Maiocco: Not a good day for 49ers All-Pro inside linebackers
Patrick Willis played two games in 2010 with a broken right hand. (USA TODAY IMAGES)
In six seasons in the NFL, Patrick Willis has been named First-Team All-Pro five times -- '07, '09-'12
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Willis sidelined: Linebacker Patrick Willis sustained an injury Wednesday afternoon and spent most of the practice with a large wrap on his right hand. Willis appeared to sustain the injury in a blitz pickup drill while matched against fullback Bruce Miller.
Willis watched the remainder of the 2 1/2-hour practice from the field, so he did not immediately undergo X-rays. After practice, he politely declined to sign autographs for fans, pointing to his right hand.
What's unsettling is that Willis has a history of injuries to his right hand.
Willis played two full games with a broken right hand in 2010. When the 49ers were eliminated from playoff contention, he sat out the final game of the season. In 2007, he played with a cast on his right hand after sustaining a break.
In college, he played most of the 2005 season at Ole Miss with a cast on his right hand due to a broken finger.
With Willis out of the lineup, backup Michael Wilhoite took over the first-team reps. He lined up alongside NaVorro Bowman, who returned to practice after missing a practice with a sore groin. Bowman left practice late, and was replaced by Nick Moody. It was not known if Bowman aggravated his groin strain.
Practice summary: The day started off poorly for the 49ers' All-Pro linebackers. Willis dropped a pass fired his way by defensive assistant Peter Hansen during a warmup drill. Then, Bowman tripped over the bags before the pass came his way.
"Two big-time inside linebackers," bellowed linebackers coach Jim Leavitt. "They looked pretty good there. . . Want to try it again?"
The linebackers obliged and re-started the drill.
Quarterback Colin Kaepernick and tight end Vernon Davis were not quite as sharp on Wednesday as they had been on previous days. The pair did not hook up on what had become a daily dose of deep passes. Linebacker Nate Stupar intercepted a Kaepernick pass intended for Davis in the end zone.
Cornerbacks Chris Culliver and Nnamdi Asomugha also recorded interceptions. Culliver's pick came against Scott Tolzien, while Asomugha intercepted Kaepernick on a pass intended for Chad Hall that he first deflected into the air.
Asomugha had his best day of practice, including good defense against speedster Marlon Moore on a go-route throw from Kaepernick, and a breakup of a pass for Anquan Boldin in the end zone.
Culliver experienced a right upper-body injury that brought an end to his practice day. He took off his pads so team doctors could examine his right shoulder or pectoral region.
Offensive play of the day: Kaepernick found another tight end on a deep route. Kaeperick's best pass of the day came on a 25-yarder along the left sideline that barely got over the reach of cornerback Tramaine Brock and into the hands of tight end Garrett Celek.
Defensive play of the day: During a red-zone period, Asomugha found himself matched against Boldin in the right front corner of the end zone. Kaepernick's pass was high and Asomugha went up with Boldin and knocked the ball away to prevent the touchdown.
Rookie report: FS Eric Reid, lining up with the second-team defense, had a good day in coverage on a couple deep patterns. . . WR Quinton Patton again ran routes with the blue jersey on. During individual period he even caught a pass with his right hand. He has a cast on his left hand and has not used that hand to catch a pass since full-squad practices began last week.
[RELATED: Patton follows orders, lets passes drop]
Blitz pick-up: The 49ers opened practice with a blitz drill. LaMichael James did a good job against Bowman, and Jewel Hampton was very solid against Michael Wilhoite and Nick Moody. Rookie D.J. Harper matched up very well against Stupar. It was a mixed bag for rookie tight end Vance McDonald. He fared all right against Cam Johnson during their first two rounds, but lost leverage and was pushed backward on their third meeting.
Referee reunion: Four NFL referees spent their first day with the team. One of the officials on hand is umpire Garth DeFelice. Justin Smith was ejected from game against San Diego in 2010 for shoving DeFelice while in an altercation with a Chargers player. Smith was not fined for the incident.
On the sideline: C Jonathan Goodwin and OLB Aldon Smith did not suit up for practice for unspecified reasons. In addition to Willis, Culliver and Bowman, rookie OT Carter Bykowski walked off the practice field with an injury. NT Glenn Dorsey appeared to sustain a left hand injury, but he was able to return to practice. Jenkins, Williams and Osgood did not practice. WR Michael Crabtree (Achilles), RB Kendall Hunter (Achilles), WR Mario Manningham (knee) are on the active PUP list. RB Marcus Lattimore (knee), DE Tank Carradine (knee), DT Quinton Dial (toe) and OT Luke Marquardt (foot) are on the active non-football injury list.
Quote of the day: "He's come far just since I got here. These last two, three practices he's just been on the money. We're running the right routes, but he's putting it where it needs to be."
--49ers receiver Chad Hall, who originally signed with the 49ers on Nov. 27, on Kaepernick.