--- The Stand Up Guy Award from Week One of camp goes to Mike Rumph, who got his butt in camp early - he was the eighth first-round pick to sign in the NFL this year - and then started working it off the minute he hit the field Tuesday. We've been a little harsh on Rumph in this space due to his slow grasp of the system in spring drills complicated by his July 6 arrest for alleged drunken driving. But it's time to give the guy some kudos that he truly deserves.
Just as we anticipated, Rumph has looked very good - we hesitate to say great - in pads. He is big and rangy and instinctive and surprisingly quick. He hasn't been allowed to lay out anyone yet in contact drills, and that is unlikely to happen much if ever in practice with teammates, but I'd say already that those Rams receivers - along with the rest of the NFL's receivers - better be ready when Rumph is patrolling their area. Or vice versa. He is working hard in camp and his development has been nothing short of eye-opening. The guy is a player.
He also is a man. Rumph is taking full responsibility for the Miami incident, and that's something he needed to do in a public forum since nobody heard from him for two weeks after it happened. Once in camp, Rumph didn't back away from the tough questions, saying, "I'm kind of glad that it happened, so I can just get focused on what I need to do right now and just commit to football a lot more seriously, because I know now it's not college no more. It's the NFL. You've got to be who you've got to be when you wear that logo. I know that now. I learned it firsthand."
Yes you do, Mike. And yes you did, Mike. And yes, we're glad to hear you say it.
--- Rumph says any legal issues surrounding his arrest won't follow him around in training camp or into the regular season. "I can't say too much about it, but it's going real well and it's going to blow right over," he said. "It's a lot less than they made it out to be." Apparently, Rumph failed a Breathalyzer test when his blood alcohol level was barely over the legal limit. While it may have been a little irresponsible that he allowed himself to be in that situation - particularly after teammates Vinny Sutherland and Jeremy Newberry were arrested a week apart in May - we no longer have any question about Rumph's character. Neither does the team. "I don't have any doubt in my mind that Mike is one of our gentlemen on this football team, and is a great citizen, and he's going to be a heck of a 49er for us and off the field."
We ditto those sentiments. For a rookie, Rumph did a fine job of putting this all behind him.
--- The Niners return to practice at UOP on Monday, and then it's just two more days and four more practice sessions before the team disappears for six days and jets off to Osaka, Japan, for its Aug. 3 American Bowl game against the Washington Redskins. We're really anticipating that outing for one reason in particular: To see how Tim Rattay, Cade McNown and Brandon Doman look in a game situation.
We know how Jeff Garcia looks. He and the other starters are likely to get a first-quarter cameo and then depart the playing premises fast, leaving much of the QB duties to Rattay, in particular, and the two guys ostensibly fighting it out to be No. 3.
Besides the occasional forced pass into coverage, Rattay has looked sharp in camp. But then he usually does in practice. We've got to see if he can carry that over into the games, since it has been so long since he actually has played in one. We're also interested to see who goes in first after Rattay - Doman or McNown. The depth chart says McNown; the performance through one week of camp says Doman. Coach Steve Mariucci isn't saying anything yet. At this point, it's a close call.
But McNown's bumpy first week with the team must have the Niners thinking they really have to start taking a serious look at this guy - and fast. Doman looks like too much of a prospect to dump simply because of McNown's veteran experience of starting 15 NFL games for a lousy Chicago team.
--- We like the Derrick Deese-Scott Gragg tackle tandem better now than we ever have. Just thought we'd mention that. Both players are starting to get up their a little bit in wear and tear, and this very well could be their final season of combined top-quality production, but both are primed to have possibly their best years in the NFL. These guys have been doing the job in camp.
--- We noticed that cornerback Jason Webster picked up an extra 10 pounds in the offseason. Nice set of biceps, by the way, Jason. We also have noticed him draped to receivers in passing drills like never before. The guy has always been the Niners' quickest cornerback; now he wants to be one of their toughest, too.
"Just trying to be more physical," the mild-mannered Jason said. "I kind of rely on one aspect sometimes - and that's speed and quickness. But you've got to change it up. Because (opponents) study you just like you study them."
So how does he get more physical? "I'm still working on it," he said, laughing. But actually, the work is starting to show. Webster said he got up to 190 pounds in the offseason (he's barely 5-foot-9), and while he has cut a bit of that off for camp, he still has come in looking bigger ... and meaner. "Just trying to work on my weaknesses," he said. Size is the only thing stopping this guy from being a topflight NFL cornerback. But he's working on it.
--- Quote of the Week I: Steve Mariucci, when asked how rookie Frank Strong - who makes at least one big play a day in practice, despite his limited reps - was looking in camp: "Frankly, he looked strong."
--- Quote of the Week II: Derrick Deese, when asked - with the preseason game in Osaka looming - how fluent is his Japanese: "Probably ghetto."
You really had to be there to fully appreciate that one.