Maiocco: Observations from Camp Alex

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Maiocco: Observations from Camp Alex

June 13, 2011MAIOCCO ARCHIVE
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Matt MaioccoCSNBayArea.com

Today marks the one-week anniversary of the opening of "Camp Alex," the first 49ers' players-organized practice sessions since the 1987 strike.Here are some quick thoughts after being around for the final three days of the work at San Jose State:
--There's not much more that could be expected from unsigned quarterback Alex Smith during this work stoppage. He is living up to expectations in March, April, May and June. And none of it will matter one bit unless he also plays well and leads the 49ers to some victories in September, October, November and December.--As much recognition as Alex Smith got for being the ringleader for the week of work, he was not alone. Offensive lineman Joe Staley got in touch with rookies Daniel Kilgore and Mike Person and invited them to bunk at his place. He has stepped up as the leader on the offensive line.WATCH: More video from Camp Alex
--Adam Snyder, who knows every position on the offensive line, also did his fair share when the linemen broke into a separate groups to go over their protection assignments. Snyder, by the way, looks to be in tremendous physical condition. He has dropped his weight to 300 pounds by declining super-sized eating portions. His weight is lower than it has been since he was a sophomore at Oregon, he said.
--Center David Baas said he wants to re-sign with the 49ers. And he proved it when he took a cross-country flight to participate in the final day. He came into the NFL at the same time as Alex Smith, so there's been no system continuity in his career, either. "Let's be honest," Baas said. "I've had six different playbooks. If I can't learn a playbook quickly, something's wrong. I think I messed up and said one old call out there (Thursday) versus a new call. I'm a smart guy. I'm going to pick it up."--Remember the talk a week after the draft that rookie quarterback Colin Kaepernick was going to learn the 49ers' playbook from Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck? "Yeah, that was blown way out of proportion," Kaepernick said. The 49ers' playbook is different from the Stanford playbook. Kaepernick said there was never any talk of getting Luck to teach him the playbook. Luck doesn't even know the 49ers' playbook. If Kaepernick has any questions, he's asking Alex Smith.--And Alex Smith seems to know the playbook very well. His practices were very well organized. And, apparently, so were his hour-long classroom sessions. "Alex is pretty much up there and going through it like the offensive coordinator would," 49ers running back Anthony Dixon said. "It's amazing how much he knows. He know the ins and outs and all the crazy (details) we got. It's great to hear. I'm behind him 100 percent because when your quarterback is out there speaking the offense as fluent as he is, it makes you feel like it's going to be a good year."RELATED: Jim Harbaugh expects July lockout settlement; praises Smith
--Dixon is looking to put himself into position to be more of a contributor after an up-and-down rookie season. "The biggest thing is attitude," Dixon said. "You have to have the right attitude the whole year because it's so long. I feel off last year in that area. This year, I'm going to work on staying mentally focused and the right attitude and mindset."--Rookie running back Kendall Hunter looks quick and explosive. Dixon was happy that the 49ers drafted him because, he said, "They got us more help. Those reps get crazy in camp and in the preseason."
--There's no reason for the defensive players to get together in large groups because there's no teamwork aspects they can practice. Nobody has defensive coordinator Vic Fangio's playbook. That said, Justin Smith is clearly the leader on that side of the ball. He showed up Thursday with first-round pick Aldon Smith tagging along. Isaac Sopoaga, Parys Haralson, Curtis Taylor and Ray McDonald are the other defensive players showing up on a consistent basis.--McDonald, like Alex Smith and David Baas, is a scheduled free agent. I'd be very surprised if all three of those players are not re-signed shortly after the lockout concludes.RELATED: Baas shows commitment after cross country flight
--Yes, I believe Delanie Walker will see more passes come his way as the second tight end. The 49ers have used a lot of two-TE sets the past couple seasons, so Walker's role is not going to change that much. It's just that the 49ers should be better-prepared to exploit mismatches with a more sound offensive philosophy.--One of the goals of last week was to avoid injuries, Alex Smith said. Michael Crabtree took part in the classwork, but he sat out the final three days of practices with foot problems. Second-year receiver Kyle Williams pulled up with a left hamstring strain on the final day. The San Jose State athletic trainers took care of him. He was seen later walking around gingerly. He'll probably take some time off, but he should be OK.
--Speaking of San Jose State . . . The university did a phenomenal job of taking care of the 49ers and the assembled media. Alex Smith asked the director of strength and conditioning Chris Holder to get the players stretched out before practice. Holder gladly obliged. Sports information director Lawrence Fan was equally accommodating and gracious in working with the media members.

Jim Harbaugh: I deserve a medal for lasting so long under 49ers ownership

Jim Harbaugh: I deserve a medal for lasting so long under 49ers ownership

In Kyle Shanahan’s first breath after being introduced as 49ers head coach on Feb. 9, he mentioned Jim Harbaugh, along with Bill Walsh, George Seifert and Steve Mariucci.

The head coach of Michigan was listening, and he appreciated the gesture.

“It was very flattering that he said nice things about us at his news conference, and I appreciated that,” Harbaugh said on "The TK Show," a podcast from Tim Kawakami of the Bay Area News Group.

“Now, I don’t think I was there long enough to be compared with Bill Walsh or Coach Seifert, etc. But I think did – and correct me if I’m wrong – I think we did set a record for coaching there the longest under the present ownership, if I’m not wrong.”

That is correct.

Since John and Denise York took over control of the 49ers in 2000 from Denise’s brother, Eddie DeBartolo, the 49ers have employed eight head coaches. Mike Nolan was fired after seven games of his fourth season. The two coaches who followed Harbaugh -- Jim Tomsula and Chip Kelly -- were fired after 5-11 and 2-14 seasons, respectively.

Harbaugh’s teams advanced to the NFC Championship Game in each of his first three seasons, including a Super Bowl appearance. He and the 49ers “mutually parted ways,” the club announced, immediately after the team finished with an 8-8 record in 2014.

“I take pride in that,” Harbaugh said. “Maybe there should be an endurance medal, a courage medal, for that.”

Shanahan mentioned Harbaugh during his opening remarks at the introductory press conference earlier this month:

“I’ve got to start out thanking Jed and the whole York family. Giving me this opportunity is, it’s a dream come true and it’s not just an opportunity to be a head coach, but to be a head coach at a place like this where you talk about Bill Walsh, you talk about George Seifert, Steve Mariucci, Jim Harbaugh and you can go down the line with the coaches.”

Said Harbaugh, “Just appreciated it. Appreciated it, and not just for me personally, but appreciated that for all the wonderful players we had and the wonderful coaches and the effort that was put in. People poured their hearts and souls into those years. It’s just appreciated that Kyle would make that comment.”

Harbaugh said he has deep respect for Shanahan and new 49ers general manager John Lynch, whom Harbaugh asked to speak to his Stanford teams during his four-year tenure as head coach.

“Yeah, I would’ve loved to have worked for John Lynch,” Harbaugh said. “He reminds me a lot of the athletic director we have here Warde Manuel, who’s also a former player and a teammate of mine. Common sense guys who are team guys, just the way they go about their business always speaks volumes.

“I thought John took note when they were going through the process. e didn’t want his name mentioned and I think that’s . . . I don’t know if a lot of people noticed that, but I think that’s a profound thing. I think that speaks volumes for who he is as a person. He wants to do a good job and it’s for the right reasons. He’s a competitor at the highest level, so I have great respect for that.”

Kawakami also asked Harbaugh about whether he believes quarterback Colin Kaepernick is still capable of being an NFL starter.

“There’s no doubt he can be an NFL starting quarterback,” Harbaugh said.

“I’m sure Kyle, the coaching staff there and John will meet on it, they’ll think about it, they’ll watch, much like we did when we got in there in 2011. And they’ll make the best decision they can for the team and the organization and it’ll play out the way it’s going to play out.”

Lynch's hirings of Peters, Mayhew left no room for Gamble

Lynch's hirings of Peters, Mayhew left no room for Gamble

During the month the 49ers had no general manager or head coach, Tom Gamble was the next-highest-ranking football official and was charge of the personnel department on an interim basis.

But CEO Jed York made it clear from the beginning Gamble, whom Trent Baalke promoted to assistant general manager just prior to the start of training camp last summer, would not be considered for a promotion to general manager.

John Lynch, with no front-office experience, was hired over Arizona’s Terry McDonough and Minnesota’s George Paton. Before Lynch’s introductory press conference, he hired two top lieutenants in the personnel department to usurp Gamble on the organization's power structure.

On Wednesday, the 49ers announced what had become inevitable: Gamble was leaving the organization.

“I must thank Jed, the York family and the entire 49ers organization for the wonderful memories they provided me and my family, but it is time I move on,” Gamble said in a statement. “This past month, I have had the pleasure of working alongside John Lynch and the talented staff he has assembled. The team is in capable hands and I wish them nothing but the best.”

Lynch’s first move as general manager was to hire Adam Peters away from the Denver Broncos to serve as 49ers vice president of player personnel.

Lynch worked alongside Peters when Lynch took part in Broncos meetings and prospect evaluations, which included a trip to the NFL scouting combine, prior to the 2013 draft.

“That month, month-and-a-half, I actually sat next to Adam every day,” Lynch told CSNBayArea.com. “Those are long meetings. I’d listen to him and we’d talk in between about players. I just saw way back then, he’s a guy who’s highly respected in the league. I firmly believe in two, three years, he would’ve been a GM. He was on that track, at least.”

During Lynch’s introductory press conference a week later, he announced the hiring of Martin Mayhew as senior personnel executive. Lynch and Mayhew were teammates in the secondary for Lynch’s first four NFL seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Mayhew spent seven seasons as Detroit Lions general manager. Mayhew should be able to provide Lynch with valuable counsel as learns on the job after spending the past eight seasons as a TV analyst on FOX.

“Martin has sat in the seat as a general manager and his experience will play an integral role in helping us locate the type of football player we want representing this organization both on the field and in the community,” Lynch said.

Gamble recently completed his 29th NFL season and his 10th with the 49ers in two stints. After he was fired as Philadelphia Eagles vice president of personnel late in the 2014 season, and came back to the 49ers in the 2015 offseason.

While with the Eagles, Gamble was one of the few individuals in the front office who worked well with Chip Kelly. Gamble played an important role in speaking up for Kelly and bringing him to the 49ers last offseason.

Kelly and Baalke were fired after the 49ers' 2-14 season, and the 49ers promoted the ability to create a fresh start when a new coach and general manager. While the 49ers were expecting Gamble to remain with the organization through the draft, his spot with the organization was going to be tenuous with a new regime.

“He is a class act who has helped a great deal in this transition, and I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know him,” Lynch said in a statement. “After working together over the last month, Tom and I agreed that it would be in both of our best interests for him to pursue other opportunities.”