SANTA CLARA -- Leonard Davis has started every NFL game he has ever played. That's 155 starts, which includes a stretch of 64 straight games from 2007 and 2010. But what the three-time Pro Bowl guard wants starting with Friday night's preseason game against the Vikings is snaps -- as many as he can get."For me right now, as much as possible," Davis said. "I got to get out and play and get comfortable, and right now, it's not like I've been here, been around and know the system. . . . For me to go and play this preseason that is going to mean a lot for me."Davis signed a one-year deal with the 49ers the day veteran players reported for training camp. He has been cramming to learn the offense in the 15 days since."It was tough at first. We were doing a lot of installation, and what was crazy was we had to do an install and then I'd have to kind of learn everything from that day, and then the next day we're doing more, so it was kind of piling up. I was getting a little frustrated a bit at first," Davis explained. "I've ran all the same plays, but it's just a lot of nuances and how we go about executing plays. But from where I was from when I first got here to where I am now it's a big difference. I'm more comfortable with it now."Up until the 2011 season, Davis had never started fewer than 14 games a season, including all 16 regular-season games his rookie year in 2001. It is not hard to understand why. Head coach Jim Harbaugh described the 6-feet-6, 355-pound Davis as "probably the largest man I've ever stood toe-to-toe and knee-to-knee with in my entire life." He dominates with his size and strength. But his drive to keep learning and improving while he competes with Alex Boone to be the starting right guard, has impressed his quarterback."There are many guys that have played as long as he has that have a lot of egos especially when it comes to preseason," Alex Smith said. "A guy that's been the starter, been to Pro Bowls and all of sudden he's not in that role anymore. It's hard for them to handle that. He's a guy I really feel like checks his ego and just comes to work every single day no matter what's asked of him. . . . Whatever it is, he's willing and wants to get the reps and take advantage of it.""My thing was knowing the offense and getting as comfortable with it as possible," Davis said, "And also, while doing that, striving to work on technique and being conscious of what I'm actually doing and how I go about executing assignments."The only down year of Davis' career came last season. After starting 16 regular season games and one playoff game for the Cowboys in 2010, Dallas released him before the start of their 2011 training camp. The move reportedly saved the team 9.5 million in cap space. The Lions signed Davis halfway through the season but never activated him for a game. When a player with as much game experience as Davis misses an entire season, questions begin to arise over his future production. He worked during the offseason to provide answers.Davis is currently 20 pounds lighter than he has ever been in his career. He also underwent offseason foot surgery from which he is now completely healed. Physically, Davis feels good. He has no problems other than the usual nicks from practice. He is ready to prove himself, ready to be a starter again and ready for the usual nicks that come from taking snaps in a game. As many as he can get.
CHICAGO – The 49ers trained for the expected low-30s temperature and snow at Soldier Field with a week of workouts in the 80-degree heat of Florida.
However, the team’s specialists got some practice handling wet footballs during the 49ers’ final practice in Orlando, Fla.
Special-teams coordinator Derius Swinton and his assistant, Michael Clay, made a game of it. Long-snapper Kyle Nelson had to execute 10 perfect snaps to holder Bradley Pinion for field goals. Then, Pinion moved back to punt formation, where another 10 in a row were required.
But they had to be perfect while Swinton and Clay squirted water on the ball and at the hands of Nelson and Pinion, who also received a blast of water in his ear hole at one point.
“We always look up to see if there’s a chance of rain or snow, and we go, ‘Wet-ball drill,’ ” Nelson said. “They (Swinton and Clay) get to have fun, squirting water on us and use the water bottles.
“They make it as bad as possible.”
Nelson and Pinion teamed up to execute perfectly on all 20 field goals and punts.
“If I can do this, in a game it’s going to be even easier,” Nelson said. “They make it a lot harder in practice than it is in a game, so when we get to a game, everything is not as fast.”
The weather conditions on Sunday against the Chicago Bears will likely challenge Nelson, Pinion and kicker Phil Dawson as much as anyone. Dawson has been tracking the weather forecasts for more than a week to get mentally prepared for what he might face.
“Soldier Field is notorious for being a tough place to kick because of the wind and the field itself,” Dawson said this week on the 49ers Insider Podcast. “The footing is pretty poor. So when you add snow and moisture to the equation, it’s going to be one of those days.
“You need to have conversations with your coaches and let them know – be honest with them – about the difficulty. But you have to do that without it affecting your confidence to go out and get the job done.”
Said Nelson, “It takes more focus in bad weather. The snaps have to be a little more perfect. Bradley has to focus more on catching the ball, and Phil has to concentrate on the approach and be more cautious.”
Mark Helfrich had a strong indication he would be fired as Oregon’s head coach. And he said he told Chip Kelly recently he would have no hard feelings if Kelly left the 49ers to return to coach the Ducks.
Kelly this week said he is not interested in abandoning his job with the 49ers to coach in the college ranks. Helfrich suggested during a radio interview on Friday that Kelly told him the same thing privately.
When it was suggested that Kelly hated to recruit, Helfrich did not disagree.
"That's a fact," Helfrich said in an interview on ESPN Radio's Russillo and Kanell. "I don't know hated recruiting. . . a dislike. A strong dislike. But I think Chip has that challenge in his mind right now to make it right in the NFL.
"I had some of those conversations with him a couple weeks ago when it looked like this was going south. That was a very awkward converation, but (I) just wanted to let him know that to take our personal relationship out of it in every way, shape or form if he wanted to consider this.
"But, me, reading between the lines, I think he wants to make it right in the NFL. I think he wants to win at that level. He's had a rough go of it this year, but he'll get it right."
Kelly compiled a 46-7 record in four seasons in Eugene, Ore. He left after the 2012 season to accept the head-coaching job with the Philadelphia Eagles. Kelly was fired late last season and took the 49ers job two weeks later.
In Kelly’s first season with the 49ers, the club is 1-10. The 49ers are on a franchise-long 10-game losing streak entering Sunday’s game against the Chicago Bears.
Helfrich was 37-16 in his four seasons at Oregon after his promotion from offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Kelly said he spoke with Helfrich the morning after he was fired.
“I just felt bad for Mark. I love him like a brother,” Kelly said. “He’s a tremendous person. He’s a hell of a football coach, but he’s an even better person. Just felt for him and the rest of the guys on that staff. It’s an unfortunate thing that goes on in this profession. We all know about it when we sign up, but when it happens you’re still taken aback by it.”
Kelly said he hoped his denial of any interest in the Oregon job would end all speculation about his future. When asked if intends to remain with the 49ers, Kelly said on Wednesday, “Yep. So we're all done with that, I hope."