Moss a mystery as he returns to Lambeau

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Moss a mystery as he returns to Lambeau

SANTA CLARA -- Wide receiver Randy Moss has scored more receiving touchdowns -- 13 in the regular season and two more in the playoffs -- against the Green Bay Packers than anyone in the history of the NFL.While with the Minnesota Vikings for the first seven seasons of his career, Moss played against the Packers twice every season.He knew the Packers. And the Packers knew him.When Moss, 35, returns to Lambeau Field on Sunday as a starting 49ers receiver, there will be an element of mystery. After all, Moss has played against the Packers only once in the past seven seasons. Moreover, there's not much recent tape for Green Bay to study on him. He did not see a lot of action in the exhibition season after sitting out all of 2011.Moss and fellow 49ers newcomer Mario Manningham, the presumptive third receiver, give the 49ers' passing game a new look that will be unveiled Sunday against the Packers."It definitely gives them a different dimension, no doubt about it," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said in a conference call Wednesday with Bay Area reporters. "We had the whole offseason to study film, and they've added a lot to their perimeter. Their vertical passing game has improved a lot just getting off the bus."It's a dynamic perimeter."Moss suggested Wednesday that it remains a work in progress, as he and quarterback Alex Smith continue to build a rapport.Moss played just 30 snaps in the first three exhibition games. He caught two passes from Smith for 18 yards against the Houston Texans in the second exhibition game. In the third game, Smith overthrew a triple-covered Moss on a deep route against the Denver Broncos -- perhaps to show the Packers that Smith will not be bashful about targeting Moss on deep routes. Moss sat out the final tuneup.When asked Wednesday if he feels he has developed good chemistry with Smith, Moss answered, "Well, I don't think any receiver really feels like they're where they want to be going into the season. The only thing I can really hang my hat on is we put enough work in to go into Week 1. That's all I can really say."RELATED: Randy Moss career stats News
Moss has been a stalwart on the practice field since signing a one-year, 1.75 million contract with the 49ers after sitting out last season. Moss can earn an additional 2.25 million through incentives. He did not miss a day of training camp, so the 49ers believe they know exactly what Moss can do."He's good," 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said. "He's darn good. We feel great about him.""I think we've seen it out here on the practice field -- no doubt in my mind," Alex Smith said. "It's a matter of all of us taking it to the game field. The great thing, as an offense, you continue to remain multiple, balanced, and do a lot of different things. It create a lot of problems for (defenses) and they don't know where it's coming from. And Randy's a piece of that."Smith said the element of the unknown is something that can work in the 49ers' favor."A guy like Randy and the unique tool set that he has creates a lot of problems," Smith said. "He gives them a lot to think about, a guy who has big-play potential."In the past, Moss has flashed plenty of his big-play potential against the Packers, averaging 90.9 yards receiving per game in those head-to-head matchups. With 57 receiving yards Sunday, Moss would surpass Elroy Hirsch for most career receiving yards against Green Bay.Moss' two most-memorable games against the Packers were his first and last at Lambeau Field while with the Vikings. As a rookie in 1998, Moss enjoyed his breakout game with a five-catch, 190-yard, two-touchdown performance. In the 2004 playoffs, he caught two touchdown passes and famously pretended to "moon" the Lambeau crowd.On Wednesday when Moss met with several members of the Bay Area media after practice, he referenced that episode."I've had success on that field -- won and lost," Moss said. "And I just don't like people bringing up the old stuff. I tried to have fun with the fans -- tried to have fun. But at the same time, I want to go out here and compete. I think it's a good thing that my comeback -- or whatever you want to consider it . . . Lambeau's a nice place to start it."Manningham will also be starting his 49ers career after playing his first four NFL seasons with the New York Giants. There was never much doubt that Moss would team with Michael Crabtree to be the 49ers' starting receivers. Manningham returned to full practice Wednesday after leaving the club two weeks ago to attend the funeral of his grandfather in Ohio."Mario was back here on the off-days and getting re-acclimated and familiar with everything," Harbaugh said. "Again, (it's an) important week of preparation and we'll feel good day-by-day. We'll feel good as we do the work and get the confidence that will make us competitive."The 49ers signed Manningham to a two-year, 7.5 million contract in the offseason after catching 39 passes for 523 yards and four touchdowns for the Super Bowl-winning New York Giants."I can't wait," Manningham said. "I'm excited to go out and play on a new team and show what I got and see how we are as a team."

49ers reissue Bryant Young's number

49ers reissue Bryant Young's number

SANTA CLARA -- For the first time since Bryant Young retired following the 2007 season, the 49eres have placed his old number back into service.

