SANTA CLARA –- Tight end Vance McDonald made an extraordinary reception on a seam route late in Thursday’s non-padded practice.
But he made it a lot more difficult than necessary.
McDonald lined up the right slot and got off the line of scrimmage and into the clear during an 11-on-11 drill. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick fired a rocket toward McDonald. The ball was seemingly halfway to the target when McDonald turned around just in time to reach out away from his body to make the remarkable catch.
As it turns out, McDonald should've been looking back sooner to track the ball.
“We’d like to get him around a little bit quicker there,” 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman said of McDonald. “I think entirely, us as an offense going through training camp, everything is not going to be perfect. And I don’t know that we’d want it to be. There are things that we need to see, do and go through to prepare ourselves for a long season.”
McDonald, who caught just eight passes for 119 yards as a rookie, has put together a solid training camp. He had a couple of drops on Thursday, but Roman said he has noticed good progress from a year ago.
“(With) a year under his belt, he’s a lot better player than he was when he got here a year ago,” Roman said. “He’s certainly better off for being exposed to everything that he’s been exposed to last year in terms of offseason, training camp, preseason, regular season, playoffs. He’s got a lot of experience under his belt. Played a lot of snaps as a first-year player.”
Here are some other notes and observations from the 49ers’ seventh practice of training camp:
--Kaepernick had a very good day, as he completed 14 of 17 pass attempts during 11-on-11 drills. Quinton Patton got cornerback Perrish Cox to bite on a double-move, and Kaepernick lofted a perfect 20-yard touchdown pass.
--Wide receivers Michael Crabtree and Brandon Lloyd sat out practice with minor injuries, Roman said.
--Anquan Boldin and Stevie Johnson made nice catches at the sideline down the field against the coverages of Darryl Morris and Dontae Johnson, respectively.
--Rookie linebacker Chris Borland broke up a pass intended for McDonald, and two players later broke through for a would-be sack of Kaepernick.
--After muffing his first punt return of the day, rookie Bruce Ellington negotiated the wind to handle two other blasts from All-Pro punter Andy Lee.
Daily transactions: None.
Returned to practice: LB Aldon Smith (hearing in Los Angeles), CB Chris Culliver (leg), WR C Marcus Martin (ankle, limited), LB Aaron Lynch (hamstring, limited), WR Jonathan Baldwin (NA).
Did not practice: WR Michael Crabtree (leg), WR Brandon Lloyd (NA), DL Demarcus Dobbs (NA), RB LaMichael James (dislocated elbow), RB Kendall Hunter (torn right ACL), CB Tramaine Brock (ankle), CB Chris Culliver (leg), DL Justin Smith (offseason shoulder surgery), DL Ray McDonald (leg), RT Anthony Davis (offseason shoulder surgery).
Physically unable to perform: LB NaVorro Bowman (knee), NT Ian Williams (lower leg), TE Garrett Celek (back), DL Kaleb Ramsey (NA).
Non-football injury: RB Marcus Lattimore (knee/hamstring), FB Trey Millard (knee), CB Keith Reaser (knee) and G Brandon Thomas (knee).
Reserve/did not report: RG Alex Boone (contract holdout).