursday?

"Sometimes. From time to time I talk to them and that's the way it's been since I've been here. If there is something to say, I say it, otherwise we just break off into our meetings and do the things we have to do."

Can you remember being a part of a division race like this where it's been so wide open that a 2-6 team has a legitimate shot at the playoffs?

"In my mind, as long as you have as many games left as we have, knowing that I have seen it many times before, teams have started out hot. If you just keep working, fighting, and believing, it's amazing what can happen. It's always been my philosophy going forward and it has not changed yet."

Is this much different today than when you did it in August when Mike Nolan went to the service for Bill Walsh?

"I just think you have a game that means something coming up. This is the second half of the season and we are excited about what we have left, the opportunity, and the challenge. I just think it's an exciting time for us period. We have Mike (Nolan) in our prayers and know that everything down there will go well."


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