Linebacker Dekoda Watson was issued No. 97 for the team’s organized team activities this week.

Young was a four-time Pro Bowl selection and eight-time winner of the Len Eshmont Award as the 49ers’ most inspirational and courageous player. No 49ers player has worn No. 97 in the past nine seasons or offseasons.

Rookie defensive lineman Solomon Thomas is now wearing No. 94 after being issued No. 96 for the rookie minicamp. Linebacker Reuben Foster is wearing No. 56.

Rookie defensive tackle D.J. Jones now wearing No. 96. Cornerback Rashard Robinson switched back to No. 33 after an earlier change to No. 26. Running back Kapri Bibbs is now 26. Rookie running back Joe Williams is No. 32 after wearing No. 33 at the NFLPA Rookie Premiere in Los Angeles over the weekend. Veteran running back Tim Hightower is wearing No. 22.

49ers begin final phase of offseason program

49ers begin final phase of offseason program

The 49ers have graduated back to the phase of the offseason when offense-vs.-defense drills are allowed.

Because of the hiring of Kyle Shanahan, the 49ers were allowed an additional “voluntary” minicamp before the NFL draft. That meant the 49ers were permitted to skip from the two-week conditioning phase of the offseason straight to what is allowed under Phase III.

But after the three-day minicamp in late-April, the 49ers were forced to retreat back to Phase II, when on-field drills but could not include offense vs. defense.

Beginning Monday – and over the next three weeks -- the 49ers can get back to conducting the standard one-on-one, 7-on-7, 9-on-7 and 11-on-11 "non-contact" drills. The 49ers have the maximum number of 10 organized team activities scheduled. The official offseason program concludes with a mandatory minicamp scheduled for June 13-15.

The real competition does not begin until the pads go on during training camp. but here’s a look at the team’s most notable offseason competitions (one position you will not find is quarterback, where the depth chart of Brian Hoyer, Matt Barkley and C.J. Beathard appears clearly set):

Running back: Carlos Hyde, entering the final year of his original four-year contract, has a lot of competition to hold onto his role as the featured back. He is coming off his most-productive season, finishing just 12 yards shy of the 1,000-yard mark when he sustained a knee injury with one game remaining. Shanahan and running backs coach Bobby Turner lobbied for Utah running back Joe Williams in the draft. They clearly see a fit for him within the system.

Pass-rush end: The 49ers’ pass rush was among the worst in the NFL the past two seasons. Arik Armstead will be given an opportunity to see if he can adapt to the “Leo” position. Aaron Lynch must earn the confidence of the coaching staff and front office. The 49ers added explosive, 243-pound pass Pita Taumoepenu in the sixth round.

Tight end: The 49ers confirmed Vance McDonald was available for a trade during the draft. After finding no takers, the 49ers brought back McDonald and he rejoins the competition among rookies George Kittle and Cole Hikutini, and veterans Logan Paulsen, Garrett Celek and Blake Bell.

Cornerback: Rashard Robinson is the obvious choice to start on one side. And assuming Jimmie Ward remains at free safety, the 49ers have no other player on the roster who has started a significant number of games at cornerback. Rookie Ahkello Witherspoon, a third-round draft pick, will have a legitimate opportunity to win a starting job, as long as he displays a willingness to stick his nose into the action and play with the requisite level of physicality. Dontae Johnson, Keith Reaser and Will Redmond should also be in the mix to replace Tramaine Brock, who was released shortly after his arrest after an alleged domestic incident last month.

Center: Jeremy Zuttah, a Pro Bowl performer, was added in the offseason via a trade with the Baltimore Ravens. Daniel Kilgore has been the 49ers’ center the past three seasons but injuries have limited him to just 23 starts over that period of time. Zuttah has position flexibility. The 49ers could determine the best thing for the offensive line is to move Zuttah to one of the guard positions – to challenge Zane Beadles or Joshua Garnett -- if he is not clearly better than Kilgore.

Weakside linebacker: The 49ers signed veteran Malcolm Smith on the first day of free agency, providing him with $11.5 million of fully guaranteed money. The 49ers ranked Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster as the No. 3 overall prospect in the draft. They traded up to select him at No. 31 overall. Assuming Foster is ready to compete at the beginning of training camp after undergoing offseason shoulder surgery, it appears likely he would line up in that position and compete with Smith. The 49ers’ medical staff does not believe Foster will require any additional surgery, and Foster said he expects to be cleared for the opening of camp.