The fickle Gods of Football surveyed the giddy landscape of Ninerland during their Training Camp bus tour and decided to spray some Voodoo dust over 4949 Centennial Blvd. on Monday, stirring to life JrFrMo, the Beetlejuice of the blogosphere.
As the dust settled upon the morning dew, the 49ers trotted out and slopped through their worst practice of camp. While stumbling and bumbling around in the evil fog, the Owie Gremlin went to work. Eric Heitmann limped off with a broken fibula. Then Martail Bennett was carted off with a knee sprain. Next were brief neck spasms to Josh Morgan, a shoulder strain for NaVorro Bowman, and a pinched hamstring for Phillip Adams. Already sitting out were Brandon Jones with a hammy, Travis LaBoy with a concussion, and Ahmad Brooks with a kidney laceration.
While none of these injuries has major impact on the regular season, the sheer number of them in one day turned the blogosphere into a jittery mess. Hopefully, this was only a warning by the Gods and not a curse.
David Baas, meanwhile, perhaps comfortable with surreal events, bucked the pattern and returned from injury Monday, immediately going from the butt of jokes to the butt at starting center, replacing Heitmann. In the often bizarre world of football, this might turn Baas’ career around. He played center in college and maybe that’s his best position. Who knows? And who knows if he’ll stay healthy, either. He’s got the rest of this week, four exhibition games, and the two opening games of the season to make an impact this year or ride the bench. His first shotgun hike was a worm burner. Heeheehee. Ahem. Take two!
Ricky Francois’ play at the nose during Abrayo Franklin’s Greta Garbo phase has had a settling effect on the D-line rotation. Last year, Isaac Sopoagna was the backup nose and Kentwan Balmer was occasionally mentioned as a possibility there, but Francois seems to have claimed that role during the off season — and perhaps beyond. This leaves Soap and Balmer as strictly LDEs, Franklin and Francois at the nose, and Justin Smith at RDE.
Ray McDonald is established as the pass rushing DT, although he has served as Smith’s backup at RDE in the past. The 49ers will likely keep a seventh D-line fellow for that role, though. Which leaves Khalif Mitchell, Demetric Evans, and Derek Walker as the three guys vying for that spot.
Evans seems to have the inside track here, but Mitchell is younger and has shown some flashes of being competitive, faring well in the Nutcracker drills. I don’t think he has any practice squad eligibility left, which is too bad. Walker was claimed from Seattle near the end of last season, but I have not heard his name mentioned much in either the OTAs or in TC thus far. Both Mitchell and Walker will have to have some strong performances in the exhibition games for either of them to make the squad.
With the waiving of LeRoy Vann yesterday, it looks like sixth round pick Kyle Williams has just about locked up a spot on the roster, both as a KR/PR guy and as a slot receiver. This, along with Anthony Dixon’s potential, continues the trend of the Niners finding gems in the later rounds of the draft.
In addition to the real injuries, Kentwan Balmer missed practice for “personal reasons” which Mike Singletary said he would have to discuss with him. Great. What can of worms is going to be pried open here? Balmer is pretty much an enigma at this point. The LDE guys get little notice, which does not endear them to fans wanting 20 sacks from each player, but in Balmer’s case little notice is more like invisible. Perhaps he’s trying for a higher profile by becoming known as a “head case”? After all, it was Voodoo Monday.
Not a good day for the troops, folks